A Miscellaneous Day


There are some things in Chicago that everybody should do/see, but aren't on the BIG LIST of things to cross off. These are the miscellaneous things that--although somewhat forgettable--would still make you feel guilty about not seeing them (especially if you lived in Chicago for two months and never did so!). Thus, we declared Tuesday a miscellaneous day and set out for the wild blue yonder! Er, downtown.

We wanted to start off by going to the Maxwell Street Market and Jane Addams Hull House, but alas! The market is only open on Sundays and the Hull House is closed til August 3rd for cleaning! 0-2. Great start.

But onward we pressed! We started out by heading downtown to visit the Hancock Tower, which is a tower that's almost as big as Sears. It costs $15 a pop to go up to the observatory, but you can also ride the elevator (for free) to the 96th floor where there is a restaurant. (The observatory is on the 95th floor, so you even get to go up a smidge higher!) We briefly entertained the idea of grabbing a dessert at the restaurant, but neither of us was really hungry. So we walked around, looked out the windows, and called it. Once you've been to the top of Sears Tower and stood out on the ledge, the Hancock is just kind of like "Meh. Another tall building." Even though the Hancock has better views because it's right up close to Lake Michigan (and having a dinner there would be incredibly romantic), we had kind of exhausted the go-up-to-the-top-of-a-really-tall-buidling bug within us :) Next!

We worked our way up Michigan Avenue and stopped at the Water Tower, which was built in 1869 and, like Old St. Patrick's Church, was one of the few buildings to escape the Great Fire of 1871 unscathed. There wasn't much to see inside...just a small gallery of old black-and-white pictures of the devastation that the fire left behind. Let me tell you, Chicago was razed. The fire was 4 miles long and almost a mile wile. 300 people died and 100,000 were left homeless. Talk about starting a city over from scratch! The water tower even had a cool ghost story: apparently, one man stayed behind during the fire to keep pumping water (valiant hero or idiot? you decide). When the flames reached the Water Tower, he hung himself in order to evade burning to death. On multiple occasions, tourists, locals, and even police officers have reported seeing the silhouette of a hanging man in one of the windows at the top of the tower. Spooky!!

Next stop: Tribune Tower, the home of--you guessed it--the Chicago Tribune. This is a huge, gothic building that is either loved or abhorred by Chicagoans. By its 75th anniversary in 1922, the Chicago Tribune was enjoying greater influence in the Midwest and found it had outgrown its 17-story home on the corner of Dearborn and Madison streets. The company announced an international architectural competition for what was to be, in the words of the Chicago Tribune's legendary publisher Col. Robert R. McCormick, "the most beautiful office building in the world."

Tribune offered $100,000 in prize money--$50,000 for first place, $20,000 for second and $10,000 for third. In addition, 10 architects of national reputation were invited to compete and offered $2,000 each for their designs, in addition to possible prize money. In all, 263 designs were received from the United States and 22 other countries. Entries were presented anonymously, so the jurors would have no information about the architects until after making their decisions. Some designs took their cues from Greek temples, Egyptian obelisks and even pyramids. Others anticipated the steel-and-glass boxes of modern architecture. The winning design was of a soaring Gothic skyscraper with the unanimous vote awarded to New York City architects John Mead Howells and Raymond M. Hood.

The coolest part about the Tribune Tower though is the different rocks that can be found along the outside walls. You don't even notice these rocks if you're walking by quickly, but if you slow down you notice them and think "Hey, what's that weird rock jutting out from the side of the building? A piece of the Forbidden City in Peking? What?" This realization then leads you all around the outside of the building, where you'll see rocks from all 50 states, the Parthenon, Great Wall of China, Japanese shrines, the Arc de Triomphe, and more! It really is cool! How often in your life can you say that you've touched a piece of Notre Dame and a Giza pyramid...at the same time!?

Last stop: the Prairie Avenue Bookstore. We'd read about this a lot in our guidebook and, being the bookstore junkies that we are, decided to drop by. I can sum up the PAB in one word: boooorrring. The entire store is devoted to books on architecture...which is cool...if you're an architect. One of its claims to fame is that it's the oldest bookstore in Chicago, and believe me, it smells like it. I couldn't tell if I was in a historic landmark or a nursing home! In any case, it was a nice place to stop and rest for a bit. We sat down at this huge, ugly, octagonal table and took a load off. Brock even fell asleep and started drooling. Later we found out that that table was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and was worth tens of thousands of dollars. Whoops! Don't worry, Brock wiped up his spit :)

The day ended with an early dinner at the Corner Bakery Cafe, where we split an entree of yummy pesto cavatappi pasta and--what else?--a fudge brownie :) Afterwards we went to Barnes and Noble and just hung out for a little while (like I said, bookstore junkies), then biked home and watched "The Hunt for Red October."

I officially have a grandpa-crush on Sean Connery.


  1. Hey your blog is so cute! We miss you guys. When you get back we should do a double date or something. Oh and p.s. I sort of get grandpa crushes allll the time.

  2. Your comments about Prairie Avenue Bookstore are really stupid.

  3. Prairie Avenue Bookstore just wasn't what I was looking for. If and when I learn more about architecture, I'll probably appreciate it more. I'm sorry you thought my sentiments were "stupid." Maybe if I ever become as cultured as you apparently are, I'll give you a second opinion.

    And if you're going to hate on a person's blog, own up to it instead of leaving an anonymous comment. Coward.


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