Carbide and Carbon Building

230 N Michigan Ave Chicago

Odyssey Chicago River Experience/Carbide and Carbon Building
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> The Carbide & Carbon Building is a 37-story, 503 feet landmark Art Deco skyscraper built in 1929.

> The building was designed by the Burnham Brothers, of black granite, terra cotta and yes – real gold leaf!

> It is said the design was inspired by a champagne bottle with gold foil at the top.

Art Deco at its Peak

Chicago, as a city, embraced the most dramatic forms of design. Building by building, designers and architects created a highly distinctive skyline that anchored its reputation as a centerpiece of American life. Art Deco was a local favorite, especially during the 1920s.

When the Carbide and Carbon Company, pioneers in battery development, needed a regional hub to house their burgeoning business, they commissioned Burnham Brothers to design the work. This particular building is perhaps the most well-known commission of the brothers, who were sons of Chicago architect, Daniel Burnham.

"The lobby will be two stories high, with marble floors and walls and with ceiling of ornamental plaster in colors. Typical corridors will have marble wainscoting; all wood trim throughout will be of American walnut. The entire first basement will be used for automobile storage, with a capacity of forty cars" Chicago Tribune. May, 1928.

The Carbide and Carbon building is arguably luxe-design at its best. The facade is made of polished black granite, green and gold terra cotta, with gold leaf filigree trimming. To top it all off, literally, its cap is covered in 24-karat gold (one five-thousandths of an inch thick).

The building made a few film appearances, including the opening scene for Wanted (2008), and it served as Bruce Wayne's building in a crossover of Arrowverse and Elseworlds (2018).

An Eye for Detail

It's highly stylized from top to bottom, inside and out. The leaves on the building's exterior are inspired by patterns in carbon deposits. The lobby features black Belgian Marble and Art Deco bronze work trim. Legend has it that the Burnham Brothers designed the building to resemble a dark green champagne bottle with gold foil at the top.

A New Age of Extravagance

The 1920s were an age of roaring fun and extravagance, but what goes up must come down. The market crash of 1929 halted all plans for the company's second building. The original remained the only fully colored skyscraper in the world for a while. The building achieved landmark status in 1994 and became the home of the Hard Rock Hotel in 2001. In 2018, it reopened as the boutique hotel, the St. Jane.

Cover image source: Benjamin Lipsman, CC BY 2.0, no changes made.

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