Besides its incredibly diverse population, its world-class sports teams, its delicious food, and its rich cultural identity, the Windy City is also home to some of the world’s most famous architects. Many of whom are famous for their work right in their hometown of Chicago, where many of their renowned buildings still stand. It can be a tall order to explore all of the architecture and historic buildings that Chicago has to offer, so it helps to have some experts around to clue you in on all of the city’s lore and give some context to the buildings that locals and visitors alike stroll past on a daily basis. If you’re hoping to learn more about the history of Chicago architecture and the many architects who cemented the city as a haven for the art of building design, we’ve got you covered! Read on to learn about a few fun ways to gain interesting information about the city known as the birthplace of the American skyscraper.

city cruises on the chicago river

History of Chicago Architecture

Chicago skyline featuring Willis TowerSo, if “famous architecture” isn’t one of the first phrases that pops into your head when you think of the Windy City, it should be. In fact, it’s widely accepted that the skyscraper itself was first invented in Chicago! The 10-story, steel-framed Home Insurance Building, was built in 1884 at LaSalle and Adams streets and demolished in 1931 — and while 10 stories might not seem very tall today, it was a modern marvel when it was first constructed. However, the city had a dark patch in its architectural history: Most of the city’s buildings burned to the ground in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Luckily, the city quickly rebuilt, and only 22 short years later, Chicago celebrated its comeback by holding the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893.

These days, the city boasts one of the most extensive and wide-ranging collections of skyscrapers in the world, including the famous Willis Tower and Merchandise Mart. However, as you stroll around downtown, you’ll see a slew of buildings that (while not the first that come to mind when you talk about Chicago) would be household names if they were in many other cities in the United States — that’s how many incredible buildings and landmarks there are in town. This is due largely to some of the Chicago architects that made their names here, including William Lebaron Jenney, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Bertrand Goldberg, and Jeanne Gang. However, skyscrapers aren’t the only incredible architecture in the city — you’ll also want to stop by Chicago’s gorgeous parks, waterfront, and

The Thrilling Side of Chicago Architecture

seadog on the chicago river

If you’re looking to experience some of the famous buildings and architecture of Chicago from a new and exciting perspective, you can’t go wrong with the Chicago Seadog River & Lake Architectural Tour. You and your guests will enjoy Chicago’s iconic skyline with an exciting architecture cruise along the Chicago River. Departing from Navy Pier, this 75-minute narrated cruise is the absolute best way to get up-close and personal views of Chicago’s unique architecture and world-famous landmarks. Seadog — a super-fast speed boat — offers fun for the whole family (and the dog, too!) with live narration along the city’s shore and a BYOB policy. That’s right: As long as it’s not a glass bottle, you can bring your own drinks on the boat! Plus, at the end of the tour, you’ll enjoy the speed of the Seadog during a short speedboat ride on the lake.

The Relaxing Side of Chicago Architecture

For a little less speed and a little more fine dining, your best bet is the Premier Plus Architectural Brunch Cruise on the Chicago River. You and your guests will experience the best of Chicago and spend your afternoon on the Chicago River with dining, bottomless mimosas, picturesque views, and a narrated architectural tour of the city. While you’re onboard, you’ll enjoy chef-prepared, plated menus, creative cocktails, excellent service, and jaw-dropping views of the city skyline from the climate-controlled interior and open-air outdoor deck. Whether for a celebratory brunch for two, a special afternoon with friends and family, or any other fun occasion, the Chicago Architectural Brunch Cruises offer some of the most breathtaking views of Chicago with an accompanying narrated tour highlighting the history of the city from the water.

Original Post Date: June 22, 2023