The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago's landmark building at the corner of South LaSalle Street and West Jackson Boulevard in the city's financial district has a rich architectural history.
The Bank building was completed in 1922. It was designed by the firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, which was responsible for developing many of the city's architectural landmarks including the Wrigley Building, the Shedd Aquarium, the Merchandise Mart and the Continental Illinois Bank building, which is directly across the street. The building's front facade, with its Corinthian colonnades rising 65 feet, was designed to produce "the impression of dignity and strength, in harmony with the power and purpose of the institution," according to a newspaper of the day.
The Bank featured a large open staircase in the LaSalle Street lobby, which led to the second floor. There, visitors found a central lobby with teller windows designed for bankers seeking loans from the "Discount Window."
At the time of construction, the building was described in news stories as an architectural marvel, massively tall, completely modern and technologically state of the art. The 17-story building had one of the largest vaults ever constructed at the time and an innovative intercommunication system wired throughout the building.
The building served the Chicago Fed's needs for many years, but the Bank needed more space by the early 1950s. In 1954, the Bank purchased two adjoining buildings, which were torn down to make room for a 16-story addition with 180,000 square feet of space. The architectural firm Naess and Murphy developed the addition, which was completed in 1960.
By the early 1980s, the Bank once again found itself strapped for space and in need of major renovations to accommodate a modern infrastructure. Rather than relocate outside the city or construct a new building, the Bank decided to renovate and expand its existing space.
In 1986, the Chicago architectural firm Holabird and Root began to renovate the existing 820,000 square feet and add a 165,000-square-foot, 14-story addition, which filled in an open section on the northwest corner of the building.
The renovation, which received an award from the American Institute of Architects, involved a significant change to the main lobby. The Bank removed the staircase that was a focal point of the original building to open up a four-story space in the lobby. Contractors cut away portions of the second-floor mezzanine and relocated office functions to create a soaring vista for visitors walking through the lobby.
The Bank also reorganized all of the workspace in the building. For example, the functions requiring the highest level of security, cash and securities processing, were housed in the three levels below ground.
In 2001, the Bank opened a Money Museum, which offers visitors an informative and interactive look at the important role of the Federal Reserve in maintaining a healthy, growing economy. The 5,600-square-foot space features a functional interplay of elliptical forms, curves and diagonal walls to create a space that invites visitors to explore.