Highly regarded as one of the most historically significant buildings in Chicago, it’s only natural that we would include the Rookery Building in our ongoing Chicago skyscraper spotlight series. So what does it take for a building to earn such an esteemed title – especially in a city with a skyline marked by its architectural diversity and richness? Let’s take a look.
Big Shoulders Indeed
The Rookery Building was completed in 1888 by architects Daniel Burnham and his partner John Wellborn Root, under their firm Burnham and Root. Overall, the structure is considered one of their masterpiece buildings and was even once the location of their offices. Standing at twelve stories high (188 feet total), it’s also considered the oldest standing high-rise in Chicago.
The Rookery Building rose from the ashes of the Great Chicago Fire. Burnham and Root were part of the Chicago School of Architects who worked to rebuild the city during that time, utilizing modern industrial techniques combined with traditional techniques and design, resulting in a truly unique product.
The unique name, too, comes with a story: only a water tank was left standing from the original structure after the fire. A temporary structure was built around this tank, and was nicknamed the “rookery” – in part because of the pigeons and crows that perched on its exterior, but also in part because of the crooked politicians it housed within.
The Rookery Building in the Modern Era
Burnham and Root weren’t the only big names to call the Rookery Building home. At one point, Frank Lloyd Wright once held offices there as well. In fact, Wright even remodeled the building’s lobby in 1905. Just a few decades ago, from 1982 to 1992, a massive renovation project was completed to restore the lobby to this original Wright design once again.
These days, the building is home to tenants such as US Bank, Brooks Brothers, Perkins Eastman and Interactive Brokers Group. Both the Frank Lloyd Wright organization and the Chicago Architectural Society offer tours inside the building, so that lovers of great architecture today can continue to appreciate its history, story, and gorgeous features.