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The Rookery


The Rookery


Structure in General

high-rise building
existing [completed]
spread foundation
exposed structure
dark red
romanesque revival


commercial office


  • Projected string courses around the facade divide the building into five distinct horizontal layers.
  • Like the Fisher Building the Rookery incorporates in its facade animal forms derived from the building's name - in this case pairs of rooks by the entrance archway.
  • Before the Rookery name had stuck to this project, its developers proposed a long list of possible names, mostly of American Indian derivation.
  • Architect John Root devised the "grillage foundation" - iron rails and structural beams in a crisscross pattern and encased in concrete - to support the building's immense weight without heavy foundation stones.
  • The architects Burnham & Root moved their offices here for a while upon its completion, and Frank Lloyd Wright also set up an office here at one time.
  • Since the interior frame is built of steel and iron, the facade facing the light court has far more extensive window area than the more fortresslike street facades.
  • The light court was very influential in the design of office buildings in Chicago, including its use of glazed white brick for added brightness.
  • The renovation architects were recognized with an Honor Award for Design from the American Institute of Architects in 1993.
  • The only metal framing on the perimeter walls is in the first two stories along the alleys. Above that the walls are pure masonry.
  • The Rookery represents a transition between masonry and metal construction methods, with the outer walls supported mostly by masonry piers and the inner frame built of steel and iron.
  • The "Rookery" name is inherited from the previous building on this site, an old city hall which was a favorite roosting spot of pigeons.
  • The metal framework is a combination of cast iron (main columns), wrought iron (spandrel beams), and steel (internal columns).
  • An atrium, originally an open light court, extends through the center of the building, down to the lobby skylight. On the west side of this court there is a famous semi-spiral staircase.
  • Since the perimeter walls are so much heavier than the interior frame, their foundations were built higher to account for greater settling.
  • Above the LaSalle Street and Adams Street entrances there are wide balconies at the 8th floor.
  • The exterior ornamentation draws from several styles, including Romanesque, Moorish, Islamic, and Venetian.
  • In the Frank Norris novel The Pit, financial speculator Curtis Jadwin's has his office in the Rookery.
  • Completed in 1888, the Rookery is the oldest high-rise in Chicago that is still standing.
  • The lobby was remodeled in 1905 by Frank Lloyd Wright, who simplified the ironwork and added planters and light fixtures in his characteristic style.
  • The building became an official city landmark in 1972.

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More Information


209 South LaSalle Street

Technical Data

180.50 ft
180.50 ft

Involved Companies


Also recorded for this building:

developer, real estate agent, structural engineering

Features & Amenities

  • One of the city's famous buildings
  • City landmark
  • Atrium is present
  • Doorman is available