Chicago Demolition Louis Sullivan

Demolition Started on Chicago’s Wirt Dexter Building

by Michael R. Allen

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that emergency demolition of the Wirt Dexter Building began today. The building, designed by Adler & Sullivan and built in 1887, burned in a huge fire on Tuesday.

Try to stanch the pain of tragedy by reading Carl Sandburg’s poem “Skyscraper.” The poem invokes the golden age of American tall buildings, started by rapid architectural innovation in which the Wirt Dexter Building was an integral part. The roots of the American skyscraper pass back through what is now a blackened wreck and what will next week be nothing but rubble. Although the building is falling, it was one of many that — through narrow piers, wide windows, pronounced height and embrace of the metal frame — proclaimed to Chicago and the world that a new soaring architectural form was being born in America. That legacy remains vibrant, even as the Wirt Dexter building dies a senseless death.