We Answer Tour Guest Questions About Chicago

As a tour guide with Chicago Detours, I promised a number of “curious people” on our Loop Interior Architecture Walking Tour that I would try to hunt down answers to their questions.

How was the Chicago Picasso built? I consulted the Chicago Public Library’s historical chronology of the piece, as well as a Chicago Tribune special “Chicago Days” article. Working from France, Picasso made a 42” maquette, or model, of the work. The American Bridge Division of U.S. Steel in Gary, Indiana then fabricated the final 50-foot tall piece using this model. Working under the supervision of Chicago Civic Center architects and engineers, workers preassembled the sculpture in Gary, then disassembled it and shipped it to the Civic Center, where it was reassembled.  Because it’s made of Cor-Ten steel, the same material used in the Civic Center, it’s acquired the same patina over time.picasso-maquette-1

Picasso’s maquette, made of simulated and oxidized welded steel, is on display at the Rubloff Lobby at the Art Institute of Chicago.

How were the mosaics in the Cultural Center’s breathtaking Preston Bradley Hall made? I wrote to Rolph Achilles, an art historian who teaches at SAIC and curates the Smith Museum of Stained Glass at Navy Pier.

According to Rolph, those mosaics were probably designed by Jacob Adolphus Holzer, a Swiss artist who arrived in Chicago to design Louis Comfort Tiffany’s chapel at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. As Tiffany’s top mosaic guy, Holzer did several known installations of his own design, always using Tiffany product.

Here’s what Rolph had to say about the process by which the individual tiles in the mosaics, called tessera, were applied: “Mosaics for the Cultural Center were probably made in Chicago. The individual tessera were cut and glued on a cloth webbing, a mesh, in the pattern you see, in a shop. The tessera were applied one at a time to the mesh, NOT applied one at a time to the wall. The sheets were about 3×3 feet. The sheets were then applied to the wall with the pattern facing the room, filled in as needed along the edges and grouted. The mosaic insets in the marble are set in troughs cut into the marble. Then grouted.

“This technique is known by its medieval Italian name, cosmati. The CC is the finest example of the revival of medieval cosmati work in the US. The mosaics are a combination of glass and marble. There were highly skilled craftspeople in Chicago in the 1890s who could have assisted in this major project.”

And, according to the Cultural Center, much of the glass tessera in the mosaics was Tiffany’s patented favrile glass, made from mixing different colored glass together while still molten to achieve an iridescent quality.

What’s the name of the 1906 office building at 79 W. Monroe?  It’s now called the Bell Savings and Loan Association Building—Bell Savings Building for short. According to city planner Ira J. Bach’s Chicago on Foot, it was formerly known as the Chicago Title and Trust Building. Original design was by the architect Jarvis Hunt, with a 1924 southern addition by Holabird and Roche. (Same firm that did the Chicago Temple.) And before that, it’s original name was the “Rector Building.” The modifications that we discuss on the tour were made in the late 1940s.

-Jennifer Slosar, Tour Guide

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Ellen

Private Tour Coordinator and Tour Guide

There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.

“Our guide Ellen was exceptional and gifted with a great personal touch.”
Robert
GetYourGuide

Jen

Tour Guide

Whether you are a first-time visitor or a lifelong resident, the vibrant history and modern majesty of Chicago never ceases to amaze. I’m a graduate of Columbia College with an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Art. I’ve worked for many years as an educator at City Colleges of Chicago. As tour guide at Chicago Detours, I integrate my enthusiasm for culture and architecture with my passion as an educator. West Town/Noble Square area is home for me.

“Jen was a perfect storyteller and kept us spellbound for hours.”
Heather
TripAdvisor

Elyse

Tour Guide

With our Chicago neighborhoods, vibrant cultural institutions and nearly two centuries of larger-than-life stories, there’s never a dull moment here! I’m a fifth generation Chicagoan and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to guiding tours, I’m a creative writer and amateur genealogist. I also enjoy the city’s dynamic theater scene. You can also read overlooked stories from 19th-century newspapers on my “Second Glance History” blog. I live in River North.

Anthony

Tour Guide

Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.

Marie

Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

Chicago’s history is so fascinating, you could spend a lifetime uncovering its secrets…I’m willing to give it a try! I have an M.A. in US History from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and then pursued doctoral studies in Urban History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I love to learn new aspects of Chicago’s rich history and then share my knowledge as a tour guide with Chicago Detours. I live in Ravenswood.

“Marie was a bubbling fountain of information and contagious enthusiasm.”
Lorit
TripAdvisor

Sonny

Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

As a fourth generation Chicagoan, I have been living and loving Chicago by bike, on foot, public transit or automobile. I am a graduate of UIC where through the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, began my eagerness to understand the nature, history and impacts of urban planning and development. It is incredibly rewarding to give back to this wonderful city by helping out in the office of Chicago Detours. I live in the incredibly diverse neighborhood of Albany Park.
“Sonny was extremely knowledgeable about all things Chi-town.”
Wade K
TripAdvisor

Alex

Content Manager and Tour Guide

Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

“Alex was fascinating to listen to. He clearly knows his history and it shows.”
Katie K
Yelp

Amanda Scotese

Executive Director and Tour Guide

I’m an interpreter of personal stories from the past and the city’s landscape. I love to imagine what originally happened inside old unmarked buildings, and what forces have shaped their design. I studied Chicago history, architectural history, and anything Chicago-related through my M.A. in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. My love for stories was enriched by my B.A. in Literature from the University of Michigan. I’ve written travel articles for publications like Rick Steves’ Italy best-selling travel guides, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of West Avondale.
“You can TELL Amanda is hyper-passionate about doing the research and getting the story that nobody’s heard before.”
Shelby F
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