Landmark status approved for American Book Company Building

July 29, 2009

Mayor's Press Office     312.744.3334

Department of Zoning and Land Use Planning    312.744.9267

The City Council today voted to approve a historic landmark designation for the American Book Company Building. The five-story building constructed in 1912 is prominently situated at 320-330 E. Cermak Road on Chicago’s Near South Side.

The brick factory building is a finely-crafted, classically-influenced structure commissioned and built by architect Nelson Max Dunning.  

Dunning was best known for a series of progressive and elegant commercial and industrial buildings throughout the Midwest.

“This building and its neighbor, the R. R. Donnelley and Sons Building (also a designated Chicago Landmark); are important reminders of the role publishing and printing have played in Chicago’s great manufacturing history,” said Mayor Richard M. Daley.

Handsome examples of Dunning’s architecture can be found throughout North America, but the American Book Company and the American Furniture Mart, 680 N. Lake Shore Drive, are hallmarks of his long and accomplished career.

The American Book Company Building was originally used as the Midwest headquarters, warehouse and distribution location for the American Book Company which produced an array of publications including: books, magazines, catalogues, maps and textbooks.

At the time of the building's construction, the American Book Company was one the preeminent textbook publishing firms in the Midwest.  It was formed through the consolidation of four of the five largest textbook publishing houses in the United States.

The building, which is currently used as a warehouse, reflects Beaux-Arts formality, with projecting corner bays and a prominent tower over its ornate entrance.

The stately rectangular-shaped building is crafted of red brick laid in decorative patterns, embellished limestone, multi-colored terra cotta, and copper detailing.

Rising from the building is a nearly three-story masonry brick tower which concealed the factory’s water and service tanks behind geometric details.

Chicago’s printing industry was at its greatest prominence in the last quarter of the 19th century and counted more than 9,500 workers and revenues of $19 million.

By 1914, the industry employed more than 21,000 and generated nearly $52 million in printed materials.