William Le Baron Jenney and the Home Insurance Building have been given a pivotal position in many of the early histories of modern architecture, a reputation that has been consistently embroiled in controversy during the building's 100-year history. The context of the Home Insurance Building in Chicago's commercial building milieu immediately prior to Jenney's design of 1884 reveals that tall buildings constructed before the Home Insurance Building were called skyscrapers. Many of these earlier buildings, in fact, were even taller than the final height of the Home Insurance Building. A technical analysis of Jenney's final structural design reveals that it was neither conceived nor detailed as a rigid, independent iron frame. A recently discovered article on the potential of iron framing published by Chicago architect Frederick Baumann in March 1884, before Jenney even started designing the Home Insurance Building, not only disputes Jenney's reputation as the "father of the iron skeleton frame," but also exposes the antiquated nature of Jenney's actual structure and detailing.
- Copyright 1987 The Society of Architectural Historians