Who the Heck is Balbo?

Coming from a number of years living in Washington DC, I don’t want to discontinue replacing street names by their grid-appointed numbers.  I just find it easier to say “South 7th and East 1st” than the names added on later. And I certainly mean no affront to gestures like christening South 22nd St. “Mayor Anton Cermak Rd.” in honor of our former felled mayor who took a bullet in 1933 instead of a visiting FDR.

Translation?  Balbo and Michigan.  Chicago street names are suffused with not one, but two historic origins.  There are the “Honorary Street Names” in brown just above the traditional street names, and the more prominently and (sometimes) rationally named streets in green. You’ve seen them but probably not heard of them on our architectural tours of Chicago.

While a street named after one of the Balaban [& Katz] Bros, architects of movie palaces across early 20th century Chicago, could be a good idea, we do have some interesting stories behind other street names. For example, we got a column from Ostia, Italy and a street named after a Fascist Italian Air Force General.  Say what?!

While much of the history of Italo Balbo’s historic trans-Atlantic flight and grandiose arrival to Chicago’s 1933 Century of Progress is covered in extensive detail in and around excellent Chicago-centric web resources, I would like to encourage you, dear readers, to go exploring—away from your computer and phone screens!

Balbo’s column is just south of Soldier Field near Burnham Harbor.  We briefly glimpse it on the Chicago Highlights Detour 101 Bus Tour. But there is an even more peculiar gift than the twenty century year-old Ostian column that Il Duce & Balbo gifted to Chicago a year later in 1934 and dedicated “via satellite shortwave radio(!)” to throngs of Italian-American Chicagoans in their Sunday finery.  The great Sioux Nation Chief Blackhorn, who was on site at the World Fair when Gen. Balbo landed, crowned him honorary “Chief Flying Eagle.”  I have to believe this headdress exists somewhere deep in the basement of some institution or private collection. Any ideas, Chicago Detours fans?

— Nick Fraccaro, 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.

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Jen

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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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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.
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