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Friday, March 11, 2016

Chicago's Carbide and Carbon Building

This post is part of a continuing series about the architecture of Chicago 
which I took photographs of earlier this winter.

Now home to the Hard Rock Hotel, the Carbide and Carbon building.  It's not like the other Art Deco skyscrapers in the area, the dark beauty's base is polished black granite and the tower is a lovely green terra cotta.

It's 500 feet up to try to see the to the top of its 40 stories, so bring your zoom lens or your binoculars.  According to the hotel's website: Popular legend connects the design of the building to a champagne bottle, with the terra cotta exterior corresponding to the green glass bottle and the golden tower alluding to the shiny foil top.  Can't get any more rock n' roll than that, I guess!

The gold spire at the top of the building is literally gold but I had a hard time seeing it from so far down as you might imagine. The 24-karat gold leaf is 1/5000 of an inch thick.  Designed by the Burnham Brothers and finished in 1929 there was obviously still time for a little extravagance before the Great Depression landed.  Imagine the dancing and champagne flowing in this building at the end of the Roaring 20's!

My favorite part is all the bronze work on the exterior above the entrance.

It carries into the interior, giving a feeling of lightness that is a surprising contrast after the exterior's darkness.  The Union Carbide and Carbon Company is a chemical company with a long history including the development of the first dry cell battery.  In 1939 they acquired Bakelite and the dizzying array of other chemical developments and acquisitions can be found here.

I like the interlocking "C"s found throughout the bronze. I wonder what the ballroom looks like?

I found a website that focuses on photographing Chicago architecture.  I'm also going to buy "The Photographer's Guide to Chicago" on Amazon.  Can't wait to see what tips I can pick up!


  1. It's a long time since I was in Chicago and I cannot remember that building butthen I only knew of the Sears Tower and the John Hancock.I must dig outmy photo's and scan them

  2. It's a beautiful building! Yes, I can well imagine the revelry going on in there in the Roaring '20's! My Dad was a long-time chemical engineer with Union Carbide ... possibly he saw the Carbide and Carbon Building back in the day when he visited Chicago. I'd like to see it myself!