BOTCON - SORTA NEAR CHICAGO
(griffin's 2015 BotCon adventure)
This was the map on the tour-bus website, which I downloaded to look
up intereresting things near each stop, because I was aiming to spend the
whole day doing this, hopping off at most of the 12 stops for half an hour
until the next bus. (didn't happen of course)
Since I wasn't able to do the Movie Tour that included Transformers Movie locations, I've used this page to create my own Movie Tour, by pointing out some of the Transformers Movie locations that I picked up from this website (which I should have looked for before I went on my trip, so that I could have looked for other locations that were nearby).
I bought a ticket from the ticket office at this stop and it cost $33.
They actually asked for $35 and I said that it was advertised as $33 on
the website... but they said that it was the online pre-purchase price,
so I was okay with paying the extra $2, but they were happy to let me pay
just $33. (the buses were very empty today so they must have been desperate
to sell me a ticket at any price... and since I wasn't able to go the full
distance, it was probably good that I got a little discount)
I felt bad for the BotCon attendees who went on this on the Thursday and paid $100 for a $33 ticket and a charter bus each way from the Resort (which would only end up being about $20 per person).
Starting at the Willis Tower (was the Sears Tower), it was about 2.30pm when I was on the next bus, and our tourguide started telling us about this tall building.
The Willis Tower
was the world's tallest building when it was completed in 1973, and remained
the tallest until the Petronus Towers in Malaysia over-took it in 1998.
It took 41 years for the United States to build another building that was
taller than this one, as the other 10 buildings that were taller than this
one were built in Asia and the Middle East. America may have been
the record-breaking industrial and construction super-power in the 20th
Century, but Asia is where it booming in the 21st Century.
On a related note, of all the decadence and excess of the 1980s in the western world, it is actually surprising to see that the tallest building built in that decade only rates at number 80, and was built in Los Angeles. For a period of almost 25 years between the Willis Tower and the Petronus Towers, duing some of the greatest economic booms in the last century, we saw no significant building constructions over 310 meters high, anywhere in the world. That makes the existance of this building even more impressive.... and it was designed to allow for it to be made even taller, with a nine-column structure, that each column can be built up to the height of the tallest columns.
It is worth noting that of the tallest 10 buildings in America, four are in Chicago (the rest are in New York)... despite California being the bigger economy than Illinois, and Los Angeles being the bigger city than Chicago.
The Willis Tower was originally built for Sears, which is why they had
name on the building until 2009 when the naming rights expired and another
company bought the naming rights for about 10 years.
At the time Sears was the biggest retailer in the world, and prospects were looking good, so they thought they commissioned this massive building and they predicted that they would eventually fill out the entire building. But soon after the building was completed, the business started to slide, and they never filled much of the Tower.
The building itself has never been close to full occupancy, as there was a surplus of office space in Chicago since it was built, and it probably became difficult to attract tenants to a building named after a major corporation, who might be corporate rivals or have partnerships with Sears' rivals... so they wouldn't want to keep promoting their rival on all their address details and corporate meetings. It has since been sold a few times, with the first few sales being at a loss, with the mortgage being more than the amount paid, while the most recent sale in 2012 of ten times what it cost to build, which suggests there is a return to an investable value in that property.
Fun Fact - Chicago is NOT the capital of Illinois. Springfield
to the south of the state is the capital.
Just like New York City is NOT the capital of the state of New York (Albany is), and Los Angeles is NOT the capital of California (Sacramento is).
That means the three largest cities in America are not the capital of their respective states... which in Australia, the largest city is also the capital of each state.
Speaking of Chicago having 4 of the 10 tallest buildings in America,
Chicago was the first city to have a "Skyscraper"... which is a building
that has an internal load-bearing structure, usually of steal. Before
that, buildings were made with load-bearing outer walls of bricks or wood...
which limited the height to about 14 storeys.
This red building is apparently the tallest building in Chicago that
isn't classified as a skyscraper, because of its brick construction.
The silver building on the right was by designed by the same people
who did the Willis/Sears Tower.
A giant sculpture that was inspired by Picasso art.
The loop of overhead train-tracks were built in 1896, over cable car
tracks (which are now gone).
For those like me who thought that my map of the Chicago city centre had a LOT of Walgreens stores (almost one on every block), it is because they started in Chicago... so they are a Chicago icon.
This building with the gap at the side halfway up was actually built
in two stages. 33 storeys were built 1995-1997 (up to the level of
the gap), and an extra 24 floors were added ten years later, between 2007-2010.
At the Millenium Park is an open area arts district, with cultural activities
and this structure is part of an open-air theatre that was designed to
look a bit like the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.
The dark building with the golden top is the Carbide and Carbon building,
built just before the Great Depression in the 1920s, with Art-Deco stylings
(including actual gold leaf plating), while the top was said to be intended
to look like a Champagne bottle.
Another side of the Millenium Park, with a different angle to the steel
structure of the open-air theatre.
This building is called the Aqua Tower... designed with different size
and shape balconies to give the look of waves, or limestone layering. Too
bad if you had an apartment that didn't have a balcony.
Now at the northern part of the Chicago River. Because of the
overlapping loop of the bus route, we would actually be at this intersection
Turning left on this street we were now facing one of Chicago's newest
buildings, and secand tallest (or tallest if you count the spire), the
Trump Tower. It uses a similar design to the Willis/Sears tower and
the current world's tallest building, by having tapered columns.
And yes, it has Donald Trump's name on the building, as he has his name on quite a few buildings in America now... after a couple of bankruptcies that helped avoid some crippling debts.
The Trump Tower was originally planned to be the world's tallest building when it was first announced in 2001, but after the terrorist attacks later that year targetted tall buildings, the plan was scaled back significantly, to not even be the tallest in Chicago (to the roof).
When the building was completed in 2009 it had the tallest residential rooms (hotel or apartments) in the world, until the Buj Khalifa was built in the Middle East, which is also the world's tallest building.
I didn't realise it until after I got home, but Mr Gould's penthouse
in the third Transformers Movie was actually at the Trump Tower, which
is mostly residential of a Hotel and apartments.
(image below is not mine - from the internet)
Looking across the river at the Michigan Avenue Bridge, built in 1920,
with a nice gothic building on the right that was crushed by one of the
Decepticon Ships in the third Transformers movie.
The spot where we were just driving through right now, was the original location of Fort Dearborn, which was the first American Settlement here (after the War of Independence), over 200 years ago, built in 1803.
On the Michigan Avenue Bridge are monuments to the Fort Dearborn massacre.
This was a fascinating looking building, as it has a curved side that curves inwards.
Here we are at one of the big battle sequences of the third Transformers
movie, where Optimus is flying in and destroying Decepticons at the end
of the Movie. And that building on the left with the green scaffolding
on the top is the one that the Decepticons were using to house their Spacebridge
pillars (in each of those corner thingies halfway up the building).
I didn't recognise it while I was in Chicago because of the covering...
so it was only when I got back home that I found out which building it
was, and why I didn't recognise it. (note the clock at the bottom corner
of that building in my photo)
(image below is not mine - from the internet)
These are images of that part of the road we were driving down that
was used for filming that fight scene. You can see the clock on the
corner of one of the buildings in the first two images, which is on the
corner of the building in my photo above that the Decepticons were using
for the pillars. (image below is not mine - from the internet)
(image below is not mine - from the internet)
(image below is not mine - from the internet)
(image below is not mine - from the internet)
It's amazing to see in person how a busy road like that was closed down for several days for a movie... and the street across the river on the other side of the Michigan Avenue Bridge (which was used to film the Autobot Prisoners scene and execution of Que).
The construction site below was an empty block during the time of the
filming of the Transformers Movie, in late 2010.
The white building on the right of it is supposed to officially be the narrowest skyscraper in Chicago.
It was so tall that this was the most I could get in on my camera, but
that is the top of the building right at the top of the photo.
These two buildings are referred to as the corn-cobs. They are both
apartment buildings with the bottom 20 floors used for parking. They were
built in the 1960s to look "futuristic".
Turning down into the Theatre district. Chicago was the city where most
films were made during the silent era, before Hollywood was born.
A week after BotCon, Weird Al Yankovic was going to be performing in-town. (he voiced a character in Transformers in 2010, and one of his songs was used in the 1986 Transformers Movie)
Ahead was an eye-catching building, with some things sticking out of
its roof... but we turned here which was several blocks away. Apparently
it is a Library.
Back at the Millenium Park, the square object among the trees is actually
one of a pair called the Crown Fountain, which has LEDs for light shows
through the day, including short clips of the faces of a thousand people
from Chicago, which will sometimes pucker their lips and a jet of water
shoots out right where their mouth would be.
The Art Gallery of Chicago.
At the front steps are giant Lion statues, and because of the Finals
win of a Chicago Ice Hockey team just days before, they had giant sports
helmets on the lions this week.
Today it was suppose to be about 18 degrees celcius, but there was a
strong wind blowing and we were parked here in the shadow of these buildings,
so it got really cold. And the bus decided to park here for about
10 minutes because they were ahead of schedule. Not only that, it
got colder as the tour went on... and I was just wearing t-shirt and shorts.
The intersection just up ahead where the traffic lights are, is the original 1926 starting point of the famous Route 66, that goes all the way to Santa Monica Pier in California (which was where I was last year, so now I've officially been at both ends).
The starting point has moved a couple of times since its beginning, and since original starting point became a one-way street in 1955 that heads east, it now has an official end point sign at that location, and an official start point sign at the intersection behind me where the Art Gallery is located (which is a one-way street heading west).
So while we are sitting here for the next few minutes, let's talk about the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
Everything to the left of this road that we were on is parklands, and
is all reclaimed land. If you look on the bus map at the start of
this page, all of that green area to the right of Stop 4 & 5 wasn't
there 150 years ago. The road we were currently on (Michigan Avenue)
was once the shoreline of Lake Michigan.
But then the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 hit, and wiped out about nine square kilometers, killing about 300 people, in just three days. Since most buildings were close together and made of wood with tar rooves, a strong wind blew the fire across most of what is currently the City Centre. Even though they were near a lake and on a river, the main water pumping station was one of the first buildings to be destroyed, knocking out the water supply throughout the parts of the city not near water.
When the fire finally went out, the ruins and rubble were dumped into the lake, and because there was so much debris, it pushed out the shoreline by almost 500 meters.
So in all of the following photos that have parkland, that land is sitting on top of the ruins of 19th Century Chicago.
On a related note, the Chicago fire was not the biggest or most deadly
fire that started on October 8th 1871. It was one of four or five
major fires that started that day because of drought conditions that year,
and one of the other fires that
occured in Wisconsin (the state north of Illinois) was significantly
larger and killed at least 5 times more people than the Chicago fire, but
the Chicago fire was the one that was most remembered because it was a
A side-effect of these worst fires in American history (in terms of lives lost), was that the rebuilding effort of all these locations that had been destroyed at the same time in the same part of the country, caused another major town to disappear. The huge demand for timber to rebuild all these cities in a short space of time caused such massive deforestation on the other side of Lake Michigan (the major forests at the time), that the Town of Singapore in Michigan (a lumber town) was swallowed up by the unprotected sand within 4 years (1875).
It's certainly a lesson about conservation of the natural environment, that can turn around and bite you in the ass later if you destroy it.
Okay, the bus is moving again...
This is the main entrance to the Grant Park, which has two Native American statues on horseback, who were intentionally sculpted without weapons, but are posed as if they are carrying them.
This is some of the fancy detailing on the Hilton Hotel, which was the
largest Hotel in America when it was built. (you'll see a better
shot of it later from the other side of the Park, just look out for the
red brick building with indentations)
One of the tours that I saw when searching online back home was a Segway
in the Park tour... and there goes a fleet of them now.
And in the foreground is a sculpture called
Agora (meaning a Meeting Place), and is made by a Polish artist for
the large Polish-American community that exists in Chicago. There
are 106 headless and armless sculptures making up the crowd, constructed
of Iron, and allowed to rust to give it a more natural texture.
A better look at the Hilton Hotel on the left side (the biggest hotel
in America when it was built).
This is an NFL stadium called Soldier Park. It's like a mash-up
of three different eras - past (the Roman looking column structure on the
right), the present (the grandstand on the left of the field), and the
future (the alien space-craft sitting on top of the Roman Structure to
be the grandstand on that side of the field).
It's like a scene out of a movie of an alien invasion during Roman times,
with the giant saucer just hovering over-head, ready to invade or destroy.
Chicago Aquarium - the largest inland salt-water aquarium in America
(probably in the world too).
Part of the Aquarium, and a statue of a famous Polish person from the
late 1700s, Thaddeus
He played a major role in the American War of Independence (1775-1783), and then the Polish wars against Austria, Prussia (basically where Germany is today) and Russia, which led to Poland ceasing to exist as a country in 1795 for 123 years, until it was restored after World War 1 after the defeat of Germany (who used to be Prussia), and the collapse of the Russian Empire.
So after each of the three conflicts in the late 1700s that Poland ended up losing, the neighbouring countries each took possession of parts of Poland, to the point of it being completely divided up in 1795. With no official country of their own left, a large number of Polish people migrated to other countries during this time, which is why there are big Polish communities in America, who was only just free of British Rule, and dubbed the "land of opportunity". So places like Chicago and Milwaukee had quite a few obvious signs of this cultural influence, even 200 years later (which I found out first-hand on this trip).
The Planetarium, also on the shore-line. We were currently on
a man-made peninsula, built in 1925, and off to the right was where there
used to be an airport... until it was torn up in the middle of the
night in 2003 at the direction of the Chicago Mayor.
The next photo is looking out across the water to the Navy Pier, which
we would go to tomorrow for the Wednesday Pre-Convention Tour. Take
note of that tall black building that is on its own near the Pier.
When we got closer to it, we were told by the Tourguide that it was approved
just as regulations came into effect that prevented high-rise buildings
east of the Lake Shore Drive... which is why this one stands out so much
and will remain isolated for some time in the future, giving its residents
uninterupted views (it is an apartment building).
On the left of the photo below is another black building at the back with two roof spires. It is the John Hancock Building, and is a one of the most iconic buildings of Chicago with its angled design. It is currently the 4th tallest building in Chicago, but when it was built in 1969 it was the tallest building in the city and the second tallest in the world (behind the Empire State Building in New York). The title of second tallest in the world only lasted two years (the World Trade Towers in New York in 1971), and the title of tallest in Chicago only lasted four years (Aon Centre in 1973), but it remained the building with the highest residential rooms in the world from ground level for 40 years when the Trump Tower was built in 2009.
The John Hancock Building was where comedy actor Chris Farley was found dead of a drug overdose at the age of 33 in 1997, just before he finished recording all of the lines for the character Shrek (which had to be completely re-recorded by Mike Meyers).
And this is how the Navy Pier and that black building looked in the
2009 Transformers Movie. (image below is not mine - from the internet)
Outside the Planetarium was a temporary "Zodiac" sculpture, which has
the head of each of the 12 Chinese Zodiac animals on a pole... which is
rather creepy. Kinda like a horror movie, or that scene out of Lord
of the Flies with the pig's head on a stake.
The bus stopped here for a minute, for people on the bus to take photos
of the Chicago skyline by the Lake.
It's no wonder Chicago is home to the two tallest residential buildings in America with such clean air views like this.
The Tourist marketing campaign for Chicago could be - It's just like New York, but without the pollution. I know from first-hand experience that New York is a lot bigger, but if you zoom in closer to this image or scroll down enough just to cut out the Lake at the bottom, it could be like looking at part of NY with the green of Central Park in the forground. Label it as such and you'd probably get most non-Americans (and American who don't live in those two cities) to accept it.
As usual, Dispensor takes a selfie. I think he's managed to get
his face in the photo of about a dozen major cities around the world now.
It was now a little after 3.30pm, and we were still a long way from
halfway (Stop 7), so it was now that I was beginning to think that I wouldn't
be able to do the entire tour before I had to head back to the Resort.
As we headed off again, we passed by the Aquarium again, which has a nice view of the Lake and the City.
The Museum (the Parklands are like the Cultural heartland of Chicago).
This is the photo that I think could look like it was part of New York
from within Central Park to non-Americans.
The big black building on the left is the Willis/Sears Tower. A bit right of that, next to the reddish building is a blue wavy thin glass building, which is part of the Roosevelt University (it looks like it could just blow over in the wind). It is a 32 storey building that is the second tallest educational building in the world. Over on the far right is a tall white building that looks a little like one of the Twin Towers of New York, as it was designed with the same internal tube structure. It is called the Aon Centre and was completed in 1973 and it was the tallest building in Chicago for less than a year, as the Willis/Sears Tower was completed just soon after, so it didn't hold the title for long. It remained the second largest building in Chicago until the Trump Tower was built in 2009, and now sits at number 3. The Trump Tower is the blue builing to the left of the pointy-tipped one.
This is called the Buckingham Fountain. It was built in 1927 and
for a while was the official start of Route 66.
Some people might recognise the fountain as being the one in the opening
credits of the TV show "Married with Children".
Opposite the Fountain on the Lake's shoreline is an open paved space called Queens Landing. It was for the arrival of Queen Elizabeth in 1959, who travelled by ship from England, through the newly completed Canal that joined the lakes together to the Atlantic Ocean. It now meant that you could travel by boat from Chicago to the Atlantic ocean through the Great Lakes, or to the Gulf of Mexico through the Mississippi River (from a canal that was constructed to reverse the flow of the Chicago river, to flow south into the Mississippi River System instead of north into Lake Michigan).
Heading back past Millenium Park.
Heading towards Navy Pier.
Wacker Drive is a double layered roadway. At this time we were on the
lower level, while later we would be going along the upper level.
This lower level was used in one of the recent Batman movies in a chase
Crossing the river at Columbus Drive, looking west to Michigan Avenue
Bridge and Trump Tower. This was the stretch of the River that was
featured in the third Transformers Movie when the Decepticon Fleet arrives
to seal off the city. Note the brown building on the left with the
This looks the other direction, east towards the Lake. You can see that
building below as one with the big explosion. (image below is not mine
- from the internet)
Passing by the Lake
Point Tower, the building mentioned earlier as standing alone on the
shore-line. It has a very unique curved exterior and is Y-shaped,
and is an apartment building. When it was built in 1968 it was the
tallest apartment building in the world, and remains one of the tallest
residential buildings in Chicago. Because of its location a lot of
famous people have lived there.
Built in 1916 as one of five planned piers, only one got built, and it
was the world's largest pier at the time (100 year birthday next year).
One of its first uses was for Navy training during World War 1, which gave
it the name Navy Pier. It was even used for Navy Pilot training during
World War 2, to train pilots on water landings and carrier landings.
It was used because it was away from the coastal reach of Japan and Germany.
Fun Fact - the Ferris Wheel was invented in Chicago in 1893 for a world fair, powered by steam boilers and named after its inventor.
Heading west, back past the Lake Point Tower, we drove past a large
hole in the ground and told that it was going to be for a building called
Chicago Spire. A super-tall building that would have been the
second tallest building in the world at its completion, and a massive 50%
taller than the existing tallest buildings in Chicago. Just like
the proposed world's largest casino in Las Vegas, this project was a victim
of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008, and both projects ended up being
a half-completed building that eventually had to be sold off and the site
abandonned for many years.
A lot of new buildings popping up recently as the economy has been improving.
At the river's edge is the Centennial
Fountain. It was constructed in 1989 to commemorate 100 years since
the Locks were set up at points along the Chicago River to make the water
flow away from the Lake instead of into it. The water flow was reversed
to flow south into the Mississippi River system because the Lake, which
was the source of their drinking water, was getting too polluted from rubbish
and sewage and causing lots of illnesses. Now their sewage is the problem
of southern states, to look after the health of people in Chicago.
This is now the upper level of the Wacker Drive, driving west towards
Trump Tower. (the intersection that we cross three times on this tour)
Our tourguide pointed out the old brown building across the river that looks like it has a chimney sticking out of the dome. The square block sticking out the top is actually a Blimp docking station, because it was built in 1929 before the Hindenburg disaster in 1937, and was never even used. The docking station was something added to some buildings of that era, like a helicopter pad on modern buildings.
I was more interested in the white and orange building to the right of it.... as it was the building in the Third Transformers Movie that had the big glass building crash onto it after the Driller monster attacked.
Remember this scene? (image below is not mine - from the internet)
The angle is wrong with the Marriot off to the left in the Movie (above),
but in reality, the Marriot is off to the right. (image below is not mine
- from the internet)
It is also worth noting that the glass building in the Movie that crashed
down, was not built until after the third Transformers movie was filmed
in late 2010. The Google image above is from 2009, and the glass
building in my photo above that and in the 2014 Google image below was
not built until June 2011. I think that at the time Michael Bay filmed
that location to add in the CGI glass building to be destroyed, he found
out what building that was already under construction, was going to look
like when completed... and made his CGI building look very similar. (image
below is not mine - from the internet)
Approaching the Michigan Avenue Bridge again.
It was now 4.30pm and I had to be back near STOP 1 by 5pm, so I got
off the tour here... missing the final four sections of the 12 section
loop. It was supposed to be a 2 hour trip, but I was only 3/4 of
the way through at the 2 hour mark... which was really annoying.
Something to make sure I do next time I'm in Chicago.
Walking back along the Bridge, you can see on the right with the green scaffolding on the top is where the Decepticons had their Spacebridge Pillars. The taller skinny white building to the left of that is the narrowest skyscraper in Chicago. And on the left of the photo where the tree is between two buildings, has a monument to the original Fort Dearborn, as it was the site of the first American settlement in the area.
I love the detail on these two old buildings. On that side of
the Bridge between those two buildings was the scene at the end of the
Third Transformers movie that had the Autobots held as prisoners by Soundwave
and his troops.
This is the location while it was being set up for filming, blocking
one of the main roads in Chicago. (image below is not mine - from the internet)
Walking further west along Wecker Drive, this was where Optimus killed
Shockwave at the end of the Dark of the Moon Transformers Movie. It's also
a nice photo of the old and new together.
Another angle of the steel outdoor theatre in the Millenium Park.
At the end of this street is a building that the tourguide mentioned
from a distance, but I didn't get a good photo until the end of the day.
It is the Board of Trade building, and was built in 1930 (a year before
the Empire State Building in New York). It was the tallest building in
Chicago for 35 years, replacing a previous tallest building on that site,
which was built in 1880 but had to be demolished due to poor foundations.
That's a statue on the top, of a Roman God called Ceres, of about 10 meters tall and made of aluminium.
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(and Asia) Transformers Fansite for News and Interaction (started way
back in 1996)
BotCon website - The official Collector Club and Convention website
To contact me --> griffin @ otca.com.au