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James R. Thompson Center

James R. Thompson Center

The James R. Thompson Center (JRTC) is located at 100 W. Randolph Street in the Loop, Chicago, Illinois and houses offices of the Illinois state government.


  • Early history 1
  • Design 2
  • Nearby transportation 3
  • Art 4
  • Proposed sale 5
  • Tenants 6
  • In popular culture 7
  • Sherman House Hotel 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11

Early history

The building opened in May 1985 as the State of Illinois Center. It was renamed in 1993 to honor former Illinois Republican Governor James R. Thompson. The property takes up the entire block bound by Randolph, Lake, Clark and LaSalle Streets, one of the 35 full-size city blocks within Chicago's Loop. In front of the Thompson Center is a sculpture, Monument With Standing Beast, by Jean Dubuffet. The JRTC is sometimes referred to as the State Building.

Thompson Center behind City Hall (from the Daley Center)
Inside view of the Thompson Center


The JRTC was designed by Helmut Jahn of Murphy/Jahn now called JAHN Architects. It opened to mixed reviews by critics, ranging from "outrageous" to "wonderful". The color of the street-level panels was compared to tomato soup. The 17-story, all-glass exterior curves and slopes facing a south west plaza. The design simultaneity looks forward with advanced architectural tectonics (of the time) and back to recapture the grandeur of large public spaces. Visitors to the JRTC's interior can see all 17 floors layered partway around the building's immense skylit atrium. The open-plan offices on each floor are supposed to carry the message of "an open government in action."

Originally, the design called for curved, insulated (double paned) glass panels, but these were found to be prohibitively expensive. Flat, insulated glass had been suggested, but were dismissed by Jahn. Single-paned (non-insulated), curved glass panels were eventually used, and resulted in the need for a more expensive air conditioning system, which remains very costly to operate, and is insufficient on hot days (internal temperatures have reached as high as 90 degrees Fahrenheit).[1] The building is also bitterly cold in the winter; in its early years, ice formed on the interior of some of the wall panels. The marble floor of the atrium initially developed unsightly water stains, an issue which has since been resolved.

Nearby transportation

The Clark/Lake 'L' station, the busiest in the system, is housed between the JRTC and the 203 N. LaSalle building across the street. Orange, Green, Blue, Pink, Purple and Brown Line trains stop at the center. Three tunnels of the Chicago Pedway enter the JRTC's food-court concourse, connecting from to 203 North LaSalle Street, the Chicago Title and Trust Company and Chicago City Hall.


The sculpture at the front entrance by French artist Jean Dubuffet[2] sets the tone for this building that houses a tremendous art collection. The collection includes nineteen specially commissioned artworks funded by the State of Illinois Art-in-Architecture Program.[3] The building also has over 150 of the state's 600 works collected under the Percent for Art program. Under this program 0.5% of the money designated for construction of state-funded public buildings is used for the purchase of art.[4] The Illinois Artisan's shop is also housed inside the JRTC.

Proposed sale

When he first came to office, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich proposed selling the building to assuage the state budget.[5] The proposal was heavily criticized.[5] Lawmakers at first agreed to the plan,[6] but later a $200 million mortgage was agreed to instead, payable over 10 years.[7] The plan was declared unconstitutional by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan in June 2004.[8] The plan was set aside, although it had already cost the state $532,000 in legal fees.[9]

In 2015, Governor Bruce Rauner again proposed selling the property.[10]


In popular culture

The Thompson Center has been a filming location in several motion pictures, including 2000's The Watcher and 1990's The Kid Who Loved Christmas, The climax of 1986's Running Scared was filmed there.

Sherman House Hotel

The location was previously the location of the Sherman House Hotel.[14]

See also


  1. ^ "Repeat Writings on Architecture - Helmut Jahn returns to IIT". Retrieved 17 January 2015. 
  2. ^ "Pictorial Chicago". Retrieved 17 January 2015. 
  3. ^ "Monument with Standing Beast". Retrieved 2007-06-06. 
  4. ^ "Permanent Art Collection". Illinois Department of Central Management Services. 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-06. 
  5. ^ a b Ramsey, Mike (2007-10-09). "Durbin cautions of gaming effects".  
  6. ^ Patterson, John (2003-11-21). "A Thompson Center teardown? Potential buyers of office center in Chicago want to demolish the building.". Arlington Heights Daily Herald. Retrieved 2008-11-09. 
  7. ^ "Senate GOP leader criticizes mortgaging of Thompson Center".  
  8. ^ "Illinois Governor Attacks Attorney General over Objection to Center Mortgage.".  
  9. ^ McKinney, Dave; Chris Fusco (2004-08-27). "Thompson Center plan cost state $532,000: Blagojevich has no regrets about failed mortgage effort".  
  10. ^
  11. ^ Home page. Illinois Court of Claims. Retrieved on March 26, 2014.
  12. ^ Home page. Illinois House Republican Staff.
  13. ^ Home page. Illinois State Board of Education. Retrieved on March 23, 2009.
  14. ^ "Sherman House Hotel - WTTW Chicago Public Media - Television and Interactive". Retrieved 17 January 2015. 

External links

  • Commerce, Culture, & State Offices Under Glass
  • Commerce, Culture, & State Offices Under Glass
  • James R. Thompson Center
  • New York Times Travel Guide Chicago James R. Thompson Center
  • page
  • Google Maps page
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