Find the rooks (and a dorky bat) in The Rookery

Hey, WOB, how do I find The Rookery in Chicago?

Well, dearest reader, you will find The Rookery on LaSalle, between Adams and Quincy.

If you’re me—meaning you’re lucky—you can visit on your lunch break.

Easy enough just to casually walk by and check it out from across the street.

You’re probably going to want to get closer, though.

Hey, that door looks cool. Maybe cross the street for a closer look. You’ve got time.

Got that Romanesque arch going on.

Oh, fancy! Must go inside.


Caught you by surprise with that levitating staircase, didn’t I?

So what’s going on here?

The Rookery was built on the site of a temporary city hall that had been erected after the great Chicago fire. It was nicknamed The Rookery because of all the birds that roosted there, and the name just kind of stuck around.

Step back outside for a second and look at the decoration around the arch: rooks!

Anyway, Burnham & Root (Daniel Burnham and John Wellborn Root) designed the building in 1888. It is considered one of the first skyscrapers.

The Rookery is built around an interior courtyard which allowed the office workers to have lots of natural light—as someone who is perpetually working either in a basement or windowless space, I’m rather jealous.

Now let’s fast-forward to 1905, when Frank Lloyd Wright redesigned the interior. He added some light, orientalist-feeling cladding over the top of the original iron works.

(See HOB in the background? He’s ignoring the splendid interior because he’s discovered a new eyeglasses store, which for some reason are always hugely fascinating to him.)

Here’s a cutaway of Wright’s marble showing the original metal pillars.

The floor tiles have been restored—the original is outlined in brass.

Floor boobs!

William Drummond renovated the elevators in the early 1930’s.

Etched in the elevators are rooks, naturally, and a dorky-looking bat. That brass symbol over the elevator is Chicago’s municipal device, which symbolizes the river branches coming together. (I get excited when I see it, because I’m as dorky as that bat.)

If you sign up for a tour, your docent will take you to the top floor, to Burnham & Roots office.

Here are the designing dudes themselves, relaxing in front of their office fireplace, saying “Damn, we kicked ass on this building!”


  1. Nemorino · · Reply

    I’ve never heard of this building. It looks beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Burham & Root also designed the Monanock building (well, at least the best part, the north half) which is my favorite building in Chicago.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Impressive! This caught my eye, when I glanced at the photo and saw, “Adams St!”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Isn’t that the loveliest lettering?


  3. A splendid tour, thanks! Love the FLW remodelling though I wonder why it would look like with all the metal pillars exposed. Still, a monumental building.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It would also be spectacular with the original pillars, but it wouldn’t be as light and airy.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Helen Devries · · Reply

    What a superb building….and designed for the well being of those working there…somewhere since then things have gone downhill in that respect…


    1. One of these days, I’m going to glimpse the sky from my desk….


  5. On the list for my next trip downtown!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a gorgeous building! Thank you for sharing these beautiful photos!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Cool. All those different staircases and their designs. Who maintains this bldg.?

    By the way, if I wanted to go from Chicago to St. Paul’s Minnesota, is it bus or train best? I find it tiring that I can’t fly between Calgary and St. Paul’s. And no buses from Canada to there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, it is a cool building—the floating staircase gave me vertigo, though. It is owned by an investment group, which keeps it up. It is a landmark building and there are a lot of rules around that I’m sure.

      The Amtrack is probably the most comfortable option. I have found it to be quite unreliable, though, and gave up taking it years ago. Not sure which bus services goes. I think Megabus went out of business. Grayhound is also hit or miss. I’ve take 4 buses recently. 2 were fine, one was an hour and 1/2 late for no reason, and the other cancelled with no notice leaving us stranded. Given the choice in Chicago, I’d probably go with Amtrack for the comfort and because the Grayhound station is dirty and sketchy. Pack food and drinks for the Amtrack, because of potential delays.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: