Thoughts From Chicago on Toronto’s High-rise Buildings

Frank Sinatra never sang about Chicago, but maybe he should have. It’s a great town, possibly one of the best towns in the States. Except maybe in the winter. (Correction: as a reader pointed out on BAM’s Facebook page, Sinatra did sing about Chicago. Thanks, Ian!)

I’m in Chicago for the weekend, and as always whenever I come here, I’m reminded of the Great Chicago Fire, which as you may know killed around 300 people in 1871 and destroyed some 3 square miles of the city, including over 17,000 buildings.

The Home Insurance Building was the first building to use structural steel in its frame and is generally noted as the first tall building to be supported, both inside and outside, by a fireproof metal frame. (Image and text via Wikipedia).

Tragic as the fire was, it helped make Chicago the great town it is today, thanks to the rebuilding frenzy that began shortly thereafter. So enthusiastic was the rebuilding, in fact, that more than 300 buildings were being erected only 6 weeks after the fire.

And with leading architects of the day laying out the foundations, it’s little wonder that the first skyscraper in the world was built in Chicago in 1885, only 14 years after the fire, and that Chicago was being nicknamed “Paris on the Prairie” by 1909.

Luckily, neither of Toronto’s two great fires caused as much damage. Yet we have our fair share of great buildings like the CN Tower, the TD Tower, the Royal York Hotel, and the gold-coated Royal Bank Plaza Towers (how’s that for cool?).

What’s more, the high-rise market has also been getting great buildings like the Seventy5, designed by a London-based design firm where Jade Jagger is creative director, or the One St. Thomas, designed by legendary New York architect Robert A.M. Stern.

I think Toronto will keep erecting great buildings. Some of them will make history. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take another fire.

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