Exploring Chicago: The Rookery Building

Having an early appointment in the Chicago Loop, we decided to take the Metra train from New Lennox. Our destination was the Jim Thompson Center at LaSalle and Randolph.  We arrived at the LaSalle Street station in little over an hour, finding that the train was the easiest way to make the journey with no downtown parking, no traffic to contend with, and plenty of time to relax and converse.

After leaving the station, we walked at a brisk pace north on LaSalle Street in unison with the other pedestrians who seemed to move with purpose and direction. It took us 12 minutes to reach the Center.  Whew! What a workout!  After our meeting with the manager of the Illinois Artisan Shop, we found that we had some free time.  Walking back to the station, we strolled leisurely, falling behind the fast paced foot traffic, looking up and around–drinking in the distinctive Chicago ambiance.

The first building which enticed us to explore it was The Rookery, at 209 South LaSalle Street, an historical landmark and the oldest standing early skyscraper in Chicago.  Built in 1885 by architects Burnham and Root, the red marble, terra cotta, and rusticated brick façade stood strong amidst the modern buildings which surrounded it in the center of Chicago’s Financial District.

The interior features a two story light court designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1905.  It was restored to Wright’s original plans in 1989.  A magnificent symmetrical staircase invites one to enter and explore. Another spectacular semi-circular spiral staircase is found at the north end of the Lobby.

City Hall was located at this site until 1885.  Many crows and pigeons lived in the old structure back then.  Hence, the name The Rookery was born.  When the new building was created, the architects included crows in the terra cotta decorations that enhance The Rookery.  Many say that they are a metaphor for the “crowing” politicians who once inhabited the site.

If anyone wants to visit this iconic building, one may take a 30 minute inside tour on Mondays and Fridays at noon.

"Chicago Rookery Escalier Face" by Velvet, CC by SA 3.0
“Chicago Rookery Escalier Face” by Velvet, CC by SA 3.0
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