180 Michigan Ave # 909, Chicago, IL 60601, USA
350 Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60601, USA
You now stand at the intersection of Wacker Drive & Michigan Avenue. Pause here for a moment so I can get you oriented and tell a quick story. Ahead of you across the intersection, the DuSable bridge spans the Chicago River. The width of the bridge is marked by the ornately carved bridge houses, two of which sit on either side of Michigan Avenue in front of you. The space between you and the left bridge house marks the one-time location of Fort Dearborn - a US Army fort whose abandonment led to a fierce battle and a defining moment in the history of Chicago. As was mentioned, the Chicago River serves as a connection between the water systems of the Great Lakes & the Mississippi. After completing the Louisiana Purchase, President Thomas Jefferson sent US Army Officer John Whistler to this strategic crossroads. Whistler built a fort named after Henry Dearborn, the Secretary of War, on this very spot. Clear your mind and you can almost picture the scene. It’s 1803. The landscape around you is almost entirely open; a gently swaying landscape of tallgrass prairie bisected by lakes & rivers which smell faintly of wild onions, except for an upturned patch of earth ahead, where a small log fort is being constructed on the riverbank by a crew of rough hewn men in shirtsleeves. Its surrounding palisade & block houses slowly rise out of the earth as the dull thump of sledge hammers and the thwack of axes fills the air. You notice a surrounding settlement has sprung up about the skeleton of the fort; a ramshackle assortment of huts for settlers, soldiers, merchants and traders. In the distance, and seemingly on all sides, thousands of people from the indigenous Potawatomi Tribe look on … tensely. The fort was completed in 1804 and would remain intact until the war of 1812. In that year war broke out with the British and their Native American allies - including the Potawatomi. Soon after, American settlers farther downriver were murdered by local tribesmen while US soldiers were driven out of Michigan territory to the north. Fearing that Fort Dearborn could not be held, American forces evacuated the fort & settlement on a sultry August day. As the mixed group of just under 100 American soldiers and civilians (including women & children) drew a few miles beyond the fort, they collided with a large, hostile band of Potawatomi and were quickly overwhelmed. During the brief yet sharp fight, the American commander - Captain Wells - fell bravely and (according to eyewitness accounts) had his heart cut out by Potowatomi warriors in order to absorb his courage. Those that didn’t die were taken hostage and the fort was burned, emptying the region of U.S. troops until after the war. The fort was eventually rebuilt but was done away with permanently in 1857 as the wild nature of this frontier territory receded into memory. The Battle of Fort Dearborn is commemorated on the bridge house sculpture on the other side of the intersection. Cross over and I’ll take a look with you!
376 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60601, USA
The DuSable Bridge is known for the ornate carvings on each of its four bridgehouses. Sculpted by artist Henry Hering, the carving in front of you is entitled Defense and shows a violent struggle between Native American warriors and US Soldiers during the Battle of Fort Dearborn. If you’re so inclined, feel free to take a few moments away from our tour to explore the remaining three bridgehouse carvings depicting the arrival of French explorers James Marquette and Louis Joliet, the appearance of Chicago’s first settlers, John Kinzie and Jean Baptiste Point du Sable (the African immigrant who created Chicago’s first settlement and for whom this bridge is named), and the city’s rebuilding after the Chicago Fire of 1871. As you stand facing the Defense carving, on the ground you’ll note bronze markers indicating the original footprint of Fort Dearborn, and to your left you’ll see a staircase leading down to the Chicago Riverwalk and the entrance to the Chicago River Museum which celebrates the story of the Chicago River and its world-renowned movable bridges, of which the DuSable bridge is arguably the most famous. Let’s continue our walk across the bridge to learn more.
DuSable Bridge, 333 Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60601, USA
As you reach the center of the bridge where it spans the Chicago River, pull off to the side for a moment to admire the view and I’ll tell you more about the bridge itself. The DuSable Bridge is a movable, Trunnion Bascule bridge, which is a nerdy architectural way of saying that the bridge uses a system of counterweights to raise and lower it’s north & south leaves in order to periodically allow the passage of boats. The bridge also has two levels for vehicular and pedestrian traffic - you’re on the upper level. At the time it was opened in 1920, the bridge was the first double-decker bridge built with highway levels above and below. In its earlier days, the bridge was raised & lowered thousands of times per year. Now, to minimize disruptions to traffic on the Magnificent Mile, it only opens on a limited seasonal schedule to accommodate watercraft that are being taken in & out of winter storage. Underneath you flows the main stem of the Chicago River. The river runs approximately 156 miles in length connecting Lake Michigan (to your west) with the Mississippi River basin (to your east). Two fascinating facts here. During the 19th century, the main stem of the Chicago River (over which you now stand) flowed westward into Lake Michigan. As the 1800s wore on, Chicago’s growing population and booming stockyard industry produced massive amounts of sewage which polluted the river and, resultanty Lake Michigan - which was a huge health concern since the lake is the source of Chicago’s drinking water. Something had to be done as typhoid, dysentery and cholera epidemics became all-too-common. In one of history’s great engineering feats, the flow of the Chicago River’s main stem was reversed in the year 1900 by applying construction knowhow, a series of canal locks and determined ditch digging which succeeded in sending Chicago’s bad water in the opposite direction - downstream into the Des Plaines River and eventually into the Mississippi before ultimately emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. Although the people living downstream weren’t too keen on the project, Chicago became a much healthier city and subsequent advances in pollution control have ensured that today, the river is cleaner then at any time in the city’s history. Every Saint Patrick's day the river is dyed green using an environmentally safe vegetable dye mixture. The formula was tweaked to turn the river blue in 2016 in celebration of the Chicago Cubs’ World Series win. Now let’s continue walking across the bridge. Atop the bridgespan, you’ll notice a series of flagpoles which alternately fly the American flag and City of Chicago flag - identifiable by its four red stars and two blue stripes. The blue stripes represent (you guessed it) the Chicago River. Now look ahead of you beyond the bridge. The building to your left front topped with the large clock tower is the Wrigley Building. This was the first major office building built north of the Chicago River once the DuSable bridge was completed and Michigan Avenue widened in the early 1900s. Opened in 1921 and clad in gleaming, glazed terra cotta, the building initially served as the corporate headquarters for Wrigley's Chewing gum (hence the name) and it was the first air conditioned office building in the city. Inspired by the Seville Cathedral in Spain, the Wrigley building’s clock tower is its most recognizable element. The clock face is two stories high and needs to be reset by hand twice a year at daylight savings. The tower’s creation was also an important moment in the history of downtown Chicago as the clock provided the ever growing population of city workers an accurate reference point to set their watches to - and as you can see today, the clock tower continues to stand the test of time. Elegant and iconic, the Wrigley Building built upon the earlier success of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair - an event centered around architect Daniel Burnham’s so-called “White City” which was a collection of temporarily erected buildings that gleamed white and featured striking architectural design elements. Although the White City only existed a year before being destroyed by fire, it announced to the world that Chicago was architecturally significant. The glory & permanency of the Wrigley Building further enhanced the city’s reputation. The building’s unveiling also inaugurated the birth of the Magnificent Mile - the historically significant, upscale section of Michigan Avenue running north of the Chicago River which is dominated by beautiful buildings, high end shopping, luxury hotels, fine dining and more. Continue walking north along Michigan avenue as our Magnificent Mile journey continues.
422 Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611, USA
Keeping the Wrigley Building on your left, pause for a moment and look across the street at another gorgeous skyscraper - the 463 foot tall, neoGothic Tribune Tower. Topped with cathedral-like buttresses, and adorned with a stunning level of decorative detail, the building was formerly home to the Chicago Tribune Newspaper and its media empire. Completed in 1925 to mark the 75th anniversary of the newspaper’s founding, the building was designed by architects John Howells and Raymond Hood and was the pride of Chicago Tribune owner Robert McCormick. In addition to serving as a powerful statement of the Tribune’s prominence the building also became a showcase for one of McCormick’s cherished collections. During his time as a WWI correspondent, McCormick became interested in collecting rocks from battlefield locations. Upon his return to the United States and before construction on the Tribune Tower began, the paper’s foreign correspondents began accumulating rocks and bricks from a variety of world heritage sites at McCormick’s request. As the Tribune Tower took shape, these pieces were labeled and embedded into the tower’s walls for permanent display. The list is impressive and includes stones from such sites as the as the Taj Mahal, the Parthenon, Hagia Sophia, the Palace of Westminster, the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Alamo, Notre Dame de Paris, Abraham Lincoln's Tomb, the Great Wall of China, Independence Hall, and Rouen Cathedral's Butter Tower, which itself inspired the shape of the building. Yup, I guess you could say that the Tribune Tower’s collection of famous fragments really rocks … moving on. As we continue our walk along Michigan Avenue, you’ll notice the building next door to the Tribune Tower topped with a golden dome. This was the 45 story Medinah Athletic Club Building which (although the height remains the same) is now Chicago’s InterContinental hotel. The Medinah Athletic Club was a luxury mens club for members of the Shriners organization. When the building was completed in 1929, most of the interior space was taken up by the club’s 440 guest rooms - except for 14 floors which were dedicated as the athletic club area. There was much fun to be had inside with an archery range, rifle range, smoking lounge, two story boxing arena, a miniature golf course complete with water hazards and meandering stream, a billiard hall, running track, grand ballroom with the largest crystal chandelier in America, and an Olympic sized pool where famed Tarzan Actor and Olympian Johnny Weismeuller once trained. Those Shriners sure knew how to enjoy themselves. The interior decor was heavily influenced by middle eastern and mediterranean design tradition and the golden dome atop the building evokes moorish architecture of the middle ages. Beautiful as it was, the Medinah Athletic Club did not survive the stock market crash and shuttered in the 1930s. Thankfully, the building was restored upon transitioning into a five-star hotel in the 1980s. Resuming our walk northwards along Michigan avenue, you’ll notice lots of high end shopping outlets for which the avenue is famous. If you’d like to browse and indulge perhaps indulge in a bit of retail therapy, feel free to pause the narration and take a detour into any store you like. Meanwhile our walk continues north along the avenue. In a few blocks, we’ll be turning left on Erie. I’ll talk a bit more as we approach the turn. Back in the 1800s, Michigan Avenue was once known as Pine Street and was little more than a country road lined with rude factories and ugly warehouses. Its redesign was the brainchild of the aforementioned architect Daniel Burnham and a centerpiece of his 1909 city plan. Pine Street was rechristened MIchigan Avenue after the nearby great lake, and over time developed a friendly rivalry with nearby state street (found three blocks to your left) over which artery would become the city’s most prominent roadway. Ultimately, Michigan Avenue won out. There are a few milestones along the journey. In 1924 Chicago’s first traffic lights were installed along the avenue with money fronted by John Hertz, the owner of the city’s Yellow Cab company. After the Great Depression, real estate developers Arthur Rubloff & William Zeckendorff purchased most of the property along the avenue and renovated it into a luxury shopping district buoyed by the surrounding rise in property values. They dubbed their creation, the Magnificent Mile as part of a marketing effort to draw in business. It worked. As of 2010, the Mag Mile (as it is known by the locals) is the third most expensive retail district in the United States. Behind only Fifth Avenue in New York, and Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Nowadays, with the boom in online shopping, the landscape of the Mag Mile is changing. But some things remain the same. For instance at 625 Michigan Avenue (just off the intersection with East Ontario Street, you should be able to find a Garrett’s Popcorn Shop - a Chicago Original. The first Garrett’s was founded in 1949 right here in Chicago. Now you can find them all over the world - but for some reason their popcorn just tastes better here. You might stop and buy a bag of Buffalo Ranch or Caramel Crisp to keep yourself fed along our journey today. I’ll meet you up ahead at Eerie Street.
121 E Erie St, Chicago, IL 60611, USA
3 E Erie St, Chicago, IL 60611, USA
We’re taking a brief detour off the Magnificent Mile for the next few stops - the first of which should be directly across the street to your right as you travel west along Eerie Street. This is the Driehaus Museum. Inside you’ll find a gorgeous collection of Gilded Age decorative art from both Europe & America. The museum is named for its founder, Chicago businessman & benefactor Richard Driehaus who made his money in banking and (before he passed away in 2001) donated over $100 million during his lifetime to a variety of cultural philanthropies, including major contributions to the artistic, architectural, and educational communities of Chicago. This museum stands as (perhaps) his most enduring gift. If you explore the interior you’ll find a grand piano by Chickering & Sons, a priceless collection of vases, mantel clocks and porcelain not to mention over 1,500 decorative pieces by famed stained glass maker Louis Comfort Tiffany. Before becoming a museum, the structure was home to 19th century Chicago banker Samuel Nickerson - this is why the space is alternately referred to as the Nickerson Mansion. The building itself remains a significant piece of Chicago architectural history and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The mansion was built in the years immediately following the Great Chicago Fire and became one of the city's first fireproof homes. It’s held up by sturdy iron beams, brick arches and flooring embedded in mortar. The understated exterior of the building is done in an Italianate style using limestone & Ohio sandstone. The inside is opulent. The Nickersons enjoyed the finer things and decorated their home with a large amount of marble (17 types, giving their home the nickname of the "Marble Palace"), along with onyx, alabaster, carved and inlaid wood, glazed and patterned tiles, mosaics and more. It’s nice digs - one can only imagine what the Nickersons might have made on it if they’d converted the home into an AirBnB. Let’s move. Hang a right intersection and walk north on Wabash. I’ll meet you along the way to provide directions to our next stop.
41 E Superior St, Chicago, IL 60611, USA
722 N State St, Chicago, IL 60654, USA
As you arrive at the intersection of Superior & State Streets, you should be able to easily locate Holy Name Cathedral. Give yourself a good view and a pause for a moment while I tell you about this beautiful house of worship. Known as the place, “Where Chicago Goes to Pray”, Holy Name Cathedral is the seat of the Archdiocese of Chicago - one of the largest Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States with a parish of over 6,000 households. It’s also a popular tourist destination with millions of visitors from around the globe stepping inside the sanctuary every year. After the first Catholic church which stood on this spot was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the church leadership traveled the country raising money for a new building, which reopened in 1875 after 16 months of construction. Over its lifespan, the building has undergone many renovations, redesigns and improvements to keep it safe and sound. By the early 1900s, the weight of the cathedral’s massive foundation actually caused the building to sink into the earth, prompting a large repair & rebalancing effort eventually completed in 1915. In the 2000s the Cathedral underwent another round of extensive repairs after suffering massive roof & fire damage. I’d say she’s still looking pretty good though, wouldn’t you? Constructed in a Gothic Revival Style, Holy Name Cathedral is grandly proportioned with 70 foot ceilings and a spire which reaches over 210 feet into the sky. The Cathedral’s bronze entry doors weigh 1,200 pounds and lead into a large vestibule dominated by an intricate bronze screen with both the doors and screen resembling a spreading tree-of-life. If you venture inside the sanctuary, look for the 5,000 pipe organ, the 23,000 piece wood ceiling, and the massive resurrection crucifix suspended above the high altar - the altar itself made from a 6 ton slab of granite. Big numbers for a big church. When you’re ready to move on, walk north along State Street until you hit Chicago Avenue on the next block. I’ll meet you along the way.
Chicago, 800 N State St, Chicago, IL 60610, USA
As you reach the intersection of State Street & Chicago Ave, turn right and walk east along Chicago Ave until you rejoin the Magnificent Mile. At some point along the way, cross over so that you find yourself on the left hand side of the roadway. As you walk, I’ll tell you about one of the defining moments in the city’s history - the Great Chicago Fire. Raging from October 8th - October 10th of 1871, the fire became the most famous inferno in American history. It caused immense devastation, claimed about 300 lives, and destroyed over 17,000 buildings, 120 miles of sidewalk, and 2,000 lamp posts as it spread over 3-and-half-miles of the city surface. The final bill came in at $220 million in damages. When the blaze subsided, roughly one-third of the city lay ashes, while an equal proportion of the population - nearly 100,000 residents - were left homeless. The most popular tale for the origin of the fire is that it began in the shed of Irish immigrant Kate O’Leary who’s cow supposedly knocked over a lantern while being milked. Take it easy on those udders, Kate! In truth, no one knows how the fire started, but it spread from south of the river (in the same area our tour began) and hopped over to Chicago's north side and continued to rampage through the streets you now walk. In that era, Chicago’s predominant building material was wood and most of the city’s houses and buildings were topped with highly flammable roofs layered with tar & shingles. Couple that fact with the knowledge that 1871 had given Chicago several preceding months of hot, dry air and add-in Chicago’s famous winds and you’ve got a perfect tinderbox ready to ignite. It would take years for the city to fully rebuild. Luckily, two of the historic buildings to survive the disaster were the Chicago Avenue pumping station & water tower, which I’ll be showing you right up ahead! I’ll see you again at the intersection of Chicago & Michigan Avenues.
Chicago & Michigan, Chicago, IL 60611, USA
You’ve now rejoined the Magnificent Mile at the intersection Chicago & Michigan Avenues. I’d like you to locate the two stately buildings on either side of the intersection. On the opposite side of the roadway, the building that looks like a castle is the Chicago Avenue Pumping Station. On your side of Michigan Avenue, stands the Chicago Water Tower. Both buildings are made of limestone in a Gothic Revival style and both are the creations of prolific local architect William W. Boyington Let’s talk first about the pumping station. The Pumping Station is the older of the two structures. Dating to 1866, it was built to receive fresh water, via underground pipes, from Lake Michigan, and pump that water out to city residents. When it was unveiled, the station had the capacity to pump 18 million gallons per day, which was much more than the city needed, but enough to handle the increase in population as the city grew. The Water Tower was built three years later to house (and conceal) a 138-foot-tall standpipe used to stabilize the city’s water pressure. Located directly opposite the Pumping Station the water tower’s appearance is much more ornate than the pump house and after its completion, not everyone appreciated the building’s looks. When Irish author Oscar Wilde visited Chicago in the 1880s, he took one look at the water tower and dubbed it, “a castellated monstrosity with pepper boxes stuck all over it” and that “one expects to see mailed knights peering out.” The pumping station remains in use by the Chicago Water District today, but the Water Tower outgrew its original function and in 1911, the standpipe was removed. The spiral staircase that wraps the standpipe, however, is still intact. As the two buildings miraculously survived the Chicago Fire of 1871, both the Water Tower & Pump stations have become symbols of hope and endurance for the city. Admission is free to both buildings during operating hours. The Water Tower has been converted into an art gallery and was designated the first American Water Landmark in 1969 and a Chicago Landmark in 1971. Both the tower and pumping station were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Let’s continue heading north on Michigan Avenue and explore more of the Magnificent Mile - I’ll join you along the way.
876 Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611, USA
Our next stop is a contrast between the old & the new, the Gothic & the modern, the regular sized and that which scrapes the sky. On your left hand side as you walk northbound along Michigan Ave is the venerable Fourth Prebyterian Church while to your right is the impossibly tall and iconic John Hancock Center. Position yourself so that you can view both buildings and pause for a moment while I give you a few details about each. Fourth Presbyterian Church formed in the 1870s with the merger of two smaller Presbyterian congregations here in Chicago. To celebrate the event - the church unveiled their new sanctuary on the morning of October 8th, 1871 - which you’ll remember was the day the Great Chicago Fire began. Bad timing. Fourth Presbyterians' first sanctuary would burn to the ground. They rebuilt however, and in 1912, the church relocated to the spot where you now stand,With the exception of the water tower and pump station you’ll remember from our last stop, Fourth Presbyterian is now the oldest surviving structure on Michigan Avenue north of the Chicago River. It was designed by architect Ralph Adams Cram, the same man who built the world famous Church of St. John the Divine in New York City, the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world. Much like Holy Name Cathedral, the interior of Fourth Presbyterian is worth a visit (if the doors are open), and with seating capacity for 800 you’ll admire the grand size of the sanctuary. The size is needed, because at over 5,000 members, Fourth Presbyterian is second largest Presbyterian congregation in the country. Speaking of large numbers, look across the street to one of Chicago’s most recognizable buildings - The John Hancock Center. The 100-story, 1,128-foot tall building (1,500 feet if you include the antenna) was once the second tallest skyscraper in the United States and one of the tallest buildings in the world. Nowadays, it's Chicago's second tallest building behind the Sears Tower - but its status as a dominant fixture on the city skyline remains unchallenged. The John Hancock Center is part of an architectural style known as structural expressionism and it incorporates a distinctive X-bracing on its black exterior. In the summer of 2014, the building added an attraction known as TILT to its observation deck level. For a fee, guests can position themselves within a series of floor to ceiling windows that slowly tilt outside the building to a 30° angle as the visitor leans southward for a precarious view southward over the city. But, if heights aren’t your thing - you might just stick to the lobby level. The building is known for its luxury condos and apartments. On December 18, 1997, comedian Chris Farley was found dead in his apartment on the 60th floor. Perhaps the most famous incident in the building’s history occurred in 1981 when a daredevil named “Spider-Dan” Goodwin illegally scaled the exterior of the building to advocate for better safety protocols in skyscraper evacuations. Oh the irony. The fire department was so mad at Spider Dan that they tried to stop his ascent, but fearing he might fall to his death, the mayor called them off and Spider Dan made it to the top - whereupon he was promptly arrested. Speaking of which - I don’t want you to get hassled by the cops for loitering, so why don’t we continue our tour. Keep walking north on Michigan Avenue and I’ll meet you at the end of the next block at Walton Street.
920 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611, USA
Pause here at East Walton Street and Michigan ave to admire the building found on the northeast corner of the intersection caddy corner to where you stand. You’re looking at the famous Drake Hotel (easily identifiable by the flags overhanging it’s Walton Street Entrance). Born in 1920, and named for its original owners The Drake Family, the hotel was built by the firm of Marshall & Fox in an Italian Renaissance architectural style. It quickly became a Chicago's landmark and set the standard for luxury accommodations in the city. It has 535 bedrooms (including 74 suites), a six-room Presidential Suite, several restaurants, two large ballrooms, the "Palm Court" (a club-like, secluded lobby), and Club International (a members-only space introduced in the 1940s). The Hotel also maintains the popular tradition of hosting high-tea services in the afternoon. You may recognize the hotel from its many movie appearances, including Continental Divide, Risky Business, Mission: Impossible, My Best Friend's Wedding, Hero, What Women Want, Continental Divide, Flags of Our Fathers, Carol, and Wicker Park. And if that’s not enough for you, the Drake has played host to a pile of famous guests including Winston Churchill, Dwight Eiswnhower, Ronald Reagan, Eleanor Roosevelt, Walt Disney, Just Garland, Liz Taylor, Julia Roberts, Marilyn Monroe, Princess DIans, the Rat Pack, Charles Lindbergh, Playboy Impresario Hugh Hefner and many more. My favorite story surrounding the Drake is actually an urban legend - a ghost story about a woman in red. On New Year’s Eve, 1920 the hotel held a gala celebration. One particularly beautiful woman was in attendance, noticeable for her stunning looks and blood red dress. At midnight she could not find her husband and returned to her room in search of him only to find him engaged in a tryst with another woman. In her desperation, the woman in red took the elevator to the 10th floor and threw herself out an open window, plummeting to her death. To this day she is said to haunt the Drake’s 10th Floor. What a bummer for the other New Year’s party guests. Now make a left here on East Walton street and walk west. I’ll rejoin you along the way.
Sprinkles Cupcakes, 50 E Walton St, Chicago, IL 60611, USA
Our next stop, the Newberry Library, remains a few blocks up ahead. Along we’ll play one of my favorite games - guess who. It’s pretty simple. I’ve got a list of celebrities who are from Chicago. I’m gonna give clues as to their identity, and you guess who they are. Sounds simple enough right? Alright smarty pants, let’s find out. I’ll start off with an easy one - this husband & wife combo served as President & First Lady of the United States from 2008 thru 2016. Tick-tock. If you said Barack & Michelle Obama - you’re right. If you said anyone else, you’ve probably been living under a rock for the past decade or two. Next up. This actor has played leading roles in some of Hollywood’s most famous blockbusters- including the role of Han Solo in the Star Wars trilogy, the title role in the Indiana Jones franchise, along with leading roles in Blade Runner, Air Force One & The Fugitive. Got it yet? If you answered Harrison Ford - you’re right - and you probably enjoy a good action movie. Let’s see if you can get this next one. This man remains one of the most notorious serial killers in American history. He was convicted of 33 murders of teenage boys and young men committed between 1972 and 1978. He was ultimately executed by lethal injection in 1994. Woah - this quiz just took a dark turn didn’t it? If you said John Wayne Gacey, you’re right - and you’ve likely been watching too many murder shows on Netflix. Alright, let’s brighten things up with this next one. Although he left us too soon, this widely known comedic actor left behind a beloved assortment of American film classics including Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poet’s Society, Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, Night at the Museum and many more. That’s right! Robin Williams, was born & raised right here in Chicago. Keep walking and I’ll rendezvous with you up ahead.
924 N Dearborn St, Chicago, IL 60610, USA
As you arrive at the intersection of Walton & Dearborn Streets, you’ll notice a park to your left front. Navigate the intersection and position yourself on the park’s edge, but before you walk inside stop at the corner of the park and look across the street at the large Romanesque building made of warm brown granite from Connecticut that borders the park’s northern edge on the opposite side of Walton Street. This is the Newberry Library - a building so nice, they put a rhyme in the name. It’s free and open to the public since 1887, the Newberry is a book lovers paradise. The library houses more than 1.5 million books, 5 million manuscript pages, and 500,000 historic maps with resources that encompass the history of Western Civilization from the late 1500s onward. Highlights in the collection include a Shakespeare First Folio, and personal correspondence from Thomas Jefferson. The Library is named to honor the founding bequest from the estate of philanthropist Walter Loomis Newberry. Before he died, Newberry arranged it so that his own private book collection of several thousand volumes would be kept in the library that now bears his name until that collection was destroyed in 1871 by - you guessed it - the great Chicago fire. Even without Newberry’s books, the library found other sources of reading material and building continued apace. It was constructed on the northern edge of Washington Square Park so it would better catch the sunshine in its many reading rooms, providing visitors better light to read by. The library has also contributed mightily to preserving the story of Chicago, most notably, the Newberry cooperated with the Chicago Historical Society in creating the 2004 Encyclopedia of Chicago, a landmark single-volume work that covered the city's history from 1630 to 2000. Good for a little light beach read if you’re interested. Let’s keep moving. Head toward the center of the park as we wind down our tour.
McCormick Fountain, 924 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60610, USA
We end our journey in Washington Square Park - but it’s better known to locals as ‘BugHouse Square’. Reason being, that the name ‘bughouse’ is an old slang term given to insane asylums, and the park you’re standing in established a reputation in the early 1900s as a place where cranks, lunatics and other crazed speakers could stand on their soapboxes and give impromptu speeches about any subject they liked. That’s right … BugHouse square is Chicago’s original free speech zone. During the World War One Era, the square’s most frequent speakers were members of the local Dill Pickle Club - a group of socialists, radicals and young bohemians that also operated a nearby theater & speakeasy. Their membership waxed and waned but at times contained American activists, political speakers and authors such as Clarence Darrow, Emma Goldman, Big Bill Haywood, Upton Sinclair and Carl Sandburg. Well - I’m fresh outta knowledge and my well of stories has run dry. You’ve exhausted me hardy traveler. Well done. As our tour ends, I want to thank you for taking this historic walk through Chicago’s Magnificent mile with me today. I encourage you to explore the area more fully as time permits - although after hearing about high tea at the Drake Hotel maybe you’d like to get some food? If you type in Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House into your GPS you’ll find yourself a good restaurant just two blocks from here and if you have a taste for hot dogs and Italian Beef, look for Mister J’s in your google maps. Then again, maybe you want to return to the magnificent mile to do a bit of shopping. Wherever the day leads, I hope the stories from this tour will travel with you. I’m Aaron Killian and this tour has been a joint production of Historic America and UCPlaces. To learn more about our trip planning services, public & private tours and digital content make sure to visit us at www.historicamerica.org.