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860–880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments facts for kids

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Buildings at 860–880 Lake Shore Drive
860-880 Lake Shore Drive.jpg
860–880 Lake Shore Drive
860–880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments is located in Central Chicago
860–880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments
Location in Central Chicago
860–880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments is located in Illinois
860–880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments
Location in Illinois
860–880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments is located in the United States
860–880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments
Location in the United States
Location 860–880 N. Lake Shore Drive Chicago, Illinois
Area 1.2 acres (0.49 ha)
Built 1949 (1949)
Architect Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe
Architectural style International Style
NRHP reference No. 80001344
Quick facts for kids
Significant dates
Added to NRHP August 28, 1980

860–880 Lake Shore Drive is a twin pair of glass-and-steel apartment towers on N. Lake Shore Drive along Lake Michigan in the Streeterville neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. Construction began in 1949 and the project was completed in 1951. The towers were added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 28, 1980, and were designated as Chicago Landmarks on June 10, 1996. The 26-floor, 254-ft (82 m) tall towers were designed by the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and dubbed the "Glass House" apartments. Construction was by the Chicago real estate developer Herbert Greenwald, and the Sumner S. Sollitt Company. The design principles, first expressed in the 1921 Friedrichstrasse Skyscraper competition in Berlin and built thirty years later in 860–880 Lake Shore Drive, were copied extensively and are now considered characteristic of the modern International Style as well as essential for the development of modern High-tech architecture.

The towers were not entirely admired at the time they were built, yet they went on to be the prototype for steel and glass skyscrapers worldwide. Initially, it was difficult to acquire financing for the project, turned down by lenders like Baird & Warner, who considered the design scheme to be too extreme. 860–880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments embody a Modernistic tone with their verticality, grids of steel and glass curtain walls (a hallmark of Mies' skyscrapers), and complete lack of ornamentation. Tenants had to accept the neutral gray curtains that were uniform throughout the buildings;no other curtains or blinds were permitted lest they mar the external appearance. Since Mies was a master of minimalist composition, his principle was "less is more" as it is demonstrated in his self-proclaimed "skin and bones" architecture.

The structural engineer for the project was Georgia Louise Harris Brown, who was the first African American to receive an architecture degree from the University of Kansas, and second African Americans woman to receive an architecture license in the United States.


Krueck and Sexton Architects of Chicago were commissioned to renovate the historical towers. Teaming up with them were the preservation architects, Harboe Architects along with forensic and structural analysis firm, Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. This team was directed to fix prior renovations done to the buildings. The preceding renovations took away from the historical accuracy of the towers. Architects were assigned to restore the distorted lighting scheme with original translucent glass, replace the deteriorating travertine plaza, which connects the two towers, and exchange for stones with more historical precision.


Streeterville portion of Lake Shore Drive
The apartments as seen from Lake Shore Drive
860-880 Lake Shore Drive (2)
860-880 Lake Shore Drive
880 Lake Shore Drive 01
880 Lake Shore Drive
860-880 Lake Shore Drive (3)
880 Lake Shore Drive taken from 860 Lake Shore Drive
  • The buildings were finished in 1951 and were featured in a 1957 article in Life Magazine on Mies.
  • In 1996 they became the first buildings designed by Mies van der Rohe to receive Chicago Landmark Status.
  • The glass towers have been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1980.
  • In June 2005, the United States Postal Service included the towers in the commemorative stamp program, Masterworks of Modern Architecture, wherein they were listed as one of the "12 outstanding examples of modern buildings".
2005 US Commemorative Stamp honoring 860-880 Lake Shore Drive
  • In celebration of the 2018 Illinois Bicentennial, 860-880 Lake Shore Drive was selected as one of the Illinois 200 Great Places by the American Institute of Architects Illinois component (AIA Illinois).

Figures and statistics

  • The twin towers are 26 stories high.
  • The buildings are 46 feet apart.
  • The steel skeletal frames rest on a 21-foot grid and are uniform in their design.
  • The building was originally designed for 860 to contain 90 three bedroom apartments and 880 to hold 158 one bedroom apartments. Many of the units have been combined to enlarge living spaces.

Zoned schools

Residents are zoned to Chicago Public Schools. Residents are zoned to Ogden School and Wells Community Academy High School.

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