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I was wandering around a Chicago neighborhood that most tourists don't get to and took some pictures. There's a few more recognizable pictures, too, but most of it's from what you might call an up-and-coming neighborhood.

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Wacker Drive. At this point, it's three levels deep.

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The Pritzker Pavilion -- for free outdoor concerts.

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Smurfit-Stone building. From Adventures in Babysitting. Smurfit-Stone makes cardboard boxes.

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Remarkably, this is not the narrowest building in Chicago. I know a restaurant that's barely five feet wide.

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Symphony Hall. I don't think it's all that great, but it's supposed to be significant.

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The Roosevelt Road Metra Station. Metra is regional rail. This station has been here since the 40's. A replacement is being built.

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The Legacy is about half done, so you can imagine why some people complain that it's out of scale with it's neighbors. I like it because it blocks the windows at my ex-bosses' condo. Ha!

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Elevated rail is only good if it travels in a straight line. The CTA makes many turns, so the trains lean and squeal and spit oil on the street below so the wheels don't climb the track.

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A typical elevated rail station in the Loop.

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For some reason this photograph looks like something from Model Railroader magazine.

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One of my favorite old buildings. The Carbide and Carbon Building is now the Hard Rock Hotel. I like it because you hardly ever see green terra cotta on such a scale.

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A blues club.

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The Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Illinois building was 32 stories when it was finished in 1997. It's getting another 25 stories now. A bunch of buildings in the area were designed to expand upward when needed.

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This is a building going up (82 stories when done) called Aqua. Construction is a little slow because each floor has a different plate, calculated by computer and plotted by GPS and laser. It doesn't look very good from a distance, but when you get up close under it, it's very cool.

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Workers doing a renovation last week accidentally discovered they were working on a false facade. The real facade is behind it, and it turns out was made by famous architect Louis Sullivan, but no one's seen it in a hundred years. Now it's all buttoned up but I managed to get this shot showing a little bit of the detail.

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Two Prudential Plaza - offices.

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One Museum Park - residential.

Lots of generic late 1800's buildings...

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These are great shots! I have never been to Chicago but I know that I will go a some point pretty soon. I am pretty sure that I won't be able to stop staring at the skyline.

I just thought about something. I read an article a while back that was saying how Chicago is called the "Windy City" but it was saying that the wind actually isn't all that bad. It can get bad but it isn't as bad as other places. Then the article brought up about 5-10 other cities that the wind was much worse in. Pretty interesting.

Editor, since you seem to know Chicago pretty well, would you agree?

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This is a building going up (82 stories when done) called Aqua. Construction is a little slow because each floor has a different plate, calculated by computer and plotted by GPS and laser. It doesn't look very good from a distance, but when you get up close under it, it's very cool.

Interesting - looks like modern Gaudi a little bit

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Interesting - looks like modern Gaudi a little bit

What a coincidence! I was just reading up on Gaudi. Especially his masterpieces in Barcelona. (One of which is still being built to this day) Catedral de la Sagrada Familia.

By the word agua means water in Espanol, so those curves are ocean waves one ponders. ^_^

I always liked the buidling where Bob Newhart's offices were located and where he lived with Emily. Hee hee.

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wow, you were in my backyard w/ the pics off the Metra Station...I'm at 13th and Michigan, one block south of Roosevelt road (My building is the furthest high rise to the left in the metra train pic). If you really want to see something interesting ( or maybe I will have to take pics), go down Indiana south of 15th St. into the Prarie District and check out some of the Original Mansions on Prarie St.. It's worth the time.

Also, it's called the Windy City b/c of historical politics...However, in the winters the it's the bitter cold that makes the wind really vicious.

Edited by sowanome
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I just thought about something. I read an article a while back that was saying how Chicago is called the "Windy City" but it was saying that the wind actually isn't all that bad. It can get bad but it isn't as bad as other places. Then the article brought up about 5-10 other cities that the wind was much worse in. Pretty interesting.

Editor, since you seem to know Chicago pretty well, would you agree?

The term "Windy City" was coined by newspaper editor. It refers to the politicians, not the weather.

Sometimes meanings get lost in history. Like the way many people think Paris is "The City of Lights." No, it's the "City of Light" and has to do with enlightenment, not illumination.

By the word agua means water in Espanol, so those curves are ocean waves one ponders. ^_^

"Aqua" is the Latin word for "water." Yes, the building name refers to waves, but not on an ocean -- on Lake Michigan. Most of the buildings in that development have names that reference the lake: The Tides, The Shoreham, The Regatta, etc... The development is called "Lakeshore East" and is on the shore of Lake Michigan.

wow, you were in my backyard w/ the pics off the Metra Station...I'm at 13th and Michigan, one block south of Roosevelt road (My building is the furthest high rise to the left in the metra train pic). If you really want to see something interesting ( or maybe I will have to take pics), go down Indiana south of 15th St. into the Prarie District and check out some of the Original Mansions on Prarie St.. It's worth the time.

Also, it's called the Windy City b/c of historical politics...However, in the winters the it's the bitter cold that makes the wind really vicious.

I was wandering around in the Prairie District a couple of months ago. It's nice that there's still some of it left. It's on my list of neighborhoods to revisit with my camera.

Since you're at 13th and Michigan, have you checked out the new chocolate shop around 11th and Wabash? Any opinions?

Interesting - looks like modern Gaudi a little bit

The architect is a woman by the name of Jeanne Gang. A lot's been written up here about her being the first woman to design a skyscraper. I don't know if that's really true, or if there's even a way to prove it.

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Since you're at 13th and Michigan, have you checked out the new chocolate shop around 11th and Wabash? Any opinions?

Haven't checked it out, but if you're into Italian, there's a pretty good sandwich/grocery/eatery at the corner of 13th and Michigan and there's also Opera which does Pan Asian (@ a really expensive price, though) on Wabash and 13th.

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wow, you were in my backyard w/ the pics off the Metra Station...I'm at 13th and Michigan, one block south of Roosevelt road (My building is the furthest high rise to the left in the metra train pic). If you really want to see something interesting ( or maybe I will have to take pics), go down Indiana south of 15th St. into the Prarie District and check out some of the Original Mansions on Prarie St.. It's worth the time.

Also, it's called the Windy City b/c of historical politics...However, in the winters the it's the bitter cold that makes the wind really vicious.

I didn't know that...thanks for the info.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just wondering again...Why are the subway trains elevated in Chicago? Why were they not placed below the ground, like New York City? Maybe due to the geology of the area, or was just easier to place them above...the two cities are similar in that they are close to waterways.

PS Nice photographs. Can't wait to see it for myself someday.

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Just wondering again...Why are the subway trains elevated in Chicago? Why were they not placed below the ground, like New York City? Maybe due to the geology of the area, or was just easier to place them above...the two cities are similar in that they are close to waterways.

PS Nice photographs. Can't wait to see it for myself someday.

The trains run both above ground and below depending on when they were built and the density of the area.

Unlike most cities, Chicago did not start out with a single transit company. At the time public transport developed there were dozens of competing streetcar companies. Originally horse-drawn trolleys, then electrified trollies. The various companies operated competing routes down various streets. Sometimes they're share tracks in a congested area, more often they wouldn't. New York, by contrast, had various transit systems but they each served a particular zone. There was little direct competition. Although the stereotypical view of New York subways is that they are underground, there are vast stretches of the system that are elevated. In both New York and Chicago there were elevated freight railways, too, but those have been phased out in both cities.

As technology advanced and the surface streets became too congested for any more trolley/rail lines some of the companies went overhead and some went below ground -- wherever space was available.

Over time the various transit companies were unified into what is now the city-controlled Chicago Transit Authority. Some of the rail lines were kept, and some were abandoned. There are lots of abandoned passenger rail bridges and tunnels around the city.

Right now:

Red line - elevated and below ground

Blue line - below ground and at ground level

Yellow line - ground level

Pink line - elevated

Green line - elevated

Purple line - elevated

Orange line - elevated and at ground level

Brown line - elevated

In addition to the active passenger lines underground, there exists an entire abandoned freight rail network underneath a large swath of the city.

Again, a lot of it has to do with density. The Blue Line connecting downtown to O'Hare airport was built in the 80's. It passes through very dense residential areas, so most of it is underground. The portions where it's not underground it runs along the median of I-90 and I-190. When the Orange Line was built connecting downtown to Midway airport in the 90's it ran through less densely-packed industrial areas so it was elevated in portions, and in other areas it shares the right-of-way with several freight railroads.

You are correct that geology did play a role to some degree. In Chicago the tunnels go through wet soggy clay. In New York they go through nice stable bedrock. Due to technological advances, the difference isn't a big deal today, but back in the early 1900's digging technology was not so advanced.

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Be careful what you wish for......

I wish I could spend two weeks in Dubai and make a DubaiArchitecture.info web site that brazillions of people would flock to because of all the free publicity Dubai gets from the Discovery Channel et. al.

And I wish I could do it by taking the ORD-DME-DXB-BAH-LHR-ORD route before December 31st so I could top off my frequent flyer miles to get Gold status on American Airlines.

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