Put on Your Walking Shoes Architectural Tours Are Sprouting like Spring Flowers, but You'll Need to Do Some Hoofin' to See the Local Gems

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Byline: Jennifer Olvera Daily Herald Correspondent

Cities and towns nationwide have long been associated with their defining icons - from cheese hats to casinos to crawfish - but few are as looming as the architecture of Chicago and its suburbs.

Rising from the ashes of the Chicago Fire in 1871, the city grew to house one of the greatest collections of modern architecture in the world.

Prodigious architect and city planner Daniel H. Burnham devised one of the nation's first comprehensive planning documents, laying the groundwork for landmarks such as the Monadnock Building, the tallest standing structure without steel frame construction, while Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is credited with the keen craftsmanship of the Illinois Institute of Technology campus and even a handful of homes, including one that now houses part of the Elmhurst Art Museum in DuPage County.

Still not convinced? Frank Lloyd Wright, whose prairie style of architecture broke free of the boxy shells and classic styles of his day, called Oak Park home for much of his career.

Today his work there is counted among the most recognizable structures in the world.

Next to Oak Park, the Northwest and West suburbs cast a different shadow with older communities like Arlington Heights, Wheaton and Geneva boasting pockets of historic, vintage homes.

So as spring rumbles forward, open season begins for historical walking tours and architectural outings.

Mark your calendars and grab your walking shoes for this sampling of events.

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The Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) sponsors daily walking tours, lectures and exhibits throughout the city. Here's a small selection of its offerings; the organization's full catalog of events can be viewed at www.architecture.org, and information for each of the mentioned events can be obtained by calling (312) 922- 3432.

The Mayor's Office of Special Events, the CAF and the Chicago Architecture Center will host the "Great Chicago Spaces and Places," a festival with walking tours May 18 and 19, starting at 224 S. Michigan Ave.

Tours range from studies of deco-themed architecture to in-depth looks at modern skyscrapers.

Tours include viewing Chicago-style bungalows by bus and landmarks in the Loop by train or bike. Tours are free on these days only but do require a ticket.

Registration begins each festival day at 7:30 a.m. for entrance to that day's tours.

During a 90-minute tour of greater North Michigan Avenue, you will uncover the Magnificent Mile. Tours are scheduled every Friday, Saturday and Monday at 11 a.m. through December and begin at the CAF Shop & Tour Center in the John Hancock Center, 875 N. Michigan Ave. The cost is $10, $7 for seniors and students.

Delve into the rich history of Chicago's north Loop theater district during a 90-minute walking tour examining the exteriors of the restored Chicago and Ford Center for the Performing Arts (originally called the Oriental) theaters and the new Goodman Theatre at 10 a.m. June 8.

Participants will gather at the south side of the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St. at Benton Place. The cost is $10, $5 for students and seniors.

Examine the architecture of Chicago's affluent Gold Coast, from residences along Lake Shore Drive to the Astor Street historic district at 10 a.m. July 13.

Participants will gather at the Lincoln statue at Clark Street and North Avenue in the park behind the Chicago Historical Society. The cost of the 2-hour tour is $10, $5 for students and seniors.

Take a peek at the past during a tour of monuments designed by noted sculptors and architects, including Daniel Chester French, Lorado Taft and Louis Sullivan, at Chicago's park-like Graceland Cemetery at 2 p.m. Aug. 4.

Participants will gather at the northeast corner of Clark Street and Irving Park Road inside the cemetery entrance. …