Thursday 3 July 2014

A Silver Skyscraper, A Green Seagull and A Redhead

The day dawned cloudy and warm.  My mom, my sister and I took the bus to the Navy Pier for an architectural cruise on the Chicago River.  I chatted with a native Chicagoan named Patty while we waited for the boat to arrive.

We climbed aboard and a friendly tour guide named Sarah introduced herself.  The language major, a.k.a. the architect nerd, reminded me of a modern day Peppermint Patty.  She led us along the river, giving us valuable details about each skyscraper we passed.  I admired Sarah's spunk.  She refused to call the Willis Tower anything but the Sears Tower, a name it held for most of its existence.

Sarah told us that the Civic Opera House, a beautiful stone edifice, was financed by a wealthy businessman whose girlfriend had failed an audition for the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.  The building had its back to the Big Apple, as a sign of defiance.  But the Stock Market Crash of 1929 led to this businessman losing his shirt.  Sarah said:  "That's what you get when you build a building for your mistress instead of your wife!"

We sailed past the Great Lakes Building where Abraham Lincoln was nominated for the presidency of the United States.  It's hard to believe that such a big piece of history took place on the banks of the Chicago River.

Sarah recounted the story of the green and gold building with the marble lobby where "Al Brown" (a.k.a. Al Capone) lived during Prohibition.  She snickered when she told us that Trump's ego was so big he had to put ten foot letters spelling out his name on the side of his silver skyscraper five years after it was built.  I had to admit that it was my favourite building, though.

Sarah told us that the giant X's on the side of the John Hancock Building were not for show, but to hold up the building.  She laughed when she talked about how when the seagulls landed in the green-dyed river on St. Patrick's day, they flew away with green bellies.

Our view from the boat was breathtaking.  Sarah explained that the river had no less than 37 bridges spanning its banks, all in the double leaf bascule trunion style.  The boat passed under the last of the bridges and we headed back to the mouth of the river.  We thanked Sarah and disembarked, but not before my sister Laurie tipped her in recognition of her fantastic commentary.  What a great way to see the city of Chicago!

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