Free Chicago Architecture Tour

The Free Chicago Architecture Tour!


Yes! Free!

This year I’m adding a one-hour “Summer Fridays” free Chicago architecture tour! So, on Fridays, at 1:00, we’re meeting at Harold Washington Library and we’re going to do some skyscraper spotting.

Why Do You Love Buildings So Much?

Buildings are where my heart is always. I love the history and the stories of Chicago. This city is filled with stories of victory and heartache and grief and pride. But somehow for me, all of that comes through in it’s buildings. In telling the story of architecture (the mother of all arts) I can tell the story of the city.

This is a beautiful tour. We’ll look at “Chicago School” skyscrapers, some of our best! We’ll learn some of the different styles of architecture and really, this is information we should all have. Architecture is the art form you move through every day, all day – let’s talk about it!

Tour ends at the Picasso so we can see the one and only “skyscraper church.”

This tour is free! I want everyone to be able to enjoy this gorgeous city in the summer. Gratuities are always loved and fun and appreciated and totally not what this is about. ūüôā

If you’re interested in coming on one of the FREE Chicago Architecture tours, click the button below. Please RSVP because it’ll help me know how many are coming!

FREE Architecture Tour

Chicago Tour Season is Here!

Oh it’s my favorite time of the year. Chicago tour season came a little early this year, but the only thing better than tour season is early tour season!

This spring/summer is about variety and bringing back old tours and trying¬†on new ones. Next¬†year, next tour season, things are going to be…a little different. If you’ve always been meaning to come on one or the other of these tours, I would come now – some of these puppies might not be back next year.

So! What to look for:

The Binoculars Tour 

I’m bringing back the Binoculars Tour! I’m bringing it back because I got so many requests for it last summer when it wasn’t even on the schedule. I give you binoculars, we go walking like campers outside in the loop and we look at the ornament on the buildings – gargoyles and griffins. I’m personally so thankful for this tour. I still feel the effects of learning all of this myself, years later. I look at buildings differently because of this tour and it taught me to always have a pair of binoculars in my backpack.

The EarlyBird Tour

I’m also bringing back the EarlyBird Tour – now, I know, I KNOW. I know. It’s niche okay? But I am willing to find the other people who this matters to. No thing, NO THING is as beautiful as downtown Chicago at sunrise. Come with me. Just do it. One time. Go to breakfast after like a boss. Come on.

The Disaster! Tour

The¬†Disaster! Tour is a classic and I’ve revamped it, changed the route and it’s bigger and better than ever – now with more “cows in distress” impressions.

The Chicago Mix Tour

I’m putting the Saturday Pedway Tour on hiatus and adding a Saturday Chicago Mix Tour. So the Mix Tour is the indoor Pedway AND outside outside!

We’ll start inside and talk about the Pedway and see Fields and the Cultural Center, then I’ll take you the super-secret way into Millennium Park – then we’ll do that, take the Nichols Bridgeway into and then head out of the Art Institute – I’ll tell you the Richard Nickel story – then we’ll head to the lake and back¬†through Maggie Daley Park where you will be delighted and a little confused.

This tour is all over the place, it’s up, it’s down, it’s in, it’s out and we go all over and talk about so many things and I just think it’s so cool. This is what I do when I have two hours to spare, so let’s go on the best walk ever!

Second City Tours will also be back starting Memorial Day and those you can get through Second City.
SO YES! I’m so excited. Buy tickets. Come on tours. Let’s learn about this most beautiful of all the cities and let’s show 2017 who’s boss.



Let’s Play “You Don’t Deserve It!” Chicago History

I was recently doing some research about a couple of fellows, John Kinzie and Cap’n Streeter. These are men I’ve researched and read about over and over, but for some reason, this time, something struck me: Both men were not such great men. And not just that, but these¬†two men are given honor, big¬†honor, in our history. So, it got me thinking, but first…

John Kinzie

John Kinzie was one of our first settlers, a fur trader at Ft. Dearborn. He acted as a liaison between the Indians and the government dudes at the Fort. He was respected by both parties and was a successful man by most accounts, but mostly because he did things under tables and not above boards – IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.

Mr. Kinzie is also our first murderer!¬†On June 17, 1812, Kinzie stabbed and killed Jean LaLime. Kinzie swore it was self-defense, but LaLime was also working for¬†the Fort. It was LaLime’s duty to find corruption. Well Kinzie is Kinzie and Chicago is Chicago, even in 1812. After claiming self-defense, Kinzie ran off to Milwaukee before anyone could really ask him about it.¬†He returned home just in time to survive the Battle at Ft. Dearborn in August of that same year.

Cap’n Streeter

Streeter was his own brand of viciousness and is considered one of our more lovable characters. Cap’n Streeter has a fake story and a real story. The fake story goes that in 1886 Cap’n Streeter crashed into a sandbar near Chicago during a storm.¬†The ship silted into place and Cap’n Streeter named the land the United States District of Lake Michigan and said it was separate from the city of Chicago. He starts selling deeds to the land while his wife, Ma Streeter, protects it all with her rifle. This fight continues all the way until Streeter’s¬†death in 1921.

The real story of course is that there was no storm the night Streeter rolled into town. Streeter purposely set his boat there and purposely bilked¬†the wealthy landowners out of their money. What Streeter did next was to start selling the land to people even though the land¬†wasn’t his. There was no land and a bunch of people got screwed – Chicago style.

Streeter is adored around here, but he was a liar and a cheat and he ruined people’s lives. Not only does he have a whole neighborhood named after him, but he has a really decent sculpture¬†– that seems pretty nice for a guy who did mean things.


This got me thinking, who else out there is a jerk and has something named after him? I asked on Twitter and got resounding and emotional answers.


The first first one to sound off was¬†the estimable Gary Krist who wrote City of Scoundrels. He¬†piped up with “Hoyne!!” I asked him why, he told me to turn to his book, WHICH I TOTALLY HAVE because I do the Disaster! Tour and Gary’s book is gorgeous for that particular topic – here’s what I learned about Hoyne:

Maclay Hoyne was the States Attorney for Chicago during the race riots of 1919. Turns out he was prosecuting riot cases and he was only charging black people, only black defendants. It got so bad that the all-white grand jury staged a strike until maybe even one white defendant was brought in. Hoyne even went so far as to stage a raid while the mayor was out of town. Not surprisingly, there were protests, 10,000 blacks met at The Armory to get Hoyne dismissed.

This dude? He gets a street?

Italo Balbo

Many cried for Balbo’s head when I asked this question and for good reason. Balbo Ave. used to be 7th street. During the 1933 Worlds Fair, a squad of Italian seaplanes flew over the¬†Atlantic and landed at Lake Michigan. Mayor Kelly apparently thought¬†it was so cool when Balbo stepped off the plane and commented on the view, Kelly¬†named the street after him. The problem here, besides that just not being enough in my view for a street name, is that it turns out our good buddy Balbo was a fascist working under Mussolini, kind of his right hand, really horrible guy.

Honorary Hypocrisy

So who else? Who else doesn’t deserve their honor?




The War Zone

On Sunday morning, about 11AM. I walked to the redline platform at Lawrence Ave, where I live, in Uptown. It smelled like “away” in the neighborhood, smelled like travel. It smelled like India and Morocco and everywhere. I know what it is that smell, it’s the chicken stock from Demera Ethiopian Restaurant, but it makes the whole neighborhood smell like somewhere else.

The train pulled up and the black conductor leaned out the window to check that we’re all getting on ok. He sees me (I like to get in at the front of the train) and he smiles at me so big I can’t help smiling back. “A little better this week right?” And I recognized him from being the conductor last week during the Women’s march. We were laughing last week, I couldn’t fit on the train and we were bantering back and forth, he was apologizing and I was laughing – it was so great I couldn’t fit on the train last week and so great he remembered me this week. We laughed and as I waited for the doors to open, I notice a black girl, maybe about 8, looking straight at me through the window.

I smile at her big, she smiles back at me, big.

When I get on the train I sit right across from her, she looks at me shyly and I smile again at her, big. She smiles back, big.

Next to her is her father, tall and lean and stretched out in the seat, and next to him are 3 white teenage boys so clearly from the North Shore and the only way I know that is because that’s where I’m from and I can spot them a mile away. So obviously suburban kids coming into the city for the day.

I put on my headphones. The girl catches my eye and looks down at her sparkly shoes and shows them to me, I smile at her again.

Next to me on one side is a white Hasidic woman and her 4-year-old boy. He’s leaning so far over the seat he’s actually almost sitting on my lap. I laugh and smile at him and then smile at my girl across the way so she can smile at the boy with me too. She’s looking and she smiles at the both of us.

On my other side is a older white Polish woman, she’s reading her news in Polish.

I take off my headphones because the teens are talking about the Trump travel ban. They’re arguing¬†with¬†their parents talking points I’m sure, but they’re good points and they’re having a full-on discussion and they are damn passionate about it.

I close my eyes, open them, a few stops go by and a Latino guy gets on, a white middle-aged lady sits down next to me and a young Asian lady sits next to her on the other side.

The Hasidic boy is giggling about the ride and his mom and I catch eyes and smile at each other and at him and his joy. The teens are arguing and my girl across the way has retreated into her hood and is resting on her dads arm.

I rest my head back and rest too, listening to the teens and the roll of the train. I perk up because my stop is coming up, I’m getting ready to get off and I can’t get my girl’s attention. I wonder if I should tap her on the arm, I know she wants to say goodbye because I do too, but I certainly don’t want to freak out her dad. I get up and go to the door. My stop is right there. I give her one last look just in case.

And she’s looking right at me. She looks me straight in the eye and gives me a wave and a smile, I give her a wave and a smile and walk off.

The conductor is smiling at me, leaning outside his conductor window. He’s saying something to me and I have no idea what it is, it’s too loud, but he’s smiling the biggest smile I have ever seen and he’s saying something that I know is supposed to make me smile too. I wave and laugh and walk up the stairs to the city. I give some tours, educate some people, tour is sold out even though it’s cold – everyone is in the mood to learn something about their beloved city.

The Truth

Don’t believe it. Don’t believe that¬†Chicago is a war zone. It isn’t. There are a few parts that are rough, parts that are unimaginable. We know this.

But Chicago is the same beautiful, diverse and loving city it has always been.

Don’t believe everything you hear.


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