The Chicago Federal Building Was Replaced By a Black Box

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The Chicago Federal Building in Chicago, Illinois was built between 1898 and 1905 for the function of housing the midwest’s federal legal courts, primary post office, and other government offices. It stood in The Loop area on a block surrounded by Dearborn, Adams and Clark Streets and Jackson Boulevard.

After construction was complete, more than $2,000,000 remained for interior decoration of the Chicago Federal Building. The four wings met under the dome to form an octagonal rotunda, inspired by Imperial Roman architecture, that was open to the ninth floor. The rotunda’s 100 ft (30 m) diameter made it larger than that of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. The federal building was also the tallest capitol-style building constructed in Chicago, with the exception of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition buildings, all of which were demolished. Under the dome was a large public space surrounded by the floors containing office space.


The interior details were accented with terra cotta and scagliola. Doors were oak with brass hardware and “US” molded into doorknobs. Mahogany was used in courtrooms and other offices. Marble from Tennessee, Vermont, Maine and Italy was used in corridor floors, wainscoting and stairways. Floors in the rotunda were marble accented with mosaic tile while railings and elevator grilles throughout the building were wrought iron. Ceilings were framed by egg-and-dart mouldings. The four courtrooms on the sixth floor contained a series of murals depicting historical moments in the development of law.

Some buildings last thousands of years, as some of the finest architecture can last only 65 years, depending on it’s location. I can not understand the reasoning for destroying the Chicago Federal Building in 1965. The idea was to modernize the federal system’s architecture. The architectural detail within the original Federal Building will never compare to the Kluczynski Federal Building.

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