Last week, I had the opportunity to spend 5 days in the great city of Chicago, IL with my Mama, whom I haven’t seen since January. We did everything a first-timer to Chicago would do: Millennium Park, Magnificent Mile, deep dish pizza, and the like. One of the highlights of our trip was being able to play tourist and hop aboard a boat architecture tour with Shoreline Sightseeing. On this tour, I learned quite a few things, two being that Chicago does not get enough credit and is an amazing city with a vast history. Thus, here are 12 fun facts you’ll learn aboard Shoreline’s Architecture Tour:
1. The first skyscraper was built in Chicago in 1885.
Talk about innovative.
2. Adrian Smith, the architect of the Trump Tower, is the epitome of someone who is never satisfied.
Just kidding, this guy is a total badass. He is an American architect who designed the world’s TWO tallest structures: the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and the Kingdom Tower, now under construction in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (which is planned to stand at 3,300 ft.)!
Note: The Sears Tower stands at 1,451 ft to give you an idea of how tall the Kingdom Tower will be.
3. Speaking of the Sears Tower…
Now known as the Willis Tower, is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. The coolest part is that you can visit the Skydeck observatory and the glass-floored Ledge, which will definitely give you butterflies!
4. The Chicago River is basically a dump.
Back in the day, the river was nasty. People dumped all of their trash into the river AND there was a slaughterhouse nearby so where did those remains go as well? Yup, you guessed it: into the river. All of this waste led into the Lake Michigan which led to thousands of people dying because I wonder where their drinking water came from… Hmm???
5. This cool bridge will be up forever.
The Kinzie Street Bridge was the first railroad bridge to span the Chicago River. One of the reasons it remains in the open position is because boats can no longer fit beneath it.
6. Speaking of bridges…
Chicago actually has more movable bridges than any other city in the world!
7. Ironic fact about the Chicago Water Tower.
It survived the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, making it one of the oldest original buildings in the area.
8. 2.5 million square feet of postal services.
Yup, the Old Chicago Main Post Office was nine floors and more than 60 acres. Another fun fact: This post office used to deliver all over the United States because guess what else was invented in Chicago? Catalogs.
9. You can buy air.
Over time, architects wanted to expand and build skyscrapers all along the Chicago River. This led to the issue of Union Station and the solution of “simply” building on top of it. So in order to build on top of Union Station, contractors had to buy air rights from Amtrack.
10. Architects like to “tip their hats” to other architects.
Whether it’s to praise them or to taunt them, it happens. The Trump Tower for example, each ledge just so happens to be the same height as its neighboring buildings, as if to say “Haha, look, I’m taller than you!” Touche, Adrian Smith. In terms of praise, the Art Deco style of architecture has been used and reused by different architects, sometimes with a touch industrialism or post modernism. Last but not least, a lot of the buildings along the Chicago River are glass and reflective, as if to reflect the river itself, the city, and the weather.
11. Also, circular buildings are cool.
12. Last, but definitely not least, the Kennedy’s are super rich.
They bought this building, The Merchandise Mart, which was once the largest building in the world when it was first built in 1930, with 4,000,000 square feet of floor space. It even had its very own zip code up until 2008! Anyway, it’s claim to fame of being the largest building in the world was surpassed by the Pentagon in 1943. The Kennedy’s come into play when they bought the building in 1945 when the owner was forced to sell it because of the Great Depression (You don’t even want to know how much they bought it for).
You can book tickets for this tour here.