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Back to School: Our Favorite Things

Marina City

Before Marina City, skyscrapers were rectangular boxes made of steel. Nobody lived downtown and River North was a skid row dominated by huge, decaying warehouse lofts. Architect Bertrand Goldberg changed all that. When the twin “corn cobs” of Marina City opened in 1964, they were the tallest residential structures in the world, climbing 61 stories high. Goldberg made them out of not steel but concrete, with beams that stretched from central cores housing elevators and stairwells to rings of 16 perimeter columns. He envisioned them not just as buildings but as a city within a city: 600 apartments atop 15 floors of parking with an office building, a theater, shops, a skating rink, and of course a marina down below. The gamble paid off. It filled up instantly.

The first time I laid eyes on Marina City, at the age of eight, it was unlike anything I’d ever seen. I told myself, that is where I want to live when I grow up. Twenty-two years ago, I moved in. The apartments went condo in the 1980s and the complex went through rough times in the early 90s, but today it’s as vibrant as ever. The old theater now does brisk business as the House of Blues. Some of the upgrades have come at a cost, like the battleship gray paint that’s desecrated the base of the former office building, now the Hotel Sax Chicago (and formerly the House of Blues Hotel), or the kitschy steakhouse built over the former skating rink.

Amazingly, Marina City has no landmark protection. It remains, however, one of the most recognizable buildings not only in Chicago but in the world. River North is booming and newer buildings—as tall or taller—continue to rise around it, but the splendid “corn cobs” are still what turn passengers on the armada of tour boats passing by into wide-eyed eight year olds. 300 N. State. —Lynn Becker

We also want to hear your stories about your favorite people, places, and things in the city--go here to share them with the rest of the class.


A & T Grill
Elizabeth M. Tamny

All Rise Gallery
Liz Armstrong

The Ando Gallery at the Art Institute
Tamara Faulkner

Bartender Ballet at the Violet Hour
Mike Sula


The Basement of After-Words
Monica Kendrick

The Blue Crab Lounge at Shaw’s
Michael Lenehan

The Butcher Shop
Noah Berlatsky

Deborah Butterfield’s “Ben”
Ryan Hubbard


The Diary of Virginia May Garcia
Noah Berlatsky

The Fern Room at the Garfield Park Conservatory
Martha Bayne

Fine Wine Brokers
Kathie Bergquist

The Grid
Bill Savage


Hideout Dance Parties
Martha Bayne

Jazz Record Mart and Dusty Groove
Peter Margasak

Jollyball at the Museum of Science and Industry
Noah Berlatsky

Ken Dunn
Mick Dumke


The Lobby Bar at Second City
Albert Williams

Lost & Found
Kathie Bergquist

Manhattans at the Matchbox
David Hammond

Matinees at the Music Box
Adam Langer


Marina City
Lynn Becker

The Mausoleum at Rosehill Cemetery
Kerry Reid

Monday Night at Sidetrack
Zac Thompson

Monday Night Farm Dinner at Lula Cafe
Peter Margasak


Moo & Oink
Mike Sula

Music Box Massacre
J.R. Jones

The Murals at the 18th Street El Stop
Brenna Ehrlich

The Newberry Library
Harold Henderson


The North Branch Trail
Jennifer Sodini

Open Mike at Gallery Cabaret
Julia Rickert

Outdanced!
Liz Armstrong

RUI: Reading Under the Influence
Kathie Bergquist


Silent Summer Film Festival
J.R. Jones

Sunday Transmission at the Hungry Brain
Peter Margasak

The Sweet Spot at the Empty Bottle
Miles Raymer

Textile Discount Outlet
Tasneem Paghdiwala


The Thorne Miniature Rooms at the Art Institute
Albert Williams

Victory Gardens Greenhouse Theater
Albert Williams

Wil Hasbrouck
Harold Henderson

The Window Seat at Letizia’s
Emerson Dameron


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