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I've included this on my must see list for the exterior only. I used to work across the street from the Mart and with the exception of an occasional chocolate fix at Fannie May never seem to find any other reason to visit.
The Mart sits on the banks of the Chicago River and can be seen on the Architectural boat tour. It was completed in 1930 by Marshall Field & Company, the retailer that still has stores (now Macy's) in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. It is, according to their website, the second largest building in the world behind the Pentagon, the world's largest commercial building and largest wholesale design center encompassing 4.2 million sq. ft. and spanning two entire city blocks.
The Kennedy family patriarch, Joseph P. Kennedy (father of President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert Kennedy and 7 other Kennedys) , purchased The Mart in 1945 and it was owned by the family until 1998.
The primary focus of the Mart is not for retail customers but more for designers. There are ocassional sample sales and events during the year that are open to the public, you can see the schedule on the website listed below.
You can also take a tour of The Mart, you have to call for reservations. The 90 minute tour includes the history of the building and a visit to some of the showroom floors. I haven't personally taken the tour so this is just information, not a recommendation.
The Massive Merchandise Mart
Located on the Chicago River between Wells & Orleans streets, this 1931 building is quite impressive. The Merchandise Mart was constructed by Marshall Field & Company as a wholesale warehouse & store.
Today, it is still the world's largest commercial building with 25 floors & a length of 2 city blocks!
In 1986 & 1991, it was renovated & contains a shopping mall on the first 2 floors. The rest of the building contains showrooms for home & office furnishings.
This massive building comprises nearly 4 million square feet; it was largest building in the world until the completion of the Pentagon near Washington, D.C.
It's on a 5-acre site along the main channel of the Chicago River near the junction of its north & south branch (Wolf Point). "The Mart", as it is usually called, is among Chicago's 1st air rights developments because it was built OVER the NorthWestern railroad train tracks.
It is framed in steel & sheathed in a buff-colored Bedford (Indiana) limestone. It has a series of horizontal cornice lines, a central shaft & tower, corner bays capped with turrets, & green & gold accents. The central tower rises 7 stories above the 18-story mass. It is really a modified Art Deco style that was typical of the period. I always think of Carl Sandburg's description of Chicago as the "city of Big Shoulders" when I see the Merchandise Mart.
In the mid 1930's, Field sold the Mart to the Boston entrepreneur, Joseph P. Kennedy (President Kennedy's father). Facing the entrance is the Merchandise Mart Hall of Fame, which is a series of 8 larger than life busts of famous American merchandisers. They are mounted on tall marble pillars & include such people as Aaron Montgomery Ward, Marshall Field, & Frank Winfield Woolworth.
Unfortunately, The Mart is not open to the public (except the first two floors); If you go with an Interior Designer, it is permissible. Or,public tours offered at noon Monday-Friday. Call
The massive building sitting along the Chicago River is the Merchandise Mart. The 25 floors don't tell just how big the building is. Upon completion in 1931, it was the largest building in the world at 4 million square feet.
The building was originally built to be the wholesale facility for Marshall Field & Co. It is used for retail trade shows and showrooms (home, kitchen, bath, gifts, furnishings, and more) and offices, and holds the Chicago Retail Hall of Fame. There are also plenty of stores and restaurants inside.
One interesting story is that the Sultan of Brunei spent $1.6 million at the Merchandise Mart to furnish his palace. He claimed it was the only place in the world with the resources to do the job in 1 week.
Tours are available to the public every Friday at 1pm. They last 90 minutes and feature the showrooms and a brief history of the building. Admission is $10 for adults, and $8 for students and seniors. Scheduled group tours are also available.
Check the website for more info.
In the downtown area right off Wells street. This is where they have alot trade shows and events. they also have alot stores in here. Nice building overlooking the Chicago River. Nice place to hangout.
The Merchandise Mart
The Merchandise Mart is a gigantic builidng on the north side of the Chicago River. It was built to centralize Chicago's wholesale goods trade by consolidating its vendors and activities under one roof. At the time of completion in 1931, The Mart was the largest building in the world with four million square feet.
Ownership of The Merchandise Mart passed from Marshall Field and Company to the [famous] Kennedy family in 1945.
Tours of The Mart are available on Monday and Friday at 1pm. The 90-minute walking tour includes a brief history of the building and a guided visit to the showroom floors. Reservations are not required, but you should call in advance to confirm that the tour is on schedule: 312.527.7762.
Fees: Adults - $10 Students - $8 Seniors - $8
- Historical Travel
Need a designer chair??
I'd say visit the Chicago Merchandise Mart -- but most of the showrooms are available only through your architect or interior decorator. There are other shops in the building, some with interesting items -- but the main event is the furniture showrooms. Fortunately there are weekday tours as described on the website listed below.
Chicago page is still under construction. Soon I will add text to this tip.
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