Living Landmarks of Chicago


Tantalizing tales and skyscraper stories: bringing Chicago’s landmarks to life

A portion of the proceeds from Living Landmarks of Chicago is donated to cancer charities. Current recipient (through June 30, 2021): American Cancer Society

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Living Landmarks of Chicago goes beyond the what, when, and where to tell the how and why of 50 Chicago landmarks. From the parlor used as a meat locker to the fight over the Field Museum, history comes to life. 

History lines Chicago’s sidewalks. Stroll down LaSalle or Dearborn or State and you’ll see skyscrapers that have been there for a century or more. It’s easy to scurry by, to dismiss the building itself, but a hunt for placards turns up landmarks every few feet, it seems. Here’s a Chicago landmark; there’s a National Historic landmark. They’re everywhere.

Ironically, these skyscrapers keep the city grounded; they illustrate a past where visionaries took fanciful, impossible ideas and made them reality. Buildings sinking? Raise them. River polluting the lake and its precious drinking water? Reverse it. Overpopulation and urban sprawl making it challenging to get to work? Build up. From the bare to the ornate, from exposed beams to ornamented facades, the city’s architecture is unrestrainedly various yet provides a cohesive, beautiful skyline that illustrates the creativity of necessity, and the necessity of creativity.

In this dive into Chicago history, Theresa L. Goodrich tells the stories of fifty significant landmarks. Each chapter is a vignette that introduces the landmark and brings it to life, and the book is organized chronologically to illustrate the development of the city’s distinct personality. 

These fifty landmarks weave an interconnected tale of Chicago between 1836 and 1932 (and beyond). I’ve chosen each for a reason. If your favorite is missing, I am developing a companion website to include more landmarks and stories (eventually!).

You might notice there are several hotels. That’s because so many wonderful old buildings have been adapted in that manner. It’s pretty cool to be able to spend the night in a building designed by Jenney or Burnham.

Landmarks listed as Original Name (Current name – where applicable)

  1. Clarke House
  2. Lake Park (Grant Park)
  3. Charles Hull House (Hull-House Museum)
  4. Lake Park (Lincoln Park & Lincoln Park Zoo)
  5. Water Tower & Pumping Station
  6. Page Brothers Building
  7. Palmer House
  8. Bryant Block (Delaware Building)
  9. Nickerson Mansion (Driehaus Museum)
  10. Studebaker Brothers’ Lake Front Carriage Repository (Fine Arts Building)
  11. Glessner House
  12. Rookery Building
  13. Auditorium Building
  14. Monadnock Block
  15. Charnley House (Charnley-Persky House)
  16. Marshall Field and Company Building (Macy’s on State Street)
  17. Palace of Fine Arts (Museum of Science & Industry)
  18. Art Institute of Chicago
  19. Newberry Library
  20. New York Life Insurance Building (Kimpton Gray)
  21. Tree Studios
  22. Chicago Varnish Company (Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse)
  23. Chicago Public Library (Chicago Cultural Center)
  24. Schlesinger & Mayer (Sullivan Center)
  25. Orchestra Hall (Symphony Center)
  26. Majestic Building and Theater (CIBC Theatre)
  27. The Blackstone Hotel
  28. Federal Life Building (Hotel Julian)
  29. D. B. Fisk & Company (Hotel Monaco)
  30. Municipal Pier #2 (Navy Pier)
  31. Michigan Avenue Bridge (DuSable Bridge)
  32. The Drake Hotel
  33. Wrigley Building
  34. Field Museum of Natural History
  35. The Chicago Theatre
  36. London Guarantee & Accident Building (LondonHouse Hotel)
  37. The Chicago Temple
  38. Bismarck Hotel (Hotel Allegro)
  39. Union Station
  40. Tribune Tower
  41. Oriental Theatre (James M. Nederlander Theatre)
  42. Stevens Hotel (Hilton Chicago)
  43. Medinah Athletic Club (InterContinental Chicago)
  44. Civic Opera House
  45. Carbide and Carbon Building (Pendry Chicago)
  46. Shedd Aquarium
  47. Adler Planetarium
  48. Chicago Board of Trade Building
  49. The Merchandise Mart
  50. Chicago Historical Society (Chicago History Museum)