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From the Archive: The Chicago River

Daniel Hautzinger
IBM Tower and the Wrigley Building in 1986
IBM Tower and the Wrigley Building in 1986. Notice a certain branded tower missing?

The Chicago River's place in the city is constantly changing, from the buildings along it to people's perception of it. Where once it was primarily industrial, viewed as filthy and an undesirable location to spend time, it is now the site of the ever-bustling riverwalk as well as high-priced real estate and developments (some people have even taken to calling downtown the "Super Loop"). On Monday, November 27, Geoffrey Baer explores the changes along the river in a new tour, his third program highlighting the waterway over the past twenty years.

But what was the river like a decade before his first tour, which was filmed in the mid-1990s? In a 1986 episode of Chicago Tonight, WTTW's John Callaway took a tour of the lake and river from Burnham Harbor to 18th Street with University of Illinois at Chicago professor of geography David Saltzman. The pair discuss exciting developments in the city as the downtown begins to be revitalized, with new construction and more people returning from the suburbs to live in city centers. From the beginnings of Navy Pier's reimagining as an entertainment center to the "refinishing" of the riverfront with parks to the increasing popularity of mixed-use high rises that contain commercial and residential spaces, their conversations hint at many of the sweeping trends that have completely remade city centers, including Chicago's, in the past three decades.

Watch excerpts from the program here, and catch glimpses of a very different skyline and a city at the cusp of a new phase in its history.