Chicago Board of Trade Building in Chicago

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The Chicago Board of Trade Building is a skyscraper located in , Illinois, United States. It stands at 141 W. Jackson Boulevard at the foot of the LaSalle Street canyon, in the Loop community area in Cook County. Built in 1930 and first designated a Chicago Landmark on May 4, 1977, the building was listed as a National Historic Landmark on June 2, 1978. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on June 16, 1978. Originally built for the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT), it is now the primary trading venue for the derivatives exchange, the CME Group, formed in 2007 by the merger of the CBOT and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

The 141 W. Jackson address hosted the former tallest building in Chicago designed by William W. Boyington before the current Holabird & Root structure, which held the same title for over 35 years until being surpassed in 1965 by the Richard J. Daley Center. The current structure is known for its art deco architecture, sculptures and large-scale stone carving, as well as large trading floors. A three-story art deco statue of Ceres, goddess of agriculture (particularly grain), caps the building. The building is a popular sightseeing attraction and location for shooting movies, and its owners and management have won awards for efforts to preserve the building and for office management.

Early history

Early locations

On April 3, 1848, the Board of Trade opened for business at 101 South Water Street. When 122 members were added in 1856, it was moved to the corner of South Water and LaSalle Streets. After another temporary relocation west on South Water Street in 1860, the first permanent home was established within the Chamber of Commerce Building on the corner of LaSalle and Washington Streets in 1865. In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed this building. The exchange temporarily reopened two weeks after the fire in a 90 ft wooden building known as "the Wigwam" at the intersection of Washington and Market Streets, before reclaiming its home in a new building constructed at the Chamber of Commerce site one year later.

Permanent home

In 1882, construction began of the CBOT's new home, which opened at the current location on May 1, 1885. It was designed by William W. Boyington, known previously for his work on the Chicago Water Tower. Built from structural steel and Maine granite, with a rear of enameled brick, it was 10 stories tall and featured a tower 320 ft tall containing a large clock and 4500 lb bell, topped by a 9 ft copper weather vane in the shape of a ship. Construction cost $1.8 million (about in 2011 terms). With four elevators and a great hall 80 ft high decorated by a stained-glass skylight and ornate stone balusters, it was the first commercial building in Chicago to have electric lighting. It was also the first building in the city to exceed 300 ft in height and at the time was the tallest building in Chicago.

The building attracted tourists, visitors, and protesters. Viewing galleries were opened to the public for the first time in honor of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.

The procession were cheered by thousands of spectators. Their access to the Board of Trade was blocked by a phalanx of police, first at Jackson, then at LaSalle, finally coming to within a half-block of the building, "bathed in a sea of electric light only recently installed for the occasion." Built on caissons surrounded by muck, the trading house was rendered structurally unsound in the 1920s when construction began across the street on the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. The 1885 building was subsequently demolished in 1929, and the exchange temporarily moved to Van Buren and Clark while a new building was constructed at the LaSalle and Jackson site.

The 1885 allegorical architectural sculptures of 35 ft Industry and Agriculture, two figures of a four-piece set, were removed from the original building and now stand in a nearby pedestrian plaza.

The 1930 building


In 1925, the Chicago Board of Trade commissioned Holabird & Root to design the current building. The general contractors Hegeman & Harris built it for $11.3 million, although the reported twenty-year mortgage value was $12 million ($12 million in 1925 equates to about in 2011 dollars). Clad in gray Indiana limestone, topped with a copper pyramid roof, and standing on a site running 174 ft east – west on Jackson Boulevard and 240 ft north – south on LaSalle Street, the 605 ft tall art deco-styled building opened on June 9, 1930. It serves as the southern border for the skyscrapers hugging LaSalle Street and is taller than surrounding structures for several blocks. The Chicago Board of Trade has operated continuously on its twelfth floor since the 1930 opening, dedicating 19000 sqft to what was then the world's largest trading floor. The advent of steel frame structural systems allowed completely vertical construction; but as with many skyscrapers of the era, the exterior was designed with multiple setbacks at increasing heights, which served to allow additional light into the ever-deepening concrete valleys in urban cores. At night, the setbacks are upwardly lit by floodlights, further emphasizing the structure's vertical elements. The night illumination design was a common contemporary Chicago architectural theme, seen also in the Wrigley Building, the Jewelers Building, the Palmolive Building, the LaSalle-Wacker Building, and the Tribune Tower. Interior decoration includes polished surfaces throughout, the use of black and white marble, prominent vertical hallway trim, and an open three-story lobby which at the time of opening housed the world's largest light fixture. Though One LaSalle Street had five more floors, the CBOT building was the first in Chicago to exceed a height of 600 ft. After surpassing the Chicago Temple Building, it was the tallest in Chicago until the Daley Center was completed in 1965. Known for its work on the Brooklyn Bridge, the family-operated factory of John A. Roebling supplied all of the cables used in the building's 23 Otis elevators. Beneath the main trading floor over 2700 mi of telephone and telegraph wires were once hidden. No less than 150000 mi of wires (considered possibly the most direct long-distance wire from any building) once ran from the room. Although the building was commissioned for the Chicago Board of Trade, its first tenant was the Quaker Oats Company, which moved in on May 1, 1930.


Sculptural work by Alvin Meyer, the one-time head of Holabird & Root's sculpture department, is prominent on the building's façade, and represents the trading activities within. On each side of the 13 ft diameter clock facing LaSalle Street are hooded figures, an Egyptian holding grain and a Native American holding corn. Similar figures are repeated at the uppermost corners of the central tower, just below the sloping roof. About 30 ft above street level, representations of bulls protrude directly from the limestone cladding on the building's north side and to a lesser degree on the east side, a reference to a bull market.

The central structure is capped by a 6,500 pound, 31 ft tall aluminum statue of the Roman goddess of grain, Ceres, holding a sheaf of wheat in the left hand and a bag of corn in the right hand, as a nod to the exchange's heritage as a commodities market. This statue was assembled from 40 pieces. As it is near the forty-five story point, sculptor John H. Storrs believed that no other building would be tall enough for the inhabitants to clearly see the statue's face, and therefore it was left blank.

Commissioned in 1930 but removed from the agricultural trading room in 1973 and stored until 1982, John W. Norton's three-story mural of Ceres shown bare-breasted in a field of grain underwent extensive restoration in Spring Grove, Illinois by Louis Pomerantz before being displayed in the atrium of the 1980s addition.

Trading floor

According to the June 16, 1930 issue of Time magazine, visitors carrying ripened wheat heads stared in curiosity at the six-story tall trading room directly above the lobby and behind the large windows below the clock facing LaSalle Street. At the center of the room, Time reported on the items being traded in "pits" organized based on commodities type with pits names such as the corn pit, soybean pit or wheat pit. The individual pits are raised octagonal structures where open outcry trading occurs. Steps up the outside of each octagon provide an amphitheater atmosphere, and enable a large number of traders to see each other and communicate during trading hours. With early versions dating back to 1870, this type of trading pit was patented in 1878. Between the original and new buildings, where there was formerly a street, a wide street-level walkway connects the plaza on LaSalle Street to Van Buren Street in what would ordinarily be the building's first floor. Passing over the Van Buren Street elevated tracks, a green glass-enclosed steel-frame bridge connects the lower southwest corner of the 23 story addition to the Chicago Board Options Exchange (although this bridge was closed to pedestrian traffic in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks for security reasons).


In 2005, the building underwent an extensive $20 million renovation directed by Chicago architect Gunny Harboe, whose restoration work included Loop landmarks the Rookery Building and Reliance Building. The project included restoration of the main lobby to emphasize the design features of the art deco era, elevator modernization, façade renovation and cleaning, and the continued renovation of upper floor corridors and hallways. Though impractically small for modern use, mailboxes in the lobby were restored to their original condition to follow the theme of vertical lines found throughout the complex. Both the Federal Reserve Bank and 208 South LaSalle demonstrate the popularity of neoclassical architecture during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and were meant to project a sense of financial security.

One mile (1.6 km) west of Lake Michigan and in the southwest corner of the Loop, the building is near two elevated stations of the Chicago 'L'. The Quincy station is one block to the west and the LaSalle/VanBuren station is between the CBOT and the Chicago Stock Exchange. Additionally, CTA Blue Line service is provided at the Jackson and LaSalle stations, each two blocks away. Union Station stands five blocks to the west on Jackson Boulevard, providing terminal service for Amtrak and select service for Metra. Additional Metra service is provided at the LaSalle Street Station, two blocks due south.


The CME Group occupies 33 percent of available space, while financial and trading concerns occupy 54 percent of the three-building complex. In addition to Ceres Restaurant on the first floor of the lobby, other businesses provide banking, insurance, travel services, beauty services, and healthcare. Some business have been in the building for over 40 years, Interest groups such as the Chicago Architecture Foundation provide scheduled tours showcasing the architecture and selected portions of the trading operations.

Awards and honors

  • 1985: the 23-story addition won the Best Structure Award from the Structural Engineers Association of Illinois.
  • 2006: the building was awarded the Landmarks Illinois’ annual Real Estate and Building Industries Council award for its preservation efforts.
  • 2006: the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago presented the CBOT building with The Office Building of the Year award recognizing the high quality of office space and excellence in management of the building.

In popular culture

Film and television

Trading operations have been used as scenes in movies such as Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and the streetscape in the LaSalle Street canyon is used in the movies The Untouchables and Road to Perdition. In the 2005 film Batman Begins the building serves as the headquarters of the fictional Wayne Enterprises, but in the 2008 sequel, The Dark Knight, Wayne Enterprises was represented by the Richard J. Daley Center. The building itself appears in The Dark Knight.

While maintaining studios in the building for many years, WCIU-TV broadcast the Stock Market Observer, a daily seven-hour live business television news program that is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for the show telecast the most hours. Additionally, the station broadcasts First Business with news of the Chicago Board of Trade. Former WVON-AM radio personality Don Cornelius began the popular dance show Soul Train in a cramped studio on the 43rd floor in 1970. When Cornelius moved the show to Los Angeles a year later, his assistant, Clinton Ghent took over the local show until it ended in 1976. Prior to Soul Train, shows filmed in the building were Kiddie A Go-Go, a dance show aimed at the pre-teen market which premiered in 1965 and Red Hot and Blues, a teen dance show hosted by local DJ Big Bill Hill which premiered in 1967.

Graphic arts

Although depicted with the tower in a Rand McNally map from 1893, later lithographs of the first 141 Jackson Street location display a red-roofed building without a tower. Memorabilia of the current building is abundant, with postcards of panoramic scenes from LaSalle Street, the clock, and lighted upper decks having been produced for decades. In views from the Museum Campus, the building's crown is framed by the middle floors of the taller Sears Tower in the background. Photographer Andreas Gursky has used the location for still life prints such as 1997's Chicago Board of Trade, I and 1999's Chicago Board of Trade, II. A photograph of the exterior, from the Museum series by Thomas Struth, is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. An often-reproduced painting by Leslie Ragan for the New York Central Railroad depicts streamliner locomotives idling at LaSalle Street Station with the Board of Trade Building looming prominently in the background.

At 1211 North LaSalle Street on the city's Near North Side, a 16-story apartment hotel built in 1929 and converted into an apartment building in 1981 was used by muralist Richard Haas for trompe-l'œil murals in homage to Chicago School architecture. One of the building's sides features the Chicago Board of Trade Building, intended as a reflection of the actual building two miles (3 km) south.


The 1885 building and trading pits were prominently featured in The Pit, the second novel by Frank Norris in the Epic of Wheat trilogy. Life on the trading floor of the Chicago Board of Trade is detailed in the nonfiction 2004 book Leg the Spread by Cari Lynn.

Position in Chicago's skyline

See also

  • Chicago architecture
  • Bruegmann, Robert, (1991). Holabird & Roche, Holabird & Root, Garland Publishing, Inc., .
  • Saliga, Pauline A. (ed.), (1990). The Sky's The Limit: A Century of Chicago Skyscrapers, Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., .
  • Zaloom, Caitlin (November 2006). Out of the Pits: Traders and Technology from Chicago to London (PDF), Second edition, University of Chicago Press. . Retrieved on August 2, 2007.

External links