Chicago – February 2019 – The Rookery

In my opinion the Rookery is the most architecturally interesting building in Chicago, and one of the best in the country.

Situated in the financial section of downtown Chicago on South LaSalle Street, it’s exterior doesn’t give any impression to a visitor of what awaits inside.





Famed architects Daniel Burnham and John Root designed the building in 1888.

With a mix of styles including Moorish, Venetian and Romanesque it was a remarkable building when completed. What makes it even more amazing is Frank Lloyd Wright lead the first of three major renovations in 1905-1907.

The second renovation was completed in 1931 by a former Wright assistant, William Drummond.

The third and final renovation was completed in 1992, and brought it back (mostly) to the FLW look.





Wright covered much of the ironwork with white carved Carrara marble.





The cantilevered staircase was something the people of the early 1900s hadn’t seen. Many refused to go onto the staircase, assuming it would fall off the wall.

Wright added the vertical supports, but they have never been attached – merely there to give assurance to people. The stairs are still doing just fine after 100 years of being cantilevered.





A close up of the marble work.





The stairs to the mezzanine are worn from a hundred years of feet going up and down them.





The mezzanine flooring is glass block.





The mezzanine also gives a great view of the light court.





The lighting of FLW.





Every photo blog posting seems to have a symmetry shot and this is this ones. It is the skylight lattice work.





This view shows one side of the cantilevered steps, as well as more of the marble and skylight.





The second floor elevator lobby looking towards the front of the building. At one time this was closed off for offices.





A view back down the stairs to the glass block. Every angle you look at this amazing building reveals a number of features.





The famed spiral staircase.





A view from the elevator lobby of the stairs.





The very cool lights near the elevators. Note the ‘Y’ underneath the light – it is a symbol of Chicago representing the Chicago River coming from the lake and forking into the North Branch and South Branch.

As you walk around the city you will find this ‘Y’ on numerous structures (but you have to look closely).





The elevator lobby, stairs and skylight! And then you get a reflection of it all off the floor.





Another view from the mezzanine including the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust gift shop.





Our docent Bruce was excellent, very knowledgeable and willing to share.

Here he shows where in the last renovation they left one of the original iron columns exposed.





Our final stop was a rare visit to the 11th floor Burnham Library. While it is a nice enough room, it is what was accomplished there that makes this a very special venue.

Essentially the design of the City of Chicago, and the 1893 World’s Fair were all decided in this room by the country’s greatest architectural minds.

Once again the Chicago Architectural Foundation docents were excellent. We look forward to more tours on this trip.







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