The Bughouse Square Debates

The true spirit of free speech will be exercised this Saturday at the annual Newberry Library Bughouse Square Debates.

In an age of sound-bite journalism and tweets, see the ancient art of oration, inflammatory rhetoric, and soapboxing come to life in a series of curated, public, open-air debates.  You can chime in and heckle speakers. Or you can also kick back and just listen.

Bughouse Square Debate Topics

The central debate for the event will be collective bargaining and the public sector. Is collective bargaining compatible with public service? The “soapboxers” will compete for the Square’s annual prize: a giant plastic Dill Pickle. That’s in honor of the famed Dill Pickle Club, a cultural hub of the ’20s and ’30s. It’s where Sherwood Anderson and Carl Sandburg liked to hang out, drink illegally, and mix with all sorts of characters. 15 soapboxers will speak about topics including:

  • Why the Park District Hates Me
  • Why Jesus Alone Has the Qualifications of Being Both Savior and God
  • The American Dream of Hypocrisy
  • Clarence Darrow and the American Dream
  • In Praise of Shyness
  • And many others

Part of Chicago’s Literary Traditions

In another feat of rare timing and circumstance, the final sigh and liquidation of Borders bookstores earlier last week does not have to be met with trepidation by Chicago booklovers.  The Newberry Library, which presides over the Bughouse Square Debates and houses some of the country’s finest rare collections of Americana in the form of maps, correspondence, books and other ephemera, is also hosting what we deem the finest independent used book fair in conjunction with the Bughouse square debates. And just about everything is priced under $2! Check out the Newberry  Library Book Fair before, during or after the Bughouse Square Debates this Thursday or Friday, 12pm-8pm, or Saturday or Sunday, 10am-6pm.

For previous Chicago Detours explorers on our Good Times Around Michigan Avenue architectural tour who want to see the characters who frequented Jack Jones’ Dill Pickle Club and the nearby Bughouse Square come alive, this is surely the place for eccentricity, unpredictability, and political passions to come to a Chicago summer boil.

— Nick Fraccaro, Tour Guide


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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.

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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.”


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.


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.


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.”


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.”
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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.”
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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.”
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