Burnham and Root


The Rookery Building, Chicago IL


The Rookery Building, Chicago IL

Daniel Hudson Burnham, (1846–1912), American architect and city planner (b. Henderson, N.Y.) He was trained in architects' offices in Chicago. In that city he established (1873) a partnership with John W. Root and soon gained many of the most important architectural commissions of the day. Their Chicago works include the Monadnock Building; the 20-story Masonic Temple Building (1892), the first important skeleton skyscraper; the Reliance Building; and the "Rookery" offices. Among their other works were the Flatiron Building and the Wanamaker store in New York City, Union Station in Washington, D.C., and buildings in Cleveland, Buffalo, and San Francisco.

Burnham and Root also designed the general plan for Chicago's World's Columbian Exposition (1893) and through it exerted an enormous influence upon contemporaneous civic design. In 1901, Burnham served with C. F. McKim, F. L. Olmsted, Jr., and Augustus Saint-Gaudens on the Senate Park Commission in planning for the future beautification of Washington, D.C. With E. H. Bennett he created a civic improvement plan of great importance for Chicago (1907), much of which has since been put into execution. He also prepared plans for Baltimore, Duluth, and San Francisco, and was commissioned by the U.S. government to design plans for Manila and other cities in the Philippines.

John Wellborn Root, (1850–91), American architect,( b. Lumpkin, Ga.) He worked in New York City with James Renwick and became a partner of D. H. Burnham in Chicago. The firm created the modern type of highly organized architectural office suited to the planning of metropolitan buildings. Its partners were pioneers in the development of the steel-frame office building, and won international attention by their planning of the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893. Root developed a type of ornament, based upon Romanesque design, that was later further developed by Louis Henry Sullivan.

The Rookery Building is a historic landmark located at 209 South LaSalle Street in the Loop community area of Chicago in Cook County, Illinois, United States. Completed by John Wellborn Root and Daniel Burnham of Burnham and Root in 1888, it is considered one of their masterpiece buildings, and was once the location of their office. The building measures 181 feet (55 m), is twelve stories tall and is considered the oldest standing high-rise in Chicago. It has a unique style with exterior load-bearing walls and an interior steel frame, which provided a transition between accepted and new building techniques. The lobby was remodeled in 1905 by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The building was designated a Chicago Landmark on July 5, 1972, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 17, 1970 and listed as a National Historic Landmark on May 15, 1975.

Light Court

Making prodigious use of light and ornamentation, Root and Burnham designed a central light court to serve as the focal point for the entire building and provide daylight to interior offices. Rising two stories, the light court received immediate critical acclaim. "There is nothing bolder, more original, or more inspiring in modern civic architecture than its glass-covered court", wrote Eastern critic Henry Van Brunt. At a time when Chicago's bold experiment in architecture was looking eastward for affirmation, this was welcome praise. The light court provides natural illumination for the interior offices.

Frank Lloyd Wright was a young architectural assistant at the time the Rookery was built in 1886. Architect Daniel Burnham was a friend of Wright patron Edward C. Waller. Waller managed the Rookery; Wright had his offices in the building in 1898–1899. In 1905 Wright received the commission to redesign the lobby in the building; at the time considered the grandest in Chicago.Wright's work on the Rookery recast the entryway in his Prairie style and added a sense of modernity through his simple but effective lighting design. Wright's work on the Rookery is his only work on any building within the downtown cityscape.

Among Wright's most significant alterations was the addition of white marble with Persian-style ornamentation. The marble and decorative details added a sense of luxury to the lobby's steel-laden interior, marked by Burnham and Root's skeletal metal ribbing. The entire interior space is bright and open. A double set of curving, heavily ornamented stairs wind upward from the lobby's second floor into the building's interior. A wrap-around balcony on the second floor enhances the feeling of being within the interior of a "clockwork." The Wright remodel opened the building up to more of the available light.


The red marble, terra cotta and brick facade of the building is a combination of Roman Revival and Queen Anne styles that embraced Richardsonian Romanesque architecture. The building, which is a combination of iron framing and masonry bearing walls, marked a transition from masonry load-bearing structures to steel skeleton load-bearing structures. In fact, the Landmarks Commission citation commends "development of the skeleton structural frame using cast iron columns, wrought iron spandrel beams, and steel beams to support party walls and interior floors". Aside from the first two floors of metal-framed perimeter walls, the walls are all masonry. The building is known for its semi-circular staircase west of the light court.

Major Architectural Work:

Key: B&R = Burnham and Root, DBC = Daniel H Burnham & Co




Thank you for visiting my website. My name is Mark Smith and I reside in Stevensville, Michigan my wife and two children. I have been interested in Architecture since my boyhood days; however, because of my families business—a lumberyard—I never really got a chance to pursue my dream until later in my career. Read more...


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