I decided today to skip my “do-it-yourself” regime and go with an expert – I arrived at work early (and left late) so I could extend my lunch hour and go on Margaret Hicks’ Chicago Elevated Pedway Tour.
The day began auspiciously enough, just as the group was starting to assemble (on the corner of Lake and Dearborn) Janet Davis (host of ABC7’s 190 North) passed and said hello to Margaret (hope she does not mind me saying, but she looks a lot younger/healthier in real life than on TV). I knew then that we were off to a good start (Margaret is featured in 190 North on July 15th talking about the naughty Red Light District tour).
The tour lasted two hours, and took us along a stretch that I had already explored (Pedway Exploring: Part 3), but in reverse. However, I learnt a bunch of new things, was inspired to explore some new places, and was refreshed and rejuvenated at the end of the tour. The two hours just zipped by…
As I said, we started on the corner of Lake and Dearborn, talking the elevated stretch (past one of the best Korean food joints in the area) and bridge ways that curve round to the James R. Thompson Center. Along this stretch I discovered that the Pedway is not owned/controlled by the City of Chicago, but by the businesses and buildings along the way that choose to participate in the system. This explains the charmingly haphazard way it has developed, and that the Pedway is not a connected whole. The businesses and buildings along the route decide how to provide signage (largely hidden) and how often to keep the things clean (Macy’s, shame on you). This also explains why different parts of the Pedway have completely different hours of access (and might be closed at the weekend).
Margaret introduced us to a cool new trick at the Thompson Center. There is a small white circle to stand on in the middle of the basement concourse, and if you talk whilst facing the “James R. Thompson” sign the sound envelopes you in a spooky echo and feedback that has to be experienced (and is damn hard to describe). This is something I am going to share with everyone I take there.
We carried on through to City Hall where we discovered the Y-shaped historical symbol of Chicago. As Margaret explained, once you are away of this sign you see it everywhere throughout the City. Very cool. You can get married and/or divorced in the Pedway below.
Also raking high on the cool scale were the ornate “push” buttons for the elevators. Very tasteful.
We continued on through Block 37 (great air conditioning, dismal retail occupancy) and then on past Macy’s.
Macy’s (formerly Marshall Fields) is probably the dirtiest part of the Pedway. Plastic bags full of identified matter are strewn along the way. Given that Macy’s is a premier shopping location, it is kind of sad that things are so unkempt here.
Here I learnt that the name “InFields” (the sports bar) is a not-so-subtle pun (In Marshall Fields).
Next came the Underground Shoppes, of which there is only one – a Subway (appropriately enough). This is one part of the Pedway that was actually designed. It looks cool, has a swimming pool (LA Fitness), but no stores…
And the tour continued walking about the Cultural Center. As Margaret explained, it was impossible to include this location midway through the tour – people would just want to explore and linger here. She made the sensible choice to show us some highlights and then bid us a fond adieu. I had a great time, learnt lots, and look forward to some more explorations….
You can find out more about Margaret’s tours here (and sign up). Recommended.