7.3. BOYINGTON’S BOARD OF TRADE

W.W. Boyington, Chicago Board of Trade, Chicago, 1882. View of the SE corner of Jackson and Sherman. Immediately behind the Trading Floor is the office building, To the left is Burnham & Root’s Phoenix Building, and to the right is their Rialto Building. The view is from Boyington’s Royal Insurance Building. (Online)

Boyington employed Burnham & Root’s original scheme of placing the 170′ x 160′ Trading Floor in front, running the entire length of the Jackson Street façade, with the 170′ x 65′ ten-story office building placed immediately in back of the trading portion.  In order to maximize the daylighting of the Trading Floor, he encased its exterior along the three street fronts in a cage of Fox Island granite that was infilled with four-story tall plate glass windows topped with stained-glass transoms  designed by John La Farge.  The fourth wall along the south side of the room was blank as it separated the Trading Hall from the office building.  

Boyington, Chicago Board of Trade. Taken after the removal of the tower in 1894. Note how much taller the office building at the rear is compared to Burnham & Root’s 9-story Rialto Building. (Chicagology.com)

Boyington encircled the 80′ high Trading Floor with 26 freestanding marble columns that supported a grid of iron trusses that clear spanned the 161′ x 152′ central hall that was covered with a flat paneled ceiling and supported the hall’s stained-glass skylight that was also designed by La Farge.   An arcade that supported the paneled ceiling ran between the columns, in which were placed the coats of arms of each state in the Union.  Finalizing the interior design of the Trading Floor were twenty-six allegorical paintings located above each of the four-story windows.  (If there was a question of whether or not Chicago viewed this as a competition with New York, one has only to compare the dimensions of the two trading halls: New York: 215’ long x 134’ wide by 64’ high; Chicago: 161’ long x 152’ wide by 80’ high.)

Boyington, Chicago Board of Trade. Interior of the Trading Floor. Top: Looking towards the entrance lobby on Jackson, showing the double staircase. Bottom: Looking toward the blank wall at the south side of the room, that separated the Trading Floor from the office building. (Chicagology.com)

Boyington elevated the Trading Floor eighteen feet above the sidewalk in order to slide under it a story of revenue-generating storefronts. The Trading Floor was approached from the main entrance on La Salle Street that was flanked by two twenty-ton solid granite square pillars that sprouted monumental statues representing Commerce (left) and Agriculture (right) that were located at the base of the building’s most prominent feature, its central tower.  Staircases to either side of the entrance took visitors up to the Trading Floor.

Boyington, Chicago Board of Trade. Jackson Street façade. At the entrance portico stand the two square granite pillars, upon which sit the mammoth statues of Commerce and Agriculture. (Chicagology.com)
Boyington, Chicago Board of Trade. Entrance. To the immediate left is Burnham & Root’s Phoenix Building, and their Monadnock stands tall at the end of the vista. (Online)
Board of Trade. Statues of Commerce (left) and Agriculture (right). In 2005 they were installed as part of the La Salle Street plaza. (Author’s collection)

The truly controversial aspect of the building was the heavy, highly-ornamented masonry attic and mansard roof which rose to a height of 140,’ that enclosed the office floors that Boyington had positioned ringing the hall’s skylight, in a manner similar to how Post had designed the New York Produce Exchange.  These office floors appear to be single-loaded around the lightwell as a second skylight is visible in the drawing below.  

Boyington, Chicago Board of Trade. Note the second skylight over the atrium above the Trading Floor. (Rand McNally, View #1)

The building’s exterior image was brought to a climax in the 303’ tall central tower, that not only surpassed the height of Boyington’s two previous record holders, the 183’ tall Water Tower and the 160’ high dome of the Exposition Building, (there are claims that St. Michaels’ church in Old Town sported a 300′ tower, but the congregation’s own website states that its pre-fire spire was 200′ tall, and it wasn’t replaced with its 290′ high tower until 1888) but also bested the record of the spire of New York’s Trinity Church (281’) by some twenty-two feet, to become the second tallest structure in the U.S., after the recently-topped off 555’ tall Washington Monument. Competition with New York, what competition?  

Boyington, Chicago Board of Trade. NW corner of Jackson and Sherman. The glazing/skylight in the roof over the atrium is visible. To the far left is Burnham & Root’s Phoenix Building. (Lowe, Lost Chicago)

Although the tower was 32’ square in plan, the thickness of its walls was not nearly as thick as those in the tower of the Philadelphia City Hall.  This was not because Philadelphia’s tower was planned to be another 200’ taller, but because Boyington used iron columns to support the upper 90′ of the tower, thereby reducing the total weight the walls had to support. These columns were 12-sectioned Phoenix wrought iron columns 3 feet, 3 inches in diameter, 90′ high, fabricated by N.S. Bouton’s Union Foundry and Pullman Car-Wheel Works (Bouton had gone into business with George Pullman, more on this later) and fireproofed with Peter B. Wight’s patented terra-cotta casings.

Peter B. Wight, Fireproofed wrought iron Phoenix columns in the Chicago Board of Trade Tower, 1883. (Brickbuilder, August 1897)

Here was a monument to Bouton (who had commissioned Wight to find such a system) and Wight’s efforts to save the iron column for erecting buildings after the 1874 fire, that directly led to Wight’s development of terra cotta fireproofing.  Boyington also employed large wrought iron columns to support the iron trusses that spanned the Trading Floor as reported by the December 1882 issue of The Sanitary News: “the outside walls will be surrounded with large, full columns placed between the windows, and they will largely support the upper stories.” Here is another early example of a Chicago architect using iron framing (this time protected by the granite casings) in the exterior of a post-fire building.

Boyington’s exterior was an amalgam of stylistic features that defied categorization, so typical of the 1870s’ prevalent eclecticism. (The Inter Ocean boasted that the building’s design was “a combination of various schools of architecture, the better elements of each being preserved.”)  I have included images of a number of designs from this period as evidence that other Chicago architects beyond only Boyington were trying to grapple with the end of the Second Empire as the fashion in search of a new dominant style: many, obviously were tried…..

Above: Otto Matz, First Design for Post-fire Cook County/City Hall Building, 1872. (Chicagology.com) Below: Alfred B. Mullet, First Design for post-fire U.S. Post Office and Custom House, 1873. (J.M. Wing, Chicago Illustrated)
Entries in County/City Hall Competition, 1873. Above: W.W. Boyington; Below: Gordon P. Randall. (Chicagology.com)

The awkwardness of this portion of the building was compounded by the way Boyington rammed the ten-story, 160′ high office block (the tallest “skyscraper” in Chicago at this moment, a fact overlooked) up against the rear of the trading hall without sufficient articulation (a joint that Root had apparently appreciated by physically separating the two masses).

Boyington, Chicago Board of Trade. Detail of how the Jackson Street building ran into the Office Building. Note how much shorter Burnham & Root’s 9-story Rialto Building (at far right) is. (Chicagology.com)

The office building apparently had a single-loaded corridor arranged around the exterior perimeter forming a U-plan with an interior atrium divided into two by an elevator core in the middle with a corridor to the Trading Floor.  

Boyington, Chicago Board of Trade. Roof plan showing location of the elevator core and the two skylights in the Office Building and the narrow 30’ alley between it and the Rialto Building that necessitated the use of white glazed bricks on the south wall to reflect more daylight to the Rialto. (Chicagology.com)

Although Boyington extended the “eclectic language” of the elevation of the Trading Floor along the lower sidewalls of the office block, its upper four stories had little in common with the exotic roof of the front building.  The relationship between the two parts of the building only grew more confused as one turned the corner and then viewed the rear of the office building that was sheathed in 90,000 white-enameled bricks. 

Boyington, Chicago Board of Trade. Rear elevation of Office Building. Note the brightness of the white glazed bricks used on the south elevation (far left) even stands out, compared to the stone used in the south side of the building’s tower, in this old black and white photograph. (Chicagology.com))
Boyington, Board of Trade. South facade of the office building. Here is how Boyington detailed the transition from the building’s stone facade to the white glazed brick. You can just make it out before it is blocked by the Rialto Building. (Leslie, Chicago)

Undoubtedly, this was a device that Bensley required to be installed in anticipation of the erection of the Rialto Building immediately to the rear or south of the Board of Trade building that would need the reflected light from the south wall of the Board of Trade to supplement what little daylight could penetrate the narrow alley between the two buildings. 

Map of the Loop, 1882. (Author’s collection)

Although Boyington’s design has usually been chastised for being designed in an outmoded style because of the type and diversity of ornament, the interior of the trading hall was generally praised and no one could say that it didn’t provide an imposing, exhilarating termination of the southern vista down La Salle Street, Chicago’s Wall Street-to be.

Boyington, Chicago Board of Trade.  La Salle Street south from Adams Street.  The Rookery is in the foreground with the Grand Pacific Hotel in the middle.  (IChi-00253, Chicago Historical Society)

(If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to eMail me at: thearchitectureprofessor@gmail.com)

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