Home Insurance Building

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Home Insurance Building
Home Insurance Building.JPG
The Home Insurance Building
General information
Type Office
Location Chicago, United States
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 was a skyscraper in Chicago, generally noted as the first tall building to be supported, both inside and outside, by a fireproof metal frame.[2]

The building opened in 1884, and was demolished 47 years later in 1931.


It was constructed in 1884 in Chicago, Illinois, 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 weight-bearing frame, it is considered the world's first skyscraper.[5] It had 10 stories and rose to a height of 138 ft (42 m)[6] In 1890, two additional floors were added.

The architect was William Le Baron Jenney. The building weighed only one-third as much as a stone building would have; city officials were so concerned, they halted construction while they investigated its safety. The Home Insurance Building is an example of the Chicago School of Architecture. The building set precedent in skyscraper construction. Minneapolis architect Leroy Buffington patented the concept of the skeletal-frame tall building in 1888, and proposed "a 28-story 'stratosphere-scraper'—a notion mocked by the architectural press of the time as impractical and ludicrous." His proposal nonetheless attracted the attention of the national architectural and building communities to the possibilities of iron skeletal framing, "which in primitive form had been around for decades."[7]

Structural analysis[edit]

A forensic analysis done during its demolition purported to show 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 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 exterior was created from brick.

The site[edit]

The Field Building, later known as the La Salle Bank Building, then the Bank of America Building, and now the Private Bank 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". 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 curtain wall. It was later greatly expanded by Frank Furness. 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 copy". Archived from the original on 2008-02-12. Retrieved 2016-11-17. )
  • 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]