The Rookery: Behind the Scenes

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As luck would have it, after years of wondering what it looked like upstairs in the Rookery, I got two behind-the-scenes visits in the last month (one with Open House Chicago and one with the National Trust for Historic Preservation). So now I am here to share with you: what is really up the stairs and behind the doors at the Rookery? A lot, it turns out. So much that I’m breaking this up into two blog posts (a first!). Trust me, it’ll be worth it. Today: my favorite views, with a little background in case you’re unfamiliar with the building. Its interior is tied to four of Chicago’s best-known architects, so it is no mistake that this is one of the most beautiful interiors you’ll see in Chicago.

First, a quick background. For those unfamiliar, the Rookery was constructed by Burnham & Root (of the Columbian Exposition fame) in 1888. Its intersection with well-known architects doesn’t end there. It was renovated in 1905-1907 by none other than Frank Lloyd Wright and again in 1931 by William Drummond, an early employee of Frank Lloyd Wright and well-known architect in his own right. In 1992 the building was almost entirely restored to its 1907 appearance (post-Frank Lloyd Wright). Many of the changes made by Drummond have since been removed, including a lower addition to the famous spiral staircase.

Today you can visit the Rookery and see the stunning lobby by yourself or as part of a tour (the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust and Chicago Architecture Foundation offer these). When I walk by the Rookery, it is hard not to step inside for a moment to stare up at the intricate ceiling and curving stairs.

Check back next week–I’ll be going into a little more detail and sharing some of my favorite elements of the Rookery! Have a great week.

P.S. I wrote a piece for Chicago Detours that went live last week! Check it out: Five Ways to Appreciate Chicago Architecture. It has a Thanksgiving theme but is absolutely applicable year-round.

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Sources and Further Reading:

For the Rookery, itself, a building history.

The Chicago Architecture Foundation on the Rookery.

The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust also has an article about the Rookery.

You can walk inside the lobby on your own or you can catch a tour. I recommend one with the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust or the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

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