Credit: Paul Velgos
A Chicago landmark of consequence
By Megan McKinney
Bertrand Goldberg was not a Florsheim. But, because he was so outnumbered by family members in this series, we ignored for a moment that he stood alone as one of the most important Chicago architects of his time. You either loved his buildings or you hated them, but you could not ignore them. The most iconic of his creations, Marina City above, was planted directly in the middle of town, towering over the Chicago River.
There is no doubt that Mr. Goldberg was among mid-century Chicago’s preeminent figures, yet he scarcely overshadowed his wife—at least in the public mind.
Everyone loved Nancy Goldberg’s Maxim’s de Paris. In 1946, Bud Goldberg—as his friends and acquaintances knew him—married Irving and Lillian Florsheim’s younger daughter, who was covered earlier in this series as a “skilled horsewoman” on her father’s Libertyville Red Top Farm.
Victor Skrebneski’s 1972 vision of Nancy Florsheim Goldberg
Nancy, a striking woman with cat-like green eyes, was also a gourmet and chef, as well as a licensed pilot and much more. At about the same time Marina City was going up, Bud Goldberg designed an apartment building on Astor Street at Goethe Street and presented its “basement” to his wife, who turned it into a replica (and franchise) of the famous Maxim’s restaurant in Paris. But we will come to that later.
Bertrand Goldberg was born in Chicago in July 1913. After attending Harvard, he moved on to the Bauhaus in Berlin from 1932 to 1933. Returning to his birthplace, he worked briefly in the firms of George Fred Keck, then Paul Schweiker in the mid-1930s, before organizing his own firm in 1937.
Bertrand Goldberg Associates began with small residential, industrial and commercial projects; however, as mid-century approached, Bud began working on the mammoth Marina City, a gargantuan multi-use complex stretching over much of a city block between State and Dearborn Streets.
Credit: Chicago Tribune
There was a great deal for Goldberg, left, to explain to observers, who greeted the complex with mixed attitudes—but mainly positive. Proposed in 1959, construction began in 1960 and work on various portions continued through the next eight years. The twin “corncobs” are merely a portion of the development.
Behind the 64-story pair of towers, with a combined 896 apartments above an appropriate number of garages, there is . . .
. . . the office building—on stilts . . .
. . . the theater and, of course . . .
. . . the namesake marina at the base of the towers. There is much more—restaurants, shops and changing variables—but the above structures are the basics of the project’s immense scope.
By 1962, Bertrand Goldberg was established.
There would be other projects, including River City, a similar complex in the South Loop; however, after Marina City, no one would ever ask, Bertrand who?
Meanwhile, the Goldbergs were living well. Remember the Astor Street mansion Nicholas Pritzker listed for nearly $10.million in 2014? It was considered a “staggering” sum at the time. Nancy bought the 19-room house in 1954 for $65,000, big money in the mid-century.
The early 1960’s was quite an era for the Goldbergs. Chicago and the international architectural world were still marveling over the presence of Marina City in 1963 when Nancy opened Maxim’s de Paris in Bud’s Astor Tower.
Remember the staircase down? It led to a “basement” like no other. As one came to the bottom step, the restaurant was to the left, the bar ahead and to the right, with the discotheque to the back of the bar area.
Nancy died at 74 on November 12, 1996, with a reception in her memory on a Friday night in early December at Maxim’s. Bud sat the bar, greeting guests, many of whom were in formal dress because it was also the night of an annual party at a local private club. Somehow, black tie and evening gowns in Maxim’s festive atmosphere seemed appropriate for bidding goodbye to a lady who had added much festive formality to the lives of those present.
This concludes Classic Chicago Publisher Megan McKinney’s series on The Florsheims.
Edited by Amanda K. O’Brien
Author Photo: Robert F. Carl