The Loop is usually said to end at the “L” tracks, but the blocks beyond this core, to either side of the Chicago River, hold plenty of interest. Broad, double-decked Wacker Drive, parallel to the water, was designed as a sophisticated promenade, lined by benches and obelisk-shaped lanterns, by Daniel Burnham in 1909. Though never completed, and despite the almost constant intrusion of construction works, it makes for a nice extended walk. The direction of the river itself was reversed a century ago, in an engineering project more extensive than the digging of the Panama Canal. As a result, rather than letting its sewage and industrial waste flow east into Lake Michigan, Chicago now sends it all south into the Corn Belt.
A boat tour from beneath the Michigan Avenue Bridge gives magnificent views of downtown. However, half an hour’s walk, especially at lunchtime when the office workers are out in force, will do the trick nearly as well. Burnham’s promenade runs along both sides of the river, crossing back and forth over the twenty-odd drawbridges that open and close to let barges and the occasional sailboat pass. The State Street Bridge makes a superb vantage point. On the south bank, at 35 E Wacker Drive, the elegant Beaux Arts Jewelers Building was built in 1926 and is capped on the seventeenth floor by a domed rotunda that once housed Al Capone’s favourite speakeasy.