The staircase is actually one of a pair from the Chicago Stock Exchange. The staircases were removed from that building of American form–a skyscraper, when it gave way after only a fraction of a century to an activity almost as American as buying and selling stock–building demolition.
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On my first visit to the reopened American Wing at the Met, I walked past rooms from Richmond, glass from Pittsburgh and pottery from Cincinnati. Nothing in the exhibit that day struck me as much as a Louis Sullivan staircase from Chicago, however. Perhaps with American on the mind, this was because there’s no place more American than the city of broad shoulders. At first glance I thought it may be Tiffany, if not Sullivan, but Sullivan it was and coincidentally appropriate too.
I give you Chicago. It is not London–and Harvard. It is not Paris–and buttermilk. It is American in every chitlin and sparerib and it is alive from snout to tail. H.L. Mencken