Address: 600-618 W. Chicago Ave. Year Built:
Schmidt, Garden & Martin
Date Designated a Chicago Landmark:
May 17, 2000
Built as a 1.25-million square foot warehouse and office building by one of the nation's first large mail-order catalog businesses, which was founded in 1872 by A. Montgomery Ward and George Thorne. The Catalog House is a visual "landmark" along the North Branch of the Chicago River, closely hugging the riverbank with its dramatic, curving, 600-foot-long, trapezoidal form. This is one of the best examples of a Chicago School-style industrial building and a pioneering example of large-scale reinforced-concrete construction. Noted architectural historian Carl Condit said: "This building stands by itself as one of the most powerful works of utilitarian architecture that our building art has produced." The building's geometric terra-cotta ornament is a rich, subtle variation on the modern decoration common to several Chicago School architects, including Louis H. Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. The building is listed as a National Historic Landmark due to its significance in the history of American retailing and association with A. Montgomery Ward. A later administration building (1929) and north additions (1917 and 1940) are not part of the Chicago Landmark designation.