Created by The Atlantic’s marketing team and paid for by Toyota
Re:think Original / Toyota


C hicago is known for its feats of architecture, from rebuilding after the Great Chicago Fire, which destroyed over 17,000 structures, to erecting the country’s first-ever skyscraper. On a self-directed architectural tour of the city, drivers can find buildings and bridges that tell stories of the city’s key moments of transition and resilience.

This built history, which is often taken for granted as simply the fabric of the city, mirrors how many American metropolises have morphed to meet the needs of their growing and changing populations over the past 150-plus years—if you only take a closer look.

stop oneArchibishop's Residence

Our first stop speaks to the city’s moments of adaptation. After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the city understandably did away with woodblock alleyways, beautiful as they were. However, two survived—and one of them is secretly hidden away behind the Archbishop’s Residence, a stately mansion that once housed the archbishop of Chicago. Today, it’s an example of the elaborate style of architecture that would sweep over Chicago after the international influences that were brought to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

Venza Feature Toyota Logo

Much of Chicago’s historical architecture remains recognizable, even with fascinating updates, just like the iconic Toyota logo.

stop twoThe DuSable Bridge

Head south to the riverwalk that bisects the city. The DuSable bridge was completed in 1920, and offers pedestrians and drivers who pass over it an iconic view of Chicago. But the double-deck structure itself is deserving of another look: It’s one of the pioneering moveable bridges that lines the Chicago River, and is a symbol of the city’s expansion that helped form the Magnificent Mile, the bustling commercial area on North Michigan Ave that drives through the heart of downtown. Its four bridge houses host sculptures depicting pivotal moments in the city’s history, like The Battle of Fort Dearborn.

Venza Feature Front Grille

The unique, contemporary lines of the Venza’s front grille mirror the clean, modern lines of Chicago’s newer additions to its architectural presence.

stop threeChicago Theatre

Make a stop on the other side of the river. Most towns have local movie theaters, but how often do you consider the history of how that space came to be? The Chicago Theatre, completed in 1921—just shy of two decades after the opening of America’s first motion picture theater—exemplifies “the classic American movie palace” style. This approach focused on the movie-goer’s experience, and transformed theaters into luxe, escapist spaces. The Chicago Theatre has survived war time, multiple renovations, and a range of uses—including live performance and film screenings—but its grand marquee and Tiffany stained-glass window show off its regal history, which dates to a time when going to the movies was a relatively novel experience.

Venza Feature Projector LED Headlights

It’s getting late in the day now. Light up the detailed ornamentation of Chicago’s Art Deco buildings with the Venza’s available projector LED headlights.

stop fourMonadnock Building

Our last stop is a monument to Chicago’s architectural history. This skyscraper has two facades that represent two distinct styles and a moment of great transformation—even though they were built only two years apart. One facade, completed in 1891, has a pared-down look and masonry wall, while the other, completed in 1893, features a metal frame and ornamental design. To the passerby, one facade may simply appear more decorative than the other, but this Janus-faced building is emblematic of a great shift in Chicago, as architects challenged convention and built taller buildings to accommodate the booming city’s needs.