Home Insurance Building

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Home Insurance Building
Home Insurance Building.JPG
The Home Insurance Building
General information
Type Office
Location Chicago, USA
Coordinates 41°52′47″N 87°37′55″W / 41.8796°N 87.6320°W / 41.8796; -87.6320Coordinates: 41°52′47″N 87°37′55″W / 41.8796°N 87.6320°W / 41.8796; -87.6320
Completed 1884
Demolished 1931
Roof Originally 138 ft (42 m)
Top floor After addition of the final two floors – 180 feet (54.9 meters)
Technical details
Floor count 10 (later 12)
Design and construction
Architect William Le Baron Jenney

The Home Insurance Building is generally noted as the first tall building to be supported, both inside and outside, by a fireproof metal frame.[2]


It was constructed in 1884 in Chicago, Illinois, USA and was the first tall building to use structural steel in its frame,[3] but the majority of its structure was composed of cast and wrought iron. While the Ditherington Flax Mill was an earlier fireproof-metal-framed building, it was only five stories tall.[4]

Due to the Chicago building's unique architecture and unique weight-bearing frame, it is considered the first skyscraper in the world;[5] however, it was never the tallest building in the world or even in Chicago. It had 10 stories and rose to a height of 138 ft (42 m)[6] In 1890, two additional floors were added to the original structure.

The architect was William Le Baron Jenney, an engineer. The building weighed only one-third as much as a stone building would have; city officials were so concerned that they halted construction while they investigated its safety. The Home Insurance Building is an example of the Chicago School of architecture. The building led to the future in the skyscrapers. "In 1888, a Minneapolis architect named Leroy Buffington was granted a patent on the idea of building skeletal-frame tall buildings. He even proposed the construction of a 28-story 'stratosphere-scraper'—a notion mocked by the architectural press of the time as impractical and ludicrous. Nevertheless, Buffington brought the potential of the iron skeletal frame to the attention of the national architectural and building communities. Architects and engineers began using the idea, which in primitive form had been around for decades."[7]

Structural analysis[edit]

A forensic analysis done during its demolition purported to show that the building was the first to carry both floors and external walls entirely on its metal frame, but details and later scholarship have arguably disproved this, and it has been asserted that the structure must have relied upon both metal and masonry elements to support its weight, and to hold it up against wind. Although the Home Insurance Building made full use of steel framing technology, in this theory it was not a pure steel-framed structure since it rested partly on granite piers at the base and on a rear brick wall.

The site[edit]

The Field Building, later known as the La Salle Bank Building and now the Bank of America Building, built in 1931, now stands on the site. In 1932, owners placed a plaque in the southwest section of the lobby reading:

This section of the Field Building is erected on the site of the Home Insurance Building, which structure, designed and built in eighteen hundred and eighty four by the late William Le Baron Jenney, was the first high building to utilize as the basic principle of its design the method known as skeleton construction and, being a primal influence in the acceptance of this principle was the true father of the skyscraper, 1932.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Home Insurance Building at SkyscraperPage
  2. ^ "Home Insurance Building". Emporis.com. Retrieved 2013-11-08. 
  3. ^ Broad Street Station (1881) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a 6-story building designed by Wilson Brothers & Company, had a structural steel frame, and was one of the first buildings in America to use masonry not as structure, but as a curtain wall. It was later greatly expanded by Frank Furness. See: George E. Thomas, "Broad Street Station," in James F. O'Gorman, et al., Drawing Toward Building: Philadelphia Architectural Graphics, 1732–1986 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986), pp. 140–42.
  4. ^ Kennedy, Maev (8 April 2005). "World's first iron-framed building saved". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-11-08. 
  5. ^ Smith, Chrysti M. (2006). Verbivore's Feast: Second Course: More Word & Phrase Origins. Helena, Montana: Farcountry Press. p. 289. ISBN 978-1560374022. Retrieved 2013-11-08. The word skyscraper, in its architectural context, was first applied to the Home Insurance Building, completed in Chicago in 1885. 
  6. ^ Kampert, Bert (10 December 2008). "The Home Insurance Building". Chicago Architecture Info. Retrieved 2013-11-08. 
  7. ^ "The first skyscraper - new theory that Home Insurance Building was not the first". Science News. 1986. [dead link]

Other references[edit]

  • 1884 First Skyscraper, Chicago Public Library (Archived February 12, 2008 at the Wayback Machine)
  • Theodore Turak, William Le Baron Jenney: A Pioneer in Modern Architecture, Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI Research Press, 1986
  • Carl Condit, The Chicago School of Architecture, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1964

External links[edit]