Tag: Architecture

Visiting Louis Sullivan’s First Jewel Box Bank: Owatonna, MN

This Minne-RoadTrip series of posts is sponsored by Visit Owatonna, Visit Faribaultand Visiting Northfield

I used to think architecture was boring. This all changed during a North Iowa bloggers tour in Chicago. One of our scheduled actives was going on an architecture boat tour. I thought it was going to be really boring but it wasn’t.

Just like how food’s never really just about the food, architecture isn’t just about the buildings. Architecture is art. The stories of buildings are the stories of people and their eras.

Located minutes from I-35 traveling north and south between Minnesota and Iowa is architect Louis Sullivan’s first and well-preserved Jewel Box Banks built in 1908.

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The Shoreline Sightseeing Architecture Boat Tour Is Totally Not Boring

As part of the North Iowa Bloggers, I was provided a free Architectural Tour by Shoreline Sightseeing. All thoughts and opinions are 100% honest and my own.


Near the beginning of the Shoreline Sightseeing architecture boat tour, our guide stated, “If you’ve never seen Blues Brothers, than shame on you. It’s a great American classic,” with a straight face. I knew we were in excellent hands.

Now, I must confess, guided group tours and boat rides aren’t usually my thing. When I learned Shoreline Sightseeing invited us to go on a 75-minute long architecture cruise with a group on a boat, I felt apprehensive. An architecture tour could be really boring, but this was totally not. Shoreline’s boats cruise up and down the Chicago river, through the heart of its downtown. The river provides the perfect passageway from which to view the city’s most notable buildings.


To board the Evening Star, we walked from our hotel to the Navy Pier area.


We chose seats along the side rails and some grabbed cocktails and beer from the downstairs floor. I was surprised to learn they were affordable (and strong) at about $5 each.


As the boat began to move down the river, our tour guide Victor introduced himself and shared that he’s currently an architecture student. His passion for Chicago architecture shone through and felt contagious. He not only identified notable buildings and shared interesting facts about them, but did so in a humorous and engaging way. Buildings are steeped in so much history and provide a fascinating backdrop to learn about a community’s dynamics.


A few of the buildings and spaces we passed were unoccupied. Victor shared his hopes for how these spaces could be used to both maintain the city’s beauty, and meet its residents needs.


I left the boat tour feeling very pumped about architecture.


 Overall, I found learning about Chicago architecture on a boat and watching the sun set to be a very a pleasant and (interesting) way to spend an evening. As the tour ended, Victor  left us with some words of encouragement.

“Don’t forget to look up. Even if the building is only two stories, there’s something interesting about it.”

Before You Book: Tickets cost between $35-39 for adults, $18-20 for children, and infants are free. According to the website, booking online gives you a $5 discount per ticket. If it’s a sunny day, don’t forget to bring sunglasses or a hat. The top of the boat has no canopy or shade to interfere with viewing buildings. However, you can move to the bottom level of the boat for shade, restrooms, or beverages.

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