LaSalle Street has its "canyon," ending at Jackson Boulevard with the looming Chicago Board of Trade Building. This street has always been the financial core of Chicago, even going back to its earliest days. Something about the street, with its shadows and the suits scurrying about, makes its buildings seem less welcoming. If it weren't for my generally nosy nature when it comes to architecture, I might just assume that these places are off limits. But actually some very beautiful lobbies are worth a look along this historic street, and you are welcome to pop into them.
The Rookery is certainly the most visited by tourists. The only chance to see a Frank Lloyd Wright interior in downtown Chicago, the Rookery is an early high-rise building with a particularly elegant lobby, designed by the famed Burnham and Root. The original lobby of the 1890s had dark cast-iron work, but then in 1905 Wright was brought in to spruce the space up for its high-end tenants. He wanted to lighten the space, and so he got rid of the iron and added white marble with gold Persian-inspired patterns to the brighten the light court.
A lot of people don't realize that that this isn't the only lobby that will make you "ooo" and "ahh" around here. Go into the old Continental Bank Building, now Bank of America. It's just south of the Rookery. Here you can look up to catch a gander at the incredibly high ceilings of the football-field-sized bank on the second floor. But don't go upstairs! It's for clients only and security will have their eye on you. You can stand at the base of the escalators to sneak a peek though.
You'll see lofty ceilings and elegant light pink columns - from within it's like you're standing inside an entire Roman temple with stained glass windows for its roof. And you'll be able to see some of the murals, which show 29 countries with symbols of their commodities as well as quotes about finance. It was designed by Neo-classical masters Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White in 1924.
Of course, newer architecture can be beautiful, too. On the northwest corner of Lasalle and Adams is the building with the simple name of 190 S. Lasalle St. Postmodern master Philip Johnson designed this in the late '80s along with John Burgee architects. I don't really love this building for its exterior. It's when you step inside that you really see its beauty. A massive, barrel-vaulted lobby dazzles the eye with a warm light, reflected off gold leaf on the ceiling and marble walls. Also a tapestry shows Daniel Burnham's never-realized plan for Chicago's civic center, and a bronze sculpture called Chicago Fugue.
These are just three of the many beautiful financial buildings you can explore in Chicago's Financial District. Enjoy them all you want with your eyes, but watch out with your cameras as security is tight.