Carbide and Carbon Building
Also known as:The Hard Rock Hotel
230 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, The Loop 60601 United StatesPrint this page   •   Share this page

A great example not only of the art deco movement, but what happens when audacious architecture goes right. This historic tower doesn't just follow the traditional skyscraper form of the day -- it takes chances that few others did.

The most obvious departure from the norm is its green color. When it was built, the tinted terra cotta and black granite facade made it stand out among the sandstone-colored towers it was competing with. Now, generations later, the unusual color helps it stand out among its glass and steel peers.

The second audacious move was such extensive use of gold leaf to highlight the building's features. It's not just on the edges of the building -- it virtually coats the spire, and drapes itself across the shoulders and setbacks of the upper levels. But the glitter is not reserved for those in the stratosphere -- the gold accents continue all the way down to street level. This is a building that simply refuses to be ignored.

All that glitz isn't an accident. There is an urban legend which states that the shape and color of the building were inspired by a champagne bottle. It's not that hard to imagine it as a green curvy bottle with bubbly foaming from the top and dripping down the sides.

The building was erected at a time when such exuberance was expected. But the roaring 20's gave way to the depression and more sober sensibilities. This building's planned twin tower a block away was cancelled in 1929. It was to be called the Cuneo Building.

Quick Facts
  • Construction finish: 1929
  • Designed by: Burnham Brothers
  • Renovated: 2001-2004
  • Type: Skyscraper
  • Stories: 40
  • Maximum Height: 503 feet / 153 meters
  • Spire height: 50 feet
  • Hotel rooms: 381
  • 1996: A plan is floated to convert this office building into 200 condominiums.
  • May 8, 1996: This building is named a City of Chicago Landmark.
  • September, 1997: This building is sold to Mark IV Realty for $7,000,000.
  • 1999: A pedestrian is hit when a piece of the terra cotta facade breaks away from the building.
  • January 1, 2004: After $106,000,000 in renovations, the Hard Rock Hotel opens in this building. An official grand opening ceremony wasn't held until the weather got better.
  • April 21, 2004: The official opening ceremony for the Hard Rock Hotel includes celebrities like actress Carmen Electra and musician Dave Navarro.
  • November 16, 2007: The Hard Rock Hotel completes a $106 million renovation of this building, and begins illuminating the 500-foot tower with floodlights at night. Floodlights are positioned at the 24th and 38th floor and light up nightly.
  • September, 2010: This building was named #33 on Chicago Magazine's list of the Top 40 Buildings in Chicago.
  • Architect: Hubert Burnham
  • Architect: Daniel Burnham Junior
  • 2004 Exterior renovation: Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates
  • 2004 Interior renovation: Lucien Lagrange and Associates
  • 2004 Interior renovation: Yabu Pushelberg
  • This building was developed for the Carbide and Carbon Company (later known as Union Carbide) to serve as its Midwest regional headquarters.
  • At one time there was an aircraft beacon at the top of this building, similar to the one on the nearby Palmolive Building.
  • In the 2001-2004 renovation, 7,700 blocks of terra cotta were pulled off the exterior of the building and replaced.
  • The Hard Rock Cafe International got $27,000,000 in federal, state, and local tax breaks to perform the 2001-2004 renovation.
  • The original hotel chain lined up for this building was Radisson, but the redevelopers eventually went with Hard Rock.
  • As part of the 2004 renovation, two neighboring 1920's building were demolished to make room for a seven-story addition to house restaurants and ballrooms.
  • The gold highlights of this building are actual gold. Imitation gold was considered, but rejected. The 24-karat gold leaf is 1/5000 of an inch thick.
  • At one time this was the home of WFMF Radio (100.3 FM).
  • At one time this was the home of WJJD Radio (1160 AM).
Look For
  • The gold accents at the top of the building. They are covered in 24 karat gold, not imitation decorative gold-colored sheeting.
  • The bronze grillework above the entrance.
  • The design of interlocking C's.
Your Thoughts

There are six comments.

  My parents met each other in this building while working for the advertising agency of Aubrey, Finlay, Marley and Hodgson, Inc. in about 1960. The building has beautiful and distinctive architecture.

Chris Kaufmann - Wednesday, June 29th, 2016 @ 6:29pm  

  This is Art Deco at it's finest. I have to agree with what others have said also. The Carbide and Carbon building now houses the and it is the BEST place to stay in Chicago.

John - Tuesday, September 30th, 2014 @ 11:38am  

  I worked on the very top floor of this building - the elevator stopped the floor below. I also worked on the 2nd Floor of the building. What a wonderful example of deco architecture.

Stephen Sehi-Smith - Friday, October 16th, 2009 @ 4:06pm  

  Great building! HR Hotel is great also. Best place to stay in Chicago!

Anders Carlstedt - Friday, November 21st, 2008 @ 10:28am  

  This building looks like a champagne bottle when you look at it in a distance, that's what I think is so neat about this building.

Brent Kampert - Friday, November 7th, 2008 @ 12:52pm  

  this is a great example of Art Deco. I love the gold leaf paint at the top.

kirby - Thursday, December 7th, 2006 @ 8:48pm