Root’s original oriel staircase, that runs the full height of the building, was cleaned using crushed walnut shells that removed 20 layers of black paint and uncovered the original copper plated cast iron finish.  A new marble mosaic floor that matches the original design was also installed in the lobbies and light court. To help interpret the Rookery’s rich history, a fragment of the original mosaic floor was restored in place and one side of a marble column was left open to reveal an original copper plated cast iron column that was part of Burnham and Root’s original design.  The award winning project took advantage of federal historic tax credits, and received wide spread acclaim in both the architectural and popular press.  

Project Information

Title Rookery Building
Work Completed Interior Restoration
Date Completed 1992
Client Baldwin Development Company
Location Chicago, Illinois
Architect of Record McClier

Photos by James Caulfield

Originally designed by Burnham and Root and completed in 1888, the Rookery Building is one of the most important early skyscrapers in the United States. Its significance is recognized by its being both a National Historic Landmark as well as a City of Chicago Landmark. The original building was renovated by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1907 and again by William Drummond in 1929, altering the original interior spaces significantly.

In 1988, L. Thomas Baldwin III, bought the Rookery with the desire to restore its public spaces and rehabilitate the 300,000 square foot building as “Class A” office space.  The restoration was lead by T. Gunny Harboe, AIA, who at the time was the head of the Preservation Group at McClier, the architects for the project. Completed in 1992, the project included the reconstruction of the original LaSalle Street and Adams Street lobbies to their appearance ca. 1910.  The lobbies combine the volumes of space designed by Root with the stairs of Wright.  They feature white Carrara marble with gold leafed incising in “Moorish” patterns recreated from photographs.  The magnificent light court was also restored to the Frank Lloyd Wright period. 

rookery building