During a previous visit, the building turned out to be closed, so I walked back to The Rookery on a sunny late summer day and instantly recognized the unique exterior of the building. Built with bricks, it looks rather dark. I walk around the building, looking up most of the time, and soon discover the many styles used to decorate the building. It is square, but all sides look different. I cross the LaSalle Street to look up at the main facade: above the arched entrance is a tower with rich decorative elements all the way to the top. The building is twelve stories tall, and dwarfed by its newer neighbours, but it is considered the oldest standing skyscraper of Chicago. When I have seen all sides of the building, it is time to go inside: I have read that it is possible to see the lobby on the ground floor and am curious about the interior.
Before entering, I notice crows sculpted on the arch above the entrance, a reference to the name of the building, I assume. Once inside, I notice an opulent name sign: The Rookery. In the white marble: golden decorative elements. I walk past the elevator to the court of the building. Architects Root and Burnham managed to design the Rookery with an open central section, which allows daylight to come in from above, and lighten up the offices on all sides. The court is topped by a glass roof, supported by iron beams from which chandeliers hang, with semi-globe lights. There is a lot to see here, and just when I walk around to get a better view, I notice a small group with badges and a guide. It turns out that a tour is about to start, the only way to see beyond the lobby for those not working in one of the offices in the building. I manage to purchase a ticket, get a badge myself, and listen to the guide explaining the curious history of the Rookery.
A National Historic Landmark, the Rookery was completed in 1888, 17 years after the Great Chicago Fire which destroyed much of the city. At the time, it was possible to see Lake Michigan from the building: unthinkable now. We walk outside, and the guide points out that the name of the building refers to pigeons who lived in the building previously standing here, but also to the politicians using the building when it served as a temporary City Hall. The nickname stuck, much to the dislike of its owners, hence the sculpted crows outside which Root added. The building saw several redesigns in its interior, by Frank Lloyd Wright, Drummond, and by an architecture firm in the early 1990s. Much of the original wrought iron is now hidden from sight, and you can see Venetian, Arabic, Moorish, Byzantine, Romanesque and other styles in details like the staircases and wall decorations. One column in the court has an open side, allowing to see the original wrought iron used. We walk the balcony in the court, and then up the stairs - it is when I look up that I see the entire spiral staircase to the top floor: a great sight. The guide takes us to the top floor in an elevator, explaining more about the history of the building in the library. Back in the court, I walk around again, look at all the details, the roof, the walls, the staircase, the chandeliers, the light - now with the knowledge given by the guide. Hats off to the architects for making a building that is still remarkable more than 125 years after completion!
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from The Rookery (U.S.A.). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to The Rookery.
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