Saturday, September 21, 2013

Architectural Tour around Chicago

Jim and I took advantage of a beautiful warm sunny day about a month ago and went downtown to Chicago for an architectural tour via the Chicago River.

First we drove to the train station, which is only about 4 miles from our home. I knew it was going to be a good day when I saw what the train conductor punched on our tickets.

See the smiley face?
We arrived at Union Station, walked outside, crossed the street, then went down the stairs and caught a water taxi to Navy Pier, where our tour boat was departing.

Water taxi near Navy Pier
When we disembarked from the taxi, we noticed a line of people standing by a nearby boat. It happened to be the boat WE needed to hop on to see the architectural tour. We arrived just in time!

source: Shoreline Siteseeing website
We had a great tour guide who was full of energy and humor. She spoke non-stop for the whole hour and gave some fascinating tidbits behind the history of some of the buildings. Of course I can't remember them all!

Here are some of the highlights:

Two views of the famous Trump Towers:


If you squint your eyes and look w-a-y up to the tip of the building,
you will see a brown toupee sitting nicely atop the structure! KIDDING!!

And far:

The building is 96-stories high, or 1,170 feet tall. Throw in the tall spire on top, and it is 1,389 feet tall. Inside the building is retail space, a parking garage, a 339-room 5 star hotel, restaurant (also 5 stars), and condominiums. It is the second tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.

Just an added note; according to our tour guide - if a building has a spire on top, that spire is added to the total height of the building because it is considered a decoration and part of the building. But if there are antennas on top, they can NOT be counted in as part of the height of the building.

The white concrete building on the left is the Merchandise Mart.

Merchandise Mart was the largest building IN THE WORLD in 1930 at 5 acres and 4,000,000 square feet! It was constructed by Marshall Field and Company. The building was sold in 1945 to Joseph P. Kennedy, father of the future President John F. Kennedy.

The triangle building on the left is the Swissotel, the building in the center is the Aqua - the tallest skyscraper in Chicago designed by a female architect. It is a residential building.

The Wrigley Building.

The construction began in 1920 as headquarters for the Wrigley Chewing Gum, by William Wrigley Jr. It consists of two buildings with connecting walkways on the ground level, third and fourteenth floors. The South Tower stands 425 feet, has 30 stories, and a large clock on all four sides. The North Tower has 21 stories. Two interesting facts about this building: 1) It was the first air conditioned office building in Chicago, and 2) if you walk through the center doors, you will end up in a secluded park that overlooks the Chicago River.

Across the street from the Wrigley Building you will find the Tribune Tower

Construction on this neo-Gothic building began in 1923 and took two years to complete. The Tribune ran a contest for it's design, with first place prize being $50,000. That's a lot of dough - at least back in the 1920's!

Next up - Marina City

Or fondly called "The Corn Cobs" by Chicagoans. Some interesting facts: This is the first building in the United States to be constructed with tower cranes.

image of tower crane (Wikipedia)
The building was completed in 1964 at the cost of $36 million. The two towers were the tallest residential buildings and reinforced concrete structures in the world. It was considered a "city" within a city because it featured on-site facilities such as a bowling alley, gym, swimming pool, theater, ice rink, stores, restaurants, and a marina.

(I relied heavily on Wikipedia for my information and some was from memory of what the tour guide told us!)



JoJo said...

What a cool tour! We drove through Chicago on the way east 2 years ago, but in 1980 we had a 5 hour layover b/t trains (Milwaukee to Boston) so my parents took me to Water Tower Place. My dad also took me up to the observation deck in the Hancock building (Sears Tower wasn't doable in our short time).

Brian Miller said...

this is one of the reasons i love the city....the architecture is so unique in each building...some more classical, others so modern..i have to be careful not to always be looking...ha.


Beautiful architecture. Never been downtown. Drove around the city a number of times. I should say edged slowly around as traffic was always heavy when I headed to daughter's in Wisconsin.
Tours looks fun. So happy to hear you are enjoying life as you are off the road now.
Blessings, Barb

Adam said...

a river tour sounds pretty cool

Steven Anthony said...

as you know I am a short train ride from the city and get in fairly often. But everytime my feet step foot in town I am amazed. Always something new and beautiful to catch my Chi town :)

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

What a great tour. You are so lucky to live close, but not IN, this big wonderful city...and the ability to take public transportation in and around just boggles my mind (as you know from your travels, small western towns don't have that option much)...nor does our part of Florida.

Love the name of the tour boat. Perfect play on words.

Also I am in absolute awe of the buildings (did I mention small western towns).

Liz A. said...

Next time I'm in Chicago, I'll have to check that out.

labbie1 said...

What a great trip! I am smitten with architecture and you have shown a lovely variety here, but I am so GLAD you included the Corn Cobb buildings because I am enchanted by them and always have been. They are so interesting and it is so interesting to know that they include so many luxuries like a skating rink and bowling alley... Would love to see and tour them! :)

Al Penwasser said...

My nephew graduated from Navy boot camp last year and my family went out to watch him do so. We took the opportunity to tour Chicago. If you can get past all the bullets flying through the air, it's a beautiful city.
My only complaint was when we bought some tickets for a Bears game at Soldiers Field. We got them for a steal! But, considering that it was February and the parking lot was empty, we began to think he ripped us off.

Valerie said...

I never made it to Chicago, a big regret. The buildings are fabulous.

The name on the boat applies to me, Pat. Gotta go now!

Genie Robinson said...

I can't wait to see the next installment. Love the Wrigley Building and neo-Gothic one. What fabulous skyscrapers Chicago has! Amazing architecture. Boy, do they produce the reflections. genie

AiringMyDirtyLaundry said...

Very cool! I love the buildings.