Road Tripping (#6) – Finding History in Chicago

Road Tripping (#6) – Finding History in Chicago

photo4We have spent the last day and a half touring Chicago, mostly on foot. I get severely motion sick on buses, boats, and planes, so my own two feet are usually the safest mode of transportation. Why, then, I so often want to travel stymies most, often including myself.

My first impressions of the Windy City are exactly what others told me to expect before we left.

The city is cleaner than NYC, and the people nicer. We walked the Millennium Mile—to the water, around the park, many city blocks were explored. The trouble was, I was not finding anything I felt compelling enough to write about.

Thus, I returned to my standby move—explore the history.

The following day, we began by visiting Jane Addams Hull House. Ms. Addams (who lived 1860-1935) was witness to the great influx of immigrants to Chicago. She reacted to the poverty and disparity of incomes within the city. She opened a house that offered day care and education to the children of workers. She and her team acted as social scientists, mapped the city, and tried to address the needs of Chicagoans.


The ironic part of her work in the reform movement is that she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931, while simultaneously on the FBI watch list for dangerous persons. The government viewed her as a threat because of her desire for peace during WWI, fair wages for workers, and schooling for children. I’d like to have the honor of being put on that watch list, honestly.

LiesAcrossAmericaLater, we drove four or so miles to an up-and-coming part of town known as Logan Square. The area featured hipsters and bicyclists galore, along with independent bookstores and fabulous little bars. I picked up a copy of James Loewen’s book, Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong.

Inspired by Ms. Addams, I want to truly see the whole picture when we visit Mount Rushmore and other historical sites. As I learned today from many hours spent discovering the reformers of the progressive movement, seeing the whole picture is hard for many and, in the eyes of some, downright treasonous.

(My metaphor for this dilemma of vision is: I want my husband to see me, the whole me—cellulite, wrinkles, veins, and all—because only then do I know that he truly loves me and not some imagined fake version of me. See where I’m going with this metaphor thing?)

Jordan and I finished our day with a self -guided walking tour of Chicago’s historic architecture. We compared architects, talked building materials, and discovered The Rookery building. Frank Lloyd Wright designed its gorgeous lobby. I have seen Wright’s work in pictures, but to stand in it, with his myriad unique and creative details, truly took my breath away. Both my son and I gasped as we entered; a lovely woman giggled at us and proudly said, “And, I get to work here every day!”

JordanDrinksWith drinks and food in order, we headed to a local bar, where the waitress carded both Jordan and me. I know our lovely waitress was only being nice, but, anyway, thank you!

My son and I spent hours recounting our day and discussing current events—Israel, Syria, Ukraine. His comments that he, “never learned any of this in school” unnerved me. It strikes at the core of what I believe as a teacher—teach the past to the present, because if you can’t make the connections to how those events are impacting us today, then they probably aren’t worth teaching at all.

Tomorrow we travel in expected torrential rain to Minneapolis, leaving Chicago behind us. When Jordan and I are travelling together, however, history is always in front of us.