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Go Back to Chicago: 1948

Check out a video tour of Chicago in 1948


Do you ever wish you could go back in time? As far as we know, time travel doesn’t exist. At least not yet. Fortunately we have photos and videos that can transport us back in time to a place we haven’t yet seen. Or have we? In an unearthed full-color video titled Travel Talks, host James A. Fitzpatrick, a.k.a. “the voice of the globe,” takes viewers on a 10-plus-minute tour of the Windy City in 1948. While many of the places he visits aren’t new to those who live here — or are visiting — it’s pretty amazing to see everything that still exists in the city nearly 70 years after this video was shot.

One thing that also hasn’t changed is the view people on the coasts have of Chicago: that it’s a landlocked middle-American city and that Lake Michigan is a small puddle. Fitzpatrick more or less uses this video to show the world watching that Chicago is, in fact, a thriving metropolis (in fact the second largest in the country in 1948) and that Lake Michigan is a vast waterway that allows for commerce, recreational boating, sunbathing and that it “acts as the air conditioner for the city.” There’s a reason weather people to this day still say things are “cooler by the lake.”

The video, which was actually a short film done in the style of old Hollywood productions and was presented by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer — you know MGM with the iconic roaring lion at the start of the film? — starts out with the narrator, presumably Fitzpatrick, driving in a car along Michigan Avenue. You immediately start to recognize buildings, like the Stevens Hotel (now the Chicago Hilton and Towers), which at the time was the largest hotel in the world with 3000 guest rooms. You then continue up to see the original main Chicago Public Library, which became the Chicago Cultural Center in 1977. Next comes the Wrigley Building, various museums, Soldier Field, the gleaming golden Civic Opera House from a boat on the Chicago River.

On and on, the tour showcases the iconic buildings that make Chicago, well, Chicago. You drive up what was then simply referred to as the “outer drive,” what we now know as Lake Shore Drive, although it does look a little different. Up north to the Edgewater Beach Hotel, that iconic pink building at Lake Shore Drive and Bryn Mawr that was once an idyllic escape from the heat and pulse of the city. Then down to the South Side, passing Potter Palmer’s now-demolished Gold Coast mansion along the way. Even if you know Chicago well, this video will still impress, amaze and dazzle you. It showcases Chicago in a beautiful light — as it always should be.

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