“Chicago Then and Now” at the Water Tower

Two icons of Chicago architecture converge in the photo exhibit “Chicago Then and Now: A Story By Lee Bey.” Chicago architecture expert Lee Bey shares his vision of the city within the walls of the historic Water Tower.  The exhibit ends January 22nd, so this is your last call to check it out. I know I had been meaning to go for months, and was pleased to find the exhibit to be very doable, too: free and open every day at 10am, the exhibit consists of some fifteen subjects in the compact Learning About Chicago Architectureyet airy City Gallery (806 North Michigan).

Bey’s Concept

Bey says the exhibit is rooted in the extensive historic image collection of Nathan Mason, curator of DCASE.  Mason went through his many vintage photographs, souvenir postcards, and stereoscopic images and chose a concise group of Chicago sites, both well-known and less familiar.  Over the course of 2010 and 2011, Lee Bey photographed these same buildings and locations.

The exhibit is organized in sets of two or three.  The juxtaposition of old and new is revealing: some buildings have been beautifully preserved (like most of the churches featured here), while some have been dwarfed by development (the once mammoth Auditorium Building now seems lost in the crowd of skyscrapers), and others are scenes of abandonment (Pullman’s utopian beauty a far distant memory).

Chicago Then and Now

Many Chicago parks buildings are highlighted in the exhibit, from the huge, glassy Garfield Park Conservatory to the old Washington Park Administration Building (now the DuSable Museum of African American History).  I was amazed at how many flowers and fountains filled the old images of these park sites!

The two photographs of the 1886 Haymarket Riot site offer a unique glimpse into how the event was memorialized: one, the earlier monument to the police officers killed (now relocated) and the current, and more encompassing monument, which pays tribute to all who lost their lives in relation to the tragedy.

Lee Bey Exhibit Skyscraper History

One aspect I found intriguing about the exhibit was Bey’s choice of photographic vantage point.  The exhibit is not a simple “you are here” photo comparison.  Bey interprets and challenges with his camera angles.  I asked him what determined his choices.  He said that logistics played a part in some of the decisions: the historic photo of St. Martin’s Church in Englewood had been taken from the rooftop of a building that no longer exists.  He was able to shoot Louis Sullivan’s Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral from the exact historic vantage point. But a jumble of parked cars distracted from the photograph, so he went with another angle.  But you will find sets of photos where Bey was able to stand exactly where the original photographer did. The Museum of Science and Industry is his favorite because the scene remains the same as a century ago.

We highly recommend this photo exhibit for an engaging experience with Chicago’s past …and its present.

 —Wendy Bright, 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.”
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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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