11.14. BURNHAM AND ROOT’S EYE ON CHICAGO

In April 1888, Burnham & Root moved their office from the Montauk Block (to where they had moved following the 1885 Grannis Block fire) to the top floor of the Rookery. Here they occupied the two-thirds of the south side, starting with the southeast corner.  

Plan of the office of Burnham & Root. The left arrow points to the view of the drafting room, the right arrow is the library view. (Hoffmann, Root)

The drafting room was well-lighted because they took out the corridor on this side so that the drafting room opened from the glass on the south face to the north-facing glass lining the light court.  There would always be uniform northern daylight for the draftsmen along the light court because they were on the top floor (no shadow).  

Drafting Room, Burnham & Root. You can look into the light court. Do not be confused by the line of windows across the way that are in a floor higher than the top floor: these are the windows for the attic. (urbanremainschicago.com)

The library, where clients would wait offered spectacular views of Lake Michigan to the east and of the city as it spread out beneath to the south and southwest.  It was assured of a sunny morning, weather permitting.  From the top of the Rookery, Burnham and Root would plan and execute a number of designs and professional reforms, none more important than the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.  It would be in the library, in fact, where all of the architects chosen to design the buildings for the Fair would first meet on January 12, 1891.  But that date with destiny was still over two and half years in the future, meanwhile, many things had changed between when excavation for the Rookery had begun in November 1885, and when Burnham and Root first walked into their new office…

View of Chicago, showing the Rookery and the location of Burnham & Root’s office. Their Phoenix Building stood only a half block to the south. (Bluestone, Constructing Chicago)

And in the evening, especially during the dark winter months, they could always rely on the 40,000 foot-candles produced by Sperry’s Corona, sitting atop the Board of Trade, only a half block to the south…

Board of Trade. Sperry’s Corona at Night. The Rookery is at the left, the Insurance Exchange at the right. (Chicago Graphic News)

Let’s end the Rookery with some eye candy, we have all earned it!

(therookerybuilding.com)
One of the original iron columns that was encased by Wright in the 1905 remodeling. (therookerybuilding.com)
(embarch.com)
(therookerybuilding.com)
(urbanremainschicago.com)
(urbanremainschicago.com)
(urbanremainschicago.com)
(Online)
(Chicago Architecture Center)
(embarch.com)
The Brookses tried their best to give the building any name but “The Rookery.” Even if they had had their way, Root had enshrined the site’s heritage at both sides of the entrance. (Chicago Architecture Foundation, The Rookery)

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

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