New Midwest Home Occupies 65,000 Square Feet of Space

Curator's note: The Chicago Evening American announced the opening (almost eleven months behind schedule) of the Merchandise Mart studios in an article of October 20th, 1930

Chicago has become the broadcasting center of the universe. With such outstanding stations as WMAQ, WGN, KYW, WBBM, WENR and WLS, the city offers the cream of radio entertainment. And now comes the latest step adding to the preeminence of Chicago in radio. NBC has established its new Midwest home in the Merchandise Mart, recently completed on the north bank of the Chicago River.

The new Midwest NBC home occupies two floors, the nineteenth and twentieth, with a total area of more than 66,000 square feet. In it are housed six of the finest and most scientifically constructed broadcasting studios in the entire world. One of these, studio A, is the largest in existence. In addition, there are literally scores of offices. These latter house all the various departments that have become necessary for a complete broadcasting service. With an eye to further development of radio, options have been taken on additional space. Tentative plans include the erection of at least four more studios and extension of the office section.

Has Two Divisions

In a general way, the new radio plant has two divisions. The main executive offices are on the twentieth floor of the tower which rises in the center of the building. Directly to the rear of this is the large rectangular structure which contains the studios and departmental offices. The two-story studios occupy the center of this rectangle. Around three of the sides on the nineteenth floor are additional departmental headquarters. The nineteenth floor in the tower is as yet unoccupied, although under option.

The plans of the general layout were designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, Chicago architects, working in cooperation with O. B. Hanson, chief engineer, and the other executives of the National Broadcasting Company. The furnishings and general decorative scheme were supervised by Gerard Chatfield, art director of the company, and carried out by Marshall Field & Co. In direct charge is Niles Trammell, vice-president.

While there are a number of broadcasting innovations, all of the developments are the result of years of experimental work of various kinds in both the New York and Chicago offices of the company. For the first time movable sound panels are used in the walls of the larger studios.

Studio A, the largest radio unit in the world, is in reality a large auditorium. Its dimensions are 72 feet long, 47 feet wide and 26 feet 6 inches high.

There are four network control booths, which are, in fact, miniature studios, created to eliminate tying up the larger studios when network programs are piped through. The four larger studios are literally floating rooms. Briefly described, they are a box within a box. They rest on springs. Four of the studios have sound locks at the entrances. These locks are merely small vestibules with two sets of doors which are lined with lead. Thus, when one door is opened, sound to and from the studio does not carry through the second door.

There are more than two hundred miles of wire involved in the technical operations of the studios. In addition to the control booths adjoining each studio, there is a control panel inside the studio for use by the announcer.

Studio A is lighted by sunlight, or sun ray lamps, designed by the General Electric Company under the supervision of Dr. M. Lucklesh, director of the lighting research laboratory of the company at Cleveland. This is the first commercial installation of such lights, which are, in fact, violet-ray lamps.

Corps of Hostesses

Visitors to the studios are accorded the courtesies of the company by a corps of hostesses and page boys. These not only receive visitors but show them around the studios. The hostesses are college girls.

The new quarters contain a master control room which has the largest control panel in the world. In the plant department is a small radio store. In this are found all the various pieces of mechanical equipment, such as tubes, etc., that are used in broadcasting operation. All equipment is in duplicate to prevent any delays in the transmission of programs. There is even a large battery room which, at a moment's notice, can supply independently all the power needed.

One innovation is the special arrangement of visitors' galleries, or observation rooms. They are all located on the twentieth floor. This prevents confusion and separates the visitors from the entertainers and production personnel.

Offices of the department heads and the visitors' observation rooms are all equipped with the latest type RCA reproducers, which carry the programs from any of the studios. Another deviation from the usual is a specially furnished and decorated clients' audition room. This room is designed to represent a living room in a private home, and its purpose is to permit the client to hear the auditions of his program in a home atmosphere. This same general idea is carried out in studio F, which is furnished in much the same way. This studio is to be used for broadcasting by nationally and internationally known speakers, and the surroundings are intended to put them at their ease. It has been found that the large studios have a tendency to confuse speakers who have not previously broadcast.

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