Chicago Board of Trade Building
by: chicago designslinger
[Chicago Board of Trade Building (1930) Holabird & Root, architects; Alvin Meyer, sculptor; Ceres (1930) John H. Storr, artist (2004 - 2007) restoration, McClier Corporation, AECOM, Gunny Harboe - Harboe Architects /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Ceres was the Roman goddess of agriculture, grain, fertility and motherly relationships. The Romans credited her with giving agriculture to mankind, getting us off a diet of acorns and into a regimine of devouring the much tastier, carbo enhancing, wheat-based products that we know and love today. Who better then to crown the top of Holabird & Root's consummate Art Deco temple, designed for the world's largest agricultural price futures predictors.
[Chicago Board of Trade Building, 141 W. Jackson Boulevard, Chicago /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Founded in 1848, the members of the Chicago Board of Trade moved around the city a lot before landing at the foot of La Salle Street in 1885. Their original building designed by architect W.W. Boyington - the man who brought Chicago the old Water Tower - was the tallest building in the city at the time. A feat accomplished once again by Holabird & Root's building in 1930. Boyington's tower once loomed over La Salle Street in much the same way that today's structure acts as a kind of exclamation point at the end of the street's architecturally significant sentence. But it wasn't always like this. Back in the 1830s when Chicago was first laid-out, La Salle ended a few blocks north of here at Madison Street for a number of years. The street slowly crept southward, cutting through the long blocks that ran east and west between Clark and Wells Streets, until finally hitting Jackson Street in the early 1850s. The Rock Island & Pacific Railroad, which had just received their charter from the government, ran a passenger spur line up to Jackson, and with the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad, built the La Salle Street Passenger Depot at the southern edge of the newly extended avenue.
[Chicago Board of Trade Building, National Historic Landmark, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
After surveying the damaged ruins left behind in the wake of the fire in 1871, the railroad built their new passenger station a block further south at Van Buren Street, closer to their large freight yard. The rail company then opened a narrow pathway south of Jackson, extending La Salle one more block and right up to the grand entryway of their new train station. When the members of the trading board needed more space and were looking to move once again in the early 1880s, they wanted to stick close to their existing home at La Salle and Washington Streets. The building committee set their sights on the railroad property, now in the hands of Colonel W.L. Scott. There was a problem however. The railroad had cut the La Salle Street lane in between two existing streets - Pacific Avenue to the east, and Sherman Place to the west. The La Salle slice left two very narrow bands of land between Pacific and Sherman, which didn't leave much room for building. So the committee put forward a plan to buy the Scott owned land if the city would vacate the La Salle extension, and create a buildable lot. The city agreed, Boyington's building opened for business in 1885, and the Chicago Board of Trade, in one form or another, has sat prominently at the foot of La Salle ever since.
[Chicago Board of Trade Building, City of Chicago Landmark /Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]
Thirty-five years after Boyington's building peaked the city's interest, the Board of Trade needed another new trading space. Preliminary plans were drawn-up by architects Holabird & Roche - a rather sedate structure, 20-stories tall with a 5-story colonnade running across the Jackson Street facade and a uniform series of window bays filling-out the remaining upper floors. But by the time things got rolling in 1927, founding partner William Holabird was dead, and Martin Roche would follow soon in 1928. The firm's reins were taken up by John Holabird and John Root, Jr., and the older generation's monument to neoclassicism gave way to the modern, contemporary lines of Art Deco. The five-story windows that looked-out over La Salle just above the second floor framed the vast floor of the trading room, while sculptor Alvin Meyer's stylized limestone figures provided the exterior with decorative drama, capped by John Storr's Deco inspired vision of the Roman goddess. And the first floor lobby/atrium didn't disappoint with its eye-popping fantasy of shimmering marble and metal. The building was well maintained through the ensuing decades, but a few unfortunate interior "upgrades" and "modernizations" were undertaken in the 1950s and 60s. In 2004, the property was restored to its original magnificent streamlined classcism under the supervision of Chicago architect Gunny Harboe.