Chamber of Commerce & Board of Trade
Location: SE corner of Washington and LaSalle Streets
Life Span: 1865 – 1871
Architect: Edward Burling
In 1846, John Charles Haines formed a partnership with Jared Gage and acquired several flour mills. In 1848, he was elected to the first of six terms as alderman on the city council and two terms as the water commissioner. He became mayor of Chicago from 1858-1860.
The first meeting of the Board of Trade in Chicago was held on March 13, 1848, in a room which was rented over the flour store of Gage & Haines on South Water street.
Chicago Tribune, August 29, 1865
The new Chamber of Commerce building, the most magnificent edifice in the United States, is now completed, and was thrown open yesterday for the inspection of the public. So much has been said, and so much seen of this building that it seems scarcely necessary to, in this connection, give more than a brief glance at its prominent features and peculiarities; but these are so numerous and noteworthy that a description must necessarily be somewhat extended. Its exterior may be said to be imposing, but cannot be called beautiful; it belongs to what what we might term peculiarly “American composite” order of architecture, in which the great feature is intense utility, and for the attaining of this recognized “orders” of architecture re jumbled together with perfectly fantastic looseness. But it is a huge building, massive even in its details, and conveys to the beholder a strong sense of enduring solidity, a very proper idea when connected with an institution, typical as this is, of the wealth and might of Commerce in this great Northwest. One very bad point is the brick wall on the inner or Southern end of the edifice. It should have been in accordance with the other three sides of stone. The present arrangement is unpleasantly poor and mean in appearance. With regard to the ornamentation, it seems too profuse, but this is one of the defects inseparable from the “American composite.” The “Mansard” roof, with its oval windows, is in some measure necessary for the purposes of ventilation and convenience of space over the great hall, but in an aesthetic light we never did, and hope we never shall like the thing. We don’t like the clumsy affair, even without absurd parti-colorings, and we like it much less with them. An unusual and not particularly pleasant effect is give to the exterior by the reversal of the ordinary rules of construction, in increasing the height of the the stories toward the roof; but for the purposes of the building this was unavoidable, and the difficulty has been overcome as well as possible. The windows would have been more pleasing if the panes had been larger, would have accorded better with the style of the walls and ornamentation about them. The high basement and first floor are devoted entirely to offices. Two insurance offices are located in the former, and two banks (“City National” and “Sturges'”) in the latter, together with the offices of several firms, all furnished in the highest degree of elegance. Passing the entrance, which is an exception to the general imposing character of the exterior, and ascending the staircase heading up to the great hall, one cannot but regret that it has not been made wider and loftier. The two iron stairways, each five and a half feet in width, and the succeeding wooden ones, at right angles with them, five feet each in width, all seem small and insufficient, when viewed in connection with the great exterior and huge hall to which they lead. They are, however, no doubt quite sufficient for all requirements to made upon them, and are very elegantly finished.
Chamber of Commerce
John Carbutt photographed these two nearly identical views in 1865.
The great hall is without doubt the grandest meeting room of any commercial body in this country. It is 113 feet in length, by 87 in width, and 45 in height. Light is during the day admitted by ten windows on each side, and five in front, each twenty-five feet i height and of proportional width, and at night the hall may be brilliantly illuminated by ten gigantic reflectors, which dot the panels of the ceiling. These reflectors serve likewise as ventilators and heat will be supplied, in cold weather, by a huge eight-boiler heater, of Murray & Gold’s patent, which stands in the basement. All about the room, to the height of four and a half feet from the floor, runs a paneled wainscoting of oak and above this the walls are divided into elegant panels of neutral tints. At the northern end is an elevated dais of almost semi-circular form, thirty-six in length, under which are painted in neutral tints, two figures supposed to be emblematic of Liberty and Justice. The rest of the frescoing is good; the figures at the Northern end are really very fine, but these are positively wretched. They could only appear half passable if seen at a greta heigh, in a dim light, by a very short-sighted man. Such daubs, badly shaded distortions of the most intensely Chinese ideas of anatomy, should not be tolerated here a single hour, and we do hope, for the credit of the city, that they will be well whitewashed over before the visitors arrive to participate in the grand opening of the rooms. Their defects are radical and irremediable. The obliquity in the visual organs of Justice might be amended and Liberty’s dislocated limbs set, but they could never be improved sufficiently to prevent their being a disgrace to their maker. Over the gallery is a magnificent eagle, grasping two American flags, bound together by a ribbon, on which appears the motto “E pluribus Unum.” The ceiling is divided into two huge panels of fanciful frescoing, separated by the city seal of Chicago. Each panel is pierced by five “reflectors,” and at the corners, executed with fine artistic taste, appear, in medallions, pictures representing a canal boat, railroad train, steamer, plow, saw-mill, grain, elevator, warehouse, and something which may pass readily for either a pork-packing house or a distillery. On the white concave cornice running all around the room are a series of beautiful pictures, done in colors, presenting a very imposing effect. On the north end, in the centre of the field, stands the Goddess of Liberty, in the attitude familiarized to every one by her faithful representation on a greenback five dollar bill. On one side of the goddess appear figures representing sculpture, architecture, music and painting, each surrounded by the implements of her vocation. On the eastern side sits prominent the Genius of Commerce, surrounded by merchandise, etc.; on her right the city of Chicago, the lighthouse pier, and the lake dotted here and there with vessels; and on the left a mingled agricultural and mechanical scene. On the western side appears the Genius of Agriculture, surrounded by fruitful fields, a harvesting scene and pastoral groupings, At the southern end sits regal Science, and grouped about her scientific apparatus and representations of some of the mechanical powers, while afar off to her right is a soft and warm tropical scene, and on her left a view of Lake Michigan. The beautiful ideas contained in these groupings must be at once apparent to the beholder. They do credit at once to the genius of the designer and skill of the painter.
At the southern end of the hall are private rooms for the President. Treasurer, Secretary and Directors of the Board, on the western side of the building, and on the eastern side a reading room, telegraph office, wash rooms, closets, etc., all fitted up in the most superb style appropriate to their several uses. On the floor above, on a level with the gallery, is the Grain Inspector’s room, fifty by forty feet in extent, the arrangements in which are of the most perfect description. The Janitor’s room and some store rooms are also on this level. Up stairs, over the hall is a great space up to the roof, some twenty-two feet above the joists of the ceiling, and at one end is a huge lumber room. In this great space over the hall, there are flat forms about the reflectors, for convenience of lighting them from above—a clock-room, and ventilators for the escape of heated air rising from the hall below. The ceiling having been mentioned in this connection, it may be well to remark that the ceiling of the hall is not simply an ordinary plaster one, but is of boards, covered with linen canvas tightly glued on and covered with stucco.
The entire cost of the Chamber of Commerce has been about $100,000, and the back building, connected with it by a bridge and devoted entirely to offices, about $45,000 more. This back building is four stories in height, thirty feet wide and one hundred feet deep.
The names of the several contractors on the Chamber of Commerce are as follows:
Carpenters—Warwick & Cassidy.
Plasterers—Doyle & Johnson.
Painters—Mulligan & Heath.
Heaters—Murray & Gold.
Decorators—Jevne & Almini.
Iron Work—F. Letz.
Gas Fitter—J. Scanlean.
Stone Cutters—Wenthe & Moessinger, E. Walker, J.L. Brainard & Co.
Yesterday afternoon in the great hall, having been thrown open to the public, was visited by thousands of gentlemen and ladies, who inspected with sands of gentlemen and ladies, who inspected with pleasure the elegant appointments, and participated in the just pride every citizen of Chicago should feel at our possession of so magnificent a commercial edifice. The place was, however, in much disorder, this condition being attributable in no small degree to the efforts of a legion of men and women engaged in cleaning up crockery, china and glassware, and making other extensive preparations for the grand banquet to come off here on Thursday night.
The following is the programme arranged for the dedication and opening exercises of the Chamber by the Committee of Arrangements.
- Wednesday. 10 a.m.—formal delivery of the building by the architects and contractors to the Board of Trade—much speech-making, some music, &c.
Wednesday Afternoon—Programme not yet arranged.
Wednesday Evening—Grand concert at the Opera House in honor of the guests of the Board of Trade.
Thursday Morning—Trip on steamers up the River, through the heart of the city, among the elevators, packing houses, lumber yards, manufactories, etc.
Thursday Afternoon—Visit to the Union Stock Yards, on special train of cars on the P.F.W.&C. railroad.
Thursday Night—Grand banquet, prepared for one thousand persons, in the great hall of the Chamber of Commerce.
Friday Morning—Visit to Water Works, Lake Tunnel, Camp Douglas, and other interesting points.
Friday Night—Grand ball in the Chamber of Commerce Hal, which, with other inseparable festivities, will “wind up” the proceedings.
Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, September 30, 1865,
Chicago, Illinois’ new and impressive Chamber of Commerce and Board of Trade Building was inaugurated at an impressive ceremony in its Grand Hall. On Washington Street, facing the Cook County Court House, the structure stood around 100 feet tall and comprised a main building for the Chamber of Commerce and a smaller building housing the Board of Trade, joined together by a covered bridge. Chamber of Commerce
Chamber of Commerce
John Carbutt #141
Chicago Illustrated, January, 1866
THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE building, shown on the right of this picture, is one of the latest of the many new and handsome public edifices erected of late years in Chicago. It is located at the south-east corner of La Salle and Washington streets, and fronts the Court-House square. To the east is the new building of Smith and Nixon; and still further to the east, at the corner of Clark street is the Methodist block,
The style of architecture is decidedly composite, the beauty and majesty of Art having been made subordinate to the amount of capital stock and the prospect of future dividends.
The dimensions of the main building are ninety-three by one hundred and eighty-one feet, and one hundred feet in height.
From the main door the entrance leads up a short flight of stairs to a hall which extends the whole length of the building, each side being apportioned into handsome business rooms, all of which are occupied by merchants, banks, and insurance companies. The sides of the building face respectively on La Salle street and Exchange place. From this floor the ascent to the grand hall is by a double flight of stairs. This hall is the finest, in all its details, erected in the West. Eighteen windows throw their colored rays upon the room. Its loftiness, the harmony of the coloring, and the general character of the design are very imposing. It is elaborately adorned with freshness, paintings and appropriate designs. The hall is one hundred and forty-three feet by eighty-nine, and forty-four feet from floor to ceiling. The interior of this grand hall is appropriately furnished for the business to which it is dedicated. The hall is lighted by Frank’s reflectors on the top of the roof, which is one of Mensard’s.
The building was erected and the site purchased by an incorporated company, known as the “Chamber of Commerce,” composed of members of the Board of Trade. It cost about four hundred thousand dollars. The external view of the building, though faithful in every particular, fails in giving any just idea of the magnitude, convenience, elegance and grandeur of the interior construction and finish. The architect was E. Burling, Esq., of Chicago.
On Wednesday, August 30th, 1865, this grand edifice was dedicated, with imposing ceremonies, to Commerce. Prayer was offered by Rev. O. H. Tiffany, D. D., and the inaugural address was delivered by the Hon. Charles Randolph, President of the Board of Trade of Chicago. Other addresses were made by S. J. Andrews, Esq., of Maine; J. S. Ropes, Esq., of Boston; the Hon. D. G. Ford, Mayor of Oswego, New York; J. p. Bankson, Esq., of Pennsylvania; W. G. Perkins, Esq., of Ohio; the Hon. G. V. N. Lothrop, of Detroit; Adam Brown, Esq., of Hamilton, Canada West; Hon. Judge Harbison, of Louisville, Kentucky; Barton Able, Esq., of St. Louis; Hon. E. B. Martindale, of Indiana; A. S. Pease, Esq., of Troy, New York; and Henry G. Smith, of Tennessee. Delegates from the Boards of Trade and commercial organizations of Baltimore, Cleveland, Toledo, Albany and Troy, Portland, Boston, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Louisville, New York, Memphis, Buffalo, Oswego, Detroit, Milwaukee, Montreal, Toronto, Hamilron, Ottawa, and from all the cities and towns of the North-West. The dedication of the building was followed by a series of festivities, covering three or four days.
The Board of Trade of Chicago. to whose enterprise the city owes the successful completion of this handsome structure, is composed of about fifteen hundred members. It was organized in 1848, and then numbered less than one hundred members. Ten years later, in 1858, it had increased to four hundred members, when a building was erected on Water street, arranged expressly for its meetings on ‘Change. The rapid increase of business, the Board itself increasing to twelve hundred members made it necessary, in 1863, to take steps for another anore suitable building. The present building is the magnificent result of the prompt and earnest efforts of the gentlemen to whom the work was intrusted.
The following are the officers of the Chicago Chamber of Commerce: President—R. M. Hough. Vice-President —V. A. Turpin. Directors —John L. Hancock, T. J. Bronson, P. L. Underwood, H. Milward, Lyman Blair, D. Thompson, J. M. Richards, Hugh McLennan, George F. Rumsey, Samuel M. Nickerson, J. K. Pollard. Secretary—C. L. Raymond.
The following are the names of the Board of Trade: President—Charles Randolph. First Vice-President —T. Maple. Second Vice-President—John C. Dore. Directors—(for term expiring in 1866) —W. Nason, J. S. Harvey, Albert Morse, W. N. Brainard, C. M. Culbertson. Term expiring in 1867—S. S. Williamson, E. V. Robbins, W. H. Low, S. A. Kent, J. W. Odell. Secretary —John F. Beatty. Treasurer —George F. Rumsey.
James W. Sheahan, Esq.
Harper’s Weekly, April 21, 1866
For the illustration of this building, as also for the description above given, Harper’s Weekly gave credit to Chicago Illustrated (above).
1868 Guide to Chicago
Is situated on the corner of Washington and La Salle streets. It is a handsome structure, ninety-two feet front by one hundred and eighty feet in depth, built of Athena marble, and costing about $400,000 in its erection. The meeting-room, where daily transactions of millions of dollars take place, is on the second floor, a spacious and lofty apartment, one hundred and forty-three feet in length by eighty-seven in width, and forty-five feet in height, decorated with beautiful fresco paintings in the highest style of art.
There are about 1,500 members, representing all classes of business. The average daily attendance on ‘Change is about 1,200 members, engaged principally in the flour, grain, lumber, provision, and whisky trade. At about half-past twelve o’clock each day, the Secretary of the Board appears in the gallery and announces the reports of the Eastern markets.
The gallery is always open to visitors.
North Western Bank and City Bank each had space in this building.
LaSalle Street Looking South From Washington, About 1870
1-Chamber of Commerce; 2-Boone Block; 3-Andrew’s Block; 4-Republic Life Building’ 5-Nixon Building; 6; Pacific Hotel; 7-M.S. & N.I.R.R. and C.R.I. & P.R.R. Depot; 8-Bryan Block; 9 & 10-Otis Buildings; 11-Insurance Office of Miller & Drew; 12-Oriental Building; 13-Mercantile Building; 13-Union National Bank; 15-Merchants’ Insurance Company’s Building (Telegraph Office and Sheridan’s Headquarters)
Chamber of Commerce Buildings
Sanborn Fire Insurance Map
Chamber of Commerce and Nixon’s Exchange
October 28, 1871