Friday, July 18, 2008

The Chicago Board of Trade Building - the Home of Batman?

Photo Copyright: Weatherbug

Photo Copyright: Flying Debris

The Batman hype is pretty big here in Chicago, the set for Gotham City. I just drove past a guy made-up as the Joker driving down Ashland Ave. Both of the above photos are of the Chicago Board of Trade Building, I grabbed the top photo off of this web-cam last night, and the street shot I took one morning when I arrived at work to find firetrucks and police out front because an environmental group was protesting us (?) by climbing the building. The Board has been the home of Bruce Wayne's Wayne Corp (Enterprises) during this and the last Batman movie.

The statue on top of the real building is Ceres the goddess of grain, we were traditionally a grain exchange, her face is blank because nobody at the time (1930) thought that any nearby buildings would be taller than the Board's 44 stories., thus nobody would see her face. There is also a 50 foot tall painting of a half-naked, very buxom Ceres with an armful of wheat hanging in one of the inside atriums, the painting once hung in the old grain trading room on 4, plus the bar on the first floor is named the Ceres Cafe, so she has some fans in the building. There used to be a television studio up on 43, Soul Train was taped up there until the late '70s.

Showing that traders can sometimes get it all very wrong, we (I'm an exchange member) broke ground for the building a few weeks before the 1929 stock market crash. The exchange was forced to build the building because one corner off the previous exchange building on the same spot was sinking into Chicago's muck. The corner of Jackson and Exchange Pl. sank, causing the entire building to lean like the tower in Pisa, in fact the original building's front tower was taken down as a safety hazard early in the 1900s. The current building is noted for its Art Deco design which can be seen in details all over the both the interior and the exterior. I share an office that can be seen in the web-cam shot.

The Board and the streets around it make for a great movie set partially because the exchange is at the base of the t-intersection of La Salle St. (north-south) and Jackson Blvd. (east-west), the eastern terminus of Route 66 was 5 blocks east at Jackson and Michigan Ave and the world's tallest infidel building, the Sears Tower is just 2 blocks west at Jackson and Wacker Dr. The Batman crew did a lot of filming around the building last year, mostly at night during the summer. A guy I know who goes to work early used to see the five Batmobiles and Batman's wild motorcycles being put away in an underground garage behind the exchange at 4:30 or 5:00 AM.

The building and the "neighborhood" around it has been in a number of movies, you can see the Board in North by Northwest, Steve Martin got John Candy off of the La Salle and Van Buren el stop behind the building on Thanksgiving day in Trains, Planes and Automobiles and Carrie Fisher blew up the best neighborhood deli, the Dill Pickle (her targets were Jake and Elwood Blues in the flop-house upstairs) in the Blues Brothers. Sadly the Dill Pickle is now gone, replaced by a park named after a wealthy Chicago family, Pritzker Park is gated off from the street and is home to bums and pigeons. If you are going to see the movie, enjoy it, if not I hope that the travelogue didn't bore you.

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