The Rookery Building, Alterations

Date: 1905
Address: 209 South LaSalle Street, Chicago, Il 60604
City: Chicago, Illinois
Links: www.flwright.org
Accessibility: Public
Category: Commercial

Completed in 1888, Burnham and Root’s eleven-story Rookery was one of the tallest buildings in the world at the time of its completion. In 1905, seeking to modernize the interior public spaces of The Rookery, Edward C. Waller, the building’s manager, hired Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright was familiar with the building before he was commissioned to update it. The architect maintained an office there for a short period beginning in 1898. The building also housed the offices of Wright’s clients, William Winslow and the American Luxfer Prism Company.

The Rookery commission resulted in one of the most luxurious interiors of Wright’s career. The renovation retained the grandeur of John Root’s plan, but simplified its decorative scheme. Wright removed much of Root’s ironwork, replacing it with white Carrara marble, incised and gilded with ornament derived from Persian design. The arabesque patterns in the marble honor the nineteenth century design sources of Root’s exterior ornament for the building. Wright’s highly successful renovation transformed The Rookery into a gleaming white and gold center of commerce, possibly an oblique reference to the achievement of Burnham’s 1893 White City, which still lingered in the popular imagination.


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