Chicago History Research Basics

It’s been a busy summer season here at Chicago Detours. Between our Loop Interior Architecture Walking Tour, Jazz, Blues, and Beyond Bus Tour, and Historic Chicago Walking Bar Tour we’ve been been having lots of fun with many Chicago-curious people! I personally have been wow-ed by some of the clever questions that guests ask on tours. But even though Detour guides are almost geniuses, they don’t know everything. That’s why I’m conducting some Chicago history research!

An Opened Michigan Avenue Bridge, thanks to Chicago History Museum

If you’ve been on a tour with us, you know that we try to remember those inquiries and then do the Chicago history research to answer them for you. Nerdy me, I am happy to be on the job this week! I thought I’d share a little about what I’ve been doing  in case any of my fellow amateur historians wanted to do some searching on their own.

Research Venues

Pedway Sign chicago history researchThis week, you could find me at the Research Center of the Chicago History Museum, working with the very knowledgeable and friendly staff. They are, of course, ground zero for Chicago history research. We went through their very convenient periodical clippings – they have photo copies of original periodical pages organized under broad keywords. They pulled “Streets: Pedway” for me yesterday. However, I think my favorite Research Center resource is their collection of enlarged maps printed on plastic board. Ah, I just want to take them home and hang them on my walls!

Two of the trickier questions I’m following up on are regarding Chicago streets. Funny enough, the two most useful resources so far are very old and very new –  the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps (hundreds of very precise surveys of Chicago buildings used to assess a structure’s risk against fire in the early 20th century) and the amazing technology of the GoogleMaps. I’ve also placed some calls to a civic design company and the Public Building Commission of Chicago.Sanborn Fire Insurance Map chicago history research

Tomorrow, I am off to do my first archival research at Harold Washington Library! Hopefully I get some helpful information to report back!

-Marianna Foral, Research & Editorial Intern


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin

be a



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

Book a chicago event

Let’s Connect!