MUSEUM GUIDE: Guide to Chicago boat tours: Chicago Architecture Foundation, Tall Ship Windy, Wendella, Seadog — Chicago Tribune

22 мая 2014 | Author: | No comments yet »
Sunseeker 28

Wendella to Windy, here are 4 lake and river tours on architecture, local history

Chicago Architecture Foundation cruise

Even if you’ve taken the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s celebrated tour-by-river of downtown’s signature skyscrapers in the past, there are always new structures going up and new things to learn. On a recent tour, docent Wayne Galasek pointed out the under-reconstruction Wells Street Bridge (which, like other Chicago River bridges, uses the double-leaf trunnion bascule, or seesaw, design) and Wolf Point (which has recently become a battleground between developers planning new skyscrapers on the site at the turn into the river’s North Branch and residents of existing buildings who don’t want to lose their nice views).

Galasek, like other foundation docents I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in action over the years, excelled at filling out the human drama behind the towering edifices. The struggle between Mies van der Rohe’s austere modernism, a la his skyscraper at 330 N. Wabash Ave. and his onetime protege Bertrand Goldberg, whose observation that there are no right angles in nature, is best embodied in his Marina City corncobs standing side by side. Galasek also cleverly described the evolution of the riverfront’s working-class structures to prized private residences as Warehouse-to-Our-House, with Chicago-born architect Harry Weese as its chief avatar.

Throughout the river tour, one picks up a sweeping array of facts about Chicago’s geography, politics, history and engineering. Galasek closed with Nelson Algren’s oft-quoted lines comparing Chicago to a woman with a broken nose, while urging us to see the human dialogue-in-design contained in just a few blocks of river skyscrapers.

Multiple tours daily (duration 90 minutes) through Nov. 17. Tours depart from the boat docks at the southeast side of the Michigan Avenue Bridge; $37.85 at 312-922-3432 or

Wendella Lake and River Tour

If you want to pass through what Galasek called the man-made continental divide of the locks between the river and the lake, Wendella has the tour for you.

Since 1935, the company has combined pleasure and education in its well-appointed cruise boats. Though Wendella offers its own river architecture tour as well as a more casual river experience trip, it’s worth taking the full 90 minutes (or more, if there is traffic at the locks) to take in the transition from river to lake and to get the full breadth of the skyline from offshore.

The river portion, unlike the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s tour, doesn’t cover both the North and South branches, but its jaunt down the South Branch allowed guide Melissa Orozco to point out the confluence of commerce and culture contained within Samuel Insull’s Civic Opera House, where the Lyric Opera and law firms both have safe harbor.

Insull himself, whose construction of the opera house for his then-mistress is said to have inspired the similar plotline in Citizen Kane, was not so lucky. He died penniless in Paris in 1938.

Windy 28 boat

On the lake, especially on a clear and warm day, the full impact of Montgomery Ward’s forever open, clear, and free vision for Chicago’s front yard snaps into stunning focus, making Wendella’s lake tour especially potent for first-time visitors.

Multiple tours daily (duration 90 minutes) through December. Tours depart from the boat docks at the Chicago River at the northwest side of the Michigan Avenue Bridge; $28 at 312-337-1446 or

Seadog Lakefront Speedboat Tour

The emphasis is more on fun, but if you’re in a hurry, Seadog’s half-hour short-attention-span spin along the lakeshore provides a fast-and-dirty alternative to Wendella. (They also offer their own river architecture tour; everyone wants to get into that act, apparently.) Despite the brevity and speed, tour guide Liz Vonesh managed to offer enticing bite-size nuggets about the geography of Lake Michigan. She also pointed out architectural features on famous buildings, including the iconic X-bracing on the John Hancock Center and the tubular engineering of the Willis Tower (which, Vonesh assured us, native Chicagoans spell S-E-A-R-S). The cruise, like Wendella’s, goes as far south as the museum campus Vonesh also took care to credit Ward’s vision for the lakefront but also highlights the beaches and some buildings north of Navy Pier by going up as far as North Avenue Beach.

Multiple tours daily (duration 30 minutes). Tours depart from Navy Pier. $26.95 at 888-636-7737 or

Tall Ship Windy’s ‘Real Pirates of the Inland Seas’

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