What’s That Building? The Stock Yards Bank

A view of the Stockyards Bank from above
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
A view of the Stockyards Bank from above
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

What’s That Building? The Stock Yards Bank

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 interiror of the Stockyard Bank building is filled with crushed terra cotta
The main floor of the Stockyard Bank building. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
A delapitdated remnant of an elevator in the Stockyard Bank building
This now-defunct elevator used to take passengers from the bank’s vault to the top floor. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
The main floor of the Stockyard bank building
Another view of the first floor. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

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.

Terra cotta fragments
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

However, many of the ornate plaster door frames remain intact.

The words 'The Color Inn Co' are painted on the walls of the Stockyard Bank building.
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

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.

The bell tower in the Stock Yards bank building
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Rusty machinery inside the clock tower machine room
The interior of the clock tower machine room. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

However, at the very top, three bells can still be rung by hand.

Bells at the top of the bell tower in the Stockyard bank building. They are lit by flashlights and dusty.
Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

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 forCrain’s Chicago Business and Reset’s “What’s That Building?” contributor.