I vividly remember the process of building the house my family would live in from the time I was nine years old until I moved into a house of my own.
My father worked with the architect to draw up a plan, and we drove over to the site nearly every evening to see the progress builders made on our home earlier in the day.
I drew up house plans of my own, and one of my childhood ambitions was to become an architect. I didn’t end up being an architect, but regular readers of Midwest Guest know that cool architecture, buildings, bridges and structures of all kinds continue to fascinate me.
I know Chicago has a particularly rich and fascinating architectural history, and I found out that architectural themed boat cruises regularly toured the river.
I told Tim that the architectural boat cruise was the one thing we needed to make sure we did when we visited the city earlier this summer. Tim’s fascination with photographing buildings and urban landscapes also made the architectural boat cruise a must-do for him.
We opted to book a cruise through the Chicago Architecture Foundation. The CAF is group dedicated to fostering interest and public education in architecture and design, and each of their 90-minute tours feature narration by a CAF-certified docent. Other companies offer architectural themed cruises, but the CAF tour offers an authoritative look at Chicago’s architectural treasures.
We bought our tickets the day before our cruise at the office on the dock at the southeast corner of Michigan Avenue Bridge at Wacker Drive.
The ticket clerk advised us to arrive about 20 minutes before our scheduled departure. Most people on the tour arrived at that time, but we made sure we arrived a bit earlier than that so we could be sure to get a seat on the top deck of the boat for a better photo vantage point.
It was a great, sunny day—perfect for taking pictures—so we eagerly boarded the beautiful Chicago’s First Lady boat and embarked on a cruise through Chicago’s great architectural tradition.
Our guide shared a wealth of architectural information and lore with us as we cruised past more than 50 architecturally important sites along the Chicago River, and he affably answered questions from the crowd as we snapped, snapped, snapped endless photographs!
Tour highlights ranged from the ornate early twentieth-century bridges and grand old buildings like the Tribune Tower to quirky finds like the vintage 1960s Marina City “corn cobs” and the late 1980s triangle-dominant “river cottages” designed by Harry Weese (who also designed the Swissotel, where we stayed several days during our trip).
We slipped under the city’s low-slung bridges as traffic rumbled overhead, and we saw the fascinating interplay of old, new, sky and river on the shiny canvas provided by sleek glass spires and the impressive curved tower at 333 Wacker Drive.
333 Wacker Drive
Our 90-minute tour ended all too soon. I’d definitely take this tour again the next time I visit Chicago during the spring, summer or fall. Be sure to check out the CAF site because the group offers a variety of architectural tours year round, including walking tours and bus tours of Chicago neighborhoods, Frank Lloyd Wright gems and historic cemeteries.
© Dominique King 2009 All rights reserved