Chicago Stock Exchange Building Cornice
by: chicago designslinger
[Chicago Stock Exchange Building Cornice (1894) Adler & Sullivan, architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
In 1892 the architectural firm of Adler & Sullivan began design work on the Chicago Stock Exchange Building. In 1972 the 3-Oaks Wrecking Company began tearing down the structure, adding one more Adler & Sullivan project to an ever expanding list marked "demolished."
[Chicago Stock Exchange Building Cornice, 1076 W. Roosevelt Road, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Back in 1963 a losing battle had been waged to save another one of the architects exquisite compositions, the Garrick Theater Building. Ornamental pieces of plaster, terra-cotta and cast iron were salvaged from the building, purchased by museums, artifact collectors, and brick wall builders. The destruction of the building helped kick-start a preservation movement in Chicago in the same way the destruction of Penn Station got a motivated group of New Yorkers focused on saving their architectural heritage.
[Chicago Stock Exchange Building Cornice /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
The same year that the Garrick came down the Department of the Interior's Historic American Building Survey (HABS) came to Chicago to document 31 of the city's buildings for the Library of Congress. One of them was the old Chicago Stock Exchange. And even though these structures were deemed worthy of a survey, none of them were officially designated landmarks. In 1968 Mayor Richard J. Daley established the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, and in February 1970 the Commission voted to designate Adler & Sullivan's landmark building a landmark. But the designation could only be officially sanctioned by a vote of the Chicago City Council after a hearing had been held by the Council's Committee on Central and Economic Development. The owners of the property had already made it known that they intended to tear down the building and replace it with a 40-story office tower, and the Council could only vote on the nomination if the Committee moved the nomination to the Council floor. The Committee voted no. In May 1971 the Landmarks Commission voted once again for designation and the Committee scheduled hearings. The owners applied for a demo permit and Mayor Daley told the Building Commissioner to hold off until a plan could be worked-out to save the building. But it was all smoke and mirrors. The deal had been made - the powerful and politically connected real estate interests held all the cards.
[Chicago Stock Exchange Cornice, St. Ignatius College Prep /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
So when the hearings finally got underway the deck was already stacked against saving the structure. If the city were to officially designate the building, they would face long, expensive court battles that would most likely not be ruled in the city's favor. Landmark laws, even today, only hold-up with a cooperative owner, otherwise the financial burden must be assumed by the government entity issuing the designation. In 1971 there were no tax credits to help motivate an owner to preserve rather than destroy, and old buildings were just old buildings standing in the way of progress. The Committee voted no once again. Chairman Alderman Edwin Fifielski told the Chicago Tribune, "It's not really a matter of whether a building is worthy. It is a matter of weighing aesthetic value with the money involved to buy and maintain it,"and demolition began in October. Architectural fragments were saved by a team of architects, curators, for museums and universities, and when the cornice was dismantled a section went to the University of Illinois, and eventually found its way into an outdoor museum of architectural fragments on display in 2001 in the side yard of St. Ignatius College Prep.