Chicago History and Architecture Answers from Tour Questions

To make good on our commitment to questions asked on our Chicago architectural and historical tours, here are some answers to questions from inquisitive people.

What ever happened to the World’s Fair?

This question struck me most of all the random requests that are made of my knowledge bank during our tours because I had absolutely no idea how to respond.  The most recent World’s Fair I could recall was the 1933 Century of Progress International Exposition held here in Chicago.  I knew that was a little ego-centric of me, so I decided to check this out.

Apparently, the Universal Expositions, which come from French tradition but are considered as starting with the Grand Exhibition in London in 1851, continue today.  Though they have shifted from being based on industrialization in the way that brought us the telephone and the Eiffel Tower.  For many decades, the World’s Fairs focused more on an exchange of cultures, as in 1964 in New York and in 1967 in Montreal.  The themes of these Fairs reflect desires for cross-cultural solutions to world-wide problems.

Nowadays, the Expo, as it is affectionately called, seems to be more about nation-branding, where countries vie to improve their global image.  The next one is scheduled for 2015 in Milan, who planned fairgrounds are pictured above, with the theme of Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.

Where was the Chicago Public Library located after the Cultural Center and before the Harold Washington Library?

For nearly fifteen years, there was no central library building.  When the Cultural Center opened in 1977, it kept only the special collections of the Chicago Public Library. Until the Harold Washington Library opened in 1991, everything else was kept in the branch locations.

The Chicago Public Library today has over 75 branches in a network of neighborhoods.  This has been the work of over a century, orchestrated by Henry Legler’s 1916 proposal, A Library Plan for the Whole CityHis goal was to ensure “library service within the walking distance of home for every person in Chicago who can read or wants to use books.”

Though the Chicago Public Library has ridden the economic roller coaster of the 20th century since then, these branches continue to serve their neighborhoods.  The trick is no longer walking to them, instead it is finding them at a time when they are open.

Where is the Billy Goat Lager brewed?

Our first drink on the Good Times Historic Bar tour is at the Billy Goat Tavern, where our beer drinkers enjoy the Billy Goat’s own lager.  When I was first asked this question, it was at a table of friends with whom I deliberated.  Some guessed the house beers, which include a dark, were courtesy of Pabst Brewing Company.  That was our leading guess considering the similarities to the lager style of their Blue Ribbon brew and its connection to Chicago via the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.  Then we thought they might be from the Berghoff, a Chicago staple who has similar house brews (We visit the historic Berghoff on the 1893 World’s Fair Tour, by the way).  Or we thought it might be a style of Schlitz, the only other beer on tap at the Billy Goat.

Since these were merely guesses, I decided to ask at the bar.  Now the bartenders here might seem a bit brusque, but they were happy to confirm that the Billy Goat Lager and Dark are Berghoff beers. As a bit of friend-guess-validation, our Exposition train of thought was not far off the track.  The Berghoff family established its historic Chicago cafe after a fond reception at the Exposition.  Originally the Berghoff family brewed in Ft. Wayne Indiana, but today their beers come from the Minhas Craft Brewery in Wisconsin.

As long as you keep giving us questions, we’ll keep giving you answers!

— Elizabeth Tieri, Chicago Detours 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.

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


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.”


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.”
Wade K


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

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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