The Biography of Chicago’s Marina City

Marina City News
April 1980

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Marina City News nameplate (April 1980).

(Above) Nameplate from the April 1980 issue of Marina City News.

By April 1980, the newsletter – “by and for Marina City residents” – was called Marina City News. Published by “Liaison Comm. Condo. Assn.,” its editors were John Kochan, J. Landry, L. Ligurotis, K. Perkins, Nancy Powers, Kay Saunders, and Ruth Voss. Saunders and Voss were original residents, that is they were each the first tenant to occupy their respective apartments.

Nancy Powers and Betty Hogeorges (2004).

Issue 19 featured a poem about an electrical outage on February 11, 1980, announcement of the third annual meeting of Marina Towers Condominium Association, and a profile of Warren Garst, a Marina City resident who was chief photographer for Wild Kingdom, the television show hosted by former Lincoln Park Zoo director Marlin Perkins.

Nancy Powers (left) with Betty Hogeorges on a chartered yacht in Chicago Harbor in 2004.

An article by 30-year-old John Leonard (1950-2010) described a voter turnout the previous November of 72 percent, representing 588 out of 821 registered voters. Most of the votes for president went to Jimmy Carter. In the race for Cook County’s State Attorney, Richard M. Daley received the most votes from Marina City residents.

A report on the most recent condo board meeting included a paragraph about “resident recalcitrance.” MTCA attorney Ira Fierstein “was instructed to send a warning letter to both the owner and the occupant of a west tower unit regarding a variety of disturbances that have allegedly been occurring in the unit.”

Fierstein (right) was an attorney for MTCA during the condominium conversion and the condo association’s first few years. “I ran most meetings from 1978-1980,” he recalls. He is currently a partner with Seyfarth Shaw LLP.

Ira Fierstein

It was at that same meeting that the board was informed that two motorcycles, with gasoline in their tanks, were being kept in the storage area on the 20th floor.

Advertisements in the newsletter promoted Marina City Beauty Salon. Flowers by Villari, Tower Gallery, a maid service, furrier, carpet cleaner, and other neighborhood businesses.

Advertisements published in Marina City News (October 1982).

(Photo) Advertisements published in the October 1982 issue of Marina City News.

Jim Jaskowiak, whose ad appears in the upper left corner, currently lives in Medinah, a suburb west of Chicago. “Jim’s Painting & Decorating” is listed in several online business directories. The telephone number is the same except the area code is now 630.

Kathleen “Katie” Calhoun (1926-2013) was a retired commercial artist who lived at Marina City.

Coupon from Hertz offering Marina City residents $5 off any car rental (October 1982).

(Above) The October 1982 issue included this coupon from Hertz offering residents $5 off any car rental. There is a note in the lower right corner about a new Hertz location “opening soon” at 9 West Kinzie Street, the current location of the Museum of Broadcast Communications. Both telephone numbers listed on the coupon still belong to Hertz.

This issue also included an ad for a hypnotist, Phyllis Overly (1924-1994), who lived in the west tower.

Issue 27 listed the names of 92 original residents still living at Marina City.

The original lobby was described by Kay Saunders as “just an expanse of mud covered by planks and a few bare bulbs lighting the way to the west tower. There were no stores of any kind, no mailboxes nor laundry room. The management office was in one of the apartments, there was no carpeting in the halls and uncertain elevators were sometimes manned by construction workers in hard hats.”

There were some amenities. “Mail was delivered to each apartment, we had free newspapers, elegant boxes of food from Stop & Shop and Hillmans, a beautiful bouquet of flowers from Mr. [William] McFetridge...and a turkey from the management at Thanksgiving.”

Ruth Voss (1923-2002) captured the early days in her recollection of Moving Day...

It was a typical, cold, five-degree Chicago day with several inches of snow on the ground, January 24, 1963, but I didn’t mind as I was realizing a nearly three-year-old dream. I was moving into Marina City!

In February 1960, the newspapers announced these twin towers would be built within walking distance of work...and would have BALCONIES! In 1962 there was a flood of applicants. For those new to Chicago, or the younger residents of Marina City, there was no Outer Drive East, Harbor Point, Hancock Building, or Lake Point Tower, so Marina City was THE high-rise apartment building.

In the early months we were excited when we came home from work to find carpeting in the halls, or the wooden “canopy” over the long State Street staircase had come down, a laundry room opened on the 20th floor and especially the opening of a commissary on Memorial Day weekend (at last you could buy bread and milk without braving the elements).

We really “roughed it” in the early days, especially those in the West Tower who had to “walk the plank” across the lobby for months as there was no Dearborn Street entrance and no lobby floor. However, everyone talked on the elevators with great enthusiasm about the latest addition to our “home.” We enjoyed being pioneers and had a feeling of warmth and spirit of camaraderie with our neighbors much [like what] the early settlers of Chicago [must have experienced].

In the early years of Marina City when you traveled to other cities, billboards read “FLY TO CHICAGO” with Marina City prominently displayed in the background. It now has been replaced by the Hancock and Sears Tower but to Marina City “pioneers,” MARINA CITY – THE TOWERS – are Chicago!

We also learned from Issue 27...

  • The first grocery store opened in 1963 sometime between May 30 and April 2.
  • The last unit to be occupied was 6004 in the west tower on December 23, 1964.
  • On October 5, 1982, the number of registered voters at Marina City was 827.
  • Until October 24, 1982, a Catholic Mass was held at Marina City – at 10:30 on Sunday morning. It was discontinued due to a shortage of priests.

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