Marina City Obsession!

It’s been nearly two weeks since I spent a lovely Sunday morning in the city, enjoying a peek at some of Chicago’s most famous buildings as a part of Open House Chicago, presented by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. The charm of this special event, which debuted last year, is that the public is given access to parts of buildings that are normally inaccessible to those of us who don’t live or work in them. Oh, and it’s free, which is totally cool.

Due to the fact that I had a very important date with my sister and Adam Ant that night, I only had time to see a few buildings (there’s always time to see more next year!), but I was not disappointed.

That said, I’m not going to tell you about any of those buildings yet.

It makes total sense, doesn’t it, that I would lead in with that huge intro and then switch course on you?

It’s just that I felt the need to share another building–err, two buildings–with you first: my obsession, the Marina City Towers.

I fell in love with Marina City–the corncob-looking iconic buildings that stand on State Street just north of the Chicago River–when I was a kid. We used to visit the city from our home in the south suburbs on many a weekend, and I always looked forward to seeing those towers. To me they represent Chicago just as much as the Sears (I don’t call it Willis) Tower, the John Hancock Building, and my other favorite, the Wrigley Building. I have wanted to live there for as long as I can remember.

The history of Marina City is pretty interesting. The Marina City complex, which originally consisted of the two towers (which have parking spaces on the lower floors and condos on the upper floors), a theater, restaurants, a skating rink, a gym, a swimming pool, a bowling alley, some stores and a marina (of course), was built to try and stop the exodus of people from the city to the suburbs. The “city within a city” was financed by the Janitors’ Union, and for good reason: the building would not only create many jobs for union workers but would also jumpstart the renaissance of the American inner-city. Marina City was the first post-war high-rise residential complex, and many followed.

The condos in the towers are all pie-shaped, and the core of the towers is where the elevators can be found, with hallways circling around them. Every now and then I check the website of the official realtor of Marina City to see what’s been put up for sale. I love peeking into the condos to see what people have done with them. By the way, in case you’re wondering, right now a studio (about 500 square feet of living space with 180 square feet of outdoor space) goes for around $160,000 and a one-bedroom (about 725 square feet of living space with 270 square feet of outdoor space: one and a half balconies!) goes for around $250,000. Currently there are no two bedroom condos (1225 square feet of indoor space and 450 square feet of outdoor space: two and a half balconies) for sale. Too bad, because that’s the layout I’d choose.

ANYWAY, I am slightly obsessed with taking pictures of Marina City. Contrary to what my mom told me about how buildings don’t move and I only need one picture of each one after I returned from overnight camp in 1979 with approximately fifteen pictures of the dining hall and other structures on the grounds, I know that buildings DO have character and I just can’t get enough of Marina City’s.

I took this picture a couple of years ago from a room in the Hotel 71 on Wacker Drive. It’s a pretty standard but beautiful view.

Marina City and the Chicago River

I can’t remember when I took this one but it’s Marina City, no frills.

Marina City Tower wtmd

This one is a definite favorite. What a beautiful day that was!

Marina City and a blue, blue sky

Of course, it’s hard to fit both towers in one picture…

Marina City Towers

UNLESS you happen to have been given access to the cupola at the top of the Jeweler’s Building at 35 E. Wacker Drive, that is, as a part of Open House Chicago (see how I brought it full circle?).

In that case, you can get a magical shot like this one, which literally makes me drool. I know: it’s a personal problem.

Marina City Towers from the cupola of the Jeweler's Building

Even though Marina City Towers are residential, I’m hoping to get access to one of the condos some day, even just for a few minutes so I can check it out. A photo of one of the towers from the other one would surely be a jewel in my picture collection.

By the way, I dug up this pretty awesome commercial from five years ago. Check it out: the setting might look familiar!

What about you? Do you have a dream home? Tell me about it!


  • Shannon

    I love the corncobs! My kids are always amazed by the cars at the bottom when we are taking the water taxi. It looks like they could fall right out into the river.
    My favorite building in Chicago is the Tribune Tower, but I guess I can’t live there. I don’t think that I have a specific dream home. If I did, it would be smallish with lots of light and have a very walkable location.

    • Melisa

      You may be happy to know that Tribune Tower is one of the buildings I got to see two weeks ago: post coming up! (I even got a picture of Col. McCormick’s bathroom, which is a blast from the 1970’s!

    • Melisa

      That’s a nice shot too! Can I have it?
      KIDDING. ha!

      One of these days you’re going to have to get down here for some hang-out time…

  • Grandma W

    I love them too. Did you know they shot a movie picture there and a car went out the side into the Chicago River (that was many years ago). Also I seem to remember a car hanging off the side of one of the towers.) (again that was many years ago.) Chicago is my favorite sky line. I really miss seing it, for about 3 years I worked down town in the old Saks Fifth Avenue building for Saks on Michigan. It was beautiful to see that everyday I worked and even now I always enjoyed going down there.
    Grandma W

    • Melisa

      I’ll have to look up the movie! Did you watch the video at the end of the post? Maybe that movie is where Allstate got their commercial idea.