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Published: December 3rd 2018
Featuring the Willis Tower, still known as the Sears Tower
Sleep was short last night. About the time I was into sleep, hard winds and rain almost rocked my room. Suddenly, the loudest possible boom of thunder surrounded me! Did lightning hit the rod at the top of the hotel tower? More rain and wind, but only the one thunder clap.
Our full day started with an architectural boat ride on the Chicago River
. For an hour and a half the excellent guide named buildings and architectural styles mixed with history in a friendly non-stop commentary. Architectural styles varied in quick succession, partly because some buildings withstood the test of time and others were knocked down to make way. In the last few decades, “adaptive reuse” has been the theme, either inserting newer buildings onto or between older ones or transforming warehouses into offices and condos by cutting in windows and ground-level arcades. Art deco is my favourite style, and the guide pointed the modern interpretation of the style, resulting in original art deco and new art deco. Chicago School
or Commercial style is filled with windows in tall, vertically attractive structures made possible by steel-frame construction. Mid-century modern
is a favoured style, and an attractive Brutalist
building defied my abhorrence of that
300 S Wacker
Map of the Charles River up the side
style. An interesting contrast was how a modern building built over the rail system by an angled-cantilevered style compared to the original main post office that added the first public plaza extended over the rails. And, my suspicion that the street by our hotel bounces slightly was confirmed – much of the city centre is built at the “Plus 15” level over the former rail yards. All of it rises above the swampy original landscape. The big parks and some of the city have foundations sunk into the debris of the Great Fire.
Lunch at an Irish pub (very new) was a welcome relief from so much brain work on the boat tour. I indulged in a Californica IPA flavoured by blood oranges – refreshing but a little heavy. We had preordered our sandwiches, mine was corned beef. When it came, I think the meat could have served five people! The waiter blithely said it was a pound of meat – why? Of course most of it was wasted. Tender and flavourful corned beef, but….
We drove to the financial section of the city to visit the Federal Reserve Bank museum
. The building itself was beautiful – imposing Chicago style exterior
Federal Reserve elevator
The most beautiful of elevators!
and shining art deco lobby. A PR fellow gave a simplified talk on the role of the Federal Reserve. He answered several excellent questions a little less knowledgeably than I had expected. The museum consisted of hands-on stations that expanded on the points he had made. Everyone was generously invited to take a little bag of money – shredded of course. The shredding resulted in very tiny pieces indeed, and apparently each bag contained $360. Andrea apologized a little for boring me since the Canadian system wouldn’t be the same as the American one. With difficulty I managed to assure her that learning anything was always interesting.
Next in the program was ascending the Willis Tower
, originally called the Sears Tower. For about twenty-five years it was the tallest building in the world. The queue was more time-consuming than anyone expected because the clear skies had brought out lots of tourists and school groups. Both the Federal Reserve and the Willis Tower used “air-port style security” checks. We lined up to get tickets, bought by Andrea, $23.50 each; the fast pass tickets cost $49 and saved about twenty minutes in the wait. We lined up to get into the area
where you line up for the elevator. The building had 104 floors. In the elevator, a video in about other tall structures kept passengers distracted for the over-one-minute assent. Out on the 103 floor, people looked out the windows in every direction. Photos were essential, and the bright sun lit the landscape of the city.
Linda and Connie and I braved “The Ledge”, the ever-popular plexiglass extensions into the sky (three to accommodate demand). Perhaps because so many people were stepping out into “nothing”, my mind and body accepted this strange phenomenon better than when I tried it at the Calgary Tower. Kneeling down felt a bid odd, as if the floor would hold me vertically but not crouched!
At late arrival at the hotel gave us only one hour to recuperate, shower, and dress for our farewell dinner at the Water Tower. The restaurant, Mity Nice
, served dinner family style, which was a charming solution to over-filled plates in most restaurants. The menu featured caprese salad on very thin, herbed flatbread (one made without cheese for me), tender sliced beef brisket, and fruit.
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