Bank of America Building in Chicago

Photo of Bank of America Building in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Bank of America Building in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
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Photo of Bank of America Building in Chicago, Illinois
<b>Fire damage visible from the December 6, 2004 blaze.</b><br>Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation.
Photo of Bank of America Building in Chicago, Illinois
<b>Fire damage visible from the December 6, 2004 blaze.</b><br>Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation.
Photo of Bank of America Building in Chicago, Illinois
<b>Fire damage visible from the December 6, 2004 blaze.</b><br>Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation.
Photo of Bank of America Building in Chicago, Illinois
<b>Fire damage visible from the December 6, 2004 blaze.</b><br>Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation.
Photo of Bank of America Building in Chicago, Illinois
<b>Fire damage visible from the December 6, 2004 blaze.</b><br>Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation.
Photo of Bank of America Building in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz/Artefaqs Corporation
Photo of Bank of America Building in Chicago, Illinois
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz. Licensed to Artefaqs Corporation

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Bank of America Building
Formerly:135 South LaSalle
Formerly:LaSalle Bank Building
Formerly:Field Building

135 South LaSalle Street, Chicago, Illinois, The Loop 60603
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This building gained national attention in December, 2004 when fire swept through the 29th and 30th floors. From Baltimore to Florida to Los Angeles, people wondered how it was possible that a 44-story building could not have a fire suppression system. Locally, it added more fuel to the controversy over Chicago's fire regulations. Though the city considers itself to have the most advanced fire prevention rules in the world, for the second time in two years they were shown to be insufficient.

The first incident came in October, 2003 when six people died in a fire at the the Cook County Administration Building. After that blaze, the city council vowed to address gaps in Chicago's fire code. Specifically, the rule which exempts high-rise buildings constructed before 1975 from having fire sprinklers. When the exemption was revealed in the media, there was outrage in the community, and among the family members of those who died.

After a while, things settled down and people started to forget about the deadly fire. Then just 14 months later, this building erupted into flames. A dismayed public once again turned its ire on local politicians who a year earlier had promised to make the city's high-rise buildings safer. 135 South LaSalle was, too, exempt from rules requiring fire sprinklers. However, to the credit of the building owners, it was being retrofitted for sprinklers at the time of the fire.

This time, Mayor Daley and the city council moved forward with a proposal to require sprinklers in office buildings, but not in residential buildings. The mayor claimed that requiring residential buildings to have sprinklers would bankrupt their owners. He further attacked labor unions and the construction industry for backing sprinklers in residential high-rises, saying they were only supporting the idea hoping to line their own pockets through extra work, especially when putting sprinklers in older buildings could expose hidden asbestos.

Few people will ever get the chance to fully appreciate 135 South LaSalle. Its beauty and details have fallen victim to the kind of financial success that allowed the building to be built in the first place. It is socked in on all sides by neighboring towers which prevent mere pedestrians from getting a good look at the architecture around them.

135 South LaSalle is clearly influenced by Chiago's 1930's-era height regulations. It presents four broad 22-story shoulders to each of its corners, and in between, an indentation which helps let light in to some of the interior offices, resulting in a footprint resembling a capital H. Follow any of these indentations upward, and you will see the building's tower. Because it is recessed on all sides, it appears to be part of another, more distant, building behind 135 South LaSalle. This creates an illusion that the tower is more distant, and therefore taller, than it really is. Adding to this are vertical elements in the building's main shaft which help safely guide the viewer's eye upward.

Quick Facts
Statistics
  • Floor space: 1,000,000 square feet.
Timeline
  • December 6, 2004: Fire broke out on the 29th floor of this skyscraper. It was the second high-rise fire in Chicago's Loop in two years. The fire burned for five hours, and spread to the 30th floor, but no one was hurt. The building was in the process of being fitted with fire sprinklers. At the time of the fire, sprinklers were not required in buildings erected before 1975. *December 20, 2004: For the first time since the December 6 fire, people were finally allowed back into their offices, but only on about a dozen lower floors. The rest remained closed for weeks.
Notes
  • This building was erected by the estate of department store magnate Marshall Field. It was intended to be the largest office building in the Loop.
  • This is considered to be the last true Art Deco skyscraper built in Chicago's Loop district.
  • This was the last major building erected in Chicago before a lull in construction brought on by the Great Depression and the Second World War.
  • At the fifth floor are 17 panels depicting Robert Cavelier de la Salle's exploration of the area. He is believed to have made camp at this location.
  • Considered by some to be Chicago's Empire State Building
Did You Know?
  • This was the site of the world's first skyscraper, the 1884 Home Insurance Company Building by William LeBaron Jenney. It was ten-stories tall with a steel skeleton, stone curtain walls, and an elevator. It was demolished in 1929 to make way for this tower. Interestingly, it wasn't until the building was being torn down that architects and engineers noticed how it was built and declared it the world's first skyscraper.
Look For
  • The mail chutes in the shape of the building.
  • Pedestrian bridges which cross the lobby.
Rate This Skyscraper
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Your Thoughts

There are five comments.

  During my last two years of high school I worked in the cigar store and the news stand in the lobby. The years were 63 and 64 . What I remember most is the day was President Kennedy being shot the bundles of newspapers being delivered was something that until this day stays in my memories whenever the assassination is in the headlines like it is today on the 50 day of his death.

Armond Cozzi - Friday, November 22nd, 2013 @ 9:00pm  

  Art deco styling, looks so crisp and clean inside and out with the straight angular lines... a marvel to see

Chin - Thursday, April 1st, 2010 @ 3:23pm  

  The address at this building site, 135 South LaSalle Street once held the Attorney and Counselor *** Patent and Trade Mark Causes *** of my great uncle, Walter M Fuller, when it was the Field Building. I recently came across some documents mailed from his office to my mother, (who is deceased), dated May 19th, 1937. I found it interesting to see if the location still existed, and quite interesting to read of the transisitions that have a=occured over the years. My prayers go out to the people and their families, who lost their lives in the fire in 2003. Time keeps on marching. God Bless America !!

Janet Giorgio - Wednesday, September 24th, 2008 @ 2:32pm  

  I spent 2 weeks working in this building in August and Sept 08. Awesome building. The main floor I worked out of was the 30th floor. Now I see why it felt so much newer than the rest of the building.Besides the bathroom layout though, my only other issue is that when you are on the 5th(?) floor, where it starts to pull in, all you see is the lights and concrete blocks on the roof. That was no fun.

Tom Hamm - Wednesday, September 10th, 2008 @ 2:40pm  

  This is one of my favorite buildings in the loop. It is an Art Deco gem. Go inside and see the beautiful, but minimalist art deco design. Walk the full length of the building; check out the elevators; go down in the basement. It's a classic. I've also been fortunate enough to go to the top offices and see the interior design carried out consistently there. A true gem!

Terry - Thursday, October 5th, 2006 @ 12:17am