“Terra cotta has by its facility of formation furnished the architect with a freedom of expression that enabled him to give scope to his fancy. . .” (Charles Thomas Davis, 1895)
Following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, architects turned toward fireproof materials as they rebuilt the city. Terra cotta, in addition to being fireproof, was lightweight and could be formed into any imaginable design in a multitude of colors. As you travel through Chicago, you can see terra cotta on buildings in virtually every neighborhood if you take the time to look.
Chicago Terra Cotta Tours is a website designed to help you find
terra cotta decoration throughout the city. These are not tours in the sense that you
follow a guide on a predetermined route. These are self-guided tours that you
can plan on your own, using this website as a guide. Tours are arranged around
categories and subcategories. There is a map (still in development) for each
subcategory that shows the location of all the buildings in that group. I am
very aware that this isn't everything Chicago has to offer terra
cotta-wise. This is, however, a good cross-section of forms, colors, and
Whether you use Chicago Terra Cotta Tours to take a virtual tour or an in-person one, enjoy these beautiful pieces of Chicago’s architectural history and be sure to always look up!
Disclaimer: This website is a perpetual work in progress. On an ongoing basis I will be adding new items, updating existing items, and correcting errors. Suggestions of additions are welcome, as are comments and corrections, if they are expressed in a civil manner.