View of the Chicago Water Tower and Palmolive Building at the intersection of Chicago and Michigan Avenues, May 24, 1949. Hedrich-Blessing Collection

For more on the development of this famous thoroughfare, visit Chicago Styled.

Purchase a copy
E-mail and give them this number: HB-12210-C

Connect with us
Visit the Museum’s website
Shop our PhotoStore
Search our digital collection

The Palmolive Building, Chicago.

Circa 1933.

“For many miles distant the ever-circling powerful light beam from the Lindbergh light can be seen, ’ Lighting, lighting the airway mail’ - the most powerful searchlight imaginable. It is mounted on a tower which extends high above the top of the tall Palmolive building, which in itself is a modern skyscraper landmark which overlooks miles and miles of Chicago’s never-ending shoreline. It is on Michigan Avenue, near north side.”

1929 Palmolive Building, Chicago IL:  Built for one of the world’s leading soap manufacturers, this office building (“a monument to cleanliness”) was the first commercial skyscraper built far from the Loop - at the northern end of Michigan Avenue. It is one of the country’s premier Art Deco-style “set-back” skyscrapers, the design of which were influenced by municipal zoning laws and the dramatic renderings of New York architect Hugh Ferris. The building was designed by one of Chicago’s oldest and most prestigious architectural firms, whose other significant buildings include the 333 North Michigan Building, the Chicago Board of Trade, and the former Chicago Daily News Building.

A navigational beacon operated atop the building from 1930-1981. It was known as the Playboy Building from 1965 to 1989, when it served as headquarters for Playboy magazine. It was designated a Chicago Landmark in 2000, as was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

Today, the building is being converted for residential use by developer Draper and Kramer. The first two floors house upscale office and retail space. High-end condos make up the rest of the building. Perhaps its most famous residents are Vince Vaughn and Lou Piniella.