Tag Archives: Devil in the White City

Weekly Photo Challenge: Up, Up and Off The Beaten Page in Chicago

Wherever you go in Chicago, it's important to keep looking up at the city's fabulous architecture.  Above, one of the latest additions to  Chicago's skyline, Cloud Gate, a.k.a. The Bean.
Wherever you go in Chicago, it’s important to keep looking up at the city’s fabulous architecture. Above, one of the latest additions to Chicago’s skyline, Cloud Gate, a.k.a. The Bean.

My book, Off The Beaten Page: The Best Trips for Lit Lovers, Book Clubs, and Girls on Getaways comes out May 1.  So, between now and then, I’m offering a glimpse of the 15 U.S. cities featured in the book.  Here’s a preview of the Chicago chapter, entitled “The Tales of Two Architects:”

Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Paul Goldberger says, “Architecture is one  area in which we in New York truly do have a second city complex toward Chicago–not the other way around, as it is in so many other realms. And for all that has happened over the years, little has changed in the sense that those of us in New York, as well as the rest of the country, still have of Chicago as being the essential city of American architecture.”

But you don’t have to be a connoisseur of skyscrapers to understand Chicago’s pivotal place in architectural history and the innovative, risk-taking outlook that continues to make Chicago “America’s City.” Two books have generated sky-high interest in Chicago by combining the stories of the city’s architectural lions with juicy plots.  The first, Erik Larson’s The Devil in The White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America.  The other book, Nancy Horan’s Loving Frank, a novel of historical fiction, tells the tale of architectural genius Frank Lloyd Wright’s scandalous relationship with his client, Mamah Borthwick Cheney.

Each chapter in Off the Beaten Page includes an essay about a couple of books that create a theme or focus for your visit to that city, extensive reading lists, and three-day itineraries that offer ways to experience in person the books you’ve read and have fun in other ways, too. For example, the White City is long gone, but you can get a taste of what is was like by taking a tour with the Chicago Architecture Foundation. Wander Jackson Park, the site of the World’s Fair in The Devil in the White City, then tour Millennium Park, a modern-day bookend to the architectural innovation that began with that fair.  Wherever you go, keep looking up.

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A Literary Taste of Chicago

 

Chicago History Museum

 

I was in Chicago last weekend for a writers conference and ventured out into the sweltering heat for a trip to the Chicago History Museum www.chicagohistory.org/

For anyone who has read just about any story that takes place there (Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City, Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, and on and on), this museum reinforces that reading experience with relics, tours, special exhibits and more—everything from the Great Fire to meatpacking, the World’s Fair to a great collection of historic wedding dresses. My favorite quote on the wall there is from Mayor Richard Daly in 1968:  “This is Chicago, this is America.”

Also, this is the city of the first skyscraper, and buildings so high that, in the words of Carl Sandburg, “They had to put hinges on the top two stories to let the moon go by.” The history museum and the Chicago Architecture Foundation offer boats tours on the Chicago River that blend architecture, history and a chance to be out on the water. http://caf.architecture.org/