Historic Landmarks in Chicago

Chicago is one of the most modern cutting-edge urban areas in the United States. However, like all modern cities, it only became that way over a long period of time during which a rich and interesting history was developed. You may go to Chicago today to see modern Broadway shows and to eat at the city’s top twenty-first century restaurants, but you should not neglect to explore the history of Chicago while you are there. From the architectural sites of interest to the monuments marking important periods of the past, Chicago is a city where the number of historic landmarks that there are to see will probably require more days than you have in your vacation.

As you settle on the itinerary for your trip to Chicago, plan to include visits to at least a few of these important historic landmarks:

Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. If you wanted to go to a museum in Chicago specifically to learn about the history of the area then there are certainly better ones than this one to provide you with that experience. However, if you wanted to go to a museum which is itself a historic landmark then this is certainly the one that you’d want to make a trip to see. That’s because the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry was associated with the historic Chicago World’s Fair. This fair brought interesting new innovation to the Chicago area (the first Ferris Wheel is the one often cited but there were other things revealed here as well) and the museum has played an important role in preserving and honoring that part of Chicago’s history ever since.

Chicago Water Tower. The first reason that you might want to visit this place upon first getting to Chicago is because it’s where the city’s main visitor center is located and so it’s where you can get the best information on things to do and see while you’re in Chicago. You’ll be killing two birds with one stone because you’ll also be visiting your first historic landmark in the city. The Chicago Water Tower district is itself a national historic landmark and this specific site designed to hold water for firefighting and public use is a very important historic landmark within that district. The district was impacted by the Great Fire of 1871 and very few buildings were left standing; this impressively tall tower was the only public building in this neighborhood to survive the fire.

Chicago’s Historic Theatres. Many people who go to Chicago head to Theatre Row to see one of the Broadway shows there. While this is obviously a modern experience, it’s one that can be had in a historic location. Many of the city’s theatres are historic attractions with value to the history and art history of the area. Cadillac Palace, Oriental Theatre and Majestic Theatre are all good places to see. Take a tour of them during the day to give a historic boost to your night at the show.

Hull House. Anyone who has an interest in the history of social welfare in the United States, and particular those people who have an interest in children’s welfare, will have probably heard about Jane Addams’ Hull House. This social welfare organization was created in the nineteenth century and was a leading organization of its time, contributing to change in the social welfare of our society that has lasted to this very day. Today, there is a museum here which chronicles the impact that this organization’s work has had. It’s a historic landmark where you can really get a sense of the important work that has been done in Chicago over time.

Merchandise Mart. This is a place where you can go shopping in Chicago but it’s also so much more than that; it’s also a historic landmark. When the Merchandise Mart was first built in the 1930’s, it had the distinction of being the building with the largest floor space at that time. Of course there are much bigger buildings today but those achievements couldn’t have come without milestone architectural achievements such as this one. The stores that you’ll find inside here today are modern but the place that you’re visiting holds great historic importance.

Navy Pier. This is one of the most popular attractions in Chicago for people of all ages because of the vast amount of entertainment and activity that is available here. Restaurants, retail and recreation are all reasons that people go here today. However, there’s more behind the flashy lights and fun then you might at first realize. This place has been a historic landmark since it first opened nearly one hundred years ago. It has been a site where important military and maritime history have both occurred. Head here for the entertainment but make sure that you also check out some of the history behind this hot spot.

Sears Tower. One of the most famous landmark attractions in Chicago is the Sears Tower. It is recognizable to anyone looking at the Chicago Skyline because of its sheer height; this is the tallest building in North America and one of the tallest buildings in the entire world. That’s an architectural feat that is important to the building history of America.

St. Michael’s in Old Town. If you want to get a taste of historic Chicago then you need to make plans to visit the Old Town neighborhood where historic charm has been preserved in the form of tree-lined streets and charming old street lamps. You can enjoy dining, shopping and entertainment amidst this historic ambience. However, if you’re specifically seeking out a landmark to better understand the history of the area then the place you’re looking for is St. Michael’s Church. This historic building is one of very few that survived the big Chicago Fire back in 1871 so the building itself is of historic importance to the city in more ways than one. You can attend a service there today or you can go during a time when there is no service to (respectfully) take photographs of the landmark.

Union Station. This location is important to so many aspects of the history of Chicago that it’s practically a must-see place on the list of Chicago historic sites. The main reason that people go here today is to see an event at The Great Hall, a venue with historic architecture and a long history of appearances in some of history’s greatest films. Of course, Union Station is also the site of the train station that has long gotten visitors into the city so it also plays an important role in the transportation and tourist history of Chicago.

William and Jessie M. Adams House. One of the most important architects to influence the design of Chicago was Frank Lloyd Wright. There are many buildings in the city where you can see his work but this prairie school style home is one of the most interesting attractions in the city. It’s one you should put on the list if you want to see the way that nice homes looked in Chicago at the beginning of the twentieth century.

You will find that there is plenty to keep you busy with modern life in Chicago. Shopping, dining, entertainment and activities can fill your calendar from dawn ‘til dusk and beyond. However, you’re going to be missing out if you fail to also include some historic landmarks in your tour of Chicago. This city has been a place that has experienced some terrifically important events and a place which has contributed to the overall history of the United States over time. Learn about it first hand while you are there to get a better understanding of both the city and the country in which it thrives.

Creative Commons License Photo credit: nautical2k

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