Chicago's Loop History, Art, and Architecture

This brief walking tour starts with the statue of city "founder" Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable and proceeds south to Millennium Park, with stops at some of the city's iconic buildings, monuments, and statues. The tour concludes at the historic Palmer House.

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Founder of Chicago statue Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable
Fur trader Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable became the first non-Native American resident of the area that is now known as Chicago. DuSable was of African descent and came to the region from the French colony of Saint Domingue (After winning independence from France, the Saint Domingue became known as Haiti). History books have recognized DuSable as the first settler of non-European descent in the area, having established a fur-trading outpost in 1779 when the area was a largely uninhabited swamp. The state of Illinois officially recoginzed DuSable as "the father" of the city of Chicago in 1968. Decades later, Chicago's Haitian-American community raised funds and hired sculptor Erik Blome to create a statue to honor DuSable. The statue was dedicated in 2009 and is one of several landmarks in Chicago that honor the city's founder.
McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum
At the center of the new Chicago Riverwalk, The McCormick Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum celebrates and honors “the Chicago River and its world-famous movable bridges” (“About”). At river level, visitors can see the city’s most famous movable bridges and then walk through 5 stories of exhibits that highlight the river and bridge.
Mather Tower
This slender skyscraper at East Wacker Drive was built between 1926 and 1928, as the headquarters of the Mather Stock Car Company. The Mather Tower was named for Alonzo C. Mather, a businessman and philanthropist who was born in New York in 1848. Mather became the founder of the Mather Stock Car Company, a leading manufacturer of railroad livestock cars designed to provide more humane shipment of animals. The tower, now known by its address, was Chicago's second tallest building (41 stories) when it was completed in 1928. Mather Tower is Chicago's most slender skyscraper, a Jazz Age silhouette against the city's skyline. Richly clad in stylized Gothic terra cotta, Mather is one of Chicago’s best "Modernistic" skyscrapers, combining modern form with lush historic ornament both in its exterior and interior. It reflects Chicago's 1920's obsession with height, encouraged by the 1923 Chicago Zoning Ordinance which called for tall, slender, "setback" towers. Mather Tower briefly was the city's tallest structure and forms a critical part of one of the city's most memorable building ensembles of early 20 th -century skyscrapers located at the intersection of the Michigan Avenue Bridge and Wacker Drive.
The S.S. Eastland Disaster Memorial
This plaque along the Chicago Riverwalk commemorates the Eastland Disaster, one of Chicago’s most deadly and tragic disasters. The capsizing of the S. S. Eastland led to the death of an estimated 848 passengers and crew and remains the largest loss of life from a single shipwreck on the Great Lakes. Beginning on July 24, 1915, there were four major passenger steamers ready to take over 7,000 passengers to the Western Electric Company’s company picnic across Lake Michigan in Michigan City, Indiana. On the Eastland ship alone, nearly 2,500 Western Electric employees, crew members, and employee family members were on board. Around 7:30 am that morning, while still docked in the Chicago River, the boat capsized. Out of the 2,500 passengers, estimates state that around 844 passengers and four crew members drowned. Today, the Eastland Disaster remains quite obscure due to the lack of media coverage at the time as well as today. At the time, the disaster made headlines for only a few days and media coverage was soon focussed on other events such as the marriage of a millionaire heiress in Michigan the following week. More passengers lost their lives in this disaster than the Titanic, although far more crew members lost their lives on the Titanic than the Eastland. That the Titanic tends to focus on the death of passengers while few people remember the Eastland demonstrate that tragedies involving non-elites and working-class victims receive less media coverage.
Freeform by Richard Hunt
Freeform by Richard Hunt is an abstract sculpture that complements the exterior facade of the State of Illinois Building. It was commissioned in 1993 by the State of Illinois’s, Capital Development Board. The sculpture is made of stainless steel welded together and the dimensions are, H 26 ft. x W 35 ft. x D 2 ft. It may look small compared to the building but it is actually two and a half stories high and weighs three tons. The title of the sculpture derives from one of Hunt’s central ideas about the nature of Abstract Art, it is freely formed.
Cadillac Palace Theatre
The Cadillac Palace Theatre is a testament to the elegance and grandeur of old theaters and movie palaces. The interior, which was inspired by the Palaces of Versailles and Fontainebleau, is filled with red carpeting, gilded walls, and six glittering chandeliers. Broadway style shows are performed on the theater's large stage year-round. In fact, many of its shows have been traveling acts connected with shows that were already on Broadway. Tours of the theater can be arranged by appointment.
City Hall
Completed in 1911, Chicago City Hall was designed by the architectural firm Holabird & Roche. The building is home to the offices of the mayor, the city treasurer of Chicago, the City Clerk, some of the city’s departments, the wards of the various aldermen of Chicago, and the chambers of the Chicago City Council. It reaches 11 stories and was built in the classical revival style. The classical revival style, or neoclassicism, refers to Western movements in visual arts, literature, theatre, music, and architecture at various points throughout history that were inspired by stylistic elements of Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman art.
Monument with Standing Beast
The Monument with Standing Beast in the heart of Chicago is only one of 3 sculptures by Jean Dubuffet in the United States. The sculpture is composed of 4 notable elements: a standing animal, a tree, a portal, and architectural form. With his sculpture, Dubuffet hoped to connect with the average person as the sculpture’s open plan allows viewers to walk through and under the sculpture to really connect with it. Monument with Standing Beast reflects Dubuffet’s “often brutal, urban style utilizing street language, graffiti and caricature” (“Jean Dubuffet’s”).
"The Picasso"
Nestled on the east side of the Daley Center, “The Picasso” is an untitled abstract sculpture dedicated to the city by Pablo Picasso. The sculpture, made of Cor-Ten steel, stands 50 feet tall and was commissioned in 1963 by the architects of the Richard J. Daley Center. Picasso worked on this sculpture for over 2 years, even creating a 42-inch model that can be seen today at the Art Institute of Chicago. The sculpture was unveiled in August 1967. In a letter to the city, Picasso wrote that he gave the sculpture as a gift to the city of Chicago, but never gave a description of the sculpture’s representation.
"Miró's Chicago"
This sculpture, located in the Loop area of downtown Chicago, originally called The Sun, the Moon, and One Star, was designed by Joan Miró. The Brunswick Corporation originally commissioned a sculpture from Miró in 1969. However, they decided not to go forward with the project due to the cost. The first female Mayor of Chicago, Jane Byrne, agreed to fund 50% of the project in 1979. Miró decided to donate his design to the city, thus making the cost more manageable. A number of organizations and individuals covered the other fifty percent. The sculpture was unveiled in 1981.
Reliance Building (Now: The Alise Chicago)
The Reliance building was erected as one of the world's first steel-frame skyscrapers in 1895. Designed by the famous Burnham and Root architectural firm, the building was built in two stages because the tenants living on the top floors of the existing building at this location refused to leave until their lease expired. In response, the engineers used jack screws which held up the top floors while construction began on the lower floors. Construction began in 1891 and the building stood fourteen stories when it was completed.
Chicago Cultural Center
Famous for its two stained glass domes, the Chicago Cultural Center is an architectural beauty that offers free music, dance, theater events, as well as films, lectures, art exhibitions, and family events/programs. These events honor international, national, regional, and local arts, musicians, and performers.
Cloud Gate (aka "The Bean")
Cloud Gate is British artist Anish Kapoor's first public outdoor work installed in the United States. Though commonly known throughout Chicago as “The Bean” because of its kidney-bean shape, Cloud Gate was so christened when it debuted in 2006, two years after installation began. The Bean grew rapidly into one of Chicago’s major landmarks, up there with the Hancock Tower, the Chicago River, the Willis Tower, Navy Pier, and Wrigley Field. In fact, it is Chicago’s No. 2 tourist attraction, thanks in part to its reflective surface that simplifies selfie photographs. The sculpture is a major landmark in the city’s Millennium Park and stands next to Jaume Plensa's Crown Foundation (installed in 2004), another favorite for its constant monumental video feed. Kapoor's 110-ton elliptical sculpture is forged of a seamless series of highly polished stainless steel plates, which reflect Chicago’s famous skyline and the clouds above. The reflections of the city and the people surrounding the sculpture are equally fascinating.
The Crown Fountain- Millennium Park
The Crown Fountain is a piece of public art located in Chicago's Millennium Park that opened in July 2004. It was built by Krueck and Sexton Architects and designed by Jaume Plensa, a Catalan artist. The fountain is a black granite pool with a 50 ft. glass brick tower on either end. The towers display videos of various faces that interact with park goers by squirting water out of their mouths. The water features operate from May to October.
Jewelers Building
Built by the famed Adler and Sullivan in Chicago during the 1880s, it's the only one that remains in the city's Loop District. Sullivan, often regarded as the "father of the skyscraper," provided his unique stylized floral, ornamental style to the building, built within Chicago's Jewlers District, also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Palmer House Hilton
Originally known as “The Palmer,” the Palmer House Hilton Hotel has been one of the city's most important places for events and welcoming guests from the day the establishment opened its doors on September 26, 1871. The original Palmer hotel greeted only a few guests, however, as it was destroyed by fire 13 days later--one of hundreds of buildings destroyed by the Great Chicago Fire on October 9, 1871. The second Palmer House was completed in 1875. The third and final Palmer House was built between 1923 and 1925 and was acquired by Conrad Hilton in 1945. Thor Equities acquired the Palmer House Hilton in 2005 and announced its intention to sell the historic property in 2015.
The Art Institute of Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago, established in 1879, is a world-renowned, encyclopedic art museum housing one of the world’s most important permanent collections, including many iconic works of leading artists, and mounting approximately thirty exhibitions a year. With the third largest collection of art in the United States, the Art Institute’s encyclopedic collection consists more than 260,000 works of art and artifacts distributed in eleven curatorial departments. It encompasses more than 5,000 years of human expression from cultures around the world as well as the largest collection of impressionist paintings outside of Paris, Seurat’s “A Sunday on the Isle of Grand Jatte” - 1884, Hopper’s “Nighthawks”, Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist”, and Wood’s “American Gothic” to name but a few. The museum itself is the second largest art museum in the United States, just after the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Art Institute in May 2009 opened its newest addition, 24,000-square-meter Modern Wing, housing renowned Modern and Contemporary masterpieces. This internationally acclaimed Modern Wing designed by Renzo Piano is the largest expansion in AIC’s 130-year history. This signature building features the latest in green museum technology and greatly increased the space dedicated to modern and contemporary art, photography, and architecture and design. The Modern Wing also houses the Ryan Education Center, a state-of-the-art facility placed in a prominent and highly trafficked area of the museum.

This tour was created by Clio Admin on 11/28/16 .

This tour has been taken 497 times within the past year.

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