Welcome to our new series of self-guided Chicago Greeter tours, presented by Bank of America. Each walking tour is created by a knowledgeable local to showcase their favorite hidden gems and fascinating history behind Chicago’s unique neighborhoods.
This tour is based on one created by Marianne Goss, who has lived in the neighborhood for eight years. Her tour of the city’s South Loop, one of Chicago’s first residential areas, includes three distinct sections of the neighborhood: Printers Row, the Wabash Arts Corridor, and Grant Park.
See historic Printers Row
The landmark Dearborn Station at Polk and Dearborn is a great place to start your walking tour of the South Loop.
For its first century, the South Loop was dominated by railroads. The area was home to four train stations, including Dearborn Station. The proximity to the railroads made it easy for Chicago printers to serve the entire country and turned the area around Dearborn Station into the nation’s largest printing district.
Eventually, the industry relocated near highways after World War II, and the South Loop rail stations closed by 1971. But pioneering architects and developers recognized the potential of the abandoned printing loft buildings and transformed them into condos and luxury rentals. Today, the area is known as Printers Row and is a designated historic district.
Walk north on Dearborn Street to see some of the area’s historic buildings, such as the The Donohue at 711 S. Dearborn St. Built in 1883, it was the area’s first major printing building. Also, notice the backwards type on the benches at Dearborn Park that pay tribute to the area’s printing history.
Admire massive murals in Wabash Arts Corridor
At Harrison, turn east and walk to Wabash to see the Wabash Arts Corridor.
Wabash Arts Corridor is one of the largest concentrations of public art anywhere. The idea of using exposed building walls for murals came from the nearby Columbia College Chicago. Today, the area has become an urban canvas of dozens of murals created by both local and world-renowned street artists.
Nearby, you’ll find Buddy Guy’s Legends. Buddy Guy is a blues guitarist and singer who came to Chicago from Louisiana. Blues music has deep roots in Chicago, and the city is known for its unique urban blues. You can see Buddy Guy himself play at his iconic venue each January.
Wander through lakefront Grant Park
At Roosevelt Road, turn east. Lake Michigan used to come almost to Michigan Avenue, and much of Grant Park was created on landfill and debris from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Its formal, symmetrical gardens are modeled after the gardens at the French palace of Versailles.
The park is filled with public art. Agora, created by Polish artist Magdalena Abakanowicz, is a group of 106 headless and armless iron sculptures named in reference to the Greek word for meeting place. Other sculptures in Grant Park memorialize Civil War Union general John Logan and Theodore Thomas, the founder and first music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Take the sidewalk curving to the east at Harrison to go to Buckingham Fountain. One of the largest fountains in the world, Buckingham Fountain was modeled after the Latona Fountain at Versailles but is twice as large. It’s meant to represent Lake Michigan, with the four sets of sea horses representing the four states that border the lake. It operates from April to October, with a 20-minute water show on the top of every hour and a light show at night.
Find more things to do and see in the South Loop.
Chicago Greeter: free guided tours
Taste, shop and explore the neighborhoods with a friendly local as your guide. Explore rich histories, diverse cultural traditions and hidden treasures. See sides of the city you may not have adventured out to on your own, and take away a truly authentic Chicago experience. Greeter visits are customized based on your choice of neighborhoods, language and interests.