Top Landmarks in Chicago

Chicago is such an historic city that even if you live in the city it’s difficult to view all of the landmarks. Your best bet is to select the landmarks that most interest you from our list of the most popular locations.

Adler Planetarium

The Adler Planetarium in Chicago is considered a National Historic Landmark and a Registered Historic Place but not a Chicago Landmark. The Planetarium was the first one in the western hemisphere and is the oldest in existence today. Founded in 1930 by Max Adler the planetarium was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987. There are three full sized theaters and the Sky Theater is the dome you can see from the exterior. The Zeiss Planetarium projector can accurately reproduce the movement of every aspect of the night sky. In addition to the three theaters, there are a number of exhibits to peruse and the Doane Observatory which is home to the largest aperture telescope available to the public in the region.

Museum of Science and Industry

The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is housed in the former Palace of Fine Arts which was best known as being part of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. The museum is one of the most popular attractions in the city. Two major permanent exhibits exist in the Museum of Science and Industry, the Coal Mine which recreates a working deep shaft coal mine and the U-505 Submarine, one of two German submarines that were captured during World War II and the U-505 is the only one on display in the western hemisphere. There are many other permanent exhibits and traveling ones and the hands-on theme makes it interesting throughout.

Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd Aquarium is another National Historic Landmark and Registered Historic Place but is not considered a Chicago Landmark per se. The Shedd Aquarium opened in 1930 and used to be the largest indoor aquarium in the world with approximately five million gallons of water. The Shedd was the first inland aquarium to feature a permanent saltwater fish collection. In 2005 and 2007 it was the most visited aquarium in the United States and remains one of the most popular stops in Chicago. There are five permanent exhibits at the Shedd, Amazon Rising, Caribbean Reef, Waters of the World, the Oceanarium and Wild Reef.

Navy Pier Headhouse and Auditorium

Navy Pier Headhouse and Auditorium was once part of a grander plan, the city wanted to build two large piers to support the shipping industry but the second pier was never build and the city became less of a shipping hub. The pier has served many purposes and lay dormant as an eye sore for a substantial period but in the 1990s renovation began and it was turned into a highlight in the city drawing people from all around to ride the Ferris wheel, see an IMAX movie, watch the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, try their hand at the Amazing Chicago’s Funhouse Maze, explore the Chicago Children’s Museum, walk through the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows and catch one of the many presentations.

Hull House Sighting Stairwell-puroticorico427Creative Commons License Photo credit: puroticorico

Hull House Sighting Stairwell

Hull House

Hull House, or the Jane Addams Hull House, was established in 1889 by Jan Addams to help those who are unable to help themselves or who need a hand to survive. Even today Hull House is dedicated to helping others and is one of Chicago’s oldest and largest social and human service agencies. But unfortunately it’s not the altruistic nature of the organization nor the beautiful architecture of the building itself, but a rather notorious stories about a devil child and hauntings that draws people to this landmark. Even Jane Addams herself had mentioned that she heard things and noticed unusual happenings in the home but the ghost was considered harmless. It was the devil baby that really drew attention. The story is that a devout catholic and an atheist had a child that had pointed ears, horns, and scales on its skin because the atheist husband refused to have a picture of the Virgin Mary up in his home and said he’d rather have the devil himself in the home. The truth is probably that the child was so badly deformed that the family was unable to care for it, but in either case the child ended up at Hull House and has become part of Chicago’s lore.

Humboldt Park Boathouse Pavilion and Humboldt Park Receptory Building and Stable

Humboldt Park started being developed in the 1870’s and was designed to give the north side of Chicago a break from the city with a 207 acre park with meandering trails, horse paths and a pair of lagoons. The park was modified through the ages and the lagoons were connected by a river, a rose garden grew, a field house was built, as was a boathouse and a music pavilion. The boathouse earns its distinction as a landmark due to its originality of form, details and craftsmanship and is cited as an excellent example of the Prairie School architecture. This is one of the primary examples of this type of architecture which is still prominent today. The Receptory Building and Stable is one of the oldest surviving structures in the park and is currently occupied by the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture. The building was built in 1895 and melds Queen Anne architectural style and old German style with a country house architecture in an asymmetric form. It’s a sort of mess of styles thrown together that somehow works and is uniquely beautiful.

There are so many Chicago Landmarks that you may want to visit them according to theme. The Landmark Tours are organized by area of interest and proximity to give you a full experience in one or more of your selected themed landmarks. Any student of architecture will know that several famed architects are responsible for one or more of Chicago’s landmarks and you can create your own tour based on the Chicago Landmark Architects hitting the highlights of each or submersing yourself in the culture and style of several of these master builders.  No matter how you choose to organize your sightseeing tour of Chicago’s Top Landmarks, you’re sure to see and learn more about the incredible Windy City.
Creative Commons License photo credit: David G…