The Palmolive

159 East Walton, Chicago, IL

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The Palmolive Building Located at 919 North Michigan Ave. is situated at the cross roads of the Gold Coast and Streeterville. The Palmolive is a local and national landmark structure designated by The National Register of Historic Places on August 21, 2003 as well as a Chicago Landmark designated on February 16, 2000. The building is an architectural milestone designed by "the fathers of the modern skyscraper" Holabird and Root, perhaps the most famous Chicago architects to date. Their pioneering vision brought the first commercial skyscraper from the "Iron Bands" of the Loop, to the shores of Lake Michigan and to what would become the most desirable street in Chicago, The Magnificent Mile of North Michigan Avenue. The opening of the Palmolive Building in 1929 marked a new period for the Near North side and transformed North Michigan Ave. to the city's new center for fine culture, entertainment, architecture and shopping. The Palmolive Building transformed Chicago's and the rest of the nation's outlook on urban high rise structures in America. In 1930, an awards jury referred to Holabird & Root's Palmolive Building as "a distinguished contribution" to American architecture, noting that "this building of towering and original mass gives beautiful expression to the commercial spirit at its best. "The building's integrity and reputation remain intact to this day, remarked Robert Bruegmann, professor of architectural history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, in 2003. "The Palmolive Building is the perfect distillation of the stripped-down, stepped-back architectural style that was popular all over the country in the 1920s."

The Palmolive building was built for the namesake Palmolive soap company, the world's leading soap manufacturer. Conforming to the setback area zoning, construction of the art deco tower commenced in 1927 until completion in 1929. The building was built as a "monument of cleanliness." From 1930 until 1981, a roof top navigational beacon operated atop the building. It was known as the Playboy Building housing the infamous Playboy club from 1965 to 1989, when it served as headquarters for Playboy magazine.

Newly Renovated conversion to a Residential Masterpiece Building: The Palmolive Building features a grand new lobby reminiscent of the original 1929 lobby lost to a renovation in the 1960's. The new lobby highlights walnut paneled walls, marble case work and floors, nickel and glass doors and transoms*, a lounge with a fireplace, and historic elevator carvings by sculptor Enrique Alferez. "The exterior of the Palmolive Building, with its limestone block laid over a steel and brick frame, is highlighted with decorative terra cotta panels and carved stone. The verticality of this precedent-setting setback design is emphasized all the more with a signature lighting scheme, gracefully bathing the walls in a divine glow to accentuate its remarkable architecture." "From the two story base ornamented with fluted cast-iron colonettes, the limestone and terra cotta facade darts firmly toward the heavens with linear, hard edges only to fall gracefully inward again and again, with recessed bays and setbacks on its way to a 38th story plateau, topped with the majestic beacon tower."
*Transom: Structural beam above a window


http://www.nps.gov/history/nr/
http://www.cityofchicago.org/Landmarks/P/Palmolive.html