Chicago Guest House's Guide to Exploring Michigan Avenue

The 1909 Plan of Chicago recommended that Michigan Avenue be widened and extended north of the river. But this didn’t happen until 1920. The DuSable Bridge was one of the later bridges built across the main branch of the river. Its completion began a transformation of Michigan Avenue allowing it to become the elegant boulevard we know today.  Michigan Avenue is THE PLACE to shop, but you can find these stores in any major city in the world. What you can't find are the architecture gems that line this 'Magnificent Mile'!
Michigan Avenue Bridge being raised
Michigan Avenue Bridge 
'The DuSable Bridge'

The place where Michigan Avenue crosses the Chicago River is one of the most iconic urban spaces in the world. This is something you need to stop and really take notice as it's a beautiful work of public art and a great feat of civil engineering.

Jean Baptiste Point du Sable  (before 1750 – August 28, 1818) is regarded as the first permanent resident of what later became Chicago and is recognized as the "Founder of Chicago".  The site where he settled near the mouth of the Chicago River around the 1780s is identified as a National Historic Landmark.  Point du Sable was of African descent but little else is known of his life prior to the 1770s
Typical of Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett's 1909 Plan of Chicago itself, the bridge’s design is Beaux Arts. It has a distinctly Parisian flair. Thomas Pihlfeldt, Hugh Young and Edward Bennett designed it to resemble the Alexander III Bridge over the Seine in Paris. 

Beaux Art is an academic architectural style taught at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, particularly from the 1830s to the end of the 19th century. It drew upon the principles of French neoclassicism, but also incorporated Gothic and Renaissance elements. 

The four bridge houses provide a canvas for bas-relief sculpture by  James Earle Fraser and Henry Hering depicting pivotal moments in Chicago history . 
Bas Relief sculptures on Michigan Avenue Bridge
Bas Relief sculptures on Michigan Avenue Bridge
Bas Relief sculptures on Michigan Avenue Bridge
Bas Relief sculptures on Michigan Avenue Bridge
Bas Relief sculptures on Michigan Avenue Bridge
Rebuilding after the Chicago Fire of 1871
The Battle of Ft. Dearborn
The First Settlers
Jean Baptiste Point du Sable  and John Kinzie
The Arrival of the French Explorers
James Marquette & Louis Joliet
'Pioneers' depicts the men, women and children led by fur trader John Kinzie making their way westward toward the new territory. In 1804, Kinzie bought a cabin on the north bank of the Chicago River where the pylon stands. He purchased the cabin from Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable,
'Defense' depicts an American soldier in combat with an Indian in full headdress while defending Fort Dearborn in 1812. Behind the solider a woman huddles, clutching her child. The fort, built in 1803, was burned to the ground and its inhabitants massacred. 
“The Discoverers” depicts French-Canadian explorer Louis Jolliet looking at Lake Michigan. Behind him is Father Marquette in flowing monk-like robes. Surrounding the explorers, sinewy and nearly naked, Indians stalked. Flying above the heads of Marquette and Jolliet, and also gazing sternly into the distance, is the winged-goddess of victory, Nike, bearing a torch, lighting the way forward.
In 'Regeneration' notice the woman wearing an armoured breast plate and cape standing on top of the serpent with it's flickering tongue. In her right hand she grips an L-square. All around her are men at work--one with a hammer and an anvil, another saws a beam, another strains at a tow-rope, and the last stands astride an I-beam being lifted into the sky by a hook. Behind them, peaking above their shoulder are flames that represent the great fire of 1871.  Watching over them is a winged messenger blowing a clarion. 'Chicago Will Rise Again!'  So much to see in each one of these images. Again, stop walking and take notice; you'll be glad you did!
The Wrigley Building in Chicago
Working Our Way North....  
The Wrigley Building was build by the Wrigley Chewing Gum Company in the early 1920's.  It is a Chicago original and one of the few business locations in the world that needs no other address. The gateway between Michigan Avenue, the Loop and River North. The terra cotta-clad complex actually consists of two buildings: a 30-story south tower connected to a 21-story north tower via a 14th-floor elevated walkway. The structure was also Chicago’s first air-conditioned office building.
The Wrigley Building in Chicago
Designed by architects Graham, Anderson, Probst & White a Chicago architectural firm that was founded in 1912 as Graham, Burnham & Co. --- the successor to D. H. Burnham & Co. through Daniel Burnham's surviving partner, Ernest R. Graham, and Burnham's sons, Hubert and Daniel Jr. They were the largest architectural firm under one roof during the first half of the twentieth century.  The firm's importance to Chicago's architectural legacy CAN NOT be overstated, NOR can its connection to Daniel Burnham. In part from its connection to Burnham, the firm captured the majority of the big commissions from 1912 to 1936, including such iconic works as the Wrigley BuildingMerchandise Mart Field Museum Shedd Aquarium Civic Opera House, and the former central Chicago post office.  
Across the street from the Wrigley Building is the neo-gothic style Tribune Tower. In 1922 the Chicago Tribune hosted an international architecture competition looking for the design for their new headquarters. The ad posted offered $100,000 in prize money and requested “the most beautiful & distinctive office building in the world”.
Once the design was chosen, the Chicago Tribune staff collected fragments of historically important sites to use in the facade of the building. TheTaj Mahal, Parthenon,  Great Pyramid, Notre Dame, Great Wall of China & 145 other famous world landmarks. Along side pieces of the Berlin Wall, Abraham Lincoln’s Tomb, and Angkor Wat are more recent editions, such as a piece of steel from the World Trade Center & tiles from the Sydney Opera House.
The Tribune tower in Chicago
The Tribune tower in Chicago
Next time you’re strolling down Michigan, make sure to stop and take a look at the Tribune Tower. Each piece is clearly labeled, all along the outside of the building. And don’t forget to peek inside too – in the lobby wall are fragments of stone from the cave of the nativity where Christ was born in Bethlehem. It is sort of an odd, but wonderful tribute to the history of the world – and a gem that I feel makes the city just that much better.
Chicago Water Tower
The Chicago Water Tower is the city’s most familiar and treasured landmark. Constructed between 1867 and 1869, it was created for Chicago’s municipal water system, and originally housed a 135 foot iron standpipe used to regulate water pressure. It gained special significance as one of the few buildings to survive the destructive path of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Both the Water Tower and Pumping Station to the east were designed by William W. Boyington, one of Chicago’s most prolific architects of the mid-nineteenth centur. Sadly, there is not much in the way of buildings he designed in Chicago. Many of them were constructed before the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and destroyed by it; however, the Chicago Water Tower and pumping station of 1869 survived and have become well-loved landmarks.
Chicago Water Tower Pumping Station
John Hancock Building
It is difficult to visualize the Chicago skyline without the famous supertall John Hancock Center. One of the best examples of structural expressionism. Rising 1,128 feet to the roof and nearly 1,500 feet to the tip of its twin antennas, the Hancock WAS one of the tallest buildings in the world when it was completed in 1969.       

Structural Expressionism, is a type of Late Modern architectural style that emerged in the 1970s, incorporating elements of high-tech industry and technology into building design. High-tech architecture appeared as revamped modernism, an extension of those previous ideas helped by even more technological advances. This category serves as a bridge between modernism and post-modernism; however, there remain gray areas as to where one category ends and the other begins. In the 1980s, high-tech architecture became more difficult to distinguish from post-modern architecture. Some of its themes and ideas were later absorbed into the style of Neo-Futurism art and architectural movement. DINING at the Signature Room on the 96th Floor
View from inside the Chicago John Hancock Building
2The Hancock Center’s elevators are among the fastest in the world. 40 seconds to get from the ground floor to the 95th floor.

Each of the building’s X-shaped cross braces are 18-stories tall. They are notorious for creating oddly-shaped windows that affect the value of the real estate behind them because of the blocked view.

According to WGN-TV meteorologist Tom Skilling, the building is so tall that the air at the top is six degrees cooler than the air at its base.

A time capsule at the top of the building contains a piece of the Eiffel Tower.

Approximately 702 residents are in the Hancock Center and they'd never have to leave. There is a full grocery store, post office, business, restaurants...they don't even have to leave to vote!
John Hancock Building
The Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago was ORIGINALLY formed in February 1871; specifically, Sunday, October 8, 1871. The Great Chicago Fire began later that day and destroyed the building!

In 1912, the congregation decided to construct a new building on Pine Street (now North Michigan Avenue), which was then a fairly undeveloped part of the city at the time.   Architect Ralph Adams Cram to create a Gothic Revival building. Cram designed and built the sanctuary however the parish house, cloister, manse, and garth, which lie to the south along Michigan Avenue, were designed by Howard Van Doren Shaw. The church building is the oldest structure on Michigan Avenue, with the exception of the Chicago Water Tower. 
​​No matter what religious denomination it is an incredible structure and I wouldn't miss the opportunity to step inside and experience the awe-inspiring moment when you take in the magnificence of this place. Makes my eyes well up just thinking about it!  Services are held Sunday 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 a.m. and a 4:00 p.m. jazz service, but you don't have to attend a service to step inside.

If you do decide to go to services, you may want to add another special treat; brunch at the Signature Room on the 96th floor of the Hancock Center right across the street. I believe it's one of the best in the city!   MENU  
View from inside the Chicago John Hancock Building