7.5. BOYINGTON’S DESIGN FOR THE ARMOUR, KENT AND BENSLEY BUILDING

The same businessmen behind the move of the Board of Trade had their eyes on even bigger profits from developing the lots in the immediate area surrounding the new building hoping to make La Salle Street Chicago’s  new “Wall Street.”  As a ploy to generate the interest of potential investors in a venture as risky as moving the entire financial district of Chicago, P.D. Armour, Sidney Kent, and John Bensley commissioned Boyington, to the added disgust of Burnham & Root, to also prepare a design for their planned building (the Rialto) for the lot immediately to the rear of the Board of Trade and directly across Van Buren Street from the La Salle Street station.  In October 1882, following the start of excavation for the Board of Trade, and two months before the laying of its cornerstone, the owners made public Boyington’s design for a nine-story office building that expanded the Board of Trade complex to a scale so large that it should have boggled the minds of even Chicago’s most earnest booster.  Boyington’s design was not only equal to the size of the Burlington Building in plan, but was also projected to an average height of 154,’ which was even taller than the Montauk Block (to say nothing of its planned 200′ tower facing the La Salle Street Station).  Combined with the nine-story office building portion at the rear of the Board of Trade, these two “tall office buildings” should have given Boyington the reputation of being Chicago’s leading skyscraper designer in 1882.

Unlike the problem faced by Root in the Burlington Building of arranging a relatively small number of offices on a large site that resulted in its large, interior atrium, Boyington was asked to shoe-horn over 350 offices into the eight upper floors of the projected building.  Apparently, he wrapped the perimeter of the lot with a double-loaded corridor scheme that left a 28′ x 100′ external lightwell in the middle of the building to supply the inner ring of offices with light and ventilation (not unlike his design of the Grand Pacific Hotel or Burnham & Root’s design for the Rookery three years later).  The building was to be linked directly to the office block of the Board of Trade by bridges that spanned the alleyway between the two buildings (hence, the reason for covering the south wall of the Board’s office building with white glazed brick).  Boyington also tried to unify the two buildings by designing the new building in a complementary language.  His efforts, however, were completely in vain for the owners had no intention of erecting the building until the reason for its existence, the Board of Trade, was completed and in operation.  Why should they go out on a limb in case their plot failed?  Better to let others build first, so that their own project’s success would be assured.  But just to keep interest and construction in the area (as well as in the Board of Trade, whose cost was quickly overrunning its budget) growing, Armour, Kent and Bensley would trot out an updated version of what was touted as Chicago’s largest office building and announce the start of its construction whenever a potential investor or backer needed a little more commitment on their parts before he would commit to the start of construction on his project.

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