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An Emerald Carpet for Mies and Wrigley
Chicago takes St. Patrick's Day very seriously

Expanded ArchitectureChicago Plus posting from March 17, 2006


Update - [March 17, 2008] see a photoessay on St. Patrick's Day 2008 here.

Every year since 1962, the Chicago River has been dyed green to celebrate St. Patrick's day. Nowadays, both the dyeing and a big parade take place the Saturday before the 17th. (Next year, they'll coincide when the 17th falls on a Saturday.) It's a uniquely Chicago tradition that tips its hat to the central role the Irish have played in the city's history.

For a few hours every year, the architectural landmarks that line the Chicago River acquire an aquatic front yard that's as vibrant as the neon green relish of a genuine Chicago hot dog.

Pouring dye into the Chicago River to make it green for St. Patrick's Day
The actual dye is orange. It turns green when it's churned into the water. The discovery of this phenomenom was made by members of Chicago's pipefitters union back in 1962, and the union has been dyeing the river for St. Pat's ever since. Green dye spreading across the Chicago River on St. Patrick's Day 2006
The natural green of the river can be seen to the right, awaiting its transformation into the hypergreen to the left.

Each year thousands line the banks of the Chicago river to see it dyed green
Each year, thousands line the banks of the Chicago River to see it turn green. Late in the afternoon, hundreds of tea-toddlers line the city's sidewalks to see the bar-hoppers turn green.

The IBM and Wrigley buildings along an emerald green Chicago River
For a few hours each year, an emerald carpet spreads out before some of Chicago's most prominent architectural landmarks. From the left: the London Guaranty Building (with cupola), the twin towers of Bertrand Goldberg's Marina City, Mies van der Rohe's IBM Building, the cream color terra cotta of the Wrigley Building, and Skidmore, Owings Merill Equitable Building. The tall crane marks the construction site for Trump Tower.

The Chicago River still emerald green one day after St. Patrick's day.In 1962, over 100 pounds of dye were dumped into the river, leaving it green for days. Now, only 40 pounds are dispersed, but because the river was reversed to run backwards away from the lake, even one day later, the entire river for many blocks to the west remains a single shamrock-colored fairway.

The green fountain of Daley Plaza and green crest of the Hancock Building honor St. Patrick's day
Chicago's mania for St. Patrick's green is pervasive. To the left is the fountain in Daley Plaza; to the right, the lighted crest of the John Hancock Building.

Chicago's  Merchandise Mart turns its lights green for St. Patrick's Day
Even the two-block square Merchandise Mart goes green for St. Patricks. To the left is Riverbend, to the right the Reid Murdoch Building and clock tower.

Bonus Photos - St. Patrick's Day in Chicago, March 17, 2007

Turning the Chicago River Green for St. Patrick's Day March 17, 2007
Orange on his Hands Dyeing the Chicago River GreenChicago River Dyed Green - St. Patrick's Day, 2007
Trump Tower, under construction, begins to claim its spot at the foot of the green river.

Butch McGuire's on St. Patrick's Day 2007, Division Street, Chicago
Butch McGuire may be gone, but his namesake Division Street bar still packs them in for St. Patrick's day.

St. Patrick's Day at Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate Sculpture, Millennium Park, Chicago
St. Patrick's Day, Cloud Gate sculpture, Millennium Park
St. Patrick's Day at Cloud Gate, Millennium Park, Chicago

St. Patrick's Day at Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate sculpture, popularly known as Da Bean, at Millennium Park.

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© Copyright 2006 Lynn Becker All rights reserved.






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