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Holding court at the south end of LaSalle St., the Chicago Board of Trade Building presides over Chicago’s financial district. The regal 45-story skyscraper is the epitome of Art Deco styling.
It was designed and constructed during the heyday of Art Deco in Chicago by John A. Holabird and John Wellborn Root Jr., themselves second-generation architectural royalty. The prolific pair’s structure confidently occupies its prestigious site while boldly communicating its contribution to the Chicago economy.
A building that reflects its time
During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Art Deco styling was at the peak of its popularity in Chicago. Its influence could be felt in fashion, art, interior design and architecture. Many of the most popular characteristics of the decorative style can be seen in the Chicago Board of Trade Building's design.
The plentiful gray Indiana limestone piers, dark windows and spandrels—so recessed they practically disappear—work together to give the building a striking vertical emphasis. Its streamlined, geometric and abstract exterior ornamentation, and the building’s throne-shaped massing, are also indicative of the period’s Art Deco trend. A faceless aluminum statue of Ceres, by artist John Storrs, sits atop the building’s pyramidal roof. The straight lines on her garment and her machine-made appearance make her the quintessential Art Deco ornament for this completely stylized structure.
A building that reflects its use
The Chicago Board of Trade Building is home to the world’s oldest futures and options exchange. Chicago, which sits on the edge of the prairie, has been the center of both grain distribution and grain trading since the 1840s. The Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) was established in 1848 as a central location for negotiating and conducting transactions on the future prices of commodities. Not coincidentally, 1848 was also the year the first railroads arrived in Chicago and the Illinois and Michigan Canal opened, both of which made distribution of raw materials more efficient.
The building’s ornamentation cleverly communicates the activity happening inside. Just above the original trading floor, the facade is ornamented with eight bovine heads representing the livestock traded inside. A Mesopotamian farmer holding grain and a Native American holding corn make several appearances around the building and represent some of the options traded on the building’s multiple trading floors.