Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat
 

 Chicago Board of Trade Tour
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December 14, 2012

CHICAGO - The Chicago Board of Trade opened its doors to CTBUH staff on Dec. 14, offering a glimpse behind the scenes at one of the Windy City’s most famous buildings.
Recognized as a local and national historic landmark, the art deco behemoth reigned as the tallest building in Chicago for 35 years. It was the first building in the city to surpass 600 feet, attracting visitors from around the world with a glass-enclosed observation deck in its pyramid-shaped roof, offering unobstructed views of the city. The building is topped by a three-story statue of Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture.

Today the 44-story building is dwarfed by the surrounding skyline, but it is still a hot bed of activity as home to the trading floors of the merged Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) and Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

The tour of the building started in the original CBOT board room, which features original light sconces, wood paneling and the vintage deco doorknobs. The hosts were Anthony Johnson, the former leasing manager for CBOT, and Karen May, building manager with GlenStar Properties, which led a group that purchased the building in April, 2012, for $151.5 million.
The Chicago Board of Trade seen from Willis Tower
CTBUH staff listen to the history of the Chicago Board of Trade
The CBOT and its trading floors were originally housed in a cathedral-like structure built in 1885, which was designed by William W. Boyington, who also designed the famous Chicago Water Tower, Mr. Johnson explained. That building was torn down in 1925 to make way for the current structure, designed by Holabird & Root.

A 24-story modernist building was added in 1980, designed by Murphy/Jahn.

The main building features a classic art deco tapered structure with recessed windows, setbacks and massive 30,000-square-foot floor plates on the lower levels, to accommodate traders and their offices. The imposing façade has made it a popular location for TV and movie shoots, including “The Untouchables” and two of the Batman movies.
The old trading floor in the Murphy/Jahn addition The new trading floor had 60 ft. ceilings
To accommodate the unique requirements of traders, the building is serviced by 10 electrical feeds from seven different substations, as well as 15 different telecommunications providers, Mr. Johnson said.

He led the group to an observation deck above the massive trading floor, where traders were still conducting business in the “pits” late on a Friday afternoon. The ceiling of the room was lowered to improve the acoustics of a room designed to accommodate thousands of traders shouting orders, Ms. May said.
Staff peer into the trading floor from the observation level
The next stop was one of the renovated office floors, which reflected the building’s original art deco splendor. The elevator lobby included the original terrazzo floors and light fixtures hinted at the ornate style that made the building one of the city’s most glamorous addresses in the ‘30s.
Original exit sign from 1930 The group visits one of the original art deco floors
Staff discuss the Murphy/Jahn atrium Original terrazzo floors in the elevator lobbies
After a stop in the bright and open atrium of the Murphy/Jahn-designed addition, Mr. Johnson then guided the group to the basement of the main building, revealing the type of feature rarely found in modern buildings—a massive bank vault. Tenants used the safety deposit boxes to store valuables, especially during periods when nobody trusted banks.
CTBUH staff pose for a group photo in front of the basement bank vault with tour guide Anthony Johnson
The vault was one more highlight of one of Chicago’s special buildings. The CTBUH thanks Mr. Johnson and GlenStar Properties for the wonderful tour.
CTBUH Office Manager Amy Meek presents a thank you gift to hosts Anthony Johnson and Karen May Staff look for valuables in the old safety deposit boxes
Watch a video of the Chicago Board of Trade under construction: