LaSalle Street Revisited and the Art-Deco, Chicago

I looked at LaSalle Street briefly back in June of 2008, taking photos of the Rookery, Chicago Board of Trade and another bank. In July of 2008 I featured a skyscraper that had been “chopped off” and replaced with a more modern tower. But let’s look at the Rookery first, which like the Wainwright Building in St. Louis, is one of the most important structures in world architectural history.

Designed by the critically important firm of Daniel Burnham and John Root, it open in 1888. While using load bearing walls without a steel skeleton, it did begin the movement towards the “true” skyscraper.

There had been no tall office buildings in European history of this type, so architects were left to come up with their own architectural language, often culling from multiple influences.

But of course, the lobby, a later remodeling, is very famous in its own right.

Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1907, the architect shows off the structural possibilities of steel in conjunction with plate glass.

And of course, Wright rejected revival style ornament, seeking to create a uniquely American style in his ornament, rejecting European styles.

I was interested in the lightwell with its staircase, and noted its similarity to our own Chemical Building (third photo) in St. Louis.

Historic American Buildings Survey, Creator, George A Fuller, Edward C Waller, Burnham & Root, Frank Lloyd Wright, George A. Fuller Company, Illinois Terra Cotta Lumber Company, et al., Robinson, Cervin, Philip Turner, and Perry E Borchers, photographer. Rookery Building, 209 South LaSalle Street, Chicago, Cook County, IL. Cook County Illinois Chicago, 1933. Documentation Compiled After. Photograph.

Between innovation and experimentation, of course there are conservative banks who built in the Beaux-Arts style to not make their depositors nervous.

The Chicago Board of Trade creates a T-bone intersection the north-south LaSalle Street and the east-west Jackson Street.

Designed by William Holabird and John Root, the former partner of John Burnham, the building opened in 1930 and is crowned with a statue of the Roman goddess of agriculture, Ceres.

There’s another bank along here, as well.

Now let’s turn to some of the other stunning Art-Deco skyscrapers Chicago constructed before the Great Depression in the dozens, while St. Louis seemed to be asleep at the wheel. This is the moment when I think St. Louis really stumbled, not after World War II (yes, I’m aware of the Chase Park Plaza, but one Art-Deco skyscraper hardly counts as stiff competition).

The Field Building is Chicago’s massive response to the Empire State Building in New York. Opening in 1934, it was designed by the firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst & White.

Interestingly, this building is built on the site of the world’s first skyscraper, the Home Insurance Building, which was demolished to build the current structure.

Just like the Empire State Building, there are two chrome bridges on the mezzanine level of the two story lobby.

Heading south, we get to the Carbide and Carbon Building, built in 1929 according to the designs of the Burnham Brothers.

I just find this building spectacular, with its bold choice of the green terracotta cladding, striking a bold contrast to the normal gray limestone of it Art-Deco contemporaries.

The black base helps to ground the building, as well.

Like many Art-Deco skyscrapers, it tapers upward at the top, with an interesting pinnacle at the very top with extensive gilding.

Finally, we’ll head up the Magnificent Mile to look at the Intercontinental Hotel, sitting just to the north of the Tribune and Wrigley buildings.

Originally constructed as the Medinah Athletic Club in 1929 according to designs by Walter W. Ahlschlager, it later became a hotel in 1944.

As we often see in the Art-Deco style, there is a mix of often disparate styles, some from the Middle East.

There are some amazing bas-relief sculptures in Neo-Assyrian style on at least two sides of the original tower. There is a mediocre 1960s addition to the north.

One Comment Add yours

  1. W. White says:

    The Chicago Architecture Center’s article on the Carbide and Carbon Building should be taken with a grain of salt. That article states, “With the market crash of 1929, a planned sister building to the Carbide and Carbon Building was cancelled, making it the sole fully-colored skyscraper in the world at the time.” Of course, that ignores Raymond Hood’s earlier American Radiator Building in New York, which the Burnhams were certainly inspired by, and the contemporary Richfield Tower in Los Angeles.

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