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Rookery Building
Hi s tor i c Preser vat i on
The Rookery Building was designed by the renowned architectural firm of Burnham & Root in 1888. Frank LloydWright remodeled the interior public
spaces in 1905. WJE personnel were initially involved in the preparation of a Historic Structure Report and the restoration of the exterior facades. For the
interior building restoration that followed, WJE performed structural and materials analyses of terra cotta, brick and mortar, cast and wrought iron, and
clay tile. WJE contributions to the project also involved evaluation of historical load test data, structural analysis, load testing, and design of repairs.
The Rookery Building, a National Historic Landmark, is one of Chicago’s most important historic buildings. WJE provided unique structural
engineering expertise to understand and evaluate the Rookery’s archaic structural systems and to design measures to preserve the building and
permit its continued use.
Notes of Interest
• After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, a dilapidated building
that occupied the southeast corner of LaSalle and Adams
Streets was used temporarily as City Hall. The legend is that
pigeons became such a nuisance at this location that a
Chicago citizen, demanding that the city do something
about the problem, called the City Hall a“rookery.” The press
adopted the nickname and it soon became common among
the city’s residents. After the construction of a new building
for City Hall, several names were considered, including the
Central Building. Ultimately, “The Rookery” stuck.
• The Rookery Building is a National Historic Landmark.
Designed by JohnWellborn Root and Daniel H. Burnham in
1888, it is considered one of their masterpieces.
• Root devised the “grillage foundation”—iron rails and
structural beams in a crisscross pattern and encased in
concrete—to support the building’s immense weight
without heavy foundation stones.
WJE 50 Years