The Rookery: Six Fun Facts

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I recently got two behind-the-scenes tours of the Rookery in downtown Chicago (in one month. I will not turn down a behind-the-scenes building tour). The Rookery, built in 1888 and designed by Chicago architects Burnham & Root, is not only beautiful but rich with history. Last week’s post was an overview, and today I’m sharing some of the coolest tidbits I learned on these visits.

1. Burnham & Root. Heard of them? They are perhaps best known for designing the White City–the World’s Columbia Exposition of 1893. And, story goes, they designed it here in their office at the Rookery.

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Here’s a picture of Burnham & Root, themselves, sitting in front of the above fireplace (photo courtesy of the Chicago Architecture Foundation):

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2. The second floor walkway in the atrium has glass block floors!

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3. There’s a glass ceiling above the glass ceiling. Makes sense–it keeps the snow from stacking up on the second-floor roof of the atrium. I finally got a glimpse of it myself, so of course I got a picture.

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4. The current elevator doors were added by architect William Drummond (and early employee of Frank Lloyd Wright’s and later renovator of the Rookery) and feature stylized crows, in homage to the Rookery’s name.

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5. There are two railing designs. The original design, by Burnham and Root, still exists on the spiral stairs but was replaced on first and second floors with a simpler version by Frank Lloyd Wright. You can see the differences here, but the primary changes made by Wright were to removed the ridges and spindles, and simplify the design. The first photograph is the Burnham & Root design and the second is Frank Lloyd Wright’s.

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6. There is a basement vault and it’s full of architectural history.

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Sources and Further Reading:

Make sure you check out last week’s post, The Rookery: Behind the Scenes!

From 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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