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Original Sears Tower Celebrates 100 Years


Chicago, July 28, 2006 -- Believe it or not, the original Sears Tower is 100 years old. And, it’s not the tallest building in America.

Most people equate the Sears Tower with the renowned skyscraper which opened in 1973. However the idea for the Sears Tower originated in 1906 with the construction of the Sears Catalog Plant. The plant featured a tower anchored to a three-million-square-foot building -- considered the world’s largest commercial building of the time.

The Original Tower was made famous years before the current Sears Tower. During the first years of operation, about half the US population received Sears catalogs which were published on site. Often, Tower and related buildings were illustrated on the cover pages. At the same time, Henry Ford visited and studied the complex as a model of industrial efficiency. By the early 1920s, over 20,000 employees worked here. [By way of comparison, if the facility still operated today, it would rank as the largest private employer in the State of Illinois.] WLS Radio (“World’s Largest Store”) started here (1924) as did the first Sears retail store (1926). As late as the 1960’s, Sears Roebuck continued to promote the structure by using “Tower” brand (cameras, typewriters, office supplies).

The Tower still stands as a milestone. The building is the oldest skyscraper in Chicago outside of downtown. Located about four miles west of the current Sears Tower, the structure is a national landmark reaching fourteen stories (225 ft).

Fortunately much of the original Catalog Plant is preserved including the Powerhouse, Administration Building and the first Allstate Insurance headquarters. Substantial sections of the area are now known as “Homan Square” and “Sterling Park.” These various buildings are being redeveloped into residential, recreational, retail, office and academic uses.

As part of the centennial celebration, the Real Estate Capital Institute will be opening the Sears Catalog Plant Museum. The Institute is donating a collection of artifacts, photographs and rare memorabilia honoring the people, buildings and products that made this area famous during the past century. The Museum will be headquartered in the original Sears Tower located at 900 South Homan Avenue.

Researching commercial realty finance rates and trends, the Real Estate Capital Institute is headquartered in the area. Its founder is a former Sears employee.


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