Palmolive Building

Palmolive Building
  1. About the Palmolive Building in Chicago
    1. Building Catalogations
  2. Architect and team
  3. Architectureal style
  4. Spaces and uses
  5. Structure and materials

The Palmolive Building is an Art-deco skyscraper designed by Holabird & Root and built between 1927 and 1929 in Chicago, IL.

Palmolive Building is not the only name you might know this building by though. It is common for companies to want to attach their names to iconic buildings when they move in, or for the general public to come up with nicknames, and this one is no exception. The building has changed names several times over the years, and is also known as:

  • Playboy Building between 1965 and 1989.
  • 919 N. Michigan Building between 1989 and 2001.

Its precise street address is 919 North Michigan Avenue for the commercial spaces, and 159 East Walton Place for the residences, Chicago, IL. You can also find it on the map here.

The Palmolive Building is a structure of significant importance both for the city of Chicago and the United States as a nation. The building embodies the distinctive characteristic features of the time in which it was built and the Art Deco style. Because of that, the Palmolive Building was officially declared as a national landmark on February 16th 2000.

The building underwent a major restoration in 2000.

Building's timeline

Construction begins
Construction completed
Playboy Building
919 N. Michigan Building
years ago

Architect and team

Holabird & Root was the architecture firm in charge of the architectural design.

The studio was founded in Chicago in 1880, and even though it has changed names several times, the firm has evolved and is still active more than a century later.

The firm has played an important role in shaping the skyline of the windy city, and in the overall development of modern architecture in the United States.

The studio has evolved and adapted to the passage of time, from its rise with the Art Deco movement, to embracing the Modern style, and currently introducing sustainability into their designs.

Holabird Root

Holabird & Root was in charge of the architectural design, however, architecture is a complex discipline, which usually involves many professionals from different fields, without whom this building would have not been possible. We will surely be leaving out a lot of names here, but at the very least we know that there was one other part involved, that was Verne O. McClurg in charge of Structural Engineering.

Architectural Style

The Palmolive Building can be categorized as an Art-deco building.

The Art Deco movement flourished during the 1920s and 1930s, with many historians marking the outbreak of World War II as its final decline. Even though a couple of decades might not seem as much, the Art Deco movement had a great impact on architecture, and it's widely represented in many American cities due to the development boom that happened during that time.

Art Deco marked the abandonment of traditional historicism and the embracement of modern living and the age of the machine. In architecture, that meant leaving behind the ornaments of Beux-Arts and Neo-Gothic buildings and instead favoring simplicity and visual impact through geometric shapes, clean lines, and symmetrical designs. Ornaments were still an important part of the design, but they became bold and lavish, and were often inspired by ancient cultures or industrial imagery, instead of nature.

The Palmolive Building was completed in 1929, right when the Art Deco movement was at its peak, so it kind of went with the trend at that time.

Spaces & Uses

The Palmolive Building reaches an architectural height of 564ft (172m). It has a total of 37 floors, served by 13 elevators.

When it opened its doors to the public in 1929, the Palmolive Building was primarily used as Commercial space. That however, is no longer the case, and today it mainly provides Residential space.

About the residences

The Palmolive Building has a total of 102 residential units throughout its 37 floors.

564ft (172m)

Materials & Structure

The Palmolive Building uses a frame structure made of steel columns and concrete slabs.

A frame structure uses a combination of beams and columns to sustain the building's weight. The walls in this case are non-load bearing, which allows for more flexibility when distributing the interior spaces.

The facade is non-load bearing either, as it is common in frame structure type buildings.

From an aesthetic point of view, the facade features a light-colored Indiana Beford Limestone cladding.

Other materials found at the Palmolive Building include, terra cotta, used for the top of the building features, and steel and aluminum, used for the mast that rises on the rooftop and used to serve as an aviation beacon.