November 30, 2021
Today’s Top 100 Project feature is the National Video Corporation office and manufacturing facility, located at 4300 W. 47th Street in Chicago.
Coming in at no. 43, National Video was completed in March 1953 and is located within the Crawford Tract of Chicago’s Central Manufacturing District (the nation’s first planned industrial park). This plant produced nearly 10 percent of all picture tubes required in the United States.
For an 8-year period running from 1952–1960, Epstein provided design and engineering services for National Video at this location. During that time, we helped deliver the original 112,000-square-foot building as well as two 50,000-square-foot additions, making the National Video Corporation the largest independent manufacturer of television tubes in the U.S.
This original plant was designed to be the world's most modern cathode-ray tube plant and featured a production process involving a series of cutting-edge manufacturing techniques. These processes included molding glass and wires together with heating operations to produce a part of the electron gun, which is the most important part of the picture tube. Another process was a sophisticated de-ionizing procedure that purified the water used in the production of these tubes by replacing soluble impurities in the water through a chemical reaction.
The most sophisticated manufacturing portion of this facility, however, was the "screening room," which was more or less sealed off from the rest of the facility and only allowed for a conveyor belt that carried picture tubes to enter and exit. The room featured electric eyes that opened and closed the doors. Furthermore, the air in this wing was also pressurized, allowing only clean air from air cleaners to enter. In addition, a chemical cocktail comprised of nitrates, silicates, fluorescent powders and water were used, which ultimately created the screen on the inside of the viewing surface of the picture tube.