Medill Fridays: Chicago Neighborhood Tours

October 6, 2017 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM

Pilsen Tour
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Leaders: Lecturer Kari Lydersen, Grad Student Jinitzail Hernandez
Meet at 18th Street el station on the Pink Line

Pilsen is Chicago’s most famous Mexican immigrant neighborhood, birthplace of the massive immigrant marches of 2006 and the home of many powerful community movements over the years — ever since it was home to Bohemian and Polish immigrant workers in the late 1800s. Today Pilsen is also one of Chicago’s trendiest neighborhoods, attracting people from all over the region to hip restaurants and bars. As gentrification happens, local organizations and residents struggle to preserve their homes and the neighborhood’s Mexican identity even as they welcome newcomers and new development. 

The day will start with a tour of Pilsen’s famous murals, led by spoken-word poet and long-time Pilsen Mural Tours guide Luis Tubens. We will be joined by several local guests on this walking tour, which will include a stop at Pilsen Alliance, the neighborhood’s leading group fighting for affordable housing and immigrants rights. We will eat lunch at Los Comales, a popular local taqueria. Then we will proceed to the National Museum of Mexican Art in Zapata Park, where we will get a tour of exhibits on Mexican American history and contemporary Mexican art. 


Chinatown Tour
10. a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Leaders: Professor Bill Handy, Grad Student Yvaine Ye
Meet at Chinatown’s Zodiac Square at 10 a.m.

Chicago’s Chinatown began taking shape in the late 1800s, and is generally said now to be more prosperous than those in other U.S. cities. It’s a hub of commerce, culture and cuisine, and home to tens of thousands.

This tour will begin with discussion of Chinatown’s history, and quick visits to such sites as Zodiac Square, historical commercial Wentworth Avenue, Chinatown Gate, Nine Dragon Wall, Chinese Buddhist Temple, St. Therese Catholic Church, the Marble Lions and Chinatown Mural.

After that introduction, we will visit the Chinese-American Service League, a broad-based social-service agency that deals with senior wellness and independence, child development, employment and education, housing, financial literacy, healthcare outreach and legal issues.

Lunch will be at Xi’an Cuisine, which features indigenous dishes from northern China, specialties being hand-stretched noodles and flatbreads. (Note: Vegetarian options are available.)

After lunch, we’ll return to Wentworth and desserts from Chiu Quon Bakery, before heading to Chinatown Square for a visit to an herbalist (Chinese Medicine) shop and some general hanging out.

Bridgeport Tour
10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Leaders: Professor Abigail Foerstner, Grad Student Adam Cohen
Meet at 3400 S. Halstead, at the Richard J. Daley Chicago Branch Library

Bridgeport, one of Chicago's oldest neighborhoods, took hold of the city's machine politics in 1933 and didn't let go. Every Chicago mayor, with the exception of Harold Washington, came from Bridgeport through 2011 when Mayor Richard M. Daley retired. His father Richard J. Daley made Chicago famous for political wheeling and  dealing that ricocheted all the way through Springfield and Washington. He found the extra votes to make JFK president, legend has it.

We will visit storied political hang-outs and bars where insiders made deals on bonds, interstate highways and lucrative contracts that shaped the city. We'll talk to an elderly precinct captain or two who can tell us how it all worked for the machine. We'll visit some of the grand basilicas that rival immigrant groups built with hard-earned steel mill salaries and patronage city jobs. We'll find remnants of the Illinois & Michigan Canal that made Chicago a national commercial hub in the 1840s even before the railroads came to town.

Join us at 39th and Halsted.  We'll eat at Bridgeport Restaurant at 3500 S. Halsted.  It’s one of those classic corner restaurants that serves everything and collects the whole neighborhood.

Devon Avenue Tour
Time TBD
Leaders: Professor Jack Doppelt, Grad Student Samantha Yadron
Details to come

Little Italy Tour
Time TBD
Leaders: Professor Desi Hanford, Grad Student Hannah Wiley
Details to come

Oak Park Tour
10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Leaders: Professor Caryn Ward, Grad Student Amy Smekar

Meet at Harlem Ave. el stop on the Green Line (Harlem and South Blvd.)

Ernest Hemingway called his one-time home a place of “broad lawns and narrow minds.” Current Oak Parkers would beg to differ. Oak Park prides itself on diversity both ethnic and economic. And its list of famous residents is diverse as well. Along with Hemingway, Frank Lloyd Wright, comedian Kathy Griffin, actress Anna Chlumsky, mafia boss Sam Giancana and alleged mafia enforcer Tony Spilotro, comedian Bob Newhart, actor John Mahoney, Betty White, Dan Castellaneta and McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc all called Oak Park home.

Bring your walking shoes. We will cover a lot of ground as we make our way from the Frank Lloyd Wright district, where students will tour Wright’s home and studio, to the Hemingway district and through the downtown area - where business and controversial construction is booming. We will also visit historic Pleasant Home, an architecturally significant, large prairie-style mansion, along with FLW’s Unity Temple and the Oak Park library. We will hear from local experts as we make our stops and we will eat lunch at one of the many downtown restaurants.

Hyde Park Tour
Time TBD
Leaders: TBD
Details to come


RSVP for this event

Space on each tour is limited. To RSVP and let us know which tour you'd like to attend, please click here. Note that assignments will be made on a first-come first-served basis.