The Tribune Tower was built on the north side of the Chicago River in 1925. Today it stands tall at the important juncture of the river and Chicago’s popular Michigan Avenue. The building has many of its own stories to tell, but in its walls–literally–are stories from across the United States and around the world.
The artifact collection began in 1915 with Robert R. McCormick’s collecting of a piece from a medieval cathedral in the Belgian city of Ypres. McCormick was covering World War I, which the US had not yet joined, and the cathedral was a piece of propaganda: German shells were destroying it. McCormick, who became a newspaper magnate, instructed his correspondents to not just gather news but rocks, as well. Of course, stories follow, of both legitimate and less legitimate collecting.
In recent years, the collection has continued to grow. Many of the more recent additions have been more symbolic. A piece of the World Trade Center from 2001 rests on the south wall. In 2015, pieces of Wrigley Field and Comisky Park–the fields of Chicago’s rival baseball teams, the Cubs and White Sox–were added as a gesture of good will between Chicago’s north and south sides.
Today the artifacts are a welcome break from the busy streets and often unremarkable facades on Michigan Avenue. Tourists and locals alike slow down or pause to point out different places. One young child, with prompting from his mom, practiced his reading on the lower specimens. The method of their procurement maybe be questionable, but one thing is for certain: the Tribune Tower’s vertical museum provides a welcome pause from the hustle and bustle of Michigan Avenue, with a side of education and international awareness.
Sources and Further Reading:
Explore all the artifacts on the Tribune Tower’s walls with this interactive guide from the Chicago Tribune.
Read more about the artifacts in the Tribune piece, Cubs, Socks bricks on Tribune Tower to Honor North Side-South Side Rivalry.
The Tribune Tower artifacts appear in Atlas Obscura’s article, World Artifacts on the Tribune Tower’s Walls.