Wendella Sightseeing Company was founded in Chicago in 1935 by Albert Borgström, a Swedish immigrant. Wendella continues to be a Chicago, family-owned and operated business. The company is now in its fourth generation with Michael Borgström as president.
Chicago’s Original Architecture Tour originated at the northeast corner of Navy Pier until moving to its present location on Michigan Avenue at the Wrigley Building in 1938. Albert knew people wanted more than just the small speedboat rides that were popular at the time. A carpenter by trade, Albert built a 65-foot wooden yacht named Wendela, which was later changed to Wendella for pronunciation. He added seating for 100 passengers and included a narration of Chicago’s architecture and history. What began as a 30-minute tour quickly evolved into the 90-minute Wendella’s Signature Lake & River Tour.
In 1962, Wendella started a rush hour commuter service between Michigan Avenue and the Northwestern Railroad Station, enhancing transportation options for the city’s thousands of commuters by utilizing the resources of the Chicago River. Known as the River Bus since 1999, this service was intended to get people out of their cars by providing a fast, convenient and economical way to get around downtown Chicago. In 2001, the Chicago Area Transportation Study (CATS) recommended the River Bus for inclusion in the Federal Highway Administration’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program, which aims to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality in urban areas. CATS determined the River Bus provided a measurable benefit in the reduction of auto emissions and auto congestion within the crowded downtown area. In 2007, the River Bus service was rebranded and expanded into the iconic black and yellow Chicago Water Taxi, which continues to provide daily scheduled service on the Chicago River.