I’d been inside the Rookery Building many times before, to marvel at its two-story skylighted atrium, but then I found out that the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust offered an in-depth visit to the building that included the 11th-floor Burnham Library, a part of the architectural offices of Burnham and Root of Chicago.
I eagerly reserved my $11 ticket online, and met a small tour group inside the building on a gorgeous August morning. The oldest-remaining tall office building in Chicago, the Rookery has a multi-layered history, as well as a connection to the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The tour included a rare opportunity to view the semi-circular iron stairway winding to the top of the building, as well as the Burnham Library, restored to its original appearance.
The building has connections not only with its principal designers, Daniel H. Burnham and John Wellborn Root, one of Chicago’s major architectural firms, but with Frank Lloyd Wright, who was commissioned to update the light court in 1905.
On the 11th floor, reached via the freight elevator, we viewed the Burnham Library, the setting for an iconic photo of Burnham and Root (see below). It was also in this library that many of the plans were carried out for the World’s Columbian Exposition, under the leadership of Burnham following Root’s early death at age 41 in 1891. The sense of history in the room was overwhelming; I felt that I’d been transported to another time and place.