Accidental Discoveries About City Of Chicago Landmarks

In my work in progress, main character Quille searches for a missing woman while trapped in the iconic Chicago apartment complex River City, which might or might not be a Chicago landmark. (The novel is The Charming Man, Book 2 of my Q.C. Davis series.)

Built in 1986, River City has always reminded me of the cylindrical many-windowed building that the cartoon family the Jetsons lived in.

Inside River City

If you’re too young to remember, The Jetsons featured a space-age family that got around in flying cars and had a robot maid.

River City’s Story

Architect Bertrand Goldberg designed River City as two S-shaped interconnected towers along the Chicago River where it runs north and south along Wells Street. The apartments all have curved outer walls with lots of windows.

At the time, the neighborhood had almost no residential development.

River City was meant to be a sort of city within a city. It has a 70-slip marina, which is the only one in the city where boats can remain throughout the winter. The complex includes commercial space, over 400 apartments, and an indoor River Road topped by an atrium.

It has a beautiful park about three floors up. You can see its trees from street level.

River City opened to much fanfare, but it fell on hard times through a combination of the 2007 (and on) recession and a flood of the Chicago River.

For about 15 years, it became a condominium building. Recently a real estate development company bought it and is converting it back into rental apartments.

Landmark Or Not?

Right now there’s a lot of construction immediately north of River City.

New buildings are going up and Chicago‘s Riverwalk is being extended. There is a lot of speculation over whether the owners of River City will fix up the building or have it torn down to make way for more shiny new apartment buildings.

The alderman for the area said once that River City is a landmark that can’t be torn down. This comment surprised me because when I initially researched River City, I didn’t find anything indicating it is a landmark.

While it won’t directly change the events of my story, whether the building is being refurbished or is destined for its demise matters for atmospheric reasons.

So today I did more research.

Two Printing House Rows

I learned a lot about the neighborhood where my protagonist lives (and where I’ve lived for many years).

It’s an area that is very close to downtown Chicago. Many people know it as Printer’s Row. It used to be home to many printing companies and paper warehouses.

One of my older brothers worked at one of those paper companies. I live near it. It’s now high end loft condos. He gave me this wooden drawer he salvaged from one of the printers in the building before everyone vacated it. (Teacups sold separately.)

To my surprise, according to the national register of historic places, two neighborhoods are related to Chicago’s printing history.

One is labeled the Printing House Row Historic District.

It’s on the south edge of downtown Chicago, a block or two north of Congress Parkway. (Congress Parkway, a multi-lane street that turns into an expressway going west, defines the south border of downtown.)

The other neighborhood is called the South Loop Printing House District.

That’s the area I’ve always thought of as Printer’s Row, and it’s where the Printers Row Book Fair (now known as Lit Fest rather than Book Fair) takes place on Dearborn Street and Polk Street south of Congress Parkway.

The register gives the boundaries of the South Loop Printing House District as Taylor Street, Polk Street, Wells Street, Congress Parkway, and State Street. I was very happy to learn that. It means I still live with in that district though I’ve moved a little bit away from Dearborn Street.

It also puts Quille directly in the district as well.

Virtual Landmark Tours

The City of Chicago‘s webpages about landmarks include virtual landmark tours.

The tours group and list buildings by topic. They include an African-American History Tour, a Churches and Synagogues Tour, an Early Skyscrapers Tour, a Pre-Chicago Fire Tour, and a Labor and Industry Tour among many others.

If you’ve been following my posts, you know that I broke my foot a little while back.

the latest cast

Once I’m able to walk about again, I plan to take a few of these tours by printing out the addresses of the buildings and going to visit them. I’m hoping I’ll be able to do that in August or September at the latest.

Seems like a great way to be a tourist in my own city.

I still haven’t found anything showing River City is a landmark. But I can’t say for sure it’s not. The listings may be out of date, or I might have missed some county or state designations.

On the upside, a little uncertainty can only be good for a mystery/suspense series.