Civic Opera Building

Coordinates: 41°52′57″N 87°38′15″W / 41.882506°N 87.637475°W / 41.882506; -87.637475
Civic Opera Building
rear facade
General information
Architectural styleart deco
Address20 North Wacker Drive
Construction started1927
Completed1929; 95 years ago (1929)
Technical details
Floor count45
Wacker Drive façade of the Civic Opera Building with part of the arcade
Detail of a sculpture by Henry Hering

The Civic Opera Building is a 45-story office tower (plus two 22-story wings) located at 20 North Wacker Drive in Chicago. The building opened November 4, 1929, and has an Art Deco interior. It contains a 3,563-seat opera house, the Civic Opera House, which is the second-largest opera auditorium in North America. The opera house is the permanent home of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the home of the Joffrey Ballet since 2021.

Samuel Insull envisioned and hired the design team for building a new opera house to serve as the home for the Chicago Civic Opera, as the company was called. The building is shaped like a huge chair, sometimes referred to as "Insull's Throne."[1] Insull directed the chair should face west to signify turning his back on New York.[citation needed] Insull had left a vice presidency at General Electric in New York in 1892, after he was not named its president. Subsequently, he moved to Chicago and became president of Chicago Edison (Commonwealth Edison).

Insull selected the architecture firm Graham, Anderson, Probst & White who were responsible for several other buildings in the downtown Chicago Loop. As they did on other occasions, the architects commissioned Henry Hering to produce architectural sculpture for the building.

Mary Garden of the Chicago Civic Opera announced on July 15, 1929, that the opera's inaugural season would include the commissioned work of Hamilton Forrest entitled Camille.[2]

During the 1950s and 1960s the building was identified by a large "Kemper Insurance" sign, although it was not that company's headquarters. In 1993, the Lyric Opera of Chicago purchased the opera house facilities in the building it had rented for 64 years.

In 2012, Tishman Speyer Properties L.P. sold the 915,000 square feet (85,000 m2) office tower portion of the building for $125.8 million to an affiliate of Nanuet, N.Y.-based Berkley Properties LLC.[3]




  1. ^ Doherty, James (13 April 1952), "Samuel Insull, Always a Good Story", Chicago Sunday Tribune, retrieved 2017-09-16
  2. ^ Pearson, Edward Hagelin (1995). "The Other Traviata: Hamilton Forrest's Camille". The Opera Quarterly. 11 (2): 17–38. doi:10.1093/oq/11.2.17.
  3. ^ Ori, Ryan (15 February 2012). "Civic Opera Building sells for almost $126 million". Crain's Chicago Business. Retrieved 2015-02-04.
  4. ^ "Law firm renews at Civic Opera Building". Crain Communications. May 10, 2007.
  5. ^ "NATIONAL AUTOMATIC MERCHANDISING ASSOCIATION" (Press release). Charity Navigator.
  6. ^ (accessed 24 September 2022)


  • Chappell, Sally Kitt, Transforming Tradition: Architecture and Planning of Graham, Anderson, Probst and White, 1912–1936, Chicago, Il: University of Chicago Press, 1992
  • Kvaran, Einar Einarsson, Architectural Sculpture in America, unpublished manuscript

External links[edit]

41°52′57″N 87°38′15″W / 41.882506°N 87.637475°W / 41.882506; -87.637475