The years 1984 and 1985 constitute the centennial of one of the 19th century's most significant structures, the Home Insurance Building in Chicago. Ground for the Home Insurance was broken 1 May 1884 and it received its first tenants in the fall of 1885. Since that time, some have hailed it as the world's first true skyscraper; others have seen it as unspectacular and merely transitional. This paper will explore the opinions of the men who were most intimately connected with its construction: the architect, William Le Baron Jenney; his partner, William Mundie; the building's fireproofing contractor, Peter B. Wight; and one of Jenney's competitors for the commission, Frederick Baumann. I have based this article on documents, some of them recently discovered, that were written at widely different times. When brought together, however, they seem to create a dialog between these men, the results of which cast some light on the circumstances surrounding the design and erection of the Home Insurance Building. Moreover, these documents give us valuable insight into the human aspects of what has heretofore been held as a purely technical problem in the history of architecture.

[Footnotes]

[Footnotes]
1
Engineering Record, 27 June 1896
Engineering Record
1896
ii July 1896
American Architect and Building News, 53 (1896), 34
34
53
American Architect and Building News
1896
William Le Baron Jenney was built by F. W. Wheeler Company of West Bay City, Michigan, in 1897
Wheeler
William Le Baron Jenney
1897
2
C. Condit, American Build- ing Art: the 19th Century, New York, 1963, 44-45, 58
Condit
44
American Building Art: the 19th Century
1963
Condit, The Chicago School of Architecture, Chicago, 1964, 117--18
Condit
117
The Chicago School of Architecture
1964
3
T. E. Tallmadge, "Was the Home Insurance Building the First Skyscraper of Skeleton Construction?" Architectural Record, 76 (1934), 113-118.
Tallmadge
113
76
Architectural Record
1934
4
F. A. Randall, History of the Development of Building Construction in Chicago, Urbana, 1949, 107
Randall
107
History of the Development of Building Construction in Chicago
1949
5
Randall, Building Construction, 105.
Randall
105
Building Construction
6
Inland Architect, 3 (1884), 23-
23
3
Inland Architect
1884
8
Letter, Frederick Baumann to Glen Brown, 14 December 1907, Archives, American Institute of Architects, Washington, D.C.
9
R. B. Beck, "A History of Building Foundations in Chicago," University of Illinois Bulletin, 45 (1948), 14-20.
Beck
14
45
University of Illinois Bulletin
1948
10
Inland Architect, 4 (1884), 15, 56.
15
4
Inland Architect
1884
11
Ibid., 3 (1883), 42.
42
12
"The Chicago School of Architecture, A Symposium," The Prairie School Review, 3 (Second Quarter, 1972), 3.
Second Quarter
3
3
The Prairie School Review
1972
13
Bogardus's McCullough Shot Tower, New York, 1855
Bogardus
McCullough Shot Tower
1855
Condit, American Building Art: the 29th Century, 36-37
Condit
36
American Building Art: the 29th Century
Builder [29 April 1865]
Encyclopidie d'architec- ture, 3, 2eS [1874], 116-117
116
3
Encyclopidie d'architecture
1874
N. Pevsner, "Ruskin and Viollet-le-Duc," Eugene Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, ed. Rizzoli, London, 1980, 49
Pevsner
Ruskin and Viollet-le-Duc
49
Eugene Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc
1980
I. Pond, "Neither a Skyscraper nor of Skeleton Construction," Architectural Record, 76 (1934), 118-119
Pond
118
76
Architectural Record
1934
n. 21
Theodore Turak, "The Ecole Centrale and Modern Architecture: The Education of William Le Baron Jenney," JSAH, 39 (1970), 40-47
Turak
40
39
JSAH
1970
L. C. Mary, Cours d'architecture, 1852-1853, Paris, 1852, 76
Mary
76
Cours d'architecture, 1852-r853
1852
Randall, Building Construction, 88
Randall
88
Building Construction
14
J. B. Gass, "Some American Methods," Royal Institute ofArchitects, Transactions, new Ser., 2 (1885-1886), 145-146.
Gass
new Ser
145
2
Royal Institute ofArchitects
1885
15
Sanitary Engineer, 13 (1885), 32-33
32
13
Sanitary Engineer
1885
Inland Architect, 6 (1885), 100
100
6
Inland Architect
1885
16
W. Mundie, Skeleton Construction, Its Origin and Development Applied to Architecture, Roll 23, Micofilm Project, Chicago Art Institute, 19-20
Mundie
19
Skeleton Construction, Its Origin and Development Applied to Architecture
17
William Le Baron Jenney, "Castles in the Air," n.d., Roll Io, Microfilm Project, Chicago Art Institute, 2-3-
18
Jenney, Autobiography, Roll 37, Microfilm Project, Chicago Art Institute, 9
Jenney
Autobiography
Biographical Sketches of the Leading Men of Chicago, Chicago, 1868, 347-351
347
Biographical Sketches of the Leading Men of Chicago
1868
19
Sarah Bradford Landau, P. B. Wight: Architect, Contractor and Critic, r838-1925, Chicago, 1981
Landau
P. B. Wight: Architect, Contractor and Critic, r838-1925
1981
Mundie, Skeleton Construction, 61-62
Mundie
61
Skeleton Construction
20
C. Condit, American Building, Chicago, 1969, 116-117
Condit
116
American Building
1969
Journal of Pro- ceedings, American Institute of Architects, 29 (1894), 160-161
160
29
Journal of Proceedings, American Institute of Architects
1894
21
Mundie, Skeleton Construction, 41.
Mundie
41
Skeleton Construction
22
Register of Officers and Agents, Civil, Military and Naval in the Service of the United States, I, Washington, D.C., 1879, 51.
51
I
Register of Officers and Agents, Civil, Military and Naval in the Service of the United States
1879
Norman Smith Patton (1852-1915)
Norman Smith Patton
1915
Beloit College (1869-1870)
Beloit College
1870
Proceedings, 28 (1894), 58
58
28
Proceedings
1894
23
Letter, Baumann to Brown
n. 8
24
Muriel B. Christison, "How Buffington Staked his Claim,"
Christison
How Buffington Staked his Claim
Dimitris Tselos, "The Enigma of Buffington's Skyscraper," published in the Art Bulletin, 36 (1944), 3-24
Tselos
3
36
published in the Art Bulletin
1944
25
Letter, Baumann to Brown
n. 8
26
Mundie, Skeleton Construction, 41.
Mundie
41
Skeleton Construction
27
Condit, Chicago School, 83.
Condit
83
Chicago School
28
Mundie, Skeleton Construction, Io.
Mundie
Io
Skeleton Construction
29
Carson B. Webster, "The Skyscraper: Logical and Historical Considerations," JSAH, 18 (1959), 138-139.
Webster
138
18
JSAH
1959
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