Chicago: Epicenter of American Architecture

Chicago: Epicenter of American Architecture



This spring, National Trust Tours returns to Chicago—a quintessential destination for architecture lovers—brought to you as only the National Trust can. Take an architectural cruise along the Chicago River, highlighting the many innovative and historically important architectural designs that were born in Chicago. See several Frank Lloyd Wright designed buildings, including his own home and studio in Oak Park, Unity Temple, and the iconic Robie House. Enter Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Edith Farnsworth House, a masterpiece of design and elegant Modernist simplicity. Enjoy one of the finest private collections of decorative arts from the American and English Arts and Crafts Movements, showcased in the renovated farm buildings of a private estate. And take guided explorations of some of Chicago’s most intriguing and dazzling sites.

Pricing from
Trip Type
Closer to Home, Group Travel Tour
Departure Dates
May 28, 2022 - Jun 2, 2022


Palmer House Hilton, a revered landmark in the heart of Chicago’s Loop and a member of Historic Hotels of America. The Palmer House boasts a fascinating history and an excellent location within walking distance of the Art Institute of Chicago and Millennium Park.


  • Rolf Achilles

    Rolf Achilles

    Rolf Achilles is an independent art historian, curator of the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows, and adjunct faculty member at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. A writer and lecturer on various topics related to preserving American artistic heritage, Mr. Achilles is the author of several books on Chicago architecture and commerce.


Cancellation by participant must be made in writing to ISDI and is effective only upon acknowledged receipt by ISDI. There is a non-refundable registration and planning fee of $500 per person regardless of cancellation date. Written cancellation received by ISDI on or before February 14, 2022: full refund minus $500 per person registration and planning fee. Written cancellation received by ISDI between February 15 and April 11, 2022: full refund minus $1,600 per person cancellation fee (includes registration and planning fee). Written cancellation received by ISDI on or after April 12, 2022: no refund. Tour registration is non-transferable. In the case of cancellation, substitutions are not allowed. After the tour has commenced, no refunds will be issued for any reason including, but not limited to, unused portions of tour. If the tour is cancelled by ISDI or National Trust Tours due to low enrollment, active registrants will receive a full refund of all tour payments.


  • day 1

    Welcome to Chicago

    Upon arrival in Chicago, transfer independently to the Palmer House Hilton, a revered landmark in the heart of Chicago’s Loop and a member of Historic Hotels of America. The Palmer House boasts a fascinating history and an excellent location within walking distance of the Art Institute of Chicago and Millennium Park. At 4:00 pm, join study leader and architectural historian Rolf Achilles, a longtime Chicago resident, and walk to the Chicago River to spend the afternoon marveling at Chicago’s soaring towers aboard a special 90-minute architectural riverboat cruise. An expert guide highlights more than 50 architecturally significant sites, including numerous landmarks of Modern American architecture. Return to the hotel for a convivial welcome reception with your fellow travelers. (R)

  • day 2

    The Gilded Age & Millennium Park

    Begin the day at the Driehaus Museum and take a docent led tour of its fabulous collection of Gilded Age-era decorative arts, all housed in the Nickerson Mansion, one of the grandest residential buildings of 19th-century Chicago. Drive along the city’s famed Magnificent Mile and, following lunch at a local restaurant, enjoy a specially arranged visit to a private home designed by Edgar Miller, a prolific Chicago artist, craftsman, and architect who strove to create a “total environment” including works in stained glass, tile, fresco painting, wood carving, and sculpture. This afternoon, take a guided stroll through Millennium Park, an urban space combining cutting-edge architecture, art installations, and landscape design. (B, L)

  • day 3

    In the Footsteps of Wright

    Drive to Oak Park, the Chicago suburb where Frank Lloyd Wright lived for two decades and grew from a young draftsman into one of America’s most promising and influential architects. Tour Wright’s home and studio, a National Trust Historic Site, and see where the Prairie style was born. Then take a stroll through the surrounding neighborhood to see the exteriors of several Wright-designed residential properties and end at the recently renovated Unity Temple, one of the most significant projects from Wright’s early career and an icon of Modern architecture. Following lunch at a local restaurant, drive through the charming Hyde Park community en route to the University of Chicago campus, studded with remarkable architecture
    including Wright’s Robie House. Tour the Robie House with a docent and learn why the American Institute of Architects designated it as one of the 10 most significant structures of the 20th century. (B, L)

  • day 4

    Arts & Crafts and Mies

    Spend the morning at Crab Tree Farm, a privately owned farm on Lake Michigan, and examine one of the most important private collections of Arts and Crafts furniture and decorative arts, highlighting major works of Gustav Stickley. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant and then continue to Plano, Illinois, for an exclusive viewing of Mies van der Rohe’s Edith Farnsworth House, an icon of 20th-century Modern architecture and a National Trust Historic Site. Experience its elegant simplicity and compelling coexistence with the surrounding landscape. (B, L)

  • day 5

    The Art Institute

    Walk to the Auditorium Theatre known internationally for its innovative architecture and beautiful design flourishes, and as the last surviving building to which architects Louis Sullivan, Dankmar Adler, and Frank Lloyd Wright contributed. Continue to the Art Institute of Chicago for a highlights tour of its renowned collection of American Art and see the sleek Modern Wing designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano. The remainder of the afternoon is free to continue exploring the museum or city on your own. In the evening, gather at one of Chicago’s most popular restaurants for a festive farewell dinner.


  • day 6

    Landmarks of the Loop

    Landmarks of the Loop Spend the morning on a walking tour of the historically significant architectural gems surrounding the hotel, including the Rookery, the Marquette Building, the Monadnock Building, and the Chicago Federal Center. Return to the hotel for checkout before noon and take independent transportation to the airport for return flights home. (B)

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