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Jewelers Building, Rumored Home Of Capone's Speakeasy, Loses Scaffolding

 The green scaffolding is finally getting taken off the Jewelers Building, a landmarked riverfront tower where Al Capone once ran a speakeasy. 
Jewelers Building
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DOWNTOWN — One of the city's most distinctive buildings — one steeped in Chicago gangster history — will soon look like itself again.

Green scaffolding is finally coming off the top of the Jewelers Building, a landmarked riverfront tower where Al Capone was once said to run a speakeasy in the building's rooftop dome. 

The scaffolding that had hidden the crown of the 40-story tower at 35 E. Wacker Drive should be gone by the end of May, said Maurice Auriemma, the building's general manager.

The top had been covered since 2014 as crews completely removed and replaced the terracotta of the dome atop the 1926 tower.

"We're really trying to pull the band-aid off at once," Auriemma said. 


The Jewelers' Building, 35 E. Wacker Drive. [DNAinfo/David Matthews]

The renovation will mark a return to glory for the building, which was once the tallest outside of New York and featured the nation's first high-rise parking garage. The tower is distinctive for its four turrets and rooftop dome, where the notorious Stratosphere Lounge attracted "notable members of Chicago's underworld" during Prohibition, the building says. 

The rooftop speakeasy is gone, having been replaced by office tenants including architect Helmut Jahn, but the building is still well known to those who recognize it from movies.

Christian Bale's Batman perched over Gotham from one of the turrets in "Batman Begins," and big robots fought each other near the dome during a climactic fight scene in "Transformers: Dark of the Moon."

The Beaux Arts tower was designed by protégés of legendary Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, including one behind the iconic Flatiron Building in New York.

The Jewelers' Building was first named with an eye toward serving the merchants south on Wabash Avenue, but the tower was also called the Pure Oil Building and North American Life Insurance Building at times.

The building's high-rise garage with car lifts was the first of its kind in the United States, according to the city, which landmarked the tower in 1994. 

"The 35 East Wacker Drive Building represents a significant statement of the City Beautiful movement, which encouraged architects to design in a style that would be uplifting and inspirational to the public, as well as profitable to its owners," the commission wrote then. "The design, scale, and location of [the building] have lent it a presence that is significant, clearly making it an established and familiar visual fixture of the city of Chicago."

Nearby, green scaffolding is also coming down off the top of the London Guarantee Building, 360 N. Michigan Ave., as its owner prepares to open a new hotel there. 

Toronto-based Dorchester Corp. paid $15 million for the building in 1981. Auriemma declined to disclose the renovation's cost. Check out more historic documents from the building in the slideshow above or scroll through the photos below: 

[All documents provided by the building; all photos shot by DNAinfo/David Matthews]

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