Chicago Architecture Cruise

  • Post last modified:January 31, 2021

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Mrs. O’Leary’s cow did not cause the Chicago fire of 1871! The Driveby Tourist doesn’t know if everyone has heard the cow story. To explain, Mrs. O’Leary’s cow story lives on in folklore about the Great Chicago Fire. While it may be true, our tour guide on the Chicago Architecture Cruise says it didn’t happen that way. But he didn’t quote specific sources. And my research shows what you believe must be true for you! Aren’t there always versions of truth? Anyway, the story tells us that Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lantern and caused a fire in the barn. Then, the fire spread nearly citywide. For the purpose of this architecture story, nearly 17,000 buildings were destroyed. In any case, you can read more about the Chicago fire here. So, getting to our story about architecture…

Chicago Architecture Cruise

Reflecting buildings on the Chicago Architecture cruise. Several buildings reflect the sky, water, and other buildings. But this one looked the best to me. The riverfront has a great riverwalk as well. But more on that in another post. Anyway, the Great Chicago Fire started a building boom that continued over the years. And maybe made Chicago the great city it is! In spite of a few problems, like high crime.

More Chicago Architecture Cruise

Chicago Architecture

Chicago Architecture along the river as we start the cruise. Whether you like it or not, the tall building in the middle is a Trump Hotel and Condo building. All in all, even if you don’t like seeing the Trump building, the Chicago River is a great place.

Chicago Architecture

These two buildings are condos. Many condos and apartments stand right on the Chicago River. Consequently, the area contains a significant number of residents. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to locate definitive population figures along the Chicago River. Let’s just say it’s “a bunch”! If you want to read more about it, here is a link to luxury living on “River North”. While it doesn’t include everything on the river, it does provide a great summary of the attractions of living on the riverfront. In the past 20 years or so, the riverfront became an attraction for living and for nightlife.

Chicago Architecture

As soon as the tour continues, we see another condo. In view of the outside layout, I’m sure this one’s super expensive. Sure looks like large units!

How to put a building on a map!

Chicago Riverfront map on outside of building

How do you put a building on the map? You put a map on the building! Overall, this is a nondescript office building. After all, the building name is just “300 S. Wacker Drive”. When the building was acquired by a new owner in 2013, building management decided to “put it on the map”. So, a Chicago River map lives on the outside wall. Now that’s interesting for Chicago Architecture!

Chicago Architecture

No longer in use but the railroad bridge (above) remains in place. The bridge is lowered several times a year to ensure everything is in working order. Since it’s no longer used, lowering it is a major production!

Unattractive building on Chicago riverfront

Look familiar, Twin Citians? Looks nearly as ugly as the building formerly known as the Internation Multifoods tower. Now known as 33 South Sixth, it looks like this one. Not really “that” ugly, just looks like a big box with windows. Maybe I’ll do a post on Twin Cities ugly buildings someday.

Wrigley Building and continuing the cruise

Wrigley Building

Wrigley Building in all its glory! The Wrigley family sometimes topped the list of influential families in Chicago history. In addition to the chewing gum company, the family became long-time owners of the beloved Chicago Cubs. The family also owned much of Catalina Island off the California coast. In fact, the Cubs had spring training there from 1921 until 1951 except for the World War II years. Although still called the Wrigley Building, the Wrigley company no longer headquarters there. In 2008, the Wrigley company became a subsidiary of Mars candy company. In 2011, they moved out of the building.

Additional buildings along the river. In the lower right (above) is 150 North Riverside. Follow the link for more information. The building was built to allow for the railroad right of way. There are other anomalies due to railroad rights of way as well.

High rise on Lake Michigan

Lake Point Tower, located near Lake Michigan and the Chicago River, is a beautiful condominium tower. If you want to buy an apartment and live there, you can search for it on real estate sites. The link to the building is currently unavailable.

Navy Pier

And our tour comes to an end as we approach Navy Pier (link). The US Navy never did own the pier. The city named it Navy Pier to honor men who served in the Navy during World War I. The pier’s history varied in usage until a not-for-profit corporation took over the operation in 1995 and turned the pier into a shopping, entertainment, and cultural experience. Don’t miss it when you visit Chicago.

Semi-related to the Chicago Architecture Cruise

By the way, the Great River Road runs west of Chicago on the Mississippi. For one thing, the Chicago River flows into the Illinois River which flows into the Mississippi River. Not sure if you really care about that! However, the Great River Road is an awesome road trip. I’ve included a link to my Day 3 on that trip back in March of 2017.

Classic Rock Recollection

“Sweet Home Chicago Blues” by The Blues Brothers

Come on
Oh baby don’t you wanna go
Come on
Oh baby don’t you wanna go
Back to that same old place
Sweet home ChicagoCome on
Baby don’t you wanna go
Hide hey
Baby don’t you wanna go
Back to that same old place
Oh sweet home Chicago


Written by: Robert Johnson

OK, Ok, maybe it’s not exactly a Classic Rock song but it fits here!

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Linda leach

    Very interesting and fun read Stan! Look forward to future posts. I was in Chicago 56 years ago, and have never been back.

  2. James Cornelius

    Now you have to do Frank Lloyd Wright’s influence on Chicago.

    1. Stan Wiebe

      Went to Taliesin West in Phoenix once. Would like to see others. Some of history shows that he had some “issues” in his personal life.

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