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Four Curiosities of Chicago’s Pedway

See highlights of the sprawling cluster of tunnels, skyways, and corridors in the Loop, all part of a tour you can take with Chicago artist Hui-min Tsen for $2.25 tomorrow.

“Point-of-Interest #24: Millennium Station”   Photo: Courtesy of Hui-min Tseng

Chicago’s Pedway is a cluster of interconnected tunnels, skyways, and corridors that run under some 40 blocks of the Loop. Artist Hui-min Tsen wants to show you the picturesque and peculiar spots of the Pedway. She has spent years researching its history and amenities, its secrets and banalities. Tsen leads public tours for anyone who wants to learn the “psychogeography” (translation: psychology of the built environment) of Chicago’s unusual footpaths and their points of interest. Her next tour is Thursday, June 26, at 2 p.m. The tour costs is only $2.25, the same price of a single ride on the CTA. 

Tsen calls the Pedway a “wormhole” of information. Last year, the artist published a book called The Pedway of Today (Green Lantern Press, $15) that details much of her research.  To prepare for her current Pedway tours, which she has been conducting since 2010, Tsen took a job as an architecture river cruise guide at the Chicago Architecture Foundation one summer where she learned how to speak and act like a tour guide. “I think of the tour format as a three-dimensional play,” says Tsen. The current tour covers two miles of Pedway, lasts 90 minutes, and hits 20 points of interest. Here, Tsen gave Chicago a sampling of some highlights.

1. It has an official entrance

Most people who use the Pedway access just a tunnel or two, but Tsen encourages visitors to walk its entire, continuous length. That means starting at the beginning at the Renaissance Hotel on State and Wacker where the Pedway begins. Tsen’s tour book recommends stopping at the Chicago Fountain of Youth in the lobby. All coin wishes are donated to youth charities.

2. Beware the elevators

“Do not take the elevator marked Pedway,” in City Hall, Tsen’s book recommends. It leads to a splinter tunnel, and actually takes you out of the Pedway. Another elevator, in the Metra station, has mislabeled buttons. “You don’t know where it’s going to take you,” says Tsen. 

3. There’s an Illinois Vending Facility for the Blind

At Randolph and Wabash, inside the Heritage, is the Illinois Vending Facility for the Blind, a candy and chips shop that employs blind folks. 

4. You can practically live in it

A barbershop, post offices (yes, two of them), a university, shoe shines, hair salons, and much more occupy the Pedway. “I like to eat in there,” says Tsen who has identified three different Tokyo Lunch Box locations. Some even have sidewalk-style seating—indoors—great for people watching.

RSVP required for the tour: disorderlyfuture@gmail.com. Tour begins in front of the Renaissance Hotel, 1 S Wacker.

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