DOWNTOWN — One of the first people ever to move into Marina City is moving out.
Yolanda Flader, who was so excited to move into the landmarked towers in the early '60s she scheduled her honeymoon around their opening date, is heading to Mexico City after more than half a century perched near the top of Bertrand Goldberg's unmistakable corncobs on the Chicago River.
Neighbors threw a sendoff party Monday for Flader, who along with her late husband was the fifth resident to move into the towers in 1963. She'll be one of two original residents left in the high-rises that helped define Chicago's skyline when she moves out Wednesday.
"I had a great time, and I love Marina," Flader told neighbors at the party Tuesday. "It has been my life for most of my life."
Flader, right, during the fête Monday with neighbor Dustin Harvey, left. [DNAinfo/David Matthews]
Flader, born Yolanda Haces, came to Chicago after a fateful train ride more than 50 years ago from San Antonio to St. Louis. Flader was on her way back to New York, where she worked as an interpreter for the United Nations, after visiting her family in Mexico.
A young serviceman named Richard Flader was on the same train, heading back to his home in Chicago.
Yolanda and Richard had to part ways when the train stopped in St. Louis, but they exchanged phone numbers and mailing addresses.
After four years of correspondence and a trip with her mother to Chicago, Yolanda decided to move closer to the man she would later marry. Yolanda got a law degree too, and the young couple decided to put their names on a list to rent an apartment in Marina City, Goldberg's "city within a city" that promised to curb suburban flight and revitalize urban living.
After two years of waiting, the couple moved into the towers in 1963. The elevators weren't working yet, making their move up to the 34th floor a pain. Their rent was $170 a month.
"It was something new and different, and I think it's still different," Flader said. "I haven't seen any other building with the balconies we have."
A party on a balcony in 1967 [Imgur]
Though the towers are often likened to corncobs, Goldberg envisioned "pie-shaped" layouts that emphasized views for Marina City's apartments. More than 3,500 people applied to live in one of the towers' 900 or so apartments, according to Goldberg's website, and Marina City was the world's tallest apartment high-rise when the towers were built.
The apartments were converted to condominiums in 1977, Wilco immortalized the corncobs on a 2002 album cover, and City Hall landmarked Marina City in 2015. WTTW-Channel 11 named the towers one of the "10 Homes that Changed America" last year.
Marina City while it was under construction. [Chicago History Museum]
Flader eventually moved on up to the tower's 45th floor, where she and her late husband combined two condos into a two-bedroom home. She doesn't recall what they paid, but the combined unit is under contract after being listed for $485,000 last month. The couple never had kids, believing the tower's balconies were too dangerous for children. Flader once sat on Marina City's condo board, and her husband used to be president.
Dustin Harvey, a real estate agent who lives in Marina City, said Flader had seen the construction of more than 100 new buildings and more than 20,000 sunsets from her riverfront balcony. Flader saw Chicago change from her high-rise home, though she says the view was better before all the new buildings began popping up.
Flader's husband died 10 years ago, and she's moving back Wednesday to her native Mexico City to be near her siblings. She's the only member of her family who lives in the United States.
Flader said it's "time to go back," but she'll miss Chicago. A room full of old friends bid their goodbyes and best wishes to Flader on Monday, but she had another reason to reminisce.
"I think mostly the apartment," she said, laughing.