Tour Questions Answered!

The curious people who come on our interactive, guided tours of history, culture and architecture sometimes have questions. Since Chicago Detours guides don’t make up answers for our architectural tours, we mark them down and then research the answers for them. Said research is done, so consider these tour questions answered!

If you’ve come on a tour – whether a regularly schedule tour or a private tour – and you had a question that we haven’t answered yet, please let us know!

How does the Percentage for Public Art Program work?

Super ’80s art installation in Logan Square

This ordinance applies only to municipal buildings. 1.33% of the budget for constructing or renovating a government funded building must go toward public art. Chicago implemented this in 1978, and was one of the first in the country to do so. The weirdest one I’ve seen is in the police station in my neighborhood (Logan Square). It’s all neon, and out-of-order – I’ve asked the cops about it and they say the bulbs are burnt out.

Were all ‘L’ lines that are downtown on land from Yerkes?

Charles Tyson Yerkes was a businessman with an aspiration to monopolize the streetcar lines throughout Chicago. This eventually turned into monopolizing the development of the new elevated system. He used whatever means necessary, mostly bribery, to meet this goal. He began his time in Chicago by buying the North Chicago City Railway and leasing the rights to his own holding company for 999 years. Yerkes would go as far as to bribe councilmen for franchises and would hire “professional vamps” – people who would blackmail those who were against him.

While he did have all downtown streetcar lines at a certain point, stockholders were distributed among staff and relatives so that his monopoly was not completely obvious. While he did have all the lines downtown, he did not have all elevated lines. The Metropolitan West Side Elevated and the Lake Street Elevated Railroad were not under his control. We get into his story on the Loop Interior Architecture Walking Tour.

Why no benches in Chicago?

There aren’t a lot of public street benches in downtown Chicago, but they definitely do exist. When you see them though, you’ll notice that they are either tiny or longer benches with dividers every two feet or so. That is a common practice in ensuring that “street people” don’t linger, especially in touristy areas. Though benches are uncommon, public square seating is not – try right to the west of the old Water Tower, Daley Plaza, or Chase Tower for people-watching perches.

Where was the Picasso fabricated?

The untitled Picasso work, called simply “The Picasso,” was facilitated by the architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill, and completed in 1966. American Bridge Company, a division of the US Steel Corporation, fabricated it in Gary, Indiana using COR-TEN steel, a metal which actually becomes stronger as it rusts. We talk about this on our Loop Interior Architecture Walking Tour.

Dark green circles are Connemara marble

Where does that green marble in the stairs of the library side of the Chicago Cultural Center come from?

Italian Carrara marble adorns the stairs, walls, and ceiling. Other portions of the building are covered in granite from the South. These green spheres, however, are a kind of stone called Connemara marble, which comes from West Ireland. It’s often used for jewelry.

Why does the Chicago Temple entrance on Clark St. say “First Methodist Episcopal Church?

The congregation broke ground on their new building in 1922. The planned name was The First Methodist Episcopal Church-‘City Temple’. The Pastor changed the name from City Temple to The Chicago Temple during construction. In 1939 the Methodist Episcopal Church merged with other branches of Methodism, becoming the regular ole’ “Methodist Church.” 1968 marked even further unification, thus “United Methodist Church.”

Those last two questions come up with some frequency on the Loop Interior Architecture Walking Tour.

— Amanda Scotese

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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.

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

Jen

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.”
Heather
TripAdvisor

Elyse

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.

Anthony

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.

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.

“Marie was a bubbling fountain of information and contagious enthusiasm.”
Lorit
TripAdvisor

Sonny

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
TripAdvisor

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.

“Alex was fascinating to listen to. He clearly knows his history and it shows.”
Katie K
Yelp

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
Yelp

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