Visitors travel far and wide to Chicago to explore the city’s rich culture, delicious cuisine, and fascinating history. From the Chicago World’s Fair and architectural icons to the Great Chicago Fire and mobster legends, the streets of Chicago tell riveting stories. 

Residents of The St. Regis Chicago are fortunate to live right in the heart of the city, with several historical sites just steps away from home. When the weather warms up, consider checking out some of these places on your next walk around Lakeshore East and downtown Chicago.

Restaurants and Culinary Establishments

The Exchequer Restaurant & Pub is a family-owned restaurant near the Art Institute of Chicago that was once the site of a popular speakeasy run by Al Capone during Prohibition in the 1920s. It was originally called the 226 Club, named after the address of 226 Wabash. According to staff, there is a door in the dining room that leads to a series of underground passageways, a signature design practiced by Capone to avoid law enforcement. Today, you can enjoy classic American fare and a refreshing beverage at the Exchequer as your eyes wander the room for that secret door.

Another historic restaurant in the area is The Berghoff, one of the oldest restaurants in the city still in operation. Established by German immigrant Herman Joseph in 1898, the restaurant offers a variety of house brews and traditional German cuisine. Behind the original bar, you’ll see on display “Chicago Liquor License No. 1” — as Berghoff received the city’s very first liquor license after the end of Prohibition.

Cultural Highlights

Located a few blocks west of Grant Park, The Jazz Showcase, founded in 1947 by Joe Segal, boasts being the oldest historic jazz club in Chicago. Although its “oldest” title has been challenged by the Green Mill Jazz Club in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, it is indisputably a legendary venue that has hosted performances by huge names in the world of jazz, including Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, and Art Blakey.

The Chicago Theatre on State Street is an iconic and picturesque landmark in the downtown area, but did you know that there is an even older theater just a few blocks away? Next to Grant Park, The Auditorium Theatre was designed by renowned Chicago architecture firm Adler and Sullivan in 1889. 

Its construction was an impressive feat of the time as it incorporated the latest in 19th century technology, including electric lighting and air conditioning. Its 270 feet in height even landed it the title of Chicago’s tallest building for a period (for reference, the current title holder, Willis Tower, stands at 1,451 feet). Over the past 130 years, The Auditorium Theatre’s stage has hosted an array of performances from iconic artists like Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, and more.

Architectural Marvels

Looking north of the river, the St. James Cathedral is a marvel of Gothic Revival architecture, but a closer look reveals another remnant of Chicago history. If you walk to the front of the cathedral, you’ll notice black charring on the belltower from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The belltower was the only part of the cathedral to survive the fire and has been reincorporated into the present structure. 

On that note, you can also stop by the Chicago Water Tower up the street, which is famous for being the only building left standing after the Great Fire. Built in 1869, the castle-like structure has a gorgeous Gothic exterior. It was originally intended to be merely dressing for an iron standpipe, and now is home to the City Gallery showcasing the work of local artists.

Even more modern, The St. Regis Chicago has made history as the third tallest building in Chicago, and the tallest structure in the world designed by a female architect — Jeanne Gang. The skyscraper’s construction was completed in 2020 and stands at an impressive 1,198 feet tall. 

The tower is revolutionary for including a blow-through floor, the first of its kind in Chicago. The vacant floor at the 83rd level allows for wind to blow through the structure naturally. This unique architectural feature played a crucial role in achieving the building’s height, resulting in an incredible view of the city for St. Regis residents to enjoy.

With some new insights into the area to elevate your local jaunts, as well as a few fun facts to keep in your back pocket the next time visitors come into town, you will be the local guide your friends and family will come to for all things downtown Chicago. 

Looking to gain more knowledge about the area that The St. Regis Chicago is located? Learn more about the history of the Lakeshore East neighborhood itself, and don’t miss out finding more information about The Residences at The St Regis Chicago.