Stories That Skyscrapers Tell

Stories That Skyscrapers Tell 1

Keri Wiginton for The Chronicle Review

Iowa State U.’s Thomas Leslie on South Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

Thomas Leslie likes to warn his Iowa State University architecture students that when he brings them to Chicago for a show-and-tell history of pioneering skyscrapers, they'll be facing the "legendary five-hour death march." And he does indeed cover a lot of territory. But the city's early high-rises are astonishingly varied, and Leslie enlivens his account of their construction with great details—about problems that stumped builders on one block and got