The Art Deco Splendor Of Chicago

There’s an exciting new novel upcoming from dieselpunk author, Sarah Zama, which takes place in a paranormal/speakeasy/Jazz Age Chicago setting: “Give In To The Feeling”. To celebrate this event, I’d like to highlight some of the Art Deco attractions of the Windy City.

As an aesthetic, Art Deco knew its heyday between the 1920s and 1940s. From architecture, to artwork, automobiles, fashion, and even household goods, this bold new style emerged during a time of prosperity and progress, and was widely regarded as a herald of the industrialization of society, and the rapidly expanding middle class. Vibrant colors, contrasting patterns, geometric motifs, and rich ornamentation are characteristics found often in Deco themes.

Chicago has a fantastic representation of buildings and art remaining from the Art Deco era. The city has an infamous history of speakeasies and gangsters, and knew a lot of mayhem during the days of Prohibition. The Art Deco structures today seem to keep all of these wild stories alive, witnesses to a time when jazz was hot, life was fast, and love could be dangerous.

Here’s a sampling of some of Chicago’s Art Deco treasures.

333 North Michigan Avenue Building


This magnificent skyscraper was completed in 1928, by architects Holabird and Root. It stands at 396 feet tall and 34 stories. Upper level setbacks, a polished granite base, ornamental bands and reliefs of the historical Fort Dearborn decorate this landmark.

Adler Planetarium


A museum devoted to astronomy and astrophysics, located on the shore of Lake Michigan. Founded by Chicago businessman Max Adler, it opened to the public in 1930. It houses the active Doane Observatory, three theaters, and a collection of antique scientific instruments and documents.

Carbide and Carbon Building


Located at 230 Michigan Avenue, a unique skyscraper completed in 1929 by the Burnham Brothers. Over 500 feet tall and 37 stories. This is a unique building, with a black granite and marble base, green terra cotta tower, and 24 carat gold leaf plating at the top. Many think it was designed to resemble a champagne bottle. but in reality it was made to represent one of the batteries manufactured by the Carbide and Carbon company.

Civic Opera House


Currently the home of Lyric Opera Of Chicago, located at 20 North Wacker Drive. A 45 story office tower flanked by two 22 story wings. Housing over 3000 seats, it’s the second largest opera auditorium in North America. the building is shaped like a huge chair and is sometimes called “Insull’s Throne”. Completed in 1929 by Samuel Insull, architects Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White. This opera house inspired the one featured in Orson Welles’ famous film, Citizen Kane.

Edward P. Russell House


Completed in 1929 by architects Holabird and Root, a townhouse built for Edward P. Russell, a real estate banker. It was designed to be like a skyscraper, and the architects experimented with concrete pouring techniques later used in taller buildings. The building caused a sensation at the time of its construction. A beautiful wood paneled entry foyer, lavish staircase and cage elevator, oval windows, and a lovely door embellished with metal grillwork are but a few of the ornamental masterpieces of this house.

One North LaSalle Street


At 48 stories and 530 feet tall, this was Chicago’s tallest building up until 1965. Finished in 1930 by architects Vitzthum & Burns. The lobby is decorated with sconces and grilles representing stylized American eagles. On the fifth floor is a series of reliefs depicting  Robert Cavalier Sieur de la Salle, a French explorer said to have camped at the site.

Wacker Tower


Another masterpiece by Holabird and Root, completed in 1928. Located at 68 East Wacker Place, and standing at 237 feet and 17 stories. Also known as the Chicago Motorclub Building. The building boasts beautiful cast iron embellishments to its facade, bearing imagery of flowers, fountains, zigzags, and swirls. These themes continue in the magnificent interior with its gleaming mezzanines, chandeliers, and ornate reliefs. Though it has been vacant for some time, there is speculation to restore it and convert it to a hotel.

These are just a few of Chicago’s marvelous landmarks. A definite must-see destination for any Art Deco enthusiast. Be sure to check out Sarah’s website, “The Old Shelter“, for updates on her upcoming novel and other exciting news!


8 thoughts on “The Art Deco Splendor Of Chicago”

    1. Thank you ❤ there really are! There's an entire district of old skyscrapers from this time. I thought New York was the main Art Deco place to see, but I'd say Chicago definitely rivals it! If I ever get back there, too, lol

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Oh, I love Chicago! Only saw it for two days when I took a train to see my boyfriend off for the city. 😦 But I’ll be going back next month to visit him. I’ll have to keep a look out for some of these buildings!

    Walked into a few hotels in the Art Deco style. They were gorgeous! Don’t remember the names. I’ll have to get more pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve always wanted to visit there myself. I’ve never been further east than Utah, lol. My husband went to Chicago and loved it. It’s definitely on my bucket list for a future destination 🙂 Along with New York City, of course! Would love to see any pics you get when you visit there!

      Liked by 1 person

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