Chicago Detours Blog - Architecture, History, Culture
January 21, 2014 by Jenn Harrman
Starting today, we plan to share a weekly list of what we think are the best, most intriguing events of the week in Chicago architecture and history. If a lecture, film screening, panel discussion, or art opening focuses on the city, its history, architecture, culture and planning, and it sounds cool, then we will feature it. Our list of weekly Chicago events will favor the more “Detours” style, meaning they will be creative, smart, and progressive, and share the lesser-told stories of Chicago.
This week’s events highlight architect Frank Lloyd Wright, writer Studs Terkel, and book discussion about travel in Illinois.
1. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Chicago Years, Frank Lloyd Wright Trust
COCKTAILS & PANEL DISCUSSION - Thursday, January 23rd – 5:30pm – $25
Arts Club of Chicago, 201 E. Ontario St (Salon Room, 2nd Floor)
For the 125th anniversary of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio and the 40th anniversary of the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, this cocktail buffet (buffet of cocktails?!) with discussion of Wright’s architectural masterpiece of his home and studio in Oak Park. These panelists know their stuff: David Bagnall, Trust Curator; Filmmaker Tim Sakamoto; and Northwestern Art History Professor David van Zanten. Discussion will be moderated by Celeste Adams, Frank Lloyd Wright Trust President. With all those cocktails, we bet the Q&A will get interesting!
2. What We Do All Day, Chicago Film Archive
FILM SCREENING - Friday, January 24 – 7:00pm – Free
Nightingale Cinema, 1084 N. Milwaukee
Billed as a “Studs Terkel-ific program,” the screening at this Noble Square cinema house will pair contemporary video and 16 mm shorts with excerpts from Terkel’s text to see what meaning we can find in between the now and then. Forty years after Studs Terkel’s WORKING, this event will ask questions: How have our ideas of labor, purpose and prosperity changed under a fully globalized economy, the growing shift away from physical labor, and expanding economic disparity? The films are about work, but you won’t be working and so it won’t feel like work at all – we’re sure of it. And who doesn’t love Studs Terkel?!
This is event was put together by Christy LeMaster and Mairead Case, co-sponsored by Video Data Bank and Chicago Film Archives, and presented by the University of Chicago in preparation for the Studs Terkel Festival this May.
3. Stan Banash, author of Roadside History of Illinois, Chicago Public Library
DISCUSSION - Saturday, January 25th – 11:00am – Free
Roden Branch Chicago Public Library, 6083 N Northwest Hwy
Join Chicagoan Stan Banash, a.k.a. “Tex,” as he discusses his third book, Roadside History of Illinois (Mountain Press, 2013) and provides lots of “did you know…” answers to impress others at cocktail parties (or cocktail buffets, see above). Ride along old Route 66 or explore Chicago neighborhoods with Banash’s insight into the history of the Prairie State. He will likely wear his signature cowboy digs for the event.
January 17, 2014 by Amanda
A few days ago, we shared an overview of Chicago’s craft beer history. To further explore the culture, history and frothy foam of Chicago’s local brews, this winter brings a few festivals to wet your whistle.
1. Winter Brew, Lincoln Square
Lincoln Square’s third annual Winter Brew sponsored by the Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce and Square Kegs Home Brew Club features local Chicago brews only on January 25th from 2pm-5pm and 7pm-10pm at the Dank Haus German American Cultural Center. General Admission is $12 with additional ticket options for drink tickets.
2. 16th Annual Chicagoland Brewpub & Microbrewery Shootout, Bridgeport
The Chicagoland Brewpub Shootout in Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood will take place on January 25th at Zhou B Art Center from 1pm-5pm. To get tickets, you’ll have to either get creative or wait until next year – it’s SOLD OUT.
3. Naperville Winter Ale Fest, Naperville, IL
Naperville is hosting its first annual Winter Ale Fest featuring over 120 craft beers from all over the country, Saturday, February 22nd. Tickets are $45/person ($15 for designated drivers) and include tasting of 120 craft beers, a commemorative glass and program guide. For more Chicago craft beer, explore on your own with Chicago Magazine’s top 62 craft beers in the city. And to round off your Chicago tour of beer history, you could consider drinking while learning about Chicago’s entertainment history on our Historic Chicago Bar Tour, offered Thursday-Saturday.
–Jenn Harrman, Tour Guide
January 14, 2014 by Jenn Harrman
Some cool beer festivals are coming up this winter, so before we talk about the party, let’s talk about the brew. With over 60 microbreweries, nanobreweries and brewpubs all over Chicago today, its hard to believe that less than a decade ago Chicago didn’t have more than a handful of local breweries. With Chicago’s love for booze and being home to the Siebel Institute of Technology, a world-renowned brewing academy founded in 1868, why did Chicago’s craft beer industry emerge only in the last few years?
Chicago’s history in craft beer goes back to 1833 when Chicago was a small frontier village with two small batch taverns. As the city grew, so did the number of breweries, peaking in the 1880s and 1890s before the larger breweries swallowed the smaller ones. But the real hit came with prohibition. The local breweries that still operated during those dark years made cereal beer, an essentially non-alcoholic beer. However those breweries did not create a strong enough industry to survive when prohibition was repealed.
Then with growth of big business in the ’50s and ’60s, Chicago’s small craft breweries could not compete with the large corporations. In 1978 Hand Brewing Company, which was the last remaining brewery in Chicago, closed its doors. For 10 years Chicago was devoid of breweries.
In 1988, Goose Island Brewing Company opened to the start of a slow-moving new era in Chicago craft brewing. After a period of nominal numbers of brewery openings and then six years of nothing, Metropolitan Brewing opened in 2009, and a real surge began happening in the Chicago craft beer scene. To further promote the craft brewery business, the Illinois Senate passed legislation (SB 754) in 2011 that allowed microbreweries to sell and distribute their own beer versus having to go through an official distributor.
Now in 2014, Chicago is finally home to a wide variety of local breweries like Revolution Brewing and Half Acre, and the city could be said to rival some of the big name craft beer towns like Portland and San Francisco.
Though it’s not a book about brewery history in Chicago, I got some of this background from the introduction of author Denese Neu’s, Chicago by the Pint: A Craft Beer History of the Windy City, in case you’re curious.
– Jenn Harrman, Tour Guide
January 8, 2014 by Jenn Harrman
Hello Chicago Detours followers and Chicago architecture enthusiasts! I’m Jenn and have recently joined the Chicago Detours staff as Marketing Manager and Tour Guide. Since I will be authoring many blog posts, such as our most recent post on ways to explore Chicago, I wanted to introduce myself and share a bit about the tour guide training process here at Chicago Detours.
First, I’d like to share a little bit about me. I’ve been studying architecture and design for the past 10 years and have a Master’s Degree in Historic Preservation from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. Prior to Chicago Detours I worked, studied, and led tours as a docent for three years at Mies van der Rohe‘s internationally famed Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois.
I’m a lover of all things art, architecture and design with a soft spot for Mies (of course), modernism, and the Bauhaus. In addition to exploring Chicago’s rich architecture over the years, I’ve enjoyed traveling nationally and abroad and experiencing new cultures. After architecture my second favorite thing would be food. I can still imagine the taste of that Wiener Schnitzel from Vienna – sigh.
In addition to working in the office at Chicago Detours, I’ve been training as a tour guide for the Loop Interior Architecture Tour, which has turned out to be a unique and fun but intense process. More akin to three post-graduate courses in Chicago architecture, history and culture rolled into one eight-week program, the training process has immersed me in the historical background, factual information and forgotten stories of the places we go to on the tour. I’ve read everything from architectural history books, like Constructing Chicago by Daniel Bluestone, to Give the Lady What She Wants: The Story of Marshall Field & Co. by Lloyd Wendt. We have also been reading archival books forgotten to time, such as this 1911 Chicago Public Library Handbook.
While the tone of our tours is casual and we keep a fun, educational dynamic, guides must have a depth of knowledge to be able to share new ideas to help guests relate to the city and its architecture. To facilitate this exchange, the Chicago Detours training process also includes detailed discussions on educational dynamics as well as customer service and hospitality. Therefore, our tour guides are not only knowledgeable, but they are approachable, too.
In addition to these studies, my favorite aspect of Chicago Detours’ tour guide training program is the visual engagement of Chicago architecture that we indulge in on the Loop Interior Architecture Tour. Training for this tour has gotten me to notice architectural eye candy at some of the tour stops that I had never seen before, even as a longtime Chicago architecture scholar.
On the tour, when we aren’t engaging with the architecture, we are often using the iPads which have historic photos and video clips on them. The use of iPads turns a talking head of a typical tour into a dynamic tour experience, and I’ve enjoyed learning about cool places to find historic photos and videos, like Mediaburn Archive.
As an experienced architecture tour guide, I can say that this is the most thorough training process I’ve undergone and am glad of it. The Chicago Detours training program has taken me beyond what I learned in previous docent trainings by focusing not on just a script, but on all te roles of a great tour guide, from being an expert to an educator to a city liaison and travel consultant. This infinite learning process will help me continue to grow and learn as a Chicago Detours tour guide.
I look forward to exploring Chicago architecture, perhaps with you in the near future, as either your guide or as writer on the Chicago Detours blog.
–Jenn Harrman, Marketing Manager and Tour Guide
January 6, 2014 by Amanda
With record cold temperatures, some Chicagoans got lucky and have called it a “snow day” and are sipping on hot chocolate in the comfort of their homes. Many are working from home. And some of us, such as myself, found that the heating in our historic houses doesn’t quite cut it, so we bundled up and trekked to the office all the same.
With a day of cancelled Metra trains, CTA delays, and businesses closed due to the record cold temperatures, I bet a lot of people are poking around on their computers and killing some time on social media. It’s 2014 and we spend a lot of time on our computers. I’ll admit, I had to post a photo of all this winter fuss – check it out here.
But what did people do on snow days during winters past? What was life like in the winter in the city of Chicago, let’s say a century ago? On a cold day like today, the entire city would have shut down. The streetcars, trolleys and trains (but not cable cars) would not have attempted to operate. And inside their homes, people would have done exactly what we might imagine: cook, eat, sit by the fire, share stories, read a book, or play cards. People didn’t have North Face gloves. They would not have ventured outside. 1914 was just a few years before radio hit, so that would not have been an option.
If it weren’t so cold and just a regular winter day in Chicago, people would head outside to play all kinds of winter water sports, many of them brought over from European immigrants. You could ice fish, ice boat, and even ice dance. While today ice skating happens in eight parks around the city, like Millennium Park, McKinley Park and Midway Plaisance Park, back in the day finding a place to go for a spin on frozen ice was about as easy as finding a corner tavern.
Let’s look at Washington Park in the early 1900s as an example of a city park that would have been full of life on a Saturday afternoon. This massive park, which connects to Jackson Park through the Midway Plaisance by the University of Chicago’s campus, had a skate house, skating pond, a special curling pond, and get this – a 35-foot tall toboggan slide. Fun! You could also take a spin around the park in a horse and carriage, and you would be bundled under wool blankets of course and have straw covering your toes so those wouldn’t freeze. Today, while still very pretty, Washington Park is quite desolate in the winter as pictured above. Perhaps it’s because everyone is reading on the internet instead of playing outside? We all say “stay warm” all winter long, but how about bundling up for a sledding excursion?
– Amanda Scotese, Executive Director of Chicago Detours
January 2, 2014 by Jenn Harrman
I dedicate myself every year to a list of New Year’s resolutions, but they seem to dissolve by February. But this year I got smart and chose a fun resolution: to better explore Chicago architecture and history with some sightseeing in my own Chicago back yard. Previously, this yearly New Year’s resolution has been thwarted due to busy schedules and frankly, cost. So I did some research on ways to explore Chicago with my busy schedule and also do it on the cheap.
1. CAF lunchtime Talks
One big hurdle in accomplishing this New Year’s resolution is first to create a proper list of these places to explore in Chicago. So why not get the scoop from architecture experts? The Chicago Architecture Foundation offers a Lunch Talks @ CAF series that allows you to pop in and explore topics about Chicago architecture and Chicago’s built environment and it fits in to your lunch break if you work downtown. These weekly Wednesday lectures from 12:15pm-1pm are free to the public and you can bring your lunch! Munch, learn, engage and go.
2. Free days at Chicago Museums
Hitting up a museum might not fit in to a lunch break, but you don’t have to spend all day and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Most of Chicago’s museums are free or offer free museum days to Illinois residents with proof of residency. A full list of free museums and museums with free days can be found at the Chicago Public Library website. Here is a list of a few of my favorites and their free days:
- Museum of Science and Industry. Free days in January from the 6th-31st on weekdays.
- Museum of Contemporary Art. Free days on Tuesdays.
- Museum of Contemporary Photography. Free everyday, re-opens Jan 20th.
Why not tackle two New Year’s resolutions at once? Volunteering, another popular New Year’s resolution, can get you free access to explore cool exhibits, events and spaces at your favorite Chicago building, museum or organization. In the spirit of the new year the Chicago Volunteer Expo is held annually and this year is on Feb 16th at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Lincoln Park.
So you get to explore a museum, sign up to volunteer, then potentially visit another museum as a volunteer!
4. Take a tour on your lunch break
The cheapest way to explore Chicago architecture is to be your own tour guide. Take 30 minutes at lunch and walk down streets you’ve never traversed before. You can make notes as you explore buildings that intrigue you so you can look them up later in the Encyclopedia of Chicago, an online resource for Chicago history and architecture. Or explore Chicago’s underground Pedway with our handy map.
For a short guided tour with a docent, the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust offers lunchtime tours of the Rookery building for only $5. These cheap, 30-minute tours are available on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
If you want to explore Chicago more in depth, our Loop Interior Architecture Tour lasts two hours and the $26 ticket price includes deals to other great things to do in Chicago.
Have fun exploring Chicago!
- Jenn Harrman, Marketing Manager and Tour Guide
December 29, 2013 by Amanda
Here we are nearing the end of the Chicago Bears football season. So let’s dig into a little history and architecture of football in Chicago, though I’m not exactly a very sporty girl. In Part 1 of this two-part post, we went into the history of the Chicago Bears as a football team. For this blog post, we will go into some more recent pop culture, especially since most of my football references come from da Superfans and my brother’s 1985 Chicago Bears posters. So let’s start there.
The ‘85 Chicago Bears were legendary. Not only because their lineup won 15 of the 16 regular season games, but also because they had a sense of flair and an eye for publicity. There were photo shoots of the team in character, as seen above, and who can forget the Superbowl Shuffle? No other football team in history has a rap single that got so high in the charts. It was even nominated for a Grammy Award! And let me remind you, they pompously released this hit months before they had even landed their place to play that final game.
On our Historic Chicago Bar Tour we reference the Saturday Night Live sketch inspired by Chicago’s Billy Goat Tavern, and of course SNL paid great homage to Da Bears with Bill Swerski’s Superfans. This all-star lineup of over-weight, mustached men in Chicago team attire exaggerating both the victories of Chicago athletes and their coaches as well as the Chicago accent. The sketch ran for the better part of the 90s, showing stereotypes Chicagoans may never live down, but would we ever want to? And could Coach Mike Ditka really win against a hurricane? My guess is yes.
Despite my non-sporty approach to football in Chicago, I have to say, I love da Bears. What I love about them most is that, despite our cross-town rivalry, all Chicagoans can agree to love them, too.
– Elizabeth Tieri, Chicago Detours Tour Guide
December 17, 2013 by Amanda
With friends and family visiting town, you have your standard Chicago holiday traditions, but how about something new? While it’s always nice to look at the windows of Macy’s on State Street, shop on the Magnificent Mile, go ice-skating in Millennium Park, or fill up on a giant bag of Garrett’s popcorn, we would like to share with you some less traditional, and particularly architectural activities for something new this holiday season.
“Chapel in the Sky” tour of the Chicago Temple Building
This activity is perfect to pair with a visit to the Christkindlmarket because it’s just across the street from Daley Plaza at 77 W. Washington. Every day at 2pm you can go up to the 26th floor to this intimate space, commissioned by the Walgreen’s family. The tour guide for your Sky Chapel tour will open up a window so that you can see awesome skyline views of downtown Chicago. It lakes a little less than a half hour and it’s free!
The Chicago Theatre “Marquee Tour”
Step into early cinema-house glitz and glam to experience the grandeur of one of the last standing 1920′s movie palaces from Balaban and Katz. Tours of the beautiful French Baroque interiors are offered in December: Mondays through Thursdays 12pm, Saturdays at 11am & 12:30pm, and also this Thursday, December 19, 6pm. Go backstage to see historic autographed walls or walk on the famous stage of the Chicago Theatre and imagine the faint sounds of Duke Ellington, who graced this stage, playing jazz piano.
Driehaus Museum “Meet the Servants” Holiday Tours
In the late 1800s, some railroad moguls and bankers were making obscene amounts of money. So what would the holiday’s have been like at a Gilded Age Chicago mansion? Find out with costumed servants at the Driehaus Museum, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in December, from 11am-3pm. They will share holiday customs, including cookie recipe and special fashions of the time.
Indoor Architectural Tours with Chicago Detours
Our Loop Interior Architecture Tour or Chicago Historic Bar Tour are great activities for groups of family or friends. If you have eight or less in your group, just register for a regularly offered tour. Tour dates are filling up close to Christmas. For bigger groups, we will schedule a private group tour for you. Remember, both tours keep you mostly indoors so that you don’t have to freeze.
Second Presbyterian Church Tour
This Gothic Revival Church is bedecked with beautiful stained glass windows, many by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Many of the movers and shakers of Chicago once worshipped here, before much of the neighborhood moved to the North Side, such as the where the Driehaus Museum is today. You could pair an architectural and historical tour of the church with a visit to Chinatown for dim sum since it’s right around the corner. Tours are Wednesday 1pm-3pm, Saturday 1pm-3pm, and Sunday 12:15pm-2:15pm.
– Amanda Scotese, Chicago Detours Executive Director
December 13, 2013 by Amanda
The holidays are here, and Chicago-themed gifts can be much cooler than a shot glass or yet another poster of the Chicago skyline. We at Chicago Detours would like to share a few ideas for gifts for lovers of Chicago architecture and history. Try out some of these holiday gift ideas:
- Neighborhood Posters - Beautiful screen-printed posters from Studio Chris, Lakeview pictured above.
- Chicago Holiday Cards - A list of holiday greeting cards with Chicago images and themes, compiled by our friends at Newcity Magazine.
- Chicago Map Pendant - This simple gift is made from a historic Chicago map.
- Marina City Pillow - In black and white or other colors, good for the city dweller who wants to get cozy on the couch with all this cold!
- Chicago Detours Gift Card - Loop Interior Architecture Tour or Chicago Historic Bar Tour. Receive the gift card code via email, or we’ll snail-mail you a pretty printed card.
20% OFF GIFT CARDS THROUGH SUNDAY, DECEMBER 15. Buy it online with code: 20FUNTOURS.
– Amanda Scotese, Chicago Detours Executive Director
December 10, 2013 by Elizabeth Tieri
Here we are chin deep in the Chicago Bears football season. While “da Bears” may illicit thoughts of beer, polish sausage, and guys with mustaches, at Chicago Detours we think of history and architecture. So I looked into the history of the Chicago Bears and took a break from my regular tour guiding to go on a tour of Soldier Field.
The Chicago Bears started out in 1919 in Decatur, Illinois as the Decatur Staleys. They moved to Chicago two years later. In 1922, they started playing their games at Wrigley Field, Home of the Chicago Cubs. It is from the Cubs’ name that we get the bear mascot, as footballers are bigger and stronger than baseballers and so should be the papa bear to its cub. The Chicago Bears moved to Soldier Field in 1971, which surprised me with how late it was.
Soldier Field opened in 1924 as Municipal Grant Park Stadium and was renamed the following year in dedication of the men–and now women–who have served in the armed forces. In 1984, Soldier Field was given National Landmark status, which it no longer has. The designation was taken away after the controversial renovations of the early 2000s.
Never having been to a game, I decided to take a tour of Soldier Field to explore its history and architecture. The group got to walk out the tunnel to the field, which is real grass, tour the visitor’s locker room, and visit the swanky Skyline Suite (the view from which is pictured above), before heading out to the colonnade. I also found out that surprisingly the Chicago Bears constitute a mere 20% of what goes on at Soldier Field, which also hosts concerts and rallies among other events.
In referencing the 2003 renovations done to Soldier Field, Chicagoans often joke of the spaceship that landed in the original stadium. I have to admit that I have always agreed. On my tour of Soldier Field, however, our guide gave me a greater perspective on the changes made. He explained that the seating was lifted not only up but also closer to the field. While we were outside, he pointed out the original top row of seats: stone risers which would have held benches for seating. As pictured above, you can see the contrast between the original and the current top row, which is both higher and closer–not to mention more comfortable.
This function-motivated explanation gave me more appreciation of the spaceship, despite its awkward contrast to the Greco-Roman style of the original building with its dual colonnades. Though Soldier Field has the least seats of any stadium in the nation, they are the closest to the field, making for a more exciting experience. More recently, changes to the building in 2012 made it the first NFL stadium in the nation to acquire LEED status, an interesting trade for the designation lost a few years earlier.
If you would like to explore Soldier Field on one of their tours, the schedule is updated monthly and available here. And have a look out for Part 2, with more about the Bears in pop culture.
–Elizabeth Tieri, Chicago Detours Tour Guide