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CulturalMost Chicagoans love showing their hometown to visitors. Many locals, in fact, have created extensive private tours consisting of special sites around town that are “must see” locations for tourists.

One of the stops on the vaunted “Insider’s Tour of Chicago ” (conducted occasionally by yours truly) is the Chicago Cultural Center, a beautiful masonry and limestone structure located on Michigan Avenue between Randolph and Washington streets. Built in 1897 to house Chicago’s first central library, the building was converted into an arts and culture center in 1977 when the library needed newer, larger quarters. The Cultural Center is home to two magnificent stained-glass domes and also a wide range of free music, dance, theatre, films, lectures, art exhibitions and other events.

While the Tiffany domes never fail to impress visitors, one of my favorite spots at the Cultural Center is a little publicized photographic gallery on the first floor, Randolph Street side of the building. Entitled ”Stand Up for Landmarks! Protests, Posters and Pictures,” this little hallway-style gallery contains photographs of Chicago’s landmarks — past and present — and the lengths that have been taken to preserve them.
Best of all, the gallery is a little off the beaten path so it’s rarely crowded. You can actually get nose-to-nose with beautiful, historic photographs of famous Chicago landmarks — the Board of Trade, Wrigley Field, the Union Stock Yards Gate, the Fine Arts Building, and much more.

I make the Cultural Center an early stop on my “Insider’s Tour.” That way, visitors can view the photographs and decide which existing landmarks they would like to visit in person.

It’s one of the oldest tricks in the tourism book — “building” momentum for the rest of their visit.