Chicago Stock Exchange Grilles
Louis H. Sullivan (designer)
15 ¼” x 74”
Designed for the Chicago Stock Exchange (1893/94)
Manufactured by the Winslow Brothers Company
Gift of Leon M. Despres, 2009.07
The spectacular ornamentation created for Adler and Sullivan’s Chicago Stock Exchange building (1893-94, demolished 1971) is considered some of Sullivan’s finest. Recently, a pair of wrought iron grilles designed for the building’s elevator enclosures was donated to the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust. The grilles, being the uppermost decoration of the elevator enclosure, exhibit spheres stemming from upright bars. The spheres directly correlate with the repeating motif on the main elevator screens that Sullivan conceived as seed germs bursting from their pods.
Frank Lloyd Wright was deeply influenced by the ideas and work of Louis Sullivan, who became Wright’s employer and mentor from late 1887 to 1893. Wright then parted from Sullivan’s employ to open his own practice focusing on domestic architecture.
In An Autobiography, Wright discusses Sullivan’s use of ornamentation: “Do you realize that here in his system of ornament is no body of culture evolving through centuries of time but here is a scheme and ‘style’ of plastic expression …”. Wright credits Sullivan with inventing a form of American architecture independent of previous architectural styles. Although, ornate for Wright’s sensibility, Sullivan drew curvilinear and fluid designs that were molded into terra cotta and iron. He designed ornamentation as part of the building, not as applied decoration, but as an integral component of the structure.