Saving a Treasure: Chicago's Rookery Building: Beginnings thru Restoration - Stack
This is the story of how one man, Thomas Baldwin, a bond trader with no commercial real estate experience, saved a closed and neglected historic Chicago building.
Because of its architectural and historical importance, Baldwin wanted the 1888 Rookery designed by the architect John Wellborn Root to reflect not only its original grandeur but to showcase Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1905 updates as well as later art deco changes. As his architect, Baldwin chose T. Gunny Harboe who spent many hours searching for original plans and old photographs to meticulously restore the Rookery. While neither Baldwin nor Harboe had experience rehabilitating a century old building, in four years what these two men accomplished, aided by numerous contractors and workmen, was an astonishing building that Chicagoans call a beloved icon and take friends and out-of-town visitors to see. The story of the Rookery began with Chicago’s explosive growth in the late 1800s when a confluence of technical advances led to the birth of Chicago “skyscrapers” and to the partnership of Burnham and Root whose buildings changed Chicago’s skyline.