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Marina City: 1964

Marina City: 1964

Chicago circa 1964. "Marina City." The high-rise apartment towers on the Chicago River, and a compendium of balcony-decorating ideas. View full size.

 

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Beware of the Balconies

Just this week, balcony access was restricted due to the need for extensive railing repairs at Marina Towers. For the time being, residents can enjoy the view but not the breeze.

Wilco

About the same time period. (construction)

Nickey, Nickey, Nickey, Nickey, Nickey Chevrolet!!!

Man, that jingle is good and earwormed into my brain now. Could not listen to AM radio in Chicago without hearing it at least a dozen times a day.

Besides being a huge volume dealer, Nickey built awesome modified Camaros and Chevelles with big block V8's long before they started coming that way from the factory. Every kid on my block went by their speed shop three or four times a year, just to drool.

Chicago 13

Look familiar?

Mob approved

Last home of notorious gangster Murray Humphreys.

Another one

They are everywhere. Volkswagen Beetle photobomb again.

Unique place to live

I lived on the 59th floor (I think there are only 60 stories, not 65?) in the west tower for a couple of years in the 1980s (it's a condo building, but of course one can rent from a condo owner). My apartment was a 1-bedroom, identical to what is shown in the floorplan here. My view was to the northwest, and none of the nearby highrises to the north and west had been built yet so one could see a good bit of Chicagoland. I always felt bad for the Marina City residents who had an apartment that faced the other Marina City tower, because their view was more of their neighbors across the abyss than of the city.

A studio apartment was one "petal" of the "flower" (elevators and mechanicals were in the "stem"), a 1-bedroom was one and a half petals (as shown in a comment below), and a 2-bedroom was two petals (or one and two halves). The wedge-shaped apartments did present a significant decorating challenge, and I believe that when the building opened developers had to work hard to convince prospective renters (it started out as rental) that their conventional furniture would indeed work in these space-age apartments.

The best part about living there was surely the balconies. I know of no other high-rise in the northern US that has such enormous balconies available for such affordable rents; you can judge their size by the floorplan measurements. Another great aspect was that because of the outward-radiating apartments, it never felt like your balcony was pinned between two others.

In the early years most of the residents would put holiday lights on their balconies come December as in the National Geographic cover below, for example. The novelty of this gradually became outweighed by the hassle, and most residents don't appear do it anymore. The buildings are having a lot of the maintenance issues common to high-rises built in a hurry in the 1960s, but they'll always be iconic landmarks.

The bottom floors are a corkscrew-shaped parking garage; in the color photo in the comments below you can see the cars precariously backed up to the edge on the lower floors (go to YouTube and search for "Marina Towers The Hunter" to watch the car-chase scene filmed in this garage that ends with a car flying off the building).

And for an interesting account of the amazing construction process of the towers ("A new floor poured every day!")--produced by the Portland Cement Company--search on YouTube for "This is Marina City."

And today -- another crane

Today's view and there is still some sort of construction going on. Lower level parking in the buildings apparently - and they are all backed in!

This looks familiar.

I thought I recognised this place. You might notice this place in the opening sequence of the Bob Newhart show in the 1970s. I remember seeing Bob Newhart walking across a bridge next to this building and thinking that Chicago would be a very exciting and dreamy place to live. I still do.

Log Way Up & Down

While in high school two years after this photo, my best friend and I decided it would be fun to take the stairs all the way to the observation deck, then back down again. Even at 16 years old, that turned out to be grueling exercise as both towers are 65 stories and the tallest residential buildings in the world at the time.

Life's a piece of pie

Floor plan for apartment.

[Well that explains the half-balconies. - Dave]

A Balcony with a View

The photographer is looking southwest across the river to the north end of the Loop, with Wacker Drive and the Dearborn Street Bridge (with one leaf open) at the lower left. The one significant building visible in the distance, the 21-story building with a deep light court creating a shadowy vertical stripe in the center, is the former State of Illinois Building. Located at the northwest corner of Randolph and La Salle Streets, it was built c. 1920 by the Burnham Brothers architecture firm. To my surprise, I just learned that this is now called the Michael Bilandic Building, named after the Chicago mayor best remembered (perhaps unfairly ...) for failing to clean up the snow following the brutal Blizzard of 1979.

Corvairs

Chevrolet Corvairs, a bargain at any [rental] price.

Miracle-Gro or --

Dupont Plastics might be the source of that consistently lush and suspiciously uniform greenery covering the railing of the balcony on the right since no pots are visible as they are on the other units' balconies. 1964 would have been a prime year for plastic decoratives.

BBQ Grills

I spot at least two Weber grills on these upper floor balconies, and who knows how many unseen hibachis there are? Something tells me that firing up a grill on the umpteenth floor of a high-rise would be VERY strongly frowned upon in this day and age!

Orbit City

Which one is the Jetsons' apartment? I can hear the sound of their Space Car approaching.

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