How many photos have been taken in Chicago? Millions, no doubt. Billions, maybe. There are photos from great photographers such as Vivian Maier, Gordon Parks, and Walker Evans, among others, plus the tourists in Grant Park. It is an exceedingly photographable city with incredible architecture, amazing water views, a mélange of cultures, and is always interesting. I have my own stash of photos to add to the pile and here are a few of them.

I suppose, like most visitors, I should start in the Loop along Lake Michigan with “The Bean.” Located in Millennium Park, its real name is “Cloud Gate” and was created by the sculptor Anish Kapoor. It is an extraordinary piece that is also the world’s best fun-house mirror.

Cloud Gate, The Bean
All hail to The Bean.
Cloud Gate reflecting Chicago skyline.
Cloud Gate reflecting Chicago skyline.
Millennium Park from the Pritzker Pavilion
Millennium Park from the Pritzker Pavilion

A bit of Cloud Gate can also be seen in this photo from the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. The rain came down in buckets just after this was taken.

Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Grant Park
Jay Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park. Architect Frank Gehry.

Jaume Plensa’s Crown Fountain has been installed in the park since 2004 and always attracts people in the summer. There are two large LED towers with displays that loop through portraits of 1000 Chicagoans. On the tenth anniversary of its installation Plensa installed four monumental heads, which he called the 1004 portraits (1000 + 4).

Making a break for it. Crown Fountain, Millennium Park.
Making a break for it. Crown Fountain, Millennium Park.
A woman takes a selfie with Jaume Plensa’s 1004 Portraits
A woman takes a selfie with Jaume Plensa’s 1004 Portraits

Without Lake Michigan Chicago would probably not exist as it does. It is a coastal city, just not a salt water city. Further, the Chicago River makes it, or at least the central business district, a riverine city.

Two people on the Adler Planetarium skyline walk - Lake Michigan.
Two people on the Adler Planetarium skyline walk - Lake Michigan.
Wacker Drive and Chicago River. Some photos from Chicago
Wacker Drive along the Chicago River with twin Marina City towers to the right.

Before I ever went to Chicago, The Bob Newhart Show fixed the Marina City towers in my mind as representing Chicago. (The irony is that the Newharts’ fictional TV apartment was located at 5901 N. Sheridan Road in Chicago’s Edgewater community; like many others, I thought he “lived” in Marina City.) Built in 1963, they have become a model for urban development, i.e., mixed business-residential with parking in the lower area. Wikipedia notes that:

when finished, the two towers were both the tallest residential buildings and the tallest reinforced concrete structures in the world...Marina City was the first post-war urban high-rise residential complex in the United States and is widely credited with beginning the residential renaissance of American inner cities.

Wikipedia
Marina City
Marina City

The Loop has a great many tall buildings. Indeed, Chicago had some of the first skyscrapers. Below is the Chase Building (originally, First National Plaza) along with the Three First National. (Assuming you are not from the US or are not familiar with Chicago, the Loop is so named because of the loop the elevated railway, i.e., the “L” or “El”, makes around the central business district. Although other cities, e.g., New York, put their railways under ground, Chicago put theirs above ground so that passengers would ride in the fresh air. This was not such a small thing when trains were powered by coal.)

Chase Tower
Chase Tower (R); Three First National (L)
A photo of the green line in the Chicago loop.
A green line train in the Loop.

Some cities have bus tours (I assume Chicago does, too), but not so many cities have water cruises. The Chicago Architecture Center and First Lady Cruises run a really interesting cruise from the Chicago River. This is one of their boats and views from the cruise. Two thumbs up!

Chicago's First Lady
Chicago's First Lady, river cruise.
Chicago River near Lower Wacker
Chicago River near Lower Wacker Drive.
Chicago River at LaSalle
Chicago River at LaSalle
Bridge House at Kinzie
Bridge House at Kinzie
The Fisher Building (1896) and Dollop Coffee Shop.
The Fisher Building (1896) and Dollop Coffee Shop.

On a pre-pandemic visit, I enjoyed this coffee shop and really liked the carvings on the front of the Fisher Building. The steel pillar to the left is supporting the L train tracks – very Chicago.

Chicken Shack at Wabash and Balbo
A cyclist waits at Wabash and Balbo.

Alas, Harold’s Chicken Shack in the South Loop is no more. A much shinier and less tasty apartment building has taken its place. The Willis Tower is in the center with the Chicago Board of Trade Building to the immediate right. Balbo Drive is named, controversially now, for Italo Balbo, an aviator, fascist, Blackshirt, and powerful member of Mussolini’s government.

Why, you might ask did Chicago honor him? Because in 1933 Balbo commanded a fleet of 24 Italian sea-planes which flew round-trip from Rome to Chicago. Coming only six years after Lindbergh had flown across the Atlantic, this impressed people. Even Time magazine put him on the cover of their June 26, 1933, issue.

Colorful brick wall.
I just liked these glazed bricks on a run-down building.
The “Sears” Tower
The "Sears" Tower, aka Willis Tower.

To quote Bulwer-Lytton, “It was a dark and stormy night.” So purple prose notwithstanding, I took a photo of the clouds near the “Sears Tower,” which few Chicagoans refer to by its current owners’ name, “Willis Tower.” No longer the tallest building in the world, it is still certainly tall-ish.

Fields Atrium
Marshall Fields Atrium, aka Macy's

Another place which has changed ownership and names is Marshall Field‘s. It is now owned by another struggling retailer, Macy‘s, to many Chicagoan’s dismay. Whatever it is called, the main store remains an interesting building. Among other things there is a wonderful atrium with a Tiffany glass ceiling.

Chicago Theater at State Lake
Chicago Theater at State & Lake

For obvious reasons, the Chicago Theater is frequently photographed, especially by visitors. We’ve never had the chance to go inside, but Wikipedia’s description makes a compelling case for doing so:

The structure is seven stories tall and fills nearly one half of a city block. The 60-foot (18 m) wide by six-story tall triumphal arch motif of the State Street façade has been journalistically compared to the l'Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The central arch-headed window adapts the familiar motif of Borromini's false-perspective window reveals of the top floor of Palazzo Barberini, Rome. The coat of arms of the Balaban and Katz chain—two horses holding ribbons of 35 mm film in their mouths outlined by a border of film reels—is set inside a circular Tiffany stained glass window inside the arch. The exterior of the building is covered in off-white architectural terracotta supplied by the Northwestern Terra Cotta Company with Neo-Baroque stucco designs by the McNulty Brothers.

Wikipedia
Buckingham Fountain, Grant Park, Chicago.
Buckingham Fountain, Grant Park, Chicago.

Kate Sturges Buckingham gave the Buckingham Fountain to the city of Chicago in memory of her brother, Clarence Buckingham. It was dedicated in 1927. Both were art collectors and philanthropists; she was the sole heir to her family’s grain elevator business.

The fountain itself represents Lake Michigan, with four sets of sea horses (two per set) symbolizing the four states—Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana—that border the lake. The fountain was designed by beaux arts architect Edward H. Bennett. The statues were created by the French sculptor Marcel F. Loyau. The design of the fountain was inspired by the Bassin de Latone and modeled after Latona Fountain at Versailles.

Wikipedia
Fire escape; Chicago brick.
Fire escape; Chicago brick.

The less prominent parts of cities can often be visually interesting. I like the pattern of the fire escape next to the colors of the Chicago “common brick” in this alley in the Loop.  Other people like the color of the brick, too. It is now exported, cut into slices, and used as decorative facing brick.

Chicago from the lakefront in Lincoln Park.
Chicago from the lakefront in Lincoln Park.

Away from the Loop and looking south from the Lake Michigan lakefront, Chicago rises from the water. The following photos are just ones that I like. And the Fat Cat is a restaurant-bar whose sign I liked and want to visit. How can you not try a place voted to have the city’s best Bloody Mary’s?

Intense in the coffee shop.
Intense in the coffee shop.
Lizard in Lakeview
Lizard in Lakeview
Not a fan of you know who.
Not a fan of you know who.
Tiffany, Chicago
Tiffany ad on N Clark, Chicago.
Alley near Argyle
Alley near Argyle
The Fat Cat in Uptown.
The Fat Cat bar in Uptown.
More photos

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