The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

The Wigwam: Chicago's Most Iconic-Sounding Political Footnote

By JoshMogerman in News on Mar 18, 2012 8:30PM

"The Republicans In Nominating Convention In Their Wigwam at Chicago, May 1860" [WikiMedia Commons]

All the talk around the surprising importance of the upcoming Illinois primary, growing whispers of a brokered Republican convention and inevitable Lincoln comments from the President and candidates this week have us thinking about Wacker Drive. No, not because it is broken and seemingly in the midst of never-ending construction work, but because 150 years ago it hosted THE brokered political convention.

Walk past 191 N. Wacker today and it is pretty easy to miss the historical marker, but that was the spot that launched one of history’s most beloved and transcendent figures: Abraham Lincoln. In 1860, the Republican Party held its second national convention in a temporary building on the site of Chicago’s first hotel. After the Sauganash Hotel burned down, the City built a convention center of sorts, dubbed "The Wigwam," where 12,000 politicos gathered for one of the most famous and important brokered conventions in American history. Though Lincoln was not present, the backroom political maneuvers in the Wigwam eventually swept Illinois’ dark horse candidate into the White House past rivals like his eventual Secretary of State, William Seward.

All politics aside, there will certainly be a lot of excitement should 2012 turn out to be the first brokered convention in recent memory. But history thrives in interesting settings. And despite this week’s Lincoln chatter, the Tampa Bay Times Forum just seems like a pale counterpart to something as iconic-sounding as the Wigwam.