175 Ways to Love Chicago: Geoffrey Baer’s 5 Hidden Chicago Treasures

Geoffrey Baer

From hidden murals to incredible relics, there’s even more to Chicago than meets the eye. Learn about Chicago’s history and public art as you follow WTTW host Geoffrey Baer on a quest to discover five of Chicago’s hidden treasures.

Sneak a Peek at the Pulaski Park Field House Mural. Marching around the arch that spans the stage in this old neighborhood park district building, you’ll see a stunning pageant of painted nymphs, cherubs and other partially clad classical figures. This is just one of hundreds of historic murals in schools and public buildings all over the city, many of which have been lovingly restored. You can see why experts call Chicago the mural capital of America! [Editor's note: Learn more about Chicago's hidden art treasures by exploring the Chicago Public Art collection's website.]

Explore the Highs and Lows of Stearns Quarry Park. In the historically crowded blue-collar neighborhood of Bridgeport, one of Chicago’s oldest limestone quarries has been converted into a park. You can follow the sloping path that leads down to a lake where the old quarry walls tower overhead like the ancient limestone cliffs along the Mississippi. The abandoned quarry had been a dump for construction debris. That rubble was piled up to create a soaring hill beautifully landscaped with native plants that offers a view of the Chicago skyline. It’s unlike anything else in Chicago! [Editor’s Note: To get the most out of your excursion, listen to the Chicago Park District's Stearns Quarry Park Audio Tour.]

Hunt for the Chicago Fire Relic after Visiting the Chicago History Museum. Hiding in the shrubs behind the Chicago History Museum is a nondescript blob of iron that turns out to be a truly incredible bit of Chicago archaeology. You can find the melted remains of a hardware store that was destroyed in the Chicago Fire of 1871. The bushes have overgrown the relic, so you’ll have to hunt for it. [Hint: It’s on the east side of the museum.]

See Chicago’s Skyline from Another Time in Rogers Park. You can’t see downtown from here, but you can still get a glorious view of the skyline at Bruno & Tim’s Lounge (6562 N. Sheridan Rd.). Just stand in front of the building and look up. An artist’s depiction of the skyline made of colorful glazed terra cotta stretches from one end of the building to the other. You won’t find Willis Tower or the Hancock Building here because this work was created circa 1922. This is just one of many fanciful terra-cotta façades all over Chicago.

Marvel at the Tiffany Designs around Town. Soaring six stories over the cosmetics counters at Macy’s State Street Store is the world’s largest unbroken Tiffany mosaic! Take in the stunning 6000-square-foot vault made from 1.6 million pieces of dazzling glass. Brawny, big-shouldered Chicago has a surprising number of delicate delights by Tiffany. The best collection in the city–and possibly the country–is the ensemble of Tiffany stained-glass windows in Second Presbyterian Church on S. Michigan Ave. They were installed between 1890 and 1918, back when this neighborhood was Chicago’s first Gold Coast.

Multiple Emmy award-winning writer, producer and program host Geoffrey Baer is known for his masterful storytelling, conversational style and contagious enthusiasm. You’ll enjoy his company while exploring Chicago and beyond when you watch Geoffrey Baer Tours and his regular appearances on Chicago Tonight, all on WTTW, Chicago’s public television station.

This post is part of the 175 Ways to Love Chicago project (view more posts here), which features the perspectives of 35 unique Chicagoans. Presented by the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture, in celebration of Chicago’s upcoming 175th birthday on March 4, 2012. http://www.explorechicago.org

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