February 15, 2011

Chronicles of Chicago: Stolen Relics

Tribune Tower
Old school newspaper magnates are a strange breed. Ever seen Citizen Kane? Yea, that movie wasn't too far from the truth. Col. Robert McCormick was the man in charge of Chicago's largest newspaper, the Chicago Tribune. If there has ever been an American aristocracy McCormick would have been one of it's prominent members in his day. He was born into money and was hellbent on getting a whole lot more of it. In 1922 he held a $100,000 design competition that garnered entries from around the world and eventually led to the construction of the Chicago landmark Tribune Tower.

While it's a wonderful building and really can only be appreciated correctly from Michigan Ave. in person, let's be honest, it's no Parthenon. Col. McCormick knew this. So what do you do if you can't build the Parthenon? Well, you can steal it. That's exactly what Col. McCormick did. He told his reporters stationed around the world to "acquire" pieces of the greatest sites in the world and they were embedded into the side of the Tribune Tower for all to see.

There are pieces from the Great Wall of China, Pearl Harbor, the White House, the Colosseum in Rome, the Cathedral of Notre Dame, The Berlin Wall, metal from the World Trade Centers, the Forbidden City in China, Abraham Lincoln's original tomb, the Taj Majal, the Alamo, Saint Peter's Basilica, the Pyramids of Giza, the Palace of Westminster in London, the Reichschancellery in Berlin, Westminster Abbey, Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, L'Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and even a piece of the Moon.

While the story goes that they were all acquired by 'honorable' means common sense tells us otherwise. Sure, most of them were probably obtained legally. But you can't just buy a piece of the Taj Majal in the gift shop if you know what I mean.

The Moon Rock had to be encased in glass. It's still the property of NASA.
For previous Chronicles of Chicago click here.

Click images for image sources.

List of rocks taken from: http://www.chicagoarchitecture.info/Building/376/Tribune-Tower.php


  1. I had no idea...learned something new today. Thanks!

  2. Very Interesting...my favorite line: "But you can't just buy a piece of the Taj Majal in the gift shop if you know what I mean." LOL so true. You made me miss living in Chicago and skeptical of every landmark building in NYC. Great blog and post!


  3. That's crazy! Someone should compile a book with the stories of how those pieces were obtained. Hell, they could even make it up! I imagine it would be a good read.

  4. It is a very cool building. And great photos!

  5. Wow! Loved this post! Loved the pictures :)

  6. Wow that is actually a really cool idea. I had no clue about that building. I go to Chicago several times a year to visit family and I have never been to the Tribune building. Sad. Especially sad since my mentor (college professor) was an investigative reporter there for 30 plus years...sigh. You have inspired me to visit the building when I go there in the spring, Chris. Thanks for the head's up! :)

  7. Wow, interesting little factoid, and funny as hell in a pretty disprespectful-of-historical-monuments sort of way. Not that I wouldn't have done the same thing in his sheos.

  8. you made me think, creative thoughts make creative minds go crazy.
    you take care, bisous a

  9. That is one of my favorite buildings in the city. I like that I see it every day when I go to school.

    I didn't know that's how they got the pieces of other buildings.

  10. I like imagining people with chisels in front of very important buildings trying to look all nonchalant. Probably not how it happened, huh? It's fine. The mental image makes me giggle.

    I really want to visit Chicago. Sigh. One day.


  11. So you're telling me that the piece of the Taj Mahaj that I bought from the gift shop ISN'T real?

    I feel so lied to...

  12. Lol, Kelpto-cargo. I can't wait to go there!

    I'm afraid you'll have to run any makeouts past my Master. He's not into sharing me with someone unless they've got tits :p

  13. I have sort of a tangent, but I can't wait until they make the movie 'Devil in the White City.' A touch of architecture and crime...

  14. I wish I had a piece of the forbidden city... Would make my cubicle feel somehow magical.

  15. Although I can't support raiding the "gift shop", I do think the building IS pretty cool. :) Awesome post!

  16. Mel: Always glad to inform.

    Diego: Glad you enjoyed it, come by anytime.

    ab: That's a good idea. Make it all mysterious DaVinci code style, people love that stuff.

    Jayne: Yea, it's always been one of my favorites. Particularly at night.

  17. Apfel: Thanks!

    Jennifer: I've walked by the building a thousand times but I have to admit I never actually stopped to look at the rocks. I just always liked the story. Shhhhh don't tell anyone.

    Arlee: Yea it's a cool little story, glad to share it.

    K. Syrah: Well, ethics have never been much of a priority here in Chicago.

    Aurélie: Glad you enjoyed it.

  18. Lily: Mine too, I particularly like the way it looks all lit up at night.

    Lorraine: Somehow, I get the feeling that might have happened a few times at least. That's what I like to think anyway.

    I love it here, we hope you make it one day too!

    Cheryl: Hope you kept the receipt!

    Peridot: Well damn! Oh well, worth a shot.

  19. Samantha: I've been meaning to read that book! I was watching a PBS show on that whole incident and it sounds fascinating.

    Talli: Sure thing!

    Kev: You could just pick something up at a garage sale and then lie about it.

    Carolyn: It's a rather interesting building. He built all sorts of hidden passages and stuff in case the people ever stormed the tower.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...