The Architecture of Travel

By Nancy Clark

In the back cover of my Day Timer (I confess I remain dependent upon the old-school calendar rather than the database I’m told exists on my iPhone), I carry a list—“15 Burgers to Try Before You Die.” One of them is in my ‘hood (CityGrille in Denver) and the others stretch across the country from Val’s Burgers in San Francisco to Peter Luger in New York. Besides risking arterial calcification to satisfy my bucket urges, I have other to-do-must-dos—like visiting all the “M” countries (Maldives, Morocco) and Cuba before it undergoes transformation into the next great tourism stop.

Some personal quests are closer to home, so when the chance to spend 48 hours in Chicago surfaced on my radar, I could cross another one off my list. Until signing up for this Baby Boomer publishers’ convention, my exposure to Chicago had been limited to a stretch of psychedelic club-lighting wending along the United concourse at O’Hare. As a cub reporter, I was awed at the societal reverberation of columnists like Mike Royko as he took on Cook County politics in the volatile ‘60s. As a Baby Boomer, I was drawn to the shrine at 435 Michigan Ave.—headquarters of the Chicago Tribune. The 36-story cakelike structure is more French cathedral than Roaring 20s—the winning design by New York architects John Mead Howells and Raymond M. Hood who entered the newspaper’s 75th anniversary competition in 1925 for the “most beautiful and distinctive office building in the world.” The contest got global attention with some 263 entries submitted by architects hailing from 23 countries. Howells and Hood were awarded the $100,000 prize for their neo-gothic style complete with buttresses and incorporating gargoyles representing mankind’s most despicable sins from maliciousness to pomposity—an apt architectural tenant for one of Chicago’s first skyscrapers.

In the city known as the birthplace of the skyscraper, the architecture alone is reason enough to plan a trip here.

It’s the weekend following St. Paddy’s day and the Chicago River has returned to its normal hue having been dyed green only a week earlier for the world-class celebration the heavily Irish put on. (Chicago is also home to the largest Polish population in the country.) I’m ensconced in another skyscraper—the four-star Hyatt Regency Chicago at 151 East Wacker Dr. that runs parallel with the river and the view from my junior suite newly decorated in mid-century modern style (one of 2019 guestrooms) overlooks the Wrigley Building. Called the “Jewel of the Mile,” the Wrigley building was the city’s first air-conditioned skyscraper and is an American adaptation of French Renaissance in the likeness of the Seville Cathedral’s Giralda Tower in Spain and is clad in approximately 250,000 individual glazed terra cotta tiles (while under construction from 1921 – 1924 this ranked as the most extensive use of terra cotta in the world.)

Other not-to-be-missed architecture in Chicago:

The Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, at 1450 feet and 110 stories, it’s the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.

The Marquette Building with its trademark “Chicago windows”—large panes of glass flanked by narrow sash windows that open.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s personal home built in Shingle Style, very different than the Prairie Style he pioneered as the father of mid-century architecture.

The Leiter Building II (home to Sears & Roebuck) uses iron supports and steel beams to open interior walls making it possible for masonry buildings to feature larger windows.

Chicago is renowned for having some of the tallest skyscrapers worldwide, in order:

Willis Tower

Trump International Hotel & Tower

Aon Center

John Hancock Center

AT&T Corporate Center

Two Prudential Plaza

311 South Wacker

900 North Michigan

Water Tower Place

Chase Tower

Park Tower


The Legacy at Millennium

300 North LaSalle

Three First National Plaza

Chicago Title & Trust

Blue Cross-Blue Shield

One Museum Park

Olympia Centre

330 North Wabash


111 South Wacker

181 West Madison

Hyatt Center

One Magnificent Mile

I circle back around to 425 Michigan Ave. and stop in front of the statue of Nathan Hale in front of the Tribune building. Hale was the American Revolutionary soldier hanged by the British as a spy and as history has it, his last words were "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." I regret it took me so long to get here to Chicago.

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