Chicago 2018 – The Rookery

My education about Frank Lloyd Wright continues today with the Rookery & Burnham Library tour.

  • The Burham Library tour is only offered a couple of times a week, so plan your trip so you can see the entire building.

One of the things I learned yesterday is that a lot of research goes into deciding what year to use as the restoration set-point because there have been so many revisions. Wright’s home and studio is restored to 1909 – the year he left Chicago (I believe due to the scandal of an extra-marital affair). For the Rookery, designed by Burnham & Root in 1886, redesigned by Wright in 1905 and again by Drummond n 1932, the set point for its restoration was 1910, the period with the most photographic documentation.

The Rookery was the first major project for Burnham & Root, and is considered the first prototype of the modern office building. During Wright’s time, the second floor held retail shops, possibly making it among the first shopping malls in the country.

This is the entry arch into the Rookery. Some say the building was named for the nest of crows that inhabited its walls, another story says that the squawking crows were symbolic of the corrupt officials who once inhabited the crumbling City Hall. The story I like is that the architect, upon hearing that the building might be renamed, had a pair of crows carved into the base of the arch in order to seal the name.

The lobby reminded me of the Santa Fe Building – expansive and airy.

The Oriel Staircase leads you from the second floor, up to the Burnham Library. It is not accessible to the general public outside of the tours offered twice a week.

A separate (and publicly accessible) staircase takes up to the second level where you can get close up to a lot of the architectural structure and detail. Additional photos of this building are on my Rookery board on Pinterest.

From here it’s a short walk to the Chicago Exchange Building. The Chicago Board of Trade was founded in 1848 and remains one of the world’s largest futures exchanges. A guide book informed me that I could go to the 5th floor gallery to view the trading floor, but that is not actually the case. The security guard was very pleasant though, and allowed me to snap a few shots of the lobby.

I had reserved a spot on a “Gangsta” tour but could not find the rendezvous point, so I headed towards Old Town in search of works by one of my other favorite architects, Edward Miller. Quite by accident, I stumbled into the Chicago History Museum, and have posted a few fashion photos over at August Phoenix Hats.

In the Old Town Triangle District, I was seeking Crilly Court, with 4-story apartment buildings dating to the late 1800’s. It was home to notables such as George K Spoor (Keystone Cop movies) and Haddon Sundbloom, who created the faces of Quaker Oats, Aunt Jemimah, and the Coca-Cola Santa. I was particularly interested in this area because many of the buildings were renovated by Edgar Miller.

Edgar Miller was a modern day Renaissance Man, working in sculpting, painting, batik, lithography, architecture, interior design and stained glass. He was an illustrator for Marshal Fields’ magazine and pioneered the use of modern art in advertising during the early 1920’s. He disliked repetition, considering it “the mark of an uncreative artist.” He used recycled materials to turn old homes into works of art, a practice he called “social adventure”, a practice that I found endearing and texturally interesting.

I had dinner here at Mama Milano (next to the Pour House), which served up one of the best pizzas I’ve had outside of Venice. I’m also having the best drinks when I’m the only customer and I let the barkeep go off-menu. After dinner, I walked back into town, and after a freshen-up at my hotel, visited the Palmer Hotel. I paid $15 for a mediocre Moscow Mule from a disinterested barkeep, but it afforded me a seat at the bar and a chance to study the ceiling, and to walk around afterwards to photograph the interiors.

The Palmer House has been rebuilt three times – the Chicago Fire destroyed the first one two weeks after it opened; it was rebuilt in 1873 and then again in 1926. Designed by Holabird & Roche with interiors by J. Wellbourn Root Jr, it boasts 24 floors, 2250 rooms, and a ceiling painted by an unnamed Italian artist.

C.D. Peacock Jeweler was the first business to incorporate in Chicago in 1834, running an emporium of fine jewelry, fine china and imported gifts in silver and gold. His son took over his father’s business and opened a shop in the Palmer House in 1927. Holabird & Roche designed it, utilizing dark green Grecian marble as the best backdrop for diamonds. The Peacock Doors were designed by Louis Tiffany and cast in bronze. They each weigh half a tone and the three sets together are valued at over $1M. The clock outside the Palmer House also dates to 1927. The jewelry store is now a Kay’s Jewelers.

Lingering as long as I can, I finally retreat to the Pittsfield, where I will dream of what I will discover and experience tomorrow… the Museum of Science and Industry and a White Sox game!

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