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Touring the Windy City


November 12, 2012
Billie Shelton ( , The Daily Freeman Journal

So there I was, riding the elevated train out of the heart of Chicago at about 5 p.m. on Friday evening, just like the real city people in their seats all around me who were on their way back to their homes after another busy week in the office. Our car was full, with most everyone just sitting there looking rather weary.

It's the same Friday afternoon scene you can see just about everywhere, I expect, just very far removed from my normal afternoon travel by car on county roads through the Iowa countryside.

You can make a lot of such comparisons when you're in a situation so diverse from your norm, as I was on my recent long weekend.

Along with a couple of my people, I spent that day on a city architectural tour, which is, of course, full of contrasts to this life we live here in Hamilton county. A young actor named Osirus was our tour guide, and he was nothing if not enthusiastic and knowledgeable about Chicago. He and his microphone were stationed on the upper level of our trolley, where one could ride and easily see everything Osirus was pointing out. It was clear and very chilly that morning, making for a perfect view for the riders on top and inside the trolley.

We learned many historical tidbits about Chicago from Osirus: Did you know that there were 18,500 buildings in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871? Four square miles burned.

Or that the Hilton Hotel, built in Chicago in 1927, is the largest hotel in the world?

Or that the Trump Tower is the seventh tallest building in the world?

The Wrigleys (as in Wrigley chewing gum), who started their company before the Great Depression, first sold soap and included gum with their soap. After the Depression, they sold their soap formula to the Palmolive Company and concentrated on their chewing gum. Osirus also pointed out the Wrigley Building, of course.

Since this was an architectural tour, Osirus of course enlightened us with many facts about the buildings that surrounded us. There were buildings everywhere I looked, as far as I could see - tall ones, wide ones, modern buildings, stately buildings, impressive buildings, simple buildings. There was one built in the shape of a champagne bottle.

I understand that Chicago isn't the only bustling city where there are skyscrapers. It's got plenty for my taste, though. But from what Osirus said, although New York City perfected the skyscraper, Chicagoans claim that their city is where the skyscraper was invented. As the old saying goes, it's a fun place to visit, but I'd rather not live there.



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