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The CAC staff and our team of more than 450 dedicated docents are always at work creating new ways of seeing Chicago. But have you ever wondered what inspires our tours? Cruise through the story of our Motor Row tour, a perennial CAC favorite.

by Nikki Snodgrass, Media Relations Manager

Why Motor Row?

What do two car-obsessed building enthusiasts get when they combine a trip through automotive history with a revealing look at Chicago’s architectural past? CAC’s popular Motor Row tour. Developed by CAC docents Bob Joynt and Dan Lempa, the Motor Row tour transports visitors back to the Golden Age of the automobile, when every automotive need under a hood was housed in what remains the world’s largest and most intact historic automotive mall. 

Located on Michigan Avenue in the Near South Side neighborhood, Motor Row has been a beloved locale for both Bob and Dan for years. In 2010, Dan Lempa first conceived his idea for the Motor Row tour. After a fellow docent introduced him to Bob Joynt, the tour’s many parts fell into place. Bob—who’d been called as an expert witness when Motor Row achieved landmark status in 2000—said putting the tour together with Dan was “right up my alley.”

The Neighborhood: Then and Now

Home today to just one of its original dealerships, Motor Row has seen the comings and goings of 116 different new car showrooms over the years. During the heyday of the automotive era, even retailers such as Chicago’s Sears and the Detroit-based Hudson’s had a presence on Motor Row, offering models of their own. On the tour’s several stops at former dealerships, Bob and Dan show photos of the cars once sold at those locations.

But you don’t have to be a gearhead to enjoy the Motor Row tour. Dan and Bob themselves bring enough enthusiasm for Chicago’s built history and the classic car lifestyle to rev anyone’s engine. They’re both collectors of classic cars and, as weather permits, aim to bring a vintage beauty along on every tour, for tour takers to admire.