What you won’t see on the Tour of Evanston

The much maligned Tour of Evanston has been a long time coming.  I have planned this tour for three years and have attempted to run it four times without success.  In the intervening time and repeated failures of actually holding a Tour of Evanston, I have completely redone the tour twice.  The three routes are all completely different.  I managed to keep each of them to under 18 miles, but barely, and each time, I have missed large volumes of must-see homes and sites.  It is pathetic.

Take this version for example.  Even one of the most topical, trending, in-the-news historical Evanston sites doesn’t make the tour.  On May 18, 2015, a contractor for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago was doing work by the CTA Yellow line trail at McCormick and Howard when the embankment supporting the tracks gave way.  This has led to a 5 month closing of the Skokie Swift and a major re-construction headache affecting thousands of people, all at the base of an historic industrial Gothic revival masterwork, that, is not on the tour.

Evanston Water Reclamation Plant

Not on the tour

Truth be told, Evanston is just too big and too full of amazing to get all into one tour.  The three routes have all been dense with stuff to cover.  They have all made it difficult to come up with a Greatest Hits record with such a large catalog of great stuff.  There are a wider variety of eras and styles than in most communities and Evanston’s footprint is quite large, even by suburban standards. It easily could have been divided into two or more tours.  A north and south Evanston Tour, or east and west perhaps.  Then perhaps we would at least be able to get on the Channel Trail.  Even for a mile.  Or dart to the other side of the Channel and enjoy some of the River side parks.  Or the Arboretum and Ecology Center.

Skokie Northshore Channel Park


Skokie Northshore Channel Park 2

No and sorry.

The items that are NOT on this tour, would make a fine tour.  At least on the first go-around, I was able to capture a few lovely examples of the Oakton Historic District, bounded by Oakton on the North, Howard on the south, Ridge on the east and Asbury on the west.  Doing this, meant I had to cut out the two Frank Floyd Wright designed homes in the northeastern section of the city in order to get this far south.  So this time we see none of the historic district or even the area’s namesake school, where my daughter goes and that I go by nearly every day.  This school is designed by Dwight Perkins, a resident of Evanston, one of the founders of Prairie School architecture and one of my favorite architects of all times.

Oakton Middle School 2

Oakton Elementary School. Not on the tour.

Nuh-uh. Couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t even get south of Main Street without making this a 20 mile ride.

Instead, I basically pretend large parts of the west side of the city don’t exist.  I ignore a plethora of beautiful homes, churches, schools, businesses, industrial and commercial buildings in Greek Revival, Craftsmen, Italianate, Prairie, Gothic, Stick, International, Colonial Revival, Georgian, Dutch Colonial, Art Deco, Queen Anne, Shingle, Chateauesque and Romanesque styles to name a few.  There are dozens of homes built in the 1800s that I pay no mind to.  There are numerous landmark sites that we miss by blocks.

Saint Marks Episcopal Church at 1509 Ridge

We won’t see Saint Marks Episcopal Church.

Calvary Cemetery at 401 Chicago

We’ll miss Calvary Cemetery too.

Evanston US Post Office at 1101 Davis

We won’t check out this great Art Deco Post Office.

Harvey B Hurd Houses at 1570-74 Ashland

One of four amazing Harvey B. Hurd Houses on Ashland. We won’t see any of them.

Harvey B Hurd Houses at 1580 Ashland

No, not this one.

Harvey B Hurd Houses at 1600-1602 Ashland

Afraid not.

Harvey B. Hurd House at 1625 Ashland

And of course not this one either.

Worse yet, I have omitted completely great designs and amazing architecture by such names as Holabird and Roche, John Van Osdel, Daniel Burnham, Howard Van Doren Shaw, Tallmadge and Watson, Myron Hunt, and even the newly relocated John Shellette Van Bergen designed  Irving House that was saved from the wrecking ball and transported from its former home in Wilmette to a parking lot along Green Bay road where it sat for months until it was recently lifted onto a new foundation on Crawford.  Heck, we don’t even make it west of Dodge.

Irving House

They moved this whole freaking house to Evanston. We don’t see it on the tour.

To be sure, we miss an awful lot of stuff on this tour.

But I bet that you will be blown away by everything that we do get to see.  I hope you will join us this Saturday for the Tour of Evanston.

Here is the route:



Tour of Evanston moved to July 25

Tour of Evanston 2015

Tour of Evanston 2015

Hi everyone,

I have rescheduled the Tour of Evanston for July 25, 2015.  I apologize for any scheduling inconvenience.  The reason for the rescheduled date is my inattentiveness in noticing that the TOUR DE FAT was on the originally scheduled date.

I highly encourage all of you to attend Tour de Fat.  It is a blast of a time and helps to raise money for West Town Bikes.

I hope I will see you all on July 25 at the Tour of Evanston and enjoy Tour de Fat!

The South Loop and the Near South Side

Near South Side Mini-Tour

Near South Side Mini-Tour

There are some Chicago neighborhoods where the neighborhood and community boundaries are absolute.  These are defined by rivers, rail lines, Lake Michigan or other physically obvious borders.  Other neighborhoods are nebulous, varied, arguable, disputed, exaggerated, omitted and lied about.

The South Loop is a neighborhood where everyone agrees on three of the boundaries, and argues about the southern boundary.  Without question, the northern boundary is Congress, the western boundary is the Chicago River and the eastern boundary is Lake Michigan.  As to the southern edge of the South Loop, some will tell you it goes as far south as Roosevelt.  Others argue it ends at 15th Street.  The more logical end would be at 18th Street others argue, or Cermak, say a different contingent.  From Roosevelt to Cermak marks a total difference of a mile.

There is disagreement even between neighborhood associations, historians, local residents and businesses.   The greater Community Area south OF the Loop is known as the Near South Side, . Depending on your point of view, the South Loop barely enters the Near South Side, is partially in the Near South Side, or is almost completely in the Near South Side.

The Near South Side, Community Area #33 contains additional areas including Central Station, the Prairie Avenue Historic District and Motor Row District.  Together, these neighborhoods offer up amongst the greatest collection of buildings for Chicago architecture fans.  The most well known of the buildings are regularly presumed to sit within Chicago’s Loop, though they are all comfortably in the confines of the Near South Side such as Soldier Field and the monumental civic works that are the buildings of the Museum Campus, the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planaterium.  It is home to the oldest home in Chicago, the Clarke House, and to surviving reminders of the time when the city’s most famous and wealthy citizens lived along and around Prairie Avenue.  There are remnants of Chicago’s Musical past and the historic Motor Row District on South Michigan.

Free-Mini Tour of the South Loop and the Near South Side

On Monday June 15, I will host and lead a free tour for the City of Chicago’s Bike to Work Week touring the South Loop and the Near South Side.  We’ll get a chance to visit all of these great sites, all for free, after work, on your bike on Monday June 15.  Meet up with us at Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park.

More details on the event are here.

The event is free, but is limited to 150 riders so

you need to register for the event which you can do here.

And, as much as I hate to Internet yell…..ALL RIDERS MUST WEAR A HELMET.  This is a city ride and our ride and we have to insist you wear a helmet on your head.  Please bring and expect to wear a helmet, loaners will NOT be available for this ride.

Night Tour of the Near South Side

Later that week on Friday June 19 at 8PM, we will meet at Buckingham Fountain once again for the Night Tour of the Near South Side.  The night tours allow riders to catch a unique view of the downtown areas with more reasonable amounts of traffic.  In areas of very dense concentrations of significant and impressive architecture, the night acts as a filter to help us focus on ones we can see best at night, offering a great way to experience the city.  Come join us for the Night Tour of the Near South Side.


The Rest of the Summer Tour Schedule

Summer 2015 Bike Tours

Summer 2015 Bike Tours

The summer should prove very fun indeed.  In addition to the two new Near South Side tours, we will also hold two tours for the first time ever for the remaining summer rides.  On Saturday July 11, our much delayed debut of the Tour of Evanston will be held beginning at Noyes Cultural Arts Center in Evanston.  We will also debut our re-scheduled Tour of Dunning and Montclare on Saturday August 8 at Shabbona Park in Chicago.

The new Summer Tour Poster by Ross Felten is featured above and is available in our poster shop, or right here.  As usual, my man has outdone himself.


I  hope to see many of you this summer out and about, or at one of the tours.  Thanks for taking a moment to read.

Nooks and crannies in Bridgeport and Armour Square

A column at the entrance of the On Leong Merchants Association Building

A column at the entrance of the On Leong Merchants Association Building

One of the reasons Chicago’s architecture is so fascinating is the quaint little details that escape every day notice.  In the facade of a false-fronted two-flat, you might find a family crest, or a seal or mark of a nationality.  Sometimes in an otherwise normal worker’s cottage you can spy a bit of Flemish brick-work, or a glimpse at the builders country of origin by way of decoration.  Little hints and bits of decoration abound in the residential streets of our city.  Sometimes it is subtle in a building with no particular pedigree and sometimes it is bold and prominent in a noteworthy building like the column at the entrance to the On Leong Merchants Association Building in Chinatown pictured above.  Bridgeport and Armour Square on the city’s near South Side are exceptional communities in the abundance of hat tips to ancestry in the built environment.  With a bit of investigation, one can trace the immigration patterns in the neighborhoods throughout the post-fire era just by examining the native hints left in the indigenous building styles of the time.

Chicago is a masonry town.  The Great Fire forever changed the building code and wiped out all of the previous generations of architecture, leaving few surviving structures standing inside the fire line, each of them, a masonry structure.  Post-fire laws and code changes systemically changed the pattern of what would be built and served as a clean slate of lots to develop after the tragedy leading to multiple generations of sturdy building styles and methods.  The resulting decorative arts for buildings after the resulting changes brought out the most skilled and rare crafts and trades.  Carved stone, poured concrete and terracotta all were utilized across architectural and decorative styles.  Their durable nature has helped them weather the decades of weather extremes and city pollution even when the buildings themselves suffer from neglect, lack of maintenance and poor care.

In Bridgeport and Armour Square, the streets are filled with a wide variety of architectural styles and ages.  The homes are largely worker’s homes, but amidst the residences are grand public buildings, churches, parks and other city treasures.  This Saturday we will glide through the two adjoining communities to take a look at some of the nooks and crannies in the pedigreed and anonymous sites alike.  I hope you will join us.

Tour of Bridgeport and Armour Square
Saturday May 9, 2015 at 11:00 AMat McGuane Park at South Halsted Street & West 29th Street



Postponing the Tour of Dunning and Montclare and the Summer Tour Schedule

The Tour of Dunning and Montclare has been postponed until August.  All prepaid tickets have already been refunded.  Instead, I will be running the event on August 8, allowing me more time to prepare.  This Spring has been particularly brutal schedule-wise and my inability to complete the work necessary to provide a good tour force me to push it back. This will result however, in a summer of four all new-tours to help make up for that.

On Monday June 15, 2015 at 6PM we’ll meet up at Buckingham Fountain for the Mini-Tour of the Near South Side.  This is a free tour to help kick off Chicago’s Bike to Work Week.  More info on the Bike to Work week activities are available here.

That Friday, we’ll use the filter of the night to help select the best night-time sights for the Night Tour of the Near South Side.

July will finally see the running of the Tour of Evanston on Saturday July 11 and on August 8, we will hold the rescheduled Tour of Dunning and Montclare.

I look forward to seeing some of you this Saturday at McGuane Park.  Thanks for taking a moment to read.