Today we will go on a tour of Chicago Loop.
Comprised mostly of high-rises, it’s also home to the 108-story Willis Tower. The iconic “Cloud Gate” sculpture sits in Millennium Park. Grant Park features the large, rococo-style Buckingham Fountain and the renowned Art Institute of Chicago. All these sites are mostly on the outside of the Loop itself. Today we will go on the inside of the Loop, to the places the locals enjoy when coming for work of business to one of the sky scrapers. It is believed that the district is called The Loop because several of the train lines make a loop around the area before proceeding on. Speaking of the train, it is the best way for you to get here for our little tour. Most likely you will not be staying right in the loop- it is a business and theater district with only a handful of hotels.
If you can take one of the train lines that run over the bridge (Brown and Purple lines), you will begin sightseeing even before you get there. You will go over the Chicago river that separates the Loop from the Magnificent mile and will have an incredible view on both sides when crossing the bridge. Once you enter the Loop, you will feel like you are being swallowed by the an incredible creature. If elevated train is not an option, you can walk, Uber, take public transportation of a Divvy bike.
View from inside the train
We will begin in front of Board of Trade, 141 W Jackson Blvd. The structure is known for its art deco architecture. An aluminum, three-story art deco statue of
Ceres, goddess of agriculture (particularly grain), caps the building. Originally agricultural products such as corn and wheat were traded here exclusively
Just east of the front entrance, you will come to the LaSalle Street Plaza where you will find two saturs, one symbolizing agriculture and the other industry. These statues used to greet commodity traders and the public when they entered the Board of Trade Building. They were thought to be lost forever when the building was demolished in 1929. However in 1978 the twelve-foot, five and one-half ton granite statues were uncovered at a suburban forest preserve. The preserve was the former estate of Arthur Cutten, a prominent Chicago Board of Trade speculator of the early 1900s. How the statues made the journey from LaSalle street to the Cutten estate is a mystery.
Keep going just further east and you will come to the Federal building with an eye catching statue in the lobby. Many lobbies in the area are worth a pause and this is one of them.
Cross the street and cut through the buildings to the Federal plaza, 50 W Adams St. There, among the black steel buildings you will be greeted with bright vermilion of the “Flamingo”, created by Alexander Calder. Calder's structure is a prominent example of the constructivist movement, first popularized in Russia in the early 20th century. Constructivism refers to sculpture that is made from smaller pieces which are joined together.
Even more remarkable than the statue are the buildings that surround it. The complex was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
The Kluczynski Building is constructed of a steel frame and contains 1,200,000 sq ft (110,000 m2) of space. The exterior is sheathed in bronze-tinted glass set into bright aluminum frames. Beneath the windows are steel spandrel panels painted flat black and windows are separated horizontally by steel mullions of projecting steel I-beams.
The entire complex is based on a 28 ft (8.5 m) grid pattern so that seams of the granite pavers in the plaza extend into the building lobbies and up the sides to create unity among the three structures.
You will find many of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe”s buildings throughout Chicago with this complex being one of the more notable one. Mies strove toward an architecture with a minimal framework of structural order balanced against the implied freedom of unobstructed free-flowing open space. He called his buildings "skin and bones" architecture.
The Kluczynski Federal Building behind the Flamingo, the US Post Office to the right and the Everett McKinley Dirksen United States Courthouse to the left
Cross the street north from the Plaza and you will arrive to the Marquette building, 140 S. Dearborn Street. The contrast with the Ludwig Mies van der Rohe style is astonishing.
The building was one of the early steel frame skyscrapers of its day, and is considered one of the best examples of the Chicago School of Architecture The building originally had a reddish, terra cotta exterior that, prior to restoration, was somewhat blackened due to decades of Loop soot. It is noted both for its then cutting edge frame and its ornate interior.
The architects, Holabrid & Roche, used trademark long horizontal bay "Chicago windows". These are large panels of glass flanked by narrow sash windows . This was one of the first steel framed skyscrapers. Wave-like moldings decorate the façade, which is made of horizontally banded brown terra cotta.
The ensemble of mosaics, sculptures, and bronze of the Marquette Building entry and interior honors Jacques Marquette's 1674-5 expedition. Four bas relief panels over the main entrance by sculptor Hermon Atkins MacNeil show different scenes from Marquette's trip through the Great Lakes region, ending with one depicting his burial. The revolving door panels feature carvings of panther's heads. The hexagonal railing around the lobby atrium is decorated with a mosaic frieze by the Tiffany studio depicting events in the life of Jacques Marquette, his exploration of Illinois, and Native Americans he met. The mosaics are by Louis Comfort Tiffany and his chief designer and art director, Jacob Adolph Holzer. They contain panels of lustered Tiffany glass, mother-of-pearl, and semi-precious stones.
Keep walking north on Dearborn and you will arrive the Chase Auditorium. In front you will find a courtyard with an enormous stain glass panel- “Four seasons” By Chagall. It is wrapped around four sides of a 70 feet (21 m) long, 14 feet (4.3 m) high, 10 feet (3.0 m) wide rectangular box.
Keep going straight and you will come to a stunning intersection filled with amazing building, large urban statues and contrasting architecture.
Go left before crossing the street and you will come to steel, bronze & concrete 39-ft. sculpture by Joan Miró, a Catalan known for his surrealist artworks. Joan Miró was particularly fond of Chicago, hence he donated the design of this unusual sculpture to the city. It is appropriately called “Miss Chicago”
Across the street to the left you will see a building in a completely different architectural style. The contrast is truly breathtaking. This is the City Hall. It’s entrance features four relief panels sculpted in granite. Each of the panels represents one of four principal concerns of city government: playgrounds, schools, parks, and water supply. As visitors enter the building, they are greeted with elaborate marble stairways and bronze tablets honoring the past city halls of Chicago from 1837 to the present. The interiors of Chicago City Hall were featured in the 1993 blockbuster movie The Fugitive, where Richard Kimble (played by Harrison Ford) is chased down the stairs by U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones), until spilling into the lobby, where Kimble narrowly escapes being apprehended and killed by Gerard and his men.
Cross back and you will be in front the Daley center and Daley Plaza. Do not worry if you have lost track of where to cross. You simply can not miss a large cubist statue by Pablo Picasso in the center. The building and the Plaza are named after longtime mayor Richard J. Daley Before the Picasso sculpture, public sculptural artwork in Chicago was only of historical figures and this sculpture was met with a lot of controversy. The Daily Plaza often hosts concerts and performances, farmers and Holiday markets. It is a great place to visit with kids. They would love climbing up and sliding down the Picasso creation.
Go around the Daley plaza on the left, between the Daley center and the City Hall to the intersection of N. Clark street and W. Randolph. Stop once you reached… a space ship. The State of Illinois building (now The James R. Thompson Center) is a mind blowing work of architectural art. The inside is probably even more jaw dropping as the outside. It provides a dramatic back drop for Dubuffet’s “Monument with Standing Beast”. French artist and sculptor Jean Dubuffet created this rather striking piece of public art shortly before he died in 1985. The 29ft (9m) high fiberglass work features four elements that are meant to suggest a standing animal, a portal, a tree and an abstract architectural form.
Now to our last stop. Turn around and walk east, towards the large park to 111 N State (corner of Randolph and State), to the Marshall Field’s building, now Macy’s. Marshall Field made retail what it is today. Unconditional refunds, consistent pricing and international imports are among the Field innovations that became standards in quality retailing. Field's employees were also instructed not to push products on uninterested customers as was common practice in stores of the period. The quotes "Give the lady what she wants" and "The customer is always right " are attributed to Field. This flagship store has an unprecedented list of firsts:
first escalators built in a department store
first to post the price of the goods in plain sight
first bridal registry
the first in-store dining facilities
first European buying office
first to provide personal shopping assistants
I can go on but we are here for an architectural tour so lets keep moving. Before we go inside, look up. You will see a stunning clock made famous by Norman Rockwell’s painting “The clock mender”. However it has always been a favorite among Chicagoans. If someone tells you to meet under a clock, the mean this clock.
Now let’s go inside. The interior of this store has so much history and so unique, it can be it’s own tour. Ask at the customer service desk- they do have tours every once in a while. If there isn’t one, head to the fifth floor and look up. You will be greeted by the most stunning Tiffany glass dome It was built in 1907. It is both the first dome to be built in favnile iridescent glass and is the largest glass mosaic. It contains over 1.6 million pieces.
This is where we are going to end our tour. From here you can spend a little time shopping. Don’t forget a box of Frango mints- a Chicago classic up until recently made in this very building and a great present to take with you- most boxes has Chicago skyline on the box. From here you are also a block away from the Millennium park with all its glory. Enjoy!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Inna22 arrived to the United States when she was 19. She opened her very first company, “Poliglot”, shortly after arrival. The company offered translation services and Russian-speaking tours around the city. Her personal most favorite routes are the Loop and Old Town and the best place for pictures is in front of the Adler Planetarium.
Very impressive @Inna22
Here's a little history on a loop in Monroe Street, is that the street the trains now use that we have just taken?
They mention The Board of Trade in this article from 1938 and about the Terms of the Deed of Williard Jones from 1844 that the path is for the use of Cattle where one may assume used to take with the links to Ceres and Wheat in the region.... I hope they haven't breached the ongoing Terms of The Deed to turn it into a Railway Path..if so, Bring on the cattle/ cows again!!
Costliest Cow Path Dedicated in Chicago
Fab tour @Inna22 👏 It seems like Chicago is a city of great statues!
That pic of the view from the train looks very much like Canary Wharf in London (you probably have a better sunset though!) 🌆
It was so nice to read your 'about the author' bio, too - I can see where you get your tour skills from 😊 What drew you to Chicago originally?
@Katie I got married and my husband, who was from St Louis originally, decided that's where we should live. I could not tell Chicago from any other city and all of my friends somehow decided I was going to Texas. There was no internet to speak of and there was no information about the US in Russia. I have never seen a can of coke until I got here!
Haha seems like he made a good choice @Inna22!
Wow, it seems so strange to think about that given that Coca-Cola has taken over the world pretty much. It was pretty brave of you to arrive in a new city (and a new country) and start a business off the bat too 👏
@Inna22 We are quite lucky to be surrounded by amazing architecture throughout downtown.
I'm not sure If you know, but their is a detailed exhibit on the first floor of the Marquette building across the street from the Flamingo. They not only go over the Marquette building history, but other skyscrapers in the area built around the same time.
After the Chicago fire, Lawyer Owen Aldis knew the Marquette Building needed to stand out from other office buildings being erected. After the World's fair and before the construction of the Marquette building, he started "wooing' future tenants in hopes of earning a lease in his new skyscraper. As anticipation grew during building, they were in awe of the newer detailed wood work of the office floors and the one of a kind atrium erected within the building.
This is a great stop to add to any tour or local taking in the city for a day. Inside the Marquette, also be sure to stop by the Marq for a delicious meal. One of the hidden gems still open during the pandemic.
@Inna22 I adore this tour!! It took me away from a freezing hillside in Maine to the lights and bustle of one of my favorite cities, showing it to me in a new way. I can't wait to come take your tour!