The Ships that Go Sailing by Crickets

Nine out of ten Americans don’t realize that the city of broad shoulders not only has a beach but also an extensive beach stretching twenty miles north and south along Lake Michigan. The master plan of city planner Daniel Burnham included yacht harbors, extensive parks, and a road parallel to the beach stretching from the far north side of Chicago to the far south side. Office and apartment buildings would not be allowed within nearly a mile from the Lake Front, as it was known.

The drive along Lake Shore Drive appealed to bicyclists, walkers, runners, as well as those in automobiles. Pedestrian overpasses allowed beachgoers to avoid the traffic. If you drove directly east into Chicago along Congress Parkway you would proceed under the massive post office building, into the Loop, past Michigan Avenue, and into Grant Park. Michigan Avenue compares to other grand boulevards of the worlds, with The Bund in Shanghai an appropriate reference.

Both Michigan Avenue and The Bund are associated with waterfronts. If you stood in Grant Park and looked westward, you’d see a stretch of buildings from north to south. The Conrad Hilton, the Chicago Symphony building, and others were situated there, straight, in a row, forming a backdrop for the park rather than an intrusion. At the end of Congress Parkway, where the road terminates with right- or left-hand turns onto Lake Shore Drive, was the answer of Chicago to the great fountains of Rome.


On summer nights, light shows of multiple colors emanating from underwater lamps accompanied the water jets, in well-designed synchronism. Perhaps it was the phallic-ness of this display that attracted both tourists and lovers nightly, weather permitting. The shoreline east of Buckingham Fountain was an embarkation point for tour boats. On summer nights such as this, with a gentle breeze creating gentle waves, deck lights from sailboats and yachts on Lake Michigan would flicker as the boats swayed in the water.

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