The gigantic Stock Yards Bank & Trust building in Canaryville is one of the few visible remnants of the city’s once-booming meatpacking industry.
Built in 1924, the building is a tribute to Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were adopted. But while Independence Hall is a thriving tourist site, the Stock Yards Bank building has been empty for more than 20 years.
WBEZ took a tour of the building with Chicago planning official Bob Wolf. Here's a look inside:
The colonial-style building (and neighboring Stock Yards Inn) formed a handsome architectural entrance to the vast, dirty yards. These buildings —-- along with the yards’ muscular limestone gates — helped portray the old stockyards as more than the bloody pens and killing floors Upton Sinclair wrote about in his 1906 book The Jungle. In reality, the yards were a huge commercial center that generated wealth across the country.
The bank moved out in 1965, the stockyards closed in 1971 and today the empty main floor is lined with piles of terra cotta fragments that were removed from the façade.
However, many of the ornate plaster door frames remain intact.
The eight-story-high bell tower still has the old machinery that ran the clocks on the four faces of the tower. The clock faces also remain, but are missing their hands.
However, at the very top, three bells can still be rung by hand.
We didn’t get to see the bank vault in the basement because of standing water, but we’re told it’s still intact.
The city has been trying to sell the building for two decades, but the vast, open layout is a challenge. Some of the ideas that had been floated for the building include turning the former bank into a steakhouse, gym, new bank, green energy facility, museum and even an urban camping area.
Dennis Rodkin is a real estate reporter for Crain's Chicago Business and Reset's "What's That Building?" contributor.