10 Years Later: Looking Back at Lakeshore East


Chicago in 2003.  Where did all the buildings go?

Chicago in 2003. Where did all the buildings go?

On a crisp autumn night, September 26, 2003, a young journalist sat down at a desk in what was then called Hotel 71, unfolded a keyboard, slotted in a travel-worn U.S. Robotics Palm Pilot and started to write about what he saw around him.  The Chicago Architecture Blog was born.

This was before there was a Facebook.  Before there as a Twitter.  Before iPods were in color and worked on Windows.  Back then, you called it a “weblog,” not a “blog,” if you even knew what a “blog” was.  DogPile, Excite, HotBot and Altavista were the search engines of choice.

In that hotel room, I hammered out the first article for this new blog.  An article about a fanciful new paradise promised on the shores of Lake Michigan.  A place they were calling “Lakeshore East.”

It promised a park, shops, restaurants, and homes for 50,000 new Chicagoans right in the heart of downtown at a time when Chicago’s population was starting to reverse decades of decline.  But when I went to visit, it was anything but an urban paradise.

In fact, it was a golf course.  And not a very good one.  In my memories, it looked mostly abandoned.  The one thing it had going for it was the clubhouse restaurant, which still operated, and served as some kind of social lunch station for people who had eaten there for so many years they’d forgotten that there was anywhere else to eat.  As a newcomer to Chicago, I couldn’t grok that it didn’t take credit cards.

Access to Lakeshore East was via a slow, rickety elevator.  Rusted and urine-soaked, it trembled next to Fire Station 13 as it conveyed passengers from the faux surface streets of the Illinois Center above to the dirt and weeds of a promised paradise below.  But there was no paradise.  Just some urban pioneers in The Lancaster, the rattling of tow trucks, and a lot of homeless people.

Of course, Lakeshore East has come a long way since then.  And so has this blog.

So for the next few months, we’ll run a series of articles about Chicago a decade ago, using pictures from this blog’s archives.  Where possible, we’ll match up photos from then and now so you can see how the city has grown and changed over time.  We start the series where we started the blog: Lakeshore East.


Lakeshore East Park. Back then it was called Harbor Park. New structures visible include the Harbor Drive elevator, the townhomes beneath Aqua, Aqua, 73 East Lake, and the Village Market.


The Swissôtel, Illinois Center, and 401 North Michigan are clearly visible from Harbor Drive. Today the view is blocked by The Tides, The Coast, The Shoreham, and soon the GEMS Academy. Note Trump International Hotel and Tower peeking in above 2 Illinois Center.


River View II under construction in 2003, with Streeterville behind it and the many levels of Wacker Drive below it. In 2013, the Shoreham creeps in from the right, and the Park View West tower is visible behind.


400 East Randolph, the pioneer in the neighborhood, still stands. But now its base is lined with trees and townhomes. On the right below The Buckingham is the Village Market building. To its left you can just see the start of the ramp that would become Field Boulevard. It used to be the location of Lake Shore Drive.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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