Cover Story

Cover Story: Towering Chicago Condos Forever Connected To Wilco

They’re the Wilco Towers.

Much like Willis Tower being forever known as Sears Tower or the home of the White Sox still being called Comiskey Park instead of Guaranteed Rate Field, Marina City towers in downtown Chicago stand little chance of being referred to as their actual name.

The 65-floor towers tend to stand out among the buildings in the River North area thanks to their scalloped design. But it was an appearance on Wilco’s 2002 album, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” that made them synonymous with the rock band.

Nonesuch Records

Opening Of A Chicago Landmark

Marina City opened to residents in 1962. According to the property’s website, it was the tallest residential building in the world at that time.

The concrete structure was designed by famed architect and Chicago native Bertrand Goldberg. His intention was to create a “city within a city.”

Marina City is comprised of the two residential towers featured on the cover of “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” an office building that is now a hotel, a theater that is now the House of Blues and a building that serves as a base for the towers.

Unsplash photo

The scalloped balconies on the residential towers also have led to many referring to the structure as the “corn cobs” over the years. The design feature surrounds all 65 floors of each tower including the bottom 19 floors which are reserved for parking.

Chicago’s Alto Realty regularly posts available apartments at the towers. This one-bedroom unit will set you back $315,000.

If renting is more your style, this 500-square-foot studio apartment is currently listed for $1,900 a month.

Alto Realty photo

Wilco Gets The Credit, But Others Did It First

Los Angeles-based photographer Sam Jones is credited with the iconic photo on the cover of Wilco’s “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.”

Jones also directed “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco,” a documentary that followed the band during the album’s tumultuous creation and release.

While the “Wilco Towers” moniker is certainly deserved thanks to Jones’ photo and the band’s success, they were hardly the first act to feature Marina City on album packaging .

Sly And The Family Stone’s 1971 release, “There’s a Riot Goin’ On,” included a collage of photos on the record’s outer sleeve. Among the images is a shot of the Marina City towers.

A quick glimpse of the towers can also be seen on “Big Sexy Land,” the 1986 debut from industrial rock act the Revolting Cocks.

Wax Trax! photo

Outside of the music industry, Marina City has found its way into pop culture thanks to “The Bob Newhart Show,” “The Dark Knight” and several other television shows and movies.

No matter how many times the towers pop up on album covers or movie screens, it is Wilco that will be most closely associated to Marina City thanks to “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.”

That also speaks to the popularity and importance of the band’s fourth studio album, which celebrate’s its 20th anniversary this year.

You can catch Wilco playing “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” in full in New York and Chicago this April.

This is part of an occasional series highlighting album covers inspired by and featuring locations throughout the Midwest. Check out additional Cover Story features HERE.

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