The building at right, the Manhattan in Chicago, is one of the few Jenney buildings still standing. (Photo credit: …
That's how Chicago contractor Henry Ericsson remembered Jenney's tale, anyway, though historians generally seem to consider it apocryphal.
Here's what we do know: Jenney, born 181 years ago today, built what is considered the first "skyscraper," the 10-story Home Insurance Building in Chicago. Its metal frame weighed a third as much as traditional buildings that relied on masonry for support.
And a lightweight skeleton -- first of iron, later of steel -- meant that buildings could break free of their brick bulk ... and soar.
- William Le Baron Jenney