Marina City turns 50, meets the press
Loop North News

Marina City History

Photo by Steven Dahlman

(Above) Geoffrey Goldberg, son of Marina City architect Bertrand Goldberg, speaks at a news conference Monday morning at Hotel Sax.

22-Nov-10 – Marina City’s “durable, sustainable design” was shown off to local and trade media Monday morning as the complex celebrated the 50th anniversary of its groundbreaking.

The event was hosted by Portland Cement Association, which chronicled the construction of Marina City in the early 1960s and provided technical support.

On November 22, 1960, at 11:00 a.m., a Who’s Who of notable Chicagoans, General Electric representatives, construction workers, and by telephone the president-elect, John F. Kennedy, gathered in a temporary structure on State Street to officially break ground at Marina City.

The guest list that day included Mayor Richard J. Daley, Archbishop Bernard J. Sheil, William McFetridge, president of Local 1 of the Building Service Employees Union, Charles Swibel, president of Marina City Building Corporation, and Marina City architect Bertrand Goldberg.

50 years later, it was Bertrand Goldberg’s son, Geoffrey, himself an architect, who took the group through a quick history of the development of Marina City, “one of the most complex urban projects ever built,” and listed Marina City’s many achievements.

“50 years ago, a group of very creative people came together to try some very unusual ideas and solve some very hard problems,” Goldberg told about 50 people gathered at Hotel Sax. “They were idealistic. They were practical. They were the most advanced engineers, builders, designers, and developers of their time.”

Marina City, noted Goldberg, was Chicago’s first planned development, the first mixed-use (residential and commercial) complex, and the first to bring housing downtown.

“It was a very optimistic and very powerful place at the time, and still is optimistic, I believe. There was enormous energy here. And it was more than just a building or a set of buildings, it was actually a set of ideas about urbanism, what could happen in cities, and about where we could go.”

Photo by Steven Dahlman (Left) Goldberg and Dale Hendrix, whose first job was with James McHugh Construction Company, helping to build Marina City.

Portland Cement Association – which represents cement companies in the U.S. and Canada – extensively documented the construction of Marina City. Marina City Online has been helping PCA restore numerous photographs along with a 19-minute film made in 1965.

In November 2010, the film was re-digitized by Peter Bernotas and International Historic Films, Inc. According to Bernotas, it is 16mm IB Technicolor film, “about as good as it gets.” The film stock alone cost PCA $350 in 1965, says Bernotas, which would be $2,400 today. Bernotas estimates the print that he re-digitized had been shown on a projector only about 20 times.

By Steven Dahlman | Loop North News | sdahlman@loopnorth.com

FREE WEEKLY EMAIL UPDATE

What’s news in the Loop and Near North
neighborhoods of downtown Chicago.

Signup for our weekly email. No ads, no email tracking, and no charge.

Number of subscribers:

See this week’s update