In the world of iconic architecture,
only a few images are so instantly
recognized they need no subtitle.
Think of the Venetian canals,
a Shinto temple, the medieval
Cathedral at Chartres.
Or the unmistakable skyline of
Each year thousands of
architecture lovers make a
pilgrimage to this birthplace of the
skyscraper... and thousands book
passage aboard our enthralling river tour, widely considered the best 90 minutes
a visitor can spend anywhere in the city.
Critics say that no other city has influenced and embodied the state-of-the-art
in high-rise design and modern architecture as prominently as Chicago;
virtually every major architect has a signature building here.
This is where architecture lives, and history is still being etched upon the sky.
Join us for a 90 minute, jaw-dropping excursion through a city that defied all
expectations ... even the laws of gravity.
"It [modern architecture] all started here ... in the long grass of the prairie."
Frank Lloyd Wright
Chicago's ambitious business leaders in the late 1800's (after most of the
commercial district had been erased by the Great Fire) faced a quandary. Hemmed
in by water on three sides and a rail center to the south, they knew that if the city
were to grow – it would have to grow up. "Limited as to ground, business sought
the air," wrote an observer, as quoted in Donald L. Miller's City of the Century.
"It had to be done ... but how?"
"Not since man began to pile one stone upon another," wrote an influential
French critic, "has so difficult a problem (as tall buildings) been presented to the
Chicago is where that problem was solved, spectacularly.
Sail with us and learn how the devastating Fire jumped a river and cleared the
way for visionaries of plate glass and structural steel such as Jenney, Root,
Burnham and Sullivan (Wright's mentor). Over less than a decade, the Chicago
School of ingenious grillage foundations and steel-frame construction techniques
lifted all architecture heavenward.
Chicago's ascent continued into the 20th century with titanic figures such as
Bertrand Goldberg, Fazlur Khan and Mies van der Rohe – building higher and
sleeker – and it has soared in the 21st century with audacious new steeples such
as The Trump Tower and Jeanne Gang's Aqua Building.
But of course not all of Chicago landmarks are vertical.
On board our expert-narrated cruise you'll learn how smoldering debris from
that 1871 inferno, hastily plowed into Lake Michigan, formed the basis of
the 2,800-acre landscape masterpiece that today is Grant Park (now home to
Frank Gehry's inimitable concert Pavilion).
And you'll learn how a merchant by the name of Montgomery Ward, virtually
alone, waged a fanatical 25-year legal crusade to keep our glorious lakefront
"free and clear" from other Chicago barons who wanted Grant Park for
an industrial factory zone.
If you're thinking they should build a monument to Ward – they did.
Ward's countenance is one of eight large busts that front the Merchandise Mart.
Originally built as a warehouse for Marshall Field and once the crown jewel of the
Kennedy family portfolio, the fabled MM holds more office space than any
structure on earth except the Pentagon.
Chicago also has more moveable bridges than any city in the world – nearly four
dozen – including the forebear of all bascule spans, the great Michigan Avenue
Bridge. Opened in 1920 to fireworks and marching bands, this bridge was
(and it still is) an engineering marvel that befits a city which decades earlier
managed to reverse the course of the river on which it stands.
Come aboard. Discover why Theodore Dreiser called Chicago the "Florence
of the Midwest." There's no place like it, and no better way to see it than from
the deck of our flagship Ft. Dearborn or the classic Innisfree.
Our expert-narrated Architecture Tour will take you up, up and away.
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