Thursday, October 21, 2004

Rookery blog.

From the world of dysfunctional phone systems, the following. I called a company in California today, at about 9:30 a.m. Pacific Time, and heard this automated message (verbatim, name of company changed):

“Thank you for calling Three Initial Corporation. Our switchboard hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you would like to use our dial-by-name directory, please press one. If you would like to leave a message in our general mailbox, please—”

I pressed one, since general mailboxes may be listened to by no one or at best a person who may or may not even know the person you want, and whose job may or may not include passing the message along.

Different voice: “One is not a valid option.”

I pressed one again.

“One is not a valid option.”

The next sound was click. Me hanging up, that is. Later, I spoke with the person I wanted to speak to, and she told me they’d just moved offices, and were having a few phone problems. I told her about my encounter with the dead-end voice mail system, and she thanked me for pointing it out. Hope she was able to fix it.

A little later, I called someone in greater Boston, and heard this message: “This is so-and-so, and I will be out of the office today, but checking my messages. Please leave a message at the tone. Go Red Sox!”

After the workday was done, I walked over to the Rookery for Concierge Unlimited’s 14th Annual Client Appreciate Halloween Open House. I’m not a client, actually, but I am invited every year for reasons I won’t bore anyone with, and I go for reasons I will bore you with: the spread is always good, and the setting is even better—the lobby of the Rookery Building, one of Chicago’s jewels. To clarify: both the lobby and the building are jewels. Glories of built space.

From the National Register of Historic Places web site: “Built in 1888, the Rookery Building was named in honor of the former temporary City Hall where many of the city's birds made their nests. The 11-story office building, designed by the architectural firm of Burnham and Root, features cast-iron columns joined by wrought-iron spandrel beams, an elaborate oriel staircase and Italian marble floors and wainscoting.

“The central court, integrating office spaces with shops in the interior, extends all the way to the roof, thus allowing light into the interior. This National Historic Landmark includes some structural innovations, including the double iron staircase that is supported by cantilevers, as well as the cast iron and stone structural elements that allow for the use of ribbon windows. The court is adorned with glazed white terra cotta and covered by an iron and glass roof spanning the second floor level. Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright remodeled the ground floor lobby in 1905 by designing stair rails, light fixtures and urns.

“In the 1940s, the building managers covered up the light court with tar paper and paint, leaving the lobby dark for nearly 50 years. Continental Bank bought the Rookery in the 1980s but did not carry out their proposed restoration plans. Thomas Balwin III, a bond futures trader, bought the building in 1988 and executed a restoration project that returned the Rookery to its near original appearance.”

The sort of rehab job that covers over earlier features of great beauty is called Eisenhowering a building, and the Rookery’s a good example, even though it happened in the ’40s. My old friend Tom Jones introduced me that term this summer when I told him what happened to the ceiling of Grand Central Station, restored a few years ago. “It was Eisenhowered!” he said.


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