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WTTW Presents Chicago’s Lakefront

A new television tour of Chicago's front yard with Geoffrey Baer

Chicago's Lakefront Premieres Monday, December 1 at 7:30 p.m. on WTTW11 and WTTWD

Repeats on Tuesday, December 9 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, December 14 at 12:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Chicago, IL - The eyes of the world were on Chicago's Lakefront on election night 2008 as tens of thousands of people gathered there to celebrate with president-elect Barack Obama. The event was extraordinary, and so was the setting. Chicago's lakefront is unique in the world. It's a seventeen-mile-long people's paradise that belongs to all of us. Nearly a decade ago WTTW11's well-known on-air host, producer and Chicago Architecture Foundation docent Geoffrey Baer took viewers on a sweeping journey from one end of Chicago's lakefront to the other. Since then dramatic changes have taken place along the shoreline – the building of Millennium Park, remodeling of Soldier Field, demise of Meigs Field, plans for Olympic Games all along the lakefront in 2016 and more.

Now Geoffrey will re-trace his steps in Chicago's Lakefront, an all-new documentary tour shot in High Definition. Chicago's Lakefront will debut on WTTW11 and WTTWD on December 1 at 7:30 p.m., just a month before the start of the 100th anniversary year of Daniel Burnham's great Plan of Chicago, which transformed the lakefront into an unbroken ribbon of public parks.

"I wonder what Daniel Burnham might think if he could see the lakefront today," says writer and host Geoffrey Baer. "Would he be amazed at how much of his century-old vision has actually become a reality? Would he be disappointed that the park doesn't extend to Winnetka and to the Indiana border as he imagined? Would he be appalled to see his lakeshore carriage drive transformed into a multi-lane superhighway? I think he'd certainly be impressed that his ideas are still debated as we continue to reshape our glorious front yard."

The story of Chicago's Lakefront spans 10,000 years, from the formation of Lake Michigan at the end of the last ice age to the conquest of that lake and its shoreline by frontier fortune hunters. It's a story of scoundrels who scarred the landscape for personal gain, and heroes who fought selfless (and thankless) battles to win back the lakefront for the public.

Producer Dan Protess offers, "The Obama rally was the perfect illustration of what makes Chicago's lakefront unique: you saw celebrities standing shoulder to shoulder with everyday people in this beautiful, public space. Where most cities have built high-rises and factories on their waterfronts, we have this amazing park system that's open to everyone. I'm glad the rest of the world got to see that."

What's new on the lakefront in recent history? Here are just a few of the stories viewers will explore in Chicago's Lakefront:

  • The making of Millennium Park
  • Mayor Daley's midnight raid on Meigs Field, and the park that is emerging in its place
  • The controversial redesign of Soldier Field
  • A new wave of interest in the 1893 World's Fair with the publication of the best seller The Devil in the White City
  • Dramatic improvements to Burnham Park
  • Yet another new addition to McCormick Place
  • Massive new residential neighborhoods that have exploded south of the Loop and at the mouth of the Chicago River including Santiago Calatrava's
  • "Chicago Spire" - planned to be the tallest building in North America if it is completed, and the wavy "Aqua" tower by Jeanne Gang - the tallest building in the world by a female architect
  • Chicago's plans to host the 2016 Olympic Games
  • The dramatic rebirth of Chicago's legendary Blackstone Hotel, where the term "smoke-filled room" was coined
  • The ultra-modern Spertus Institute along the stately Michigan Avenue Streetwall landmark district
  • The new Modern Wing at the Art Institute by acclaimed architect Renzo Piano
  • Another battle over a building in Grant Park, the planned Chicago Children's Museum
  • Growing environmental threats to Lake Michigan, including dropping water levels, invasive species, and questions about water quality
  • The bittersweet story of the ruin and rebirth of architect Alfred Caldwell's breathtaking Lily Pool near Lincoln Park Zoo
  • Barack Obama's victory celebration

As the path traced in the 90-minute documentary moves from the Indiana Dunes to the northern end of Lake Shore Drive, Baer brings a sense of the colorful personalities, stories, struggles and triumphs that shaped Chicago's Lakefront.

Chicago's Lakefront is an original production of WTTW/Chicago. Producer is Dan Protess, writer and host is Geoffrey Baer, associate producer is Sara Medlin, researcher and associate producer is Susan Godfrey. Executive producer is VJ McAleer. More information about this production and all of WTTW's programming is available at

Chicago's Lakefront is made possible by Harris Bank.

Generous support is also provided by the Joseph & Bessie Feinberg Foundation; the Walter E. Heller Foundation, in Memory of Alyce DeCosta; and the A. Montgomery Ward Foundation with additional support from Richard and Mary L. Gray; Robert J. and Roberta L. Washlow; Ken Norgan; Richard Lenon; Kelliher, Jr. and Diane Kelliher; Barbara Bluhm-Kaul and Don Kaul; Adele and Marvin Goldsmith; Marshall M. and Doris B. Holleb; Jerome and Marion Stone; and L2O restaurant and Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc.

WTTW11 Contact
Holly H. Gilson
Director, Corporate Communication
(773) 509-5424

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