These pieces of history reflect the aspirations of the Tribune Tower's creators: To make the fledging skyscraper one of the world's greatest monuments.
Ultimately the stones provide a popular, vicarious 'round-the-world' tour that helps represent the Tribune's global reach as well as add flavor to a Chicago landmark.
It was the decision of Col. Robber R. McCormick, president of Tribune Company from 1911 to 1955, to embed into the walls of the building stones with historic significance. He instructed The Chicago Tribune's foreign correspondents to bring back stones from their overseas assignments. The tradition began when McCormick himself was covering World War I for the Tribune and grabbed a piece of the damaged medieval cathedral in Ypres, Belgium.
Some highlights along the Tower:
(Some of these stones may be obscured during construction. Please check back after construction concludes.)
On the south wall of the Tower, also known as Pioneer Court, and heading east, you'll find pieces of Abraham Lincoln's original tomb from Springfield, Ill.; a bridge fragment of China's Forbidden City dating from 1421; and pure white marble stone from Mount Pentilicus quarry in Greece, the same quarry where stones were gathered to build The Parthenon.
Also along the south wall you'll find the most recent addition to the tower; a steel beam fragment from the World Trade Center destroyed in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
Facing front of the Tribune Tower along Michigan Avenue look for a piece of The Alamo, a stone dedicated during Texas Day at Chicago's 1933 Century of Progress World's Fair. This wall also contains a recent addition, a fragment of the Berlin Wall, added in 1990 to commemorate the wall's 1989 demise, and the end of the Cold War.
To the left of the Tribune Tower entrance, encased in bulletproof glass, sits a fist-sized 3.4 billion year old moon rock gathered during the Apollo 15 mission. Originally put on display to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the first lunar landing in 1969, this rock is on loan from NASA.
Continuing north on Michigan Avenue you'll come upon Tribune Tower's Nathan Hale court. In the center of the Tribune Tower near the statue of Nathan Hale you'll find a 170-pound Viking stone from Sweden; to its left, a piece of Chicago's Union Stock Yards gate; and further down, a stone taken from an inner wall of the White House during renovations in 1950.
On the north wing facing Michigan Avenue is a fragment from The Coliseum in Rome; a stone from South Dakota's Badlands; a unique piece from the Holy Door at St. Peter's in the Vatican City. The Holy Door is opened only in jubilee years, once every 25 years. Also on this wing is a piece from the Great Pyramid of Cheops, Giza, Egypt. One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Pyramid was built in the 30th century B.C. and is the largest structure of its kind ever built, towering 482 feet high and covering 13 acres.
Turning the corner and heading east along Illinois Street you will find a wide variety of stones representing the United States. These pieces include Mark Twain's cave from Hannibal Missouri. According to Twain's classic "Tom Sawyer" Injun Joe buried a treasure in this cave to be discovered by Tom and Huckleberry Finn.
Also along this wall is a fragment of what many believe to be our nation's most significant building: Independence Hall in Philadelphia. It was behind these walls where George Washington was appointed commander of the Continental Army, the Declaration of Independence was signed, and the Constitution of the United States was adopted.
Continuing along Illinois Street you'll discover pieces from John Brown's Cabin, a militant abolitionist who landed Kansas; a piece from the Confederate Prison, Andersonville, Georgia; and a stone from the birthplace of Elijah Lovejoy, an abolitionist and martyr in the cause for freedom of the press.
The Illinois Street wall also contains fragments from around the world including a rose-colored sandstone from Petra, Jordan; the Toyotomi Gold Castle in Osaka, Japan, which took 50,000 men to build; and Little America Antarctica which was used as a base for the Antarctic expeditions led by Admiral Richard Byrd in 1930s and '40s.
The strange sculptures that cover the top and bottom of the Tribune Tower are grotesques. Not to be confused with gargoyles, these witty carvings were added to Tribune tower to express the ideals of journalism, much like an editorial cartoon in stone.
Beginning on the south side of the building facing Pioneer Court (above the WGN sign) look for grotesques beneath the Tower's fourth-floor windows. They are placed there because the fourth floor houses the Chicago Tribune's newsroom.
Grotesques on this floor feature an owl holding a camera, a spectacled, nose-holding elephant representing scandal, and an ape as an example of a busybody. Also carved into stone, most sitting below the windows are several fleur-di-lis. These honor American valor on the battlefields of France during World War I.
Above the Tribune Tower's entrance is a monumental stone screen called Aesop's Screen because it showcases carved stone characters from Aesop's fables. These figures, age-old symbols of virtues and vices, are set among the branches of a delicately carved tree.
Also carved into the screen are the Tribune's former editors, Colonel Robert R. McCormick and Captain Joseph M. Patterson, and the Tribune Tower's architects, Mead Howells and Raymond M. Hood. They are at the very top of the arch, with the Colonel at the top right, wearing a helmet and holding a telescope — commemorating his World War I service.
Included in the screen are some of the traditional stories like the raven who was bitten by the serpent and concluded he deserved it for trying to profit by injuring others. This is an appropriate lesson for those who attempt to smear reputations with sensational stories.
You'll find the rave and serpent near the top center branch, under the Colonel, on the left hand side.
In another story a crow eating a piece of cheese is tricked into dropping it by a fox who praises the crow's singing voice a satirical jab at those who love the sound of their own voice just a little too much. You'll find that crow with a wheel of cheese toward the center branch on the right side.
The need for journalists to be ready for anything is reflected in the story of the boar who when asked, "why do you prepare for battle when there are no enemies in sight?" replied: because when enemies are in sight I may not have time to sharpen my tusk. The wise boar is located at the bottom center left of the screen.
All of these figures are visible from inside the Tribune's lobby as well.And, above Aesop's Screen, look for the grotesque of a whispering man. Notice how his fingers are conspiratorially pressed to his lips? This is to symbolize rumor. Opposite of him is a flaming head of a shouting man. This is to personify news, and probably one hot story. The grotesques continue into Nathan Hall court.