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The Rich History of the Chicago Board of Trade

Have you ever looked up at the Chicago skyline and wondered what that figure is atop the Chicago Board of Trade? The secret lies in Chicago’s rich agricultural history. Let’s take a look into one of Chicago’s most luxurious architectural creations and the story behind that silver statue.

Luxurious Views of Chicago

View of Chicago Board of Trade from LaSalle Street

Construction on the Chicago Board of Trade began in 1929 and commenced in 1930. Chicago was chosen as the location for the Board of Trade because its abundance of railroads and waterways made transporting goods convenient. The city’s plentiful livestock and agriculture also helped cement its place as the heart of commodity. Later, the Chicago Board of Trade branched out to manage the trade of precious metals and treasury bonds.

An observation deck was opened on the forty-fourth floor and offered luxurious views of Chicago. For decades, it was the highest observation deck around. Then, in the early 1970s, it was closed due to the overwhelming competition from other skyscrapers. The forty-fourth floor was intended to be renovated as a conference room for employees, but plans never took off and it remains closed to this day.

Chicago Board of Trade Architecture

Statue of Ceres above Chicago Board of Trade

The architecture of the building was heavily inspired by the Art Deco movement of the 1920s. Crowning the top of the Chicago Board of Trade is a thirty-one foot statue of Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture. According to the sculptor, John Storrs, he chose Ceres because he wanted the statue to be symbolic to the building’s purpose. Ceres has now kept a watchful eye over LaSalle Street for over eighty years. Coincidentally, the model who posed for the statue of Ceres was also named Madelyn La Salle.

The statue of Ceres isn’t the only figure implemented into the architecture. Just above the main entrance are the sculptures of Mesopotamian and Native American traders. If you look closely, cow heads are also hidden in the designs around the building. These figures help shed light on Chicago’s agricultural and livestock roots.

Visiting the Chicago Board of Trade

Chicago Board of Trade Vault

Chicago Board of Trade tours are held once a month through the Chicago Architecture Center website. Tours last approximately one hour and take visitors through the CBOT vault and Art Deco lobby.

Ceres Cafe is also open to the public and located in the North Lobby of the building. The owners of the restaurant pay tribute to Chicago’s agricultural history by using only local ingredients in their dishes. The cafe has been named one of the best kept secrets in Chicago’s Loop.

You may no longer get to see the luxurious views the Chicago Board of Trade once offered, but fortunately there’s still plenty of its rich history to dive into.