From the Great Fire and World’s Fair to ground-breaking architecture, Chicago is a city with a rich and storied past. The city and its citizens take pride and give respect to the people and events that have shaped it. In fact, Chicago’s official flag is even an homage to its history, featuring four red stars that represent some of the most important historical events: Fort Dearborn, the Chicago Fire, as well as the World’s Columbian Exposition and Century of Progress Exposition.
This week’s Bucket List brings you a historical guide to Chicago, complete with eight landmarks, relics and odes to the city’s past that are worth a visit today.
Paste Travel’s Bucket List columnist Lauren Kilberg is a Chicago-based freelance writer. Her travels have found her camping near the Pakistani border of India and conquering volcanoes in the Philippines.
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There is arguably no more important an event in Chicago history than the Great Fire of 1871. While much of the city burned, setting the stage for its rebirth as the modern city it is today, one of the few buildings that survived the flames was the Chicago Water Tower. As a result, the castle-like limestone structure became a significant symbol of the city and remains a landmark today.
It was designed by noted Chicago architect William W. Boyington and was built in 1869, just a few years before the fire. Located along the Magnificent Mile, it currently houses the City Gallery in the Historic Water Tower, which features work by local artists and is run by the Chicago Office of Tourism.
Photo by Shutter Runner, CC BY-NC 2.0
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The Great Fire turned Chicago into a blank canvas that some of America's greatest architects then left their mark on. Many of those iconic buildings remain today and among them is the Rookery. It was designed by famed architecture firm Burnham and Root in 1888 and underwent a lobby remodeled in 1905 by Frank Lloyd Wright and as a result, this National Historic Landmark is famous far beyond the borders of Chicago. It also remains the oldest standing high-rise building in the city.
Photo by Jamie McCaffrey, CC BY-NC 2.0
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The Art Deco behemoth that is Chicago's Merchandise Mart has been an iconic Chicago building since it was opened in 1930 by Marshall Field and Company to serve as a merchandise hub for the city's retailers. It was later purchased by the Kennedy family who owned it for more than 50 years.
The building has seen a rebirth in recent years, serving as the epicenter of Chicago's thriving tech startup scene and home to tech incubator 1871. Its roots are honored via the eight large bronze busts of the city's original retail leaders just outside the Mart's entrance along the Chicago River. Among them are Marshall Field, Aaron Montgomery Ward, Frank Winfield Woolworth and Edward Albert Filene.
Photo by clarkmaxwell, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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Dubbed the Friendly Confines by baseball Hall of Famer Ernie Banks, Wrigley Field is not only the second oldest Major League Baseball ballpark in the country, it's the only remaining stadium from the Federal Baseball League. It has also been the site of several historic baseball moments since it opened in 1914 as Weeghman Park for the Chicago Whales. The Chicago Cubs have called the park home since they were purchased in 1916, just before William Wrigley Jr., of chewing gum fame, took over as owner. In 1927 it was renamed Wrigley Field.
While it has undergone numerous renovations over the years, several aspects remain from the early years of Wrigley Field, including the original hand-turned scoreboard and famous outfield wall ivy vines, which were first planted in 1937.
Photo by Brent Flanders, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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From 1881 until 2006, this iconic building served as the flagship department store of Marshall Field and Company. It currently houses Macy's, but retains much of the original splendor that made it famous, including the massive Tiffany and Company. vaulted mosaic ceiling and the signature green clock that sits perched on the building's corner at State and Washington streets. Each winter, Macy's continues the tradition of creating elaborate holiday-themed window displays for passersby. Visiting the windows is a tradition for many locals, as is dinning in the department store's Walnut Room under its enormous Christmas tree.
Photo by Mirandala, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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The 500-acre Jackson Park on Chicago's South Side served as the site of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition--the World's Fair marking the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' voyage. The park was temporarily transformed into the White City by Daniel H. Burnham and his team. While few relics of the fair remain, the park itself does. One notable exception is the Japanese garden, known as Osaka Garden, which was designed for the exposition.
Jackson Park is making history again, as it was recently chosen to be the future site of the Barack Obama Presidential Library.
Photo by Damian Entwistle, CC BY-NC 2.0
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The Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) is the only significant relic that remains from the 1893 World's Fair. The stately building was designed by Charles B. Atwood and served as the exposition's Palace of Fine Arts. After, it housed the Columbian Museum and later the Field Museum before the latter moved to its current location in Chicago's Museum Campus. Today, MSI is one of the city's most visited attractions and among its permanent exhibits is the Apollo 8 spacecraft.
Photo by Kevin Zolkiewicz, CC BY-NC 2.0
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No historical guide to Chicago would be complete without including the Chicago History Museum, which aims to preserve and study the city's history. Housed in a building designed by famed Chicago architecture firm Graham, Anderson, Probst and White in 1932, the museum is home a collection of some 22 million historically-relevant items.
Photo by Mr Hicks46, CC BY-SA 2.0