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You are now in the twin connected buildings that house City of Chicago and Cook County offices. Both buildings were designed by the esteemed architecture firm of Holabird and Roche. Both principals of the firm apprenticed with William LeBaron Jenney, known as the Father of the American skyscraper (Home Insurance Building, 1884, now demolished). Holabird and Roche also designed many of Chicago’s early skyscrapers such as the Marquette Building and the southern half of the Monadnock Building.
Both buildings employ a classical revival (based on ancient Greek and Roman principles) design, complete with granite and terra cotta exterior and massive Corinthian columns. The County Building was completed in 1907, and the almost-identical City Hall Building in 1911. The overall building is 11 stories high and is the third version of a city hall on this site. Except for a temporary home following the Great Chicago Fire, this site has been the seat of city government since 1853.
In the early 20th century, modern skyscrapers were becoming the norm for commercial buildings, but classical architecture was typical of major public buildings. Such monumental structures encouraged a feeling of government as timeless and awe-inspiring. The corridors are lined with Botticino marble from Italy. Mosaic vaulted arches, marble stairways, and elaborate brass lighting fixtures complement the design. While the public can’t normally access it, it is interesting to note that the building roof houses a 38,800-square-foot garden with 20,000 plants of more than 150 species, plus beehives that produce 200 pounds of honey each year.
To continue into the Pedway, walk to the end of the County side of the building (the side with elaborate brass decoration above the elevators) and go down the escalator towards the Daley Center.
Cover photo credit: shiny.lizzidi via Instagram.