Taller than the Hancock

Taller than the Hancock, © 2014 Celia Her City
The former home of a toy company where a terrible multiple murder once occurred has finally been torn down, exposing the base of a remarkably gangly old water tank.

Prior to the demolition, the site at Chicago Avenue and North LaSalle Street was composed of two properties.  On the north end was a low, unoccupied grey bunker-like building once occupied by the well-known toy-design firm, Marvin Glass and Associates.  On the south corner of the lot stood nothing but an enormous billboard sign, on a property where there had once been some sort of drive-in.

Marvin Glass designed games and toys that it licensed to big-name toy manufacturers like Hasbro, Parker Brothers, and Milton Bradley.  On July 27, 1976, a Tuesday, a quiet, well-liked employee came to work with a pistol and killed three of his co-workers, wounding two others before killing himself.  The design firm remained in existence until the late 1980s.  Some of its principals went on to found Big Monster Toys, whose west-loop building features a green monster peering out through the window of an enormous door.

For many decades, the modern grey building on LaSalle sat shut up and unoccupied, forming an odd contrast with the shingled old water tank teetering above.  Every time we drove by that part of LaSalle, my husband would say that no one wanted the old toymaker building because of bad karma.  Well, at last, it has been torn down.

As a result, the entirety of the water tank can be seen and appreciated.  I am not the only one who finds it interesting.  Every time I go by, I see various serious photographers out there taking pictures.  Because the water tank will be even less visible than before, once the new apartment tower planned for the spot goes up.

In the meantime, passersby have a rare opportunity to view the water tank, which, because of its siting, seems to dwarf the sleek Hancock Building, setting up an amusing contrast between the two structures.  The rickety and archaic water tower is patently impressive, if only because it’s seen so much more of life than the Hancock has.  The tapering glass form of the Hancock may be trussed up more solidly, but doesn’t it seem derivative, slavishly echoing everything about the water tank’s base?  Meanwhile, the primitive water tank exudes the charm, the nonchalance, that sometimes comes with age.


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