Walking Tours of Chicago Questions Answered

We give walking tours of Chicago almost daily to locals and tourists alike. One of the many perks of my job as a tour guide is meeting so many curious people. Encouraging questions as much as we do means getting stumped every once in a while. Here are answers to some of those questions.

Is that the same Yerkes from the observatory in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin?

Well yes, it is. On our Loop Interior Architectural Tour, tour groups hear the story of Charles Yerkes and his shady dealings with the elevated train here in Chicago. Yerkes was a man with money to spend. So why not spend it on a record-holding refractor? Then they call in Chicago architect Henry Ives Cobb and put it in Chicago’s premier playground. Yerkes had an eye for such dealings. Today the Yerkes Observatory is a part of the University of Chicago.

THE YERKES OBSERVATORY Lake Geneva (Near Chicago)

When we talk about the McCormick’s, is that the same family as the spice?

history of mccormick place walking tours of Chicago Colonel Robert McCormick
Col. Robert McCormick, scion of a wealthy Chicago dynasty and long-time publisher of the Tribune. Image via Wikimedia.

No, not McCormick & Company, the spice brand based out of Maryland–though that might be the only thing the Chicago family doesn’t own! The McCormicks were a Virginia family who moved to Chicago in its first decade as a city.  Once here, the McCormicks married Rockefellers, funded the 1933 Exposition and just about everything else under the sun and stars, patented inventions, and built mansions, one of which we encounter during our Historic Chicago Bar Walking Tour.There’s probably several walking tours of Chicago that could be built around the McCormick family. Heck, the neighborhood we call Mag Mile today once bore their name as “McCormickville”!

Nowadays if one was asked how to get to McCormickville, they would likely point to yet another of the institution named for them, McCormick Place. One of their clan also owned the Chicago Tribune newspaper. That man, Colonel Robert McCormick, could fill an entire blog post on his own.

Who was Benjamin Rush?

Speaking of the Tribune Tower, I was once asked this question during our Historic Bar tour pub crawl as we stepped into the lobby, where quotes are carved into the stone walls. One quote reads:

“Newspapers are the sentinels of the liberties of our country.” Benjamin Rush

Now honestly, I had no idea who he was exactly, though I had heard the quote. So I simply told that curious person, “I don’t know, but Rush Street is only a block away and there’s Rush University here in Chicago too. So he must be someone important!” With so much of his name around town, you’d think he was a Midwesterner, and you’d be wrong.  Benjamin Rush was a Pennsylvania man who sat on the Continental Congress with the likes of Benjamin Franklin and was the only doctor to sign the Declaration of Independence. He was our first Surgeon General and played a key role in early American History as one of our Founding Fathers. So my on-the-spot educated guess was right, he’s definitely someone important!

Thanks for all your questions, and remember, stay curious and learn on walking tours of Chicago!

– Elizabeth Tieri, Tour Guide

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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
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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.

“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
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