Dear Chicago

Chicago turns 175 today. It’s a city that feels younger. Some of that is borne out of necessity – the great fire of 1871 destroyed much of the city. Much of it, in my observation, comes from a culture of innovation and openness, a willingness – common to most successful enterprises – to constantly reinvent itself.

The signs of reinvention are everywhere – in the repurposed buildings and spaces, to those, like Millennium Park, that turned utilitarian spaces into great public ones.

Former warehouses brought back to life with new businesses and residents northwest of The Loop.

Navy Pier. Not my favorite, but a repurposed space that has become a popular attraction.

Millennium Park and the Gehry-designed Pritzker Pavilion, truly one of the great public spaces, in my opinion.

Admit it, we all love the bean (that’s me taking the photo in the middle).

You’re always looking up in Chicago. The birthplace of the skyscraper, the skyline towers over you. Waves of glass and steel, celebrating generations of style and design, crowd alongside the Chicago River, vying to capture your attention.

Buildings loom over Michigan Ave and Millennium Park.

Skyline, as seen from the Chicago River near Navy Pier.

Chicago is a city you experience from above – from the heights of its tallest buildings, or from the El that rises and travels above the city.

The El, traveling above you along State Street.

The second-story high station in Wicker Park.

Yet, the city doesn’t overwhelm you. It’s also a city you can disappear in. Being mere steps away from the glass and steel forest can feel like an entirely different world.

Finding solitude amidst the business district is easy with amenities like this pool

The beach along the Lakefront, steps away from the skyscrapers in The Loop.

Further out, as you travel along the El, you find what is still a bustling city, but one that exists at a more human scale. It’s easy to get lost on a sunny afternoon at Wrigley, or a peaceful morning in Wicker Park.

Afternoon baseball at Wrigley Field.

The farmers’ market in Wicker Park.

Peaceful Sunday brunch, in the secluded courtyard at Jam, just off the beaten path in Wicker Park.

Every moment can be an adventure. The character, and spontaneity which so often make cities so great, is abundant. It keeps drawing you back, not just to the city, but to the same places.

People having fun at Millennium Park on a hot summer day.

Alternately, many of buildings have details and touches you may not appreciate if you don’t stop and truly explore.

At 175, Chicago doesn’t feel old. It feels like a city that is constantly evolving, and will keep you coming back to see what’s next.

Happy birthday, Chicago. Until next time.



8 Responses

  1. I’ve been in Chicago a few times when traveling Amtrak and have had the opportunity to walk downtown around Union Station along the Chicago River walk. I quite like it and would love to explore more parts of the city. Thanks for the tour and Happy Birthday Chicago!

    • I haven’t spent much time by the area around Union Station, but you do get some great views along the river front. I highly recommend the parts of the city I have experienced more (the east part of the Loop, Gold Coast, Wicker Park, Wrigleyville, etc).

      Regarding Amtrak, I’m considering a trip from Chicago to Detroit one of these times, now that there’s high(er) speed rail travel between the two. I think the lakefront travel would be great.

  2. Looks like a great city. Thanks for sharing Alex.

  3. Great pics! Thanks for giving Chicago some love.

  4. I love Chicago, especially the architecture (OK, and the jazz). Also I have a sentimental attachment to it because it’s where my Grandmother first lived after landing at Ellis Island from Czechoslovakia (prior to making a home in Montreal where my mother was born and raised). They lived in Cicero – since made (more) famous by the musical Chicago as the place where leading lady Velma kills her husband and sister (“He Had It Coming”).

  5. Oh, and did I mention I like the musical, too?

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