Last week we spent several days in Chicago. Chicago has a number of nicknames, including Chi-Town, The Windy City, and the one that struck me most, The Second City. I found myself comparing Chicago to New York City, the city I am most familiar with (since I have lived near there most of my life and had worked in New York for several years in a row at one time). I have to say, it makes for an interesting comparison. Chicago is “big” like New York, and diverse like New York, but to me it somehow seemed less crowded and less hectic than New York.
Although I have been to Chicago a couple times before, I was happy to again have the chance to experience Chicago Deep Dish Pizza and Chicago style hot dogs. We had a very nice dinner at Pizzeria Due, a Chicago institution, with two of Sarah’s cousins the day we arrived. We also stopped in a “corner hot dog joint” the next day, but I was the only one interested in the traditional Chicago hot dog with the pickle spear, relish and fresh veggies on a poppy seed bun. Pretty different from a New York hot dog from your typical street vendor.
One of the highlights of our time in Chicago was taking an architectural boat tour. The boat traveled on the river system in down town Chicago as well as cruising out onto Lake Michigan. It gave us a great introduction to the various buildings and architectural styles in the city, and the guide included a lot of Chicago history as part of the tour. One of the aspects of Chicago’s architecture and city planning that is interesting to compare to other cities, is the fact that in 1871 the Great Chicago Fire burned most of the city to the ground. In a strange way this provided an opportunity for the city to start over. To push the debris and rubble into Lake Michigan (creating a couple extra blocks worth of landfill in the process) and to layout new streets and build new buildings just about the time when real “skyscrapers” where about to be built for the first time.
The buildings we saw included the Chicago Tribune building, which amazingly includes small pieces of stone from many famous buildings around the world including the Taj Mahal, the Parthenon and the Great Wall of China.
We also saw the Wrigley Building. Built in 1920 as the headquarters of the Wrigley Company (the chewing gum makers) it was one of first major office buildings north of the Chicago river.
One of the most interesting buildings we saw on the tour was the following:
These are the Marina Towers built in 1962 to try to counter the flight of people to the suburbs. The buildings contain indoor parking and many amenities and businesses that would make it desirable to stay right there in the city rather than moving out.
Overall we had a great time in Chicago and I am looking forward to seeing how it compares to some of the other cities still on our itinerary.