Railway Exchange Building (Chicago)

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Railway Exchange Building
Railway Exchange (Santa Fe) Building.jpg
The Railway Exchange Building, prior to the 2012 removal of the "Santa Fe" sign
Railway Exchange Building (Chicago) is located in Chicago Loop
Railway Exchange Building (Chicago)
Location 224 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, USA
Coordinates 41°52′42.10″N 87°37′28.58″W / 41.8783611°N 87.6246056°W / 41.8783611; -87.6246056Coordinates: 41°52′42.10″N 87°37′28.58″W / 41.8783611°N 87.6246056°W / 41.8783611; -87.6246056
Built 1903–1904[1]
Architect D. H. Burnham & Company
F. P. Dinkelberg
Architectural style Chicago
NRHP reference # 82002530
Added to NRHP June 3, 1982

The Railway Exchange Building, also known as Santa Fe Building, is a 17-story office building in the Historic Michigan Boulevard District of the Loop community area of Chicago in Cook County, Illinois, United States. It was designed by Frederick P. Dinkelberg of D. H. Burnham & Company in the Chicago style. Dinkelberg was also the associate designer to Daniel Burnham for the Flatiron Building in New York City.

The building is recognizable by the large "Motorola" logo on the roof, which is visible from Grant Park across Michigan Ave and from Lake Michigan. It is also notable for the round, porthole-like windows along the cornice. The center of the building features a lightwell, which was covered with a skylight in the 1980s.[2]


The formal entrance to the building is located on Jackson Boulevard, which in 1904 was a more important street than Michigan Avenue. The impressive entrance is believed to have been required by Daniel Burnham, head of the architectural firm and the building's main stockholder. The firm moved its offices to the fourteenth floor, and Burnham's descendants continued ownership in the building until 1952.[3] The building is organized as a classicization of John Wellborn Root's Rookery. A street level two-story enclosed court designed in a symmetrical Beaux-Arts style was surmounted by an open lightwell which was surrounded by a ring of offices. By the formal arched entrance on Jackson Boulevard, a large staircase led to shops and a second-floor balcony. White-glazed terracotta sheaths the exterior façade and interior court and the lightwell is lined with white-glazed brick. Classical designs were used for the ornamental dentils, balusters, and column capitals. The building is completely steel-framed.[3] In July 2012, the Santa Fe sign was replaced with an illuminated Motorola sign when Motorola Solutions began a lease on one floor of the building. The Santa Fe letters were given to the Illinois Railway Museum.[4] After a four-year restoration, the sign was put on display at the museum in 2016.[5]

The building is significant as a historic site because Daniel Burnham and his staff made the 1909 Plan of Chicago in a penthouse on the northeast corner of the roof.[3]


The building was originally built as a railway exchange for the Santa Fe railway. Burnham & Company had offices on the 14th floor.[6] Though the firm's successor, Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, has moved, a number of architectural organizations still practice there, including the Chicago Architecture Foundation, Goettsch Partners, VOA Associates, Harding Partners, and the Chicago offices of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and landscape architecture and planning firm, Design Workshop.[2]

The building was purchased by the University of Notre Dame in 2006.[7] The university's Mendoza College of Business began holding classes there in 2008.[8]

The Chicago Architecture Foundation installed a 320 square-foot model of Chicago in the building's atrium in 2009. It is updated annually to reflect architectural changes in the downtown area.[9]

In 2011, Anacostia Rail Holdings moved its corporate headquarters to the Railway Exchange Building.[10]

Position in Chicago's skyline[edit]

The Railway Exchange Building appears (unlabelled) in front of Three First National Plaza in the image below:

311 South Wacker Willis Tower Chicago Board of Trade Building 111 South Wacker AT&T Corporate Center Kluczynski Federal Building CNA Center Chase Tower Three First National Plaza Mid-Continental Plaza Richard J. Daley Center Chicago Title and Trust Center 77 West Wacker Pittsfield Building Leo Burnett Building The Heritage at Millennium Park Crain Communications Building IBM Plaza One Prudential Plaza Two Prudential Plaza Aon Center Blue Cross and Blue Shield Tower 340 on the Park Park Tower Olympia Centre 900 North Michigan John Hancock Center Water Tower Place Harbor Point The Parkshore North Pier Apartments Lake Point Tower Jay Pritzker Pavilion Buckingham Fountain Lake Michigan Lake Michigan Lake MichiganThe skyline of a city with many large skyscrapers; in the foreground are a green park and a lake with many sailboats moored on it. Over 30 of the skyscrapers and some park features are labeled.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Santa Fe Building : 224 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60604, United States :: Chicago Architecture Info
  2. ^ a b Santa Fe Building, Chicago, Illinois (D.H. Burnham & Company) - American Architecture
  3. ^ a b c Clarke, Jane H., Saliga, Pauline A. and Zukowsky, John. The Sky’s the Limit: A Century of Chicago Skyscrapers, New York: Rizzoli International, 1990. With updates by John Cramer of the Society of Architectural Historians.
  4. ^ "Local museum lands Santa Fe sign". Chicago Tribune. July 24, 2012. Retrieved 2013-04-22. 
  5. ^ Dahlman, Steven (August 26, 2016). "Former sign on top of Santa Fe Building installed at railway museum". Loop North News. Retrieved October 31, 2016. 
  6. ^ Railway Exchange Building
  7. ^ Notre Dame buys Santa Fe Building
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-06-24. Retrieved 2009-11-09. 
  9. ^ "A model city: Chicago displayed in miniature". Chicago Tribune. June 8, 2009. Retrieved 2013-04-22. 
  10. ^ "About Us". Anacostia Rail Holdings. Retrieved 2015-05-01. 

External links[edit]