About - Architecture
My MAGNIFICENT Skyline
The architecture of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile
The Magnificent Mile owes much to the vision of Chicago’s great city planner and famed architect Daniel H. Burnham. In his 1909 Plan of Chicago, Burnham wrote: “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble and logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with growing intensity. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be ‘order’ and your beacon ‘beauty.’”
In the coming decades, a line of like-minded Chicagoans—business people, developers, politicians and volunteers—stayed fast to Burnham’s ideals. By the mid-20th century, North Michigan Avenue was a bustling and attractive street with worldwide recognition. Today Chicago’s Magnificent Mile is one of the great avenues of the world, packed with Chicago’s finest landmarks, attractions and architecture.
Sightseeing tours of The Magnificent Mile and downtown Chicago
The Magnificent Mile is home to iconic Chicago landmarks such as the historic Water Tower, DuSable Bridge (formerly Michigan Avenue Bridge) and the Wrigley Building. You can view these famous Chicago attractions in style, by trolley, by water or by foot.
The Tribune Tower is the earliest of the celebrated skyscrapers along The Magnificent Mile. The lower-level facade is embedded with more than 150 stones from landmarks around the world, including the Taj Mahal, the Berlin Wall, the pyramids and the Great Wall of China.
The historic Water Tower is the longest standing structure on Michigan Avenue and the crown jewel of the street. The iconic Gothic tower is a rare survivor of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and remains a symbol of Chicago’s resilient spirit.
Take a Chicago River cruise and view the DuSable Bridge (Michigan Avenue Bridge) from the water
On May 14, 1920, the ground-breaking, double-decked steel bascule bridge linking South Michigan Avenue to Pine Street (now a continuation of Michigan Avenue) was officially opened. In 1928, the monumental bridge towers were built with Bedford stone and mansard roofs. Lined with flags, the bridge serves as a grand gateway to The Magnificent Mile and features detailed bas-relief sculptures depicting early Chicago history.
In October 2010, the bridge was renamed DuSable Bridge in honor of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, Chicago’s first permanent resident. A fur trader of African descent, he established a permanent homestead and trading post near the mouth of the Chicago River in the 1780s.
Chicago’s First Lady Cruises, in partnership with the Chicago Architectural Foundation, presents the official Chicago Architectural River Cruise and offers visitors a unique take on Chicago sightseeing, with views from the river and Lake Michigan of the historic bridge towers, Wrigley Building, Tribune Tower and the striking Chicago skyline.
The Drake Hotel, jewel of the roaring twenties
Standing strong at the north end of The Magnificent Mile, The Drake Hotel occupies one of the most beautiful locations in the city, overlooking Lake Michigan and Oak Street Beach. Designed by Marshall and Fox in 1920, the 13-story limestone structure features grand public spaces and has a rich history of famous guests. Visit the Cape Cod Room to see the initials of Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio carved into the restaurant’s wooden bar.
Get a bird’s eye view of Chicago from the John Hancock Observatory
The soaring John Hancock Center is located on North Michigan Avenue between Chestnut and Delaware Streets. Built in 1969 by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the building’s exterior is aluminum and glass with distinctive x-shaped external bracing that has made it an architectural icon. Engineer Fazlur Khan pioneered this system to derive higher performance from tall structures and open up usable floor space. The X-bracing virtually eliminates the need for interior columns.
Sweeping views of Chicago’s architecture and extraordinary lakefront can be enjoyed from the John Hancock Observatory which offers a sensational view of the city, multi-media tours, an open air Skywalk and the fastest elevators in North America!
Your guide to the architectural landmarks of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile
If you are planning a trip to Chicago and want to know more about what things to see and places to visit, please use our comprehensive directory of the attractions and tours of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. You can also download our detailed Magnificent Mile map, which highlights Chicago visitor attractions, architectural landmarks, sightseeing opportunities and tours.