We’ve Got Answers to Chicago History Questions

As promised, we’ve done the research to answer some Chicago history questions we’ve encountered on our architectural walking tours. I’ll admit, we haven’t posted these in a while. Operating a small business is lots of work! So here we are. Thanks to all of our inquisitive guests, this will be part one of answers.

Why is the Pedway symbol blue and gold? How did they come up with that logo?

This is one of the most common Chicago history questions from our Loop Interior Architecture Walking Tour. I spoke with Vick Moore, an associate of graphic design firm Carol Naughton & Associates, who worked on the project in the early 2000s. He said the compass was basically a symbol to “imply direction,” meant to orient the Pedway walker. Many of the signs include information about street names, block numbers, and landmarks to connect people underground who may “lose touch” with the rest of the city above ground. As for the color, Moore said that many hue combinations were tested. The blue and gold was simply the most popular from an aesthetic standpoint. Apparently there’s no symbolism with the colors.

Proposal to widen Pine Street to become North Michigan Ave. Picture from Historic Chicago Tribune, 1911.Is Lower North Michigan Avenue exactly what Pine street was?Chicago's Evolving Shoreline

Partly. Pine Street dates back as far as 1834, back then it was a muddy trail leading north of the river to a little north of Chicago Avenue to Pearson Street – any further north and you would run into the lake’s shore. Over the years, the entire shoreline grew out farther from filling in land. The debris from the Chicago Fire of 1871 made up some landfill.

Pine Street itself changed, from ending just after Chicago Avenue. Now, it ends at Oak Street, where it becomes North Lakeshore Drive. In the 1920’s, Pine Street was also widened by 64 feet to the east. That’s when it was redubbed North Michigan Avenue. This question came up at the start of our Historic Chicago Walking Bar Tour, by the way.

Do any other cities have multiple levels like downtown Chicago and lower Wacker?

A very early concept of the double-deck street comes from 48 AD, an English town called Chester. Essentially, the foot traffic was on the bottom level and  people walked above for shopping. Daniel Burnham implemented this system as part of his 1909 Plan for Chicago. No where else quite has this double-decked urban design.

Chicago history questions
Yours truly, standing next to an original Crapper toilet in Seattle’s Underground tour.

Many cities like Minneapolis, Cleveland, Montreal, even Tokyo have moderate to elaborate underground cities like our Chicago Pedway containing tunnels and malls. In the United States, Seattle‘s marshy coast had to raise their grade level to what it is now. The original street levels and underground storefronts are now part of a fun and interesting  “Seattle Underground” tour (pictured here) that I was lucky enough to go on.

Another city with a lower level is Atlanta, Georgia. Its lower level was once a very popular entertainment district in the 1970’s and today is still holding on. These cities raised the street level “after the fact,” while Lower Wacker Drive and Lower Michigan Avenue were specifically designed to separate freight traffic and faster traffic from pedestrian level.

Well that’s all for now, check back later to see if any of your Chicago history questions were researched and answered here. We have more answers in the works, and if you came on our Loop Interior Architecture or Historic Chicago Walking Bar Tour walking tours and haven’t seen your question. answered, please let us know by emailing info at chicagodetours dot com.

–Marianna Foral, Research and Editorial Intern

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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.

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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.

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Elyse

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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

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.
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