The Biography of Chicagos Marina City
Tower on top of tower
December 1, 1961
Early in January of the next year, the idea of a beacon and range lights, a pair of lights used for navigation, was being discussed for Marina City. John Magill, a columnist for the Chicago Daily Tribune, proposed it. Mayor Richard J. Daley responded by saying it was a good idea.
Then in October 1962, Chicagos first commercial television station, WBKB (now WLS-TV), announced it would erect a 426-foot tower (285-foot mast supporting a 140-foot-six-inch antenna) on the west tower. 969 feet above ground, the top of the tower would be the highest point in Chicago. It was a rental agreement worth $1 million to Marina City, equal to $7.8 million in 2014.
The tower, built in 1964, featured a column of red lights that flowed upward when temperatures were forecast to increase and downward when they were expected to drop. Slowly blinking lights meant a storm was approaching. Steady illumination meant no change.
Two rings of light at the base of the tower signaled victory (white) or defeat (blue) for a Chicago sports team. A third ring represented the WBKB Circle 7 logo.
The beacon was designed, built, and maintained by White Way Electric Sign & Maintenance Company of Waukegan, Illinois (now in Mount Prospect). It was controlled from WBKB studios at Marina City.
WBKB started broadcasting from Marina City in September 1964. In 1974, WLS moved its television transmitter from Marina City to Sears Tower. Mayor Daley threw a ceremonial switch and the station went off the air momentarily, then came back with a poor signal from Sears Tower said to be almost unwatchable.
According to Mike Wilson, an engineer for KTLA-TV in Los Angeles, who worked at WLS while attending college in Chicago at the time, there had been an error in the construction of the new transmitter or antenna at Sears Tower. The station switched back to the Marina City antenna until the problem was corrected.
|Last updated 17-Dec-14|
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