Hi and welcome! As is possibly obvious, my name is Wendy and my city is Chicago. Here’s a little about how WendyCity came to be:
I hail from Milwaukee, but I actually spent the very first year of my life in Chicago. My grandfather was developing properties near O’Hare when it was still a young airport and my parents and I lived in one of his buildings for that year (no wonder I love the sight of jets in the sky). We returned to Milwaukee where I grew up and then raised my children, but Chicago was always a regular part of our experience: visiting family and friends here, museum field trips, shopping at Christmas, flying out of O’Hare…
I think my love affair with Chicago began with an early 1970s trip down to see the new John Hancock tower. I’ll never forget the view from the top. Did I perhaps know that I would one day return to live and make Chicago my forever home?
Some years ago, a series of life events gave me that opportunity. I had completed my MA in Art History, but had discovered along the way that my real passion was architectural history. For years, I had been a volunteer tour guide in Milwaukee, but on one trip to Europe, realized that I wanted to make my living as a tour guide. I was originally aiming to be a tour guide in Europe, but my ultimate calling would be closer to home.
While in grad school at the University of Kentucky, I had the great privilege of working at Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate in Lexington, a National Historic Landmark. I was a Weekend Manager and then the museum’s first Director of Operations – and it was there that I fully discovered my vocation. Not only did I love giving tours of the mansion (and gave many hundreds of them), but I was also doing research, writing, training, presenting, working with photography, working with lots of people. Friends told me that I really should get my PhD in Public History, but I realized I was already doing the work of public history – interpreting history for the public – and finding it incredibly fulfilling.
But personal life events called for relocation – and I saw my opportunity to move to my favorite city in the whole world: Chicago. After all, my collection of Chicago history and architecture books was growing to unwieldy proportions…and clearly pointing me in the right direction.
I began doing the research that everyone does when relocating to a new place: where should I live? where will I work? I looked at apartments, I lined up job interviews. But most importantly, I began looking into the world of Chicago’s history and architecture. My work in public history was going to have a new urban home. Who was doing what?
But – wow – the world of Chicago history and architecture is huge and complex! I was able to find the historic house museums – okay, good first step! (I later landed at the Glessner and Clarke House Museums as a docent.)
But when it came to: who was writing about Chicago’s built environment? who was giving tours? who was reporting the news? who was analyzing/critiquing? who was photographing? WELL, I was overwhelmed !
But I dug in and believe I now have a handle on this dizzying, dazzling world.
I further wanted to know: who is GOOD? Who is worth listening to, looking at, following? I found hidden gems (e.g., excellent historians and writers with no presence on social media) and I also found some hyped things that weren’t actually so great, after all. But mostly I discovered a lot of high-quality content: great voices, great eyes, great interpreters.
And long story, short, that is how WendyCity came about.
WendyCity has two parts. One part is this blog – an aggregate blog, a curated blog, if you will. I want to share with you – all in one handy place! – the GOOD stuff about Chicago history and architecture – and make it clear and concise. I will be featuring bloggers, tour guides, historians, photographers. I will offer up the best resources – websites, archives, books. I will give you the scoop on who’s doing what – and how to find them.
The second part of WendyCity is my own tours! I’ve been giving tours in Chicago for some years and for other people – and I’ve taken oodles of tours – but I am so excited to now be able to offer my own tours – and show off my beautiful city! I believe in serious history …and retro fun.
So, again, welcome to WendyCity!