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Walking Chicago
31 Walks in the Windy City
Free Walk!
Download the 7-page River North walk. Find out the dirt on Chicago pioneer John Kinzie, where a famous Hymie got popped and the surprising peril of chain restaurants.Walking_Chicago_files/Walk%2018_1.pdfshapeimage_3_link_0


Walk 4 Kenwood

On Barack Obama's House:

The Obama manse is a comfortable wood-trimmed house typical of this upscale neighborhood. But it has one difference: an extra-wide lot, thanks to Obama’s purchase of a swatch of the vacant-but-landscaped corner lot from Chicago power-broker Tony Rezko, whose questionable political activities made headlines.

Walk 8 Beverly and Morgan Park

On a Frank Lloyd Wright house that has been 'modernized':

This sort of fakery would have made Wright barf, although pretty much most aspects of ordinary life made him barf.

Walk 12 Little Italy

On the lost Maxwell St. Market:

Generations of immigrants sold everything from screws to cheap suits (extra pair of pants free!). The air was redolent with the smells of classic Chicago pork chop sandwiches, while some of the first legendary blues musicians played on the streets for nickels. Today what you see is simply a travesty of bland gentrification, right down to the Jamba Juice (a Jamba Juice!!!).

Walk 20 Magnificent Mile and Streeterville

On the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum:

This recent and rather curious institution is meant to celebrate the First Amendment, although it really reinforces the bland Republican values the Chicago Tribune usually espouses (just wait for the gauzy shot of a kid with a gun in the intro film). However, the whitewash is saved for the display on Col. Robert McCormick, the crackpot owner and publisher of the Tribune from 1910 to 1955.

Walk 21 Gold Coast and Old Town

On Rush St. attractions:

At 1028 you won’t miss Gibson’s, the reigning steakhouse of the Gold Coast and singles playground for the moneyed class of a certain age. The steaks are thick and juicy, and that might describe some of the people at the bar. If you’re male and a millionaire, you may be lucky to escape with your hairplugs.

Walk 23 South Michigan Avenue

On Grant Park and the Chicago Hilton:

No one is exactly sure what sparked what was later termed by investigators as a “police riot,” but soon blue-helmeted cops were bludgeoning protestors, journalists, conventioneers, and even each other. In one bit of low comedy, several injured people were taken to the suite of presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy, only to have the door suddenly burst open and Chicago cops run in and beat up everyone in sight.

On Illinois Center:

North of Randolph, the east side of Michigan is mostly lined with the bland 1970s development known as Illinois Center, whose overall esthetic puts the last four letters in “banal.”

Walk 24 Lake View to Wrigleyville

On Halsted St:

Relatively discreet by Halsted St. standards, Batteries Not Included caters to the kind of crowd who giggle so hard at the thought of a vibrator that it becomes moot. For a much harder sell, cross the street and go up a block to Cupid’s Treasures, which has four rooms of any device, potion or accessory you can think of—and that’s just in the Nun Fantasy Department.

On the clone bars of Clark St:

Over the three long blocks from here to W. Grace St., there are dozens of bars—mostly on the west side of street—supporting the supposition that to make a killing running a bar in Chicago, all you need do is a) locate near Wrigley Field, b) buy a lot of TVs and c) give your place a vaguely Irish name. In fact, of the following names, guess which ones aren’t actually bars here: Blarney Stone, Irish Oak, Mullen’s, Houndstooth, Full Shilling, Casey Moran’s, Dark Horse and Buggered Leprechaun. Okay, only the last one is fake.

Walk 26 Belmont to Montrose

At 61/2 acres, the Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary is just big enough to feel like a little chunk of Wisconsin. As you follow the fence around, the traffic noise from Lake Shore Dr. fades away. On the west side, a narrow path leads to a raised viewing platform with signs detailing which feathered friends you’re likely to see. No points for spotting a dove, which everybody knows is just a pigeon with an agent, but take your time, listen carefully, and you may spot/hear woodpeckers. Crows and swifts are also common. Big money sightings include black-crowned night herons and loons (and we don’t mean the guy lurking in the shrubs).

Walk 30 Bucktown

On Homer St:

On the south side of the street from 2227 to 2247 are nine 1888 princess-sized Queen Anne-style cottages. Although most harmonize, there’s a Lucy Ricardo screech at 2247, which hits every false note possible with its insane use of fake rock appliqués. On the other hand, you have to appreciate the individualism, given that so many old gems are disappearing from Bucktown’s streets, replaced by new outrages that are the Hummers of the housing world. (Do the owners actually sit around saying: “It was such a charming neighborhood of modest brick homes, that’s why we built this steaming pile?”)

On Hoyne St:

At 1520, the 1886 house still has its original figures of carved women. The current owners must be avid horticulturists, judging from the prominent lick bush sign.

Walk 31 Wicker Park to Ukrainian Village

On Evergreen St:

Nelson Algren lived for almost 20 years in the rather elegant brick three-flat at 1958. Wicker Park’s Division St. and Milwaukee Ave. were at the heart of his gritty urban realm, which inspired masterpieces such as The Neon Wilderness. He once said: “People ask me why I don’t write about nature or the suburbs. If a writer could write the truth about one Chicago street, that would be a good life’s work.”

Chicago is one of my favorite places on the planet. This book explores the city’s history, future, conflicts, triumphs and fiascos. It shows you a new side of the seemingly familiar and takes you places you never thought to go. Of course it pauses at a few bars.

Why settle for Quinn? Enjoy the Blago Perp Walk. Download it here. And read Molly Woulfe’s column on this walk of shame.

The Chicago Tribune says: “Ryan Ver Berkmoes has a reporter's nose for the telling detail and an impressive knowledge of what makes a city worthwhile.” Here’s the full review.

  1. Listen to Ryan on Outside the Loop, WLUW-FM 88.7.

  2. Read Rick Kogan’s interview with Ryan.

  3. Enjoy some pics.

  4. Read Molly Woulfe’s first story as we trace Obama-land.

  5. And catch my interview with New City.

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