The Chicago Architecture Foundation tours are one of the best things you can do if you‘re visiting the city. In fact, Trip Advisor, the formidable travel website, gives the CAF tours its Certificate of Excellence. Of course, Joe, Keith and I have long been fans of the CAF tours and highly recommend them to others. But there’s one tour in particular that might interest you – especially if you’ve read Erik Larson’s magnificent book, The Devil in the White City about the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, its builders, and the man who might have been the city’s very first serial killer. We went on the tour in late March with a group from the Illinois Geographical Society – this was a special field trip for the IGS that CAF organized just for us – and we thought we’d tell you about it.
You’re probably wondering what on earth a serial killer and the Columbian Exposition have to do with Route 66. Fair enough (pun intended): the serial killer is gruesomely interesting but irrelevant to Route 66. But the Columbian Exposition and its director of construction, architect and city planner Daniel Burnham, are not. Stand at the intersection of Jackson Boulevard and Michigan Avenue – the Gateway to Route 66 – and take a look around. Daniel Burnham is directly or indirectly responsible for what’s on all four corners; and this intersection is essentially the same as it was in 1926, when the route began.