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Best Historical Sites In Chicago

For tourists and Chicago natives who wish to spend the day exploring some of the city's great architectural landmarks, these places to visit will provide valuable insight into Chicago's rich cultural history.
Smith Museum of Stained Glass

Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows
600 E Grand Ave, Navy Pier
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 595-5024

The stunning stained-glass window displays of the Smith Museum are of breathtaking beauty and can be found along the lower level of Festival Hall at Navy Pier, a well known Chicago landmark and popular tourist destination. The priceless gallery displays extend 800 feet and present immaculate works of art both religious and secular in nature, categorically arranged in Victorian, Prairie, Modern, and Contemporary themes. Most of the windows were originally installed in Chicago residential neighborhoods as well as commercial establishments, and reflect the city's cultural and artistic heritage since the late 1800s. Of truly noteworthy interest is a glowing  collection of stained-glass artwork by world-renowned Louis Comfort Tiffany, contained in the Richard H. Driehaus Gallery.

Fourth Church

Fourth Presbyterian Church
126 E Chestnut
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 787-4570

An architecturally awe-inspiring place of worship, the Fourth Presbyterian Church was built nearly a century ago in the revival style of the French and English Gothic tradition. The ornate steeple of the structure's exterior overlooks a semi-private courtyard leading to the inside of the church, accentuated by a thick stained-glass west window in deeply subdued hues. Delicately carved into the walls are seven-foot-tall wooden angels adorned by beautiful religious paintings. The oldest building on the Magnificent Mile, this thriving congregation is dedicated to the spiritual growth of the community and welcomes more than eight million visitors per year.

Related: Guide to Chicago's Literary Landmarks

Historic Water Tower

City Gallery in the Historic Chicago Water Tower
806 N Michigan Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 742-0808

One of the few classic structures to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the historic Water Tower is a unique and imaginative design characteristic of a miniature castle, perhaps dating back to the 13th century. Originally commissioned to enclose a standpipe for the municipal water system, the Tower's compelling presence has withstood the test of time and is now considered a focal point of interest along the shopping district of Michigan Avenue. The resplendent limestone building has been renovated to a City Gallery and visitor's center, featuring ongoing photographic exhibits of Chicago's history in the making by prominent and local artists.

Picasso Chicago
(credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Picasso Sculpture at the Daley Plaza
50 W Washington St
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 603-1928

The Chicago Picasso is a historically significant, three-dimensional sculpture gifted to the Richard J. Daley Center in 1967 from the famous artist Pablo Picasso. The pioneering cubist work of art is a political abstraction and stands 50 feet in height, weighing 162 tons. Constructed of self-weathering steel, the natural rust design complements the Daley Plaza as a fascinating artistic extension of the government building while promoting an outdoor gathering place for public activities. Interestingly, it has been suggested by Picasso's family that the sculpture was inspired by a young woman whom the artist found alluring and had painted numerous times.

Chicago Board of Trade
(credit: Yana Paskova/Getty Images)

Chicago Board of Trade Building
141 W Jackson Blvd
Chicago, IL 60604
(312) 435-7180

A treasured Chicago landmark, the esteemed Chicago Board of Trade Building was established in 1885 as a center for agricultural market trade in the city's financial district. The first commercial building to exhibit electric lighting, the organization was redesigned in 1930 in exquisite art-deco style with elaborate sculptural figure art depicting trading-floor activities. The design work culminates to a statue of Ceres the goddess of grain anchored on the pyramid roof, and includes dynamic floodlights illuminating the structure to a majestic golden hue at night. A well-known dignitary visitation site, the CBOT regularly hosts architectural tours open to the public.

Related: Best Iconic Woks of Art in Chicago

Magdalene Paniotte is from Chicago and very pleased to be a CBS Contributor. She has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Theatre and has written a few screenplays as well as a selection of short stories and poems. Maggie recently edited a University student writing journal as part of her internship toward an online Master of Fine Arts Degree in Creative Writing. She is currently working on her first fictional novel. Her work can be found at

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