The Carbide and Carbon Building is a brilliant example of the material and cultural excess of the 1920’s Art Deco movement. Commissioned by the Union Carbide and Carbon Company, who produced the first dry cell battery, the Burnham Brothers designed the 37-story skyscraper as the company’s regional office building. The popular myth surrounding the Carbide and Carbon Building is that the Burnham brothers sought to base the design of the building on a dark green bottle of champagne with a gold foil on top. The upon completion in 1929, the building became an icon along Chicago’s skyline. In 2004, the building was sold, renovated at the cost of $106 million dollars, and converted into Chicago’s Hard Rock Hotel. The Hard Rock Hotel closed in 2017, and reopened in 2018 as the St. Jane Hotel in honor of Nobel Peace Prize-winner Jane Addams. The Carbide and Carbon Building became a Chicago Landmark on May 9, 1994.
Chicago during the Roarin’ Twenties witnessed the construction of many of its iconic buildings, the Carbide and Carbon Building being one of them. The Union Carbide and Carbon Company of New York City wanted a regional office in Chicago to house its subsidiary companies and display its products. Carbide and Carbon commissioned the Burnham Brothers, the sons of Daniel Burnham, to design a building that reflected the company’s success. Because the building was designed an erected during Prohibition, urban legend says that the brothers deliberately designed the building to resemble a champagne bottle with a black polished granite base, dark green terra cotta tower, and an elaborate gold trimmed cap. The building’s interior lobby is also famous for its extravagance, featuring Belgian marble and frosted glass. When completed, the Art Deco styled building was the only fully-colored skyscraper in the world. Carbide and Carbon asked for a statement piece and the Burnham Brothers delivered.