Architect Bruce Graham was lunching with colleagues in the late 1960s when he suddenly envisioned the unique shape he wanted for a skyscraper he had been charged to create. But how to get his companions to visualize it? In a scene right out of Mad Men, he picked up a fistful of cigarettes and extended some of them from his hand in a staggered profile. And thus the design for Sears (now Willis) Tower was born.
This is just one of the compelling stories that animates WTTW’s latest Chicago tour adventure, coming this fall. Chicago’s Loop: A New Walking Tour, written and hosted by Geoffrey Baer and produced by Dan Protess, traces the fascinating history of downtown Chicago’s rise, fall and rebirth, taking us from the Loop’s heyday as a hub of theaters, restaurants, movie palaces and nightclubs, to the area’s steep decline in the 1960s and 70s, and finally to its renaissance as the bustling downtown where people live, work and play today. Chicago’s Loop: A New Walking Tour will premiere on WTTW on Tuesday, November 29 at 7:30 pm.
The 90-minute special reveals the fascinating, fun, and sometimes tragic stories behind the buildings and places that shape our “city-within-a-city.” We visit the old Marshall Field & Co. department store (now Macy’s) that elevated Christmas windows to a high art and still dazzles with its stunning Tiffany ceiling. We remember how the daringly designed, spaceship-shaped Thompson Center landed in the city and was the talk of the town. We also travel to lesser-known spots throughout the area, such as an ordinary Loop alley that is still officially a cow path. Along the way, Geoffrey shares the fascinating details that make these places a special part of our city.
Among them: the engineering breakthrough that gave us the world’s first skyscraper; the stories of Mies Van Der Rohe, Louis Sullivan, and dedicated preservationist Richard Nickel, who perished while trying to save the structures he loved; Pablo Picasso and his once-controversial statue in Daley Plaza; and how many of Chicago’s most striking architectural wonders came into being. We hear harrowing accounts of the Great Fire of 1871 and how Chicago parlayed the tragedy into an opportunity to reinvent the city. Plus: the invention of the brownie at the Palmer House just in time for the 1893 World’s Fair, the true identity of the girl who posed for the statue atop the Chicago Board of Trade building, and the Great Chicago Flood of 1993. And much more.
Accompanying Chicago’s Loop: A New Walking Tour will be a robust web site which includes supplemental material and exclusive content. Please visit wttw.com/loop.
Geoffrey Baer is an Emmy award-winning producer of documentaries and cultural/entertainment programs for WTTW11/Chicago and PBS. His programs on Chicago architecture and history include: Chicago By Boat: The New River Tour; Chicago’s Loop: A Walking Tour; Chicago’s Lakefront; Chicago by ‘L’: Touring the Neighborhoods; Chicago’s North Shore; South of Chicago: Suburbs, Steel Mills, Shoreline; Northwest of Chicago; Chicago’s Western Suburbs: From Prairie Soil to Prairie Style; The Fox River Valley and Chain O’ Lakes; The Southwest Suburbs: Birthplace of Chicago; The Foods of Chicago: A Delicious History; Hidden Chicago; Hidden Chicago 2; and Biking the Boulevards.
Dan Protess has been producing and writing critically-acclaimed television programs at WTTW for more than a decade. His most recent productions include the feature-length architecture and history specials Biking the Boulevards and Chicago’s Lakefront. He wrote and produced the Emmy-winning, James Beard-nominated The Foods of Chicago: A Delicious History, and also produces candidate forums and feature stories for Chicago Tonight, the station’s nightly newsmagazine program, for which he has received the prestigious Peter Lisagor Award. Other credits include A Justice That Heals (which aired nationally on ABC’s Nightline), a variety of documentaries for the history anthology series Chicago Stories, and numerous profiles of local luminaries.
Chicago's Loop: A New Walking Tour
Chicago’s Loop: A New Walking Tour is made possible in part by BMO Harris Bank. Major funding is provided by ComEd, United Airlines, the Joseph and Bessie Feinberg Foundation, the Walter E. Heller Foundation, and Sue & Wes Dixon. Generous support is also provided by Millennium Properties and the Harriet K. Burnstein & Gand family.
For more than 50 years, audiences have turned to WTTW for distinctive programming that informs, inspires, educates, and entertains. WTTW reaches 1.5 million weekly households over a four-state area, making it the most-watched public television station in America. Recognized for its award-winning local and national productions, WTTW is committed to presenting the very best in cultural, nature, science, public affairs, and children's programming across its four distinct television channels: WTTW11, WTTW Prime, its Spanish-language channel WTTW V-me, and WTTW Create, its “how-to” channel. For more information, please visit www.wttw.com.