The thriving river cities of St. Louis and Cincinnati each had at least a 20-year head start on Chicago. Places such as Milwaukee and even Kenosha were more naturally blessed. But it was here – on a swampy and malodorous scrap of land so unpromising the Potawatomi had hardly bothered to settle it – where the American story took root and grew to epic proportions. Marquette and Jolliet once had been forced to laboriously portage their canoes over this dank, mucky expanse at the southern tip of Lake Michigan, called “wild garlic” by locals and later referred to derisively as Mud Lake. But in the early 1800’s that was no obstacle for the indomitable spirit of newly-arrived Easterners who would carve canals, tunnel under the lake itself, and later hoist the foundations of the entire City, four to seven feet, just to keep their feet dry. Mud Lake soon became the vital link to the Mississippi and the Great Lakes, the heartland and the Atlantic, the past and future – with Chicago in the center. In a span of only six years – after the Great Fire – Chicago went from a city without one recognizable landmark to the center of world architecture. Its rise from a regional station to the busiest rail center on earth happened almost as quickly. Chicago took almost everyone by surprise, and it will take your breath away on one of our guided Historical or Architectural Cruises.