The Merchandise Mart – The giant two-block building in Chicago

The commercial building was opened in 1930, it was the largest building in the world, with 372,000 m2 of floor space. The structure is located at the junction of the Chicago River’s branches. TheMART was developed by Marshall Field & Co. to create a central marketplace where retailers could come to buy their wares all under one roof.

The building site is bordered by Orleans, Wells and Kinzie Streets, at the junction of the North, South and Main branches of the Chicago River. It is located just east of Wolf Point, the site of many Chicago firsts – first trading post, first hotel, first church, first three taverns and the first bridges across the Chicago River.

The Merchandise Mart is so large that it had its own ZIP Code until 2008 / Image source

Original designer Alfred Shaw conveyed the unique, modern concept of theMART with an Art Deco style and integration of elements from three building types: the warehouse, the department store and the skyscraper office building.

A warehouse block stands as the 18-story bulk of the building. The building is open at the pedestrian level with bronzed framed display windows, typical of a department store, on the south, west and east boundaries. The 25-story central tower ascends with a peak in the form of a skyscraper, and rests in the southern half of the building.

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