A Climb Inside a Skyscraper Tower: Foto Friday

methodist temple building skyscraper architectureUrban exploration right in the heart of downtown Chicago filled my afternoon yesterday. I had the very special opportunity to do something that no one does every day – I climbed the inside a skyscraper tower on the very top of the Chicago Temple Building.

I’ve been fascinated by this 1920s skyscraper since I started researching its architecture for our Loop Interior Architecture Walking Tour a few years ago. It has a sanctuary for the First United Methodist Church on the ground level. When Senior Pastor Phil Blackwell told me that the spire above the “Chapel in the Sky” on the 26th floor was just hollow and full of steps all the way up, I said, “Let’s climb it!”

After years of reminding him of our plan, we finally climbed this spire, a landmark of the Loop. You can see the tower pictured here, with the First National Plaza building to the left, and the Burnham Building below on the right. This style is pretty common among 1920s skyscrapers in Chicago, but this is likely the only one that we could really call a spire, which is an architectural term specifically for pointy towers usually on churches. In this case, its a skyscraper with both a church sanctuary and a chapel.

So yesterday Phil and the church Music Director Erik and I ventured vertically. We put a ladder into a trapdoor on the ceiling of the Chapel in the Sky, and then from there it was several levels of very steep stairs, eventually becoming fixed metal ladders up at the very top.

It’s not very often that anyone gets the chance to climb inside a skyscraper tower, so I of course took several photos. I thought this would be full of dead animals and bird droppings, but it was just generally dirty. Where you see the grating at the top of this picture is the level of tiny windows about a third from the top. I had hoped that there would be a way out at the very top, where a cross caps the spire. However, the trap door was too heavy to open more than a couple inches, and we were worried that if we opened it, we weren’t sure that we’d be able to close it again.

amanda climbing the chicago temple steeple

Just being in this unusual space was a religious experience enough for me. Doesn’t it look sort of like a steampunk vision of a rocket ship?

– Amanda Scotese, Executive Director


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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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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.


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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.


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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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