The Wendella Sightseeing Company was founded in 1935 by Albert Borgström, a Swedish immigrant. Wendella continues to be a Chicago family owned and operated business, now in its fourth generation with third generation 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’ wooden yacht named Wendela, 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 Governments Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ), a program aimed at reducing traffic congestion and improving air quality in urban areas. CATS determined the River Bus provided a measurable benefit in 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.
For 80 years, Wendella has provided millions of visitors and commuters with an opportunity to experience Chicago in a unique way. The Borgström family and Wendella employees have always set the highest standards for safety, accuracy of information, and customer service while never forgetting to give back to the community. Wendella operates eight vessels, providing several tours and specialty cruises, private events and the Chicago Water Taxi service. Wendella vessels are inspected and certified annually by the United States Coast Guard and all Wendella Captains are licensed USCG operators.