[graphic header] Chicago: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary, National Park Service

The Rookery Building
The Rookery, exterior
Photo courtesy of the Commission on Chicago Historical and Architectural Landmarks.

Built in 1888, the Rookery Building was named in honor of the former temporary City Hall where many of the city's birds made their nests. The 11-story office building, designed by the architectural firm of Burnham and Root, features cast-iron columns joined by wrought-iron spandrel beams, an elaborate oriel staircase and Italian marble floors and wainscoting. The central court, integrating office spaces with shops in the interior, extends all the way to the roof, thus allowing light into the interior. This National Historic Landmark includes some structural innovations, including the double iron staircase that is supported by cantilevers, as well as the cast iron and stone structural elements that allow for the use of ribbon windows. The court is adorned with glazed white terra cotta and covered by an iron and glass roof spanning the second floor level. Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright remodeled the ground floor lobby in 1905 by designing stair rails, light fixtures and urns.

The Rookery was erected by the Central Safety Deposit Company on land leased from the city. Several architects, including Burnham and Root, relocated their offices into the building after its completion. In the 1940s, the building managers covered up the light court with tar paper and paint, leaving the lobby dark for nearly 50 years. Continental Bank bought the Rookery in the 1980s but did not carry out their proposed restoration plans. Thomas Balwin III, a bond futures trader bought the building in 1988 and executed a restoration project that returned the Rookery to its near original appearance.

The Rookery Building is located at 209 S. LaSalle St. Some of the offices are open to the public.



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