Halloween ’13

I can’t remember the last time it rained on Halloween, but today we had a fair amount. It finally slacked off in the late afternoon, and children and others emerged to collect sweets. Not as many as most years, but some. Lilly was out with friends, ignoring my opinion that she’s too old for it.

I took Ann out in the immediate neighborhood while she waited for a friend of hers to show up – they were going to some kind of park district spook-tacular or boo-nanza or something. She reported having fun at that, but I’m glad I didn’t have to take her. A little Halloween goes a long way.

Mostly she collected usual-suspect candies. In no particular order: Hershey bars, Nestle Crunch, Snickers, Kit Kats, Twizzlers, M&Ms, Twix, Tootsie Rolls and Pops, Butterfingers, Milky Ways, Whoppers, Dots, Milk Duds, Dum Dums, Take 5 and Jolly Rancher. There were a few oddities, such as Sour Face Twisters Bubble Gum, product of Mexico, and three flavors of small Tootsie Roll imitators, except they’re brick-shaped rather than rolls – Wild Cherry, Blue Raspberry, and Green Apple chews, all made in Brazil “by Riclan S/A for R.L. Albert & Son.”

A modest amount of looking around tells me Riclan is a confectionery company located in Rio Claro, in São Paulo state. R.L. Albert & Son is located in Stamford, Conn., and seems to specialize in making seasonal candies – or having them made off shore. The manufacturer didn’t short the product on brightly colored food colors, that’s for sure.

We gave away Romeo and Dreemy, two Aldi brands made in Germany. Aldi sells wonderful German chocolates, and those are two: coconut and nougat bars, respectively. I also insisted on giving away Smarties, despite mocking from my offspring. “No one likes Smarties,” Lilly said. “Oh, yeah?” I shot back. “At least a quarter of the people in this house do.”

Smarties and I go back 40+ years. And I’m happy to report that they’re made by the Smarties Candy Co. (until 2011 Ce De Candy Inc.) of New Jersey, not some secretive confectionery behemoth bent on world domination (and they know who they are). The candies are made in only two places. Smarties’ web site says that “Smarties are made 24 hours a day in two candy factories located in Union, New Jersey, and Newmarket, Ontario. The company produces billions of Smarties rolls each year.”

Alexander & Johann

Name that Founding Father. Who happens to be depicted by a bronze in Lincoln Park in Chicago, a place he surely never visited.

Yes, it’s Alexander Hamilton, inventor of the national fisc. And, for that matter, our public debt, which you can see as a millstone around ca. 300 million necks, or a brilliant way to promote the stability of the federal government (indeed: the entire world now has an interest in maintaining the United States).

The statue has a story. Kate Buckingham — the heiress who paid to build Buckingham Fountain — apparently thought Hamilton didn’t get his due among Founding Fathers. She lived long enough to see Hamilton put on the $10 bill, so you’d think that would be enough, but no. She didn’t live long enough to oversee the large memorial she originally wanted for the site (see this posting for more on the story, including the original, never-done monument design by Eliel Saarinen).

So what we have in the 21st century is a gilded bronze of Hamilton on a red plinth, overlooking some flower beds. As you can see, there isn’t much gilding left. I like it that way.

Not far away is a statute with a somewhat different vibe.

Yet Hamilton and this fellow were pretty much contemporaries: it’s Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (except Geothe never wound up on the wrong end of a dueling pistol, so he lived longer than Hamilton). Maybe Johann’s dressed for an outing of Sturm und Drang. At the base the statue says: To Goethe/The Master Mind of the German People/The Germans of Chicago 1913.

I can’t see the date 1913 and not think of what was to come, when the Mind of the German People was distracted in such unfortunate ways. But that’s hindsight. The statue’s been there 100 years, free of the “trammels of costume and conventionality,” as the committee of local Germans who commissioned the work wanted. Recently, I read, a new brown patina was added, so it looks nearly new.

The Elks National Veterans Memorial

“The elks live up in the hills and in the spring they come down for their annual convention. It is very interesting to watch them come down to the water hole. And you should see them run when they find that it’s only a water hole. What they’re looking for is elk-ohole.”

 – Capt. Jeffery T. Spaulding

I was winding down by around 4 p.m. on October 19, but I wanted to see one more place. It wasn’t far north of Mother Cabrini’s shrine, and also at one of the edges of Lincoln Park: the Elks National Veterans Memorial. I could see its Roman-style dome from quite a distance in the park.

After the Great War, the Elks wanted to build a memorial to their members who had died in the conflict, which numbered more than 1,000, as well as space for the org’s national headquarters. The main rotunda of the Elks National Veterans Memorial was the most ornate space I saw during Openhousechicago, though Mother Cabrini’s shrine was a close second.

This was no accident. The Elks War Relief Commission, which was tasked with supervising the building’s construction, wrote in its  recommendation to the Grand Lodge in 1921 that: “The suggested building be made definitely monumental and memorial in character; that the architectural design be so stately and beautiful, the material of its construction so enduring, its site and setting so appropriate… that the attention of all beholders will be arrested, and the heart of every Elk who contemplates it will be thrilled with pride, and that it will for generations to come prove an inspiration to that loyalty and patriotism which the Order so earnestly teaches and has so worthily exemplified.”

The order picked New York architect Egerton Swarthout to design the memorial. He had a predilection for Beaux-Arts, which shows in the Elks memorial. More than shows, it overflows. I wouldn’t want everything to be done in that style, but it has its place – such as in massive, ornate memorials completed in the 1920s.

My camera, and my skills, aren’t remotely up to capturing the marbles or the soaring murals or even the gilded allegorical statues of the rotunda, which depicted Elk-approved virtues (Brotherly Love, Charity, Fidelity, and Justice). Better to see them with the eye, or failing that, at the memorial’s web site.

By contrast, I gave picture-taking a go at the Grand Reception Room at the Elks National Veterans Memorial. It too is ornate to beat the band.

I was especially taken with the allegorical painting called “The Armistice,” which of course references November 11, 1918. Eugene Savage did that work and others in the room, and I thought that style looked familiar. Like a WPA work, but before that agency existed. Sure enough, Savage was an important player in the WPA Federal Arts program, so I guess that was no accident either.

The National Shrine of St. Francis Xavier Cabrini

I expected to see interesting architecture on last week’s Openhousechicago. I didn’t expect to run across the humerus of a saint. But the relic arm bone’s behind glass and under the altar of the National Shrine of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, which is just west of Lincoln Park.

The shrine itself is magnificently ornate, done in a “modern Romanesque” style. Mosaics and frescoes on the dome overhead illustrate the life of the saint; the stained glass all around tell of the Resurrection, the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit, the Apostles, and more, even including the seal of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was founded by Mother Cabrini; there are four side chapels and four side altars; and the shrine has a Tamburini Pipe Organ, an Italian variety that I’ve read is rare in North America.

This is the view of the dome from the front pews, and a part of the baldachino (canopy) over the altar.

I’ve been in a fair number of ornate churches, but what struck me about this place was how new it feels. Not just new by the standards of European sacred spaces – which might be 100 years or less – but new by American standards. This iteration of the shrine was only opened last year.

A predecessor shrine was part of Columbus Hospital, an institution founded by Mother Cabrini (d. 1917) at this location in 1905. All together she founded 67 hospitals, schools, and orphanages in the Americas and Europe. I’m pretty sure I knew about the Columbus Hospital before it closed in 2002, but never ventured into it or the original shrine.

A condo tower was eventually developed on the site of the hospital – an extremely valuable piece of land, with its immediate access to Lincoln Park and views of Lake Michigan – but part of the deal was that the shrine had to be redeveloped on the site as well. So the floors over the shrine, which is a separate entity within the structure, are residential condos. An unusual arrangement.

The shrine also includes offices and a small museum about the saint. Among other things, the room in the hospital in which Mother Cabrini lived until her death is re-created, and on display are a habit she wore, her bed, an address book, and a to-do list (“continue work on that fourth miracle this week”).

Item from the Past: The Kii Peninsula

In late October 1992, my friend Rich came to visit me in Japan, and one of the places we went was down to the southern shores of the Kii Peninsula, more-or-less south of Osaka, where we visited the cliffs of Osenkorogashi and Nachi falls. Unusually for Japan, the cliff was simply a cliff – no observation deck, no rail, just a drop off with a sign posted nearby. I could read, in red, the large hiragana for “DANGER” (ABUNAI) on the sign. The falls, on the other hand, were visible from a platform not far away. Impressive at 436 feet, and near an interesting Buddhist temple, Seiganto-ji.

I was looking all that up and got a lesson in how the Internet enables wandering minds like my own. How tall, I wondered, is that fall compared to some others I’ve seen? Though broad and impressive, Niagara Falls is only 167 feet high. Not sure anymore which of the Hawaiian falls I saw, and while all of them were very pretty, none seemed that high. The falls on the Athabasca River in Canada were powerful, but also not that high. What about Fall Creek Falls?

Fall Creek Falls is part of a Tennessee state park of the same name I visited about 30 years ago. It was a gorgeous place, with a picturesque fall – and at 256 feet, supposedly the highest “free-fall waterfall east of the Mississippi,” for what that’s worth. While reading the Wiki article, I noticed that part of Dr. Otto and the Riddle of the Gloom Beam (1986) was filmed at that park, while the rest was done in Nashville. If that movie doesn’t ring any bells, you’re having a normal reaction. It’s an early Jim Varney movie, and I must be one of the few people who paid money to see it. I went because the brother of an old friend of mine was a cameraman on the movie.

So I looked my friend’s brother up on the imdb. I knew he went to California in late ’80s to ply his trade, and sure enough he’s done a lot since then, including as an electrician and best boy on various movies and TV shows, few I’d ever heard of except The King of Queens. Glad to know that he’s been able to make a living at it.

Back to Japan. I don’t remember the name of this place, but it was a rocky shore on the Kii Peninsula, somewhere near those other sights. Flat slabs of rock jutted out into the Pacific, which crashed noisily against the rocks.

It was clear and warmer than it should have been for October. The wind was strong. Rich and I decided that all of the four elements were in play: Earth in the form of the rock, Water in the form of the ocean, Air in the form of the quick wind, and Fire in the form of the warm sunshine.

LaSalle & Oglesby

Lincoln Park is peppered with statues, some better known than others. Thousands of people drive by this fellow every day, since he overlooks the intersection of two large streets bordering the park, Clark and LaSalle.

Fittingly enough, it’s René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, perched over his namesake street. How many of the passersby know that? I wasn’t sure who it was until I read the plaque, which calls him “Robert Cavelier De La Salle.” Considering we’re talking about a 17th-century Frenchman, both styles are probably OK. The statue was made in Belgium, of all places, designed by one Jacques de La Laing, and was a gift to the city from Lambert Tree, a wealthy Chicagoan and second-tier Illinois politician of an earlier time (died 1910). His more important legacy is the Tree Studio Building.

In some alternate universe, in which Frenchmen took to the Midwest in greater numbers than they really did, and in which France prevailed in the Seven Years’ War, LaSalle might be revered as the forefather of a French-speaking nation stretching from the shores of the Great Lakes to the Mississippi Delta. A country that regularly chaffs against the English-speaking nation on the Eastern Seaboard and the Spanish-speaking one to the west (and Russians in the Pacific Northwest, just for fun), and which also has restive populations both English and Spanish within its borders.

In the world-as-it-is, LaSalle gets a fair amount of recognition anyway. I remember learning about him long ago in Texas History class, since he made it all the way to the future site of Texas before being offed by his own men. Also, a lot of things are named after him — or at least share the name — besides the street, and it’s worth noting that LaSalle St. is a metonym for the financial industry in Chicago.

Deeper into the park, on a small hill in fact – how did that get there? Must have been manmade – is a statue of Richard J. Oglesby, Union general, 14th Governor of Illinois, and U.S. Senator. He’s obscured to the west by a large tree and probably not that easy to see from Lake Shore Drive to the east, though I haven’t tested that assumption. I’m fairly sure obscure applies to him generally speaking, though I’ll have to ask someone who went to Illinois public schools back when such a thing as Illinois History was taught, and see if he was mentioned.

In any case, the statue is the work of sculptor Leonard Crunelle, a protégé of Lorado Taft, and was dedicated in 1919, when there were still people who remembered Oglesby (he died in 1899). In Decatur (Ill.), I understand, his home is a museum, and the town of Oglesby in LaSalle County, which is north-central Illinois, is named after him.


The Moody Church

Put this in the semiliterate headline file: Kim Kardashian, Kanye West engagement doesn’t phase Kris Humphries’ dad. That was the head brought up for a New York Daily News article by Google News last night at about 10:20 pm CDT. Normally, that isn’t a story I would click on, but I wanted to see if the error was on the web site. It wasn’t.

Across the street from the Chicago History Museum on Clark St., just south of Lincoln Park, is the Moody Church. The current building dates from 1925 and it’s an impressive pile o’ bricks. The AIA Guide to Chicago puts it this way: “According to the dedication-day program, the church was inspired in part by the Byzantine Hagia Sophia in Istanbul; the offices and meeting rooms on the LaSalle Blvd. side were based on various Romanesque churches from Lombardy. A brick structure with sparing use of terra-cotta ornament, the building provided a large gathering place at a limited cost.”

The Moody Church was another place on the openhousechicago list that I’ve passed by many, many times – when going to the museum, or on the Clark or Broadway buses, or when visiting Lincoln Park – but never entered. So I went in.

This is looking toward the front, where the focus isn’t an altar, but a pulpit. Or maybe a lectern. Not sure what they call it.

And looking toward the back. All together there are hardwood seats for 2,270 people on the main floor and 1,470 in the balcony. It must be quite a sight when the seats are full of – Moodyites? – members of the Moody Church. Must be quite a sound when they sing.

A spot of background: Moody’s Church is an independent evangelical Protestant organization, founded by Dwight Moody, a 19th-century shoe salesman from New England who found another calling, beginning with organizing a wildly successful Sunday school. His original church in Chicago, not on this site, burned down in the Fire in 1871. Later, after Moody himself had died, his organization tapped a Scotsman named John Harper to be its pastor. Coming from Britain in 1912, he booked passage on a certain steamer later famed in books and movies for sinking in the cold, cold Atlantic. He didn’t make it to his new flock.

Those are just some of the more dramatic moments in Moody history, entirely unrepresentative. Its own account of its history is here. There’s also the Moody Bible Institute (with campuses in Michigan and Washington state, and in the news lately for dropping its ban on alcohol and tobacco for its employees), as well as publishing and radio arms (it’s the owner of 36 stations nationwide).

I’m sure the church wanted people to see the inside of the fine structure in which they worship. But of course they also wanted to proselytize just a wee bit. Upon entry, I received a DVD guide to the church, a pamphlet with a message from the current pastor, Erwin Lutzer, a schedule of upcoming events, the Order of Service for Oct. 20, 2013 (the sermon was to be on “Recognizing False Prophets”), and a small booklet by Dr. Lutzer called “One Minute After You Die.”

View and No View

The Cliff Dwellers have a swell view of the eastern reaches of Chicago, Millennium Park, Grant Park, and the expanse of Lake Michigan beyond. The northeast vista looked like this on Saturday, October 19, 2013, at about 12:30, before the clouds and wind blew in.

The southeast vista was even better, but my photography skills weren’t up to the task. With the eye it was clear enough to see the structures of East Chicago and Gary, Indiana. The view is the from the 22nd floor of 200 S. Michigan Ave., a building across the street from the Art Institute. My photography skills were up to the task of capturing an aspect of that museum that few pay any attention to: its multi-surfaced roof.

Not a bad roof, I guess, but it seems like the Art Institute is missing an opportunity. It ought to commission a few brightly colored murals that, like the Nazca Lines, can best be appreciated from the air. Or large pieces of sculpture likewise fixed to the roof for distant viewing. The museum could then lease small spaces high up on the surrounding buildings and install telescopes for viewing, maybe for a small extra fee. That’s got to be pushing the conventional boundaries between art and life, or exploring the relationship between physical distance and the aesthetic experience, or beating up some kind of pervasive assumption about art, or something.

The Cliff Dwellers is a private club. I wanted a look-see because I’ve seen parts of other Chicago clubs’ spaces – the Rotary Club, the Union League Club, the University Club, the Metropolitan Club – but not the Cliff Dwellers. “The club exists as a cultivator for the arts, welcoming working writers, painters, musicians, and others as well as affluent art lovers who want to act as patrons,” explains Michigan Avenue magazine. “Though the clubhouse itself is modest, with a bar, dining room, and reading nook (in addition to a breathtaking aerial view of the waterfront and sprawling greenery of Grant Park), the society’s roots are far from low profile, with names like Daniel Burnham, Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, and Carl Sandburg marking its pedigree.”

I imagine the Cliff Dwellers would be happy to mount a big brass telescope to view Nazca Lines on the top of the Art Institute. That would be cultivating the arts.

Moving on, I soon found myself at the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist, a round structure at Wabash and Wacker, very near the Chicago River. It’s a Harry Weese design, completed in 1968.

I used to have an office across the street in 35 E. Wacker. I’ve walked by this church countless times. I’d never been inside.

Most of the roundness of the structure is filled by a 764-seat auditorium with a focus on the “readers’ platform,” which is backed by a 3,316 pipe Aeolian-Skinner organ. Supposedly the inspiration for the auditorium is the layout of a Greek amphitheater, but I couldn’t help being reminded of a meeting room at the UN. It has no windows, the better to keep ambient noise from the city from intruding. That works pretty well – I couldn’t hear anything identifiable as noise from the surrounding streets.

The Auditorium Theatre

How many inglenooks are there in public buildings in greater Chicago? A fireplace recess, that is. I wouldn’t know, but it couldn’t be too many.

The Auditorium Theatre on Congress Ave. downtown has two large ones, echoing the enormous size of the theater itself, in the dress circle lobby. In 1889, when the theater was spanking new, the inglenooks featured gas fireplaces with cast-iron “logs” and long benches warmed by radiators underneath the cushions, and walls adorned by foliate mosaic friezes. Socializing went on, but so did warming. The Earth was colder then, and indoor heating was much more primitive.

I’m pretty sure I didn’t notice the inglenooks when I attended a show at the Auditorium Theatre in 1989. Or was it 1988? I went to see a radio broadcast of Michael Feldman’s Whad’Ya Know? Or was it Lily Tomlin’s one-woman show? It’s a jumble. In any case, I remember the Auditorium Theatre being opulent in the late 1980s, but since then Roosevelt University, which owns the building, completed a restoration in 2001 to make it look more like it did when the structure was spanking new. So when I saw the theater on Saturday, I saw something new – which looked old.

On December 19, 1889, President Benjamin Harrison and Vice President Levi P. Morton  – just about everyone’s favorite obscure high office holders of the Gilded Age, I figure – came for the dedication of the Auditorium Theatre. Interestingly enough, they’d been nominated for these offices in the summer of ’88 at the theater, even though it wasn’t finished yet. That’s where the Republican Party held its convention that year.

President Harrison said a few words at the dedication, which are on a plaque hanging on the wall at the south inglenook: “I wish that this great building may continue to be to all your population that which it should be: opening its doors from night to night, calling your people away from cares of business to those enjoyments and entertainments which develop the souls of men and inspire those whose lives are heavy with daily toil and in this magnificent and enchanted presence, lift them for a time out of dull things into those higher things where men should live.”

He and his vice president would have seen an interior very much like I saw this weekend, a tour de force design by Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler, with its 3,500 clear-glass electric light bulbs luminously arrayed on the ceiling arches, the balcony and the gallery fronts, the 20 x 24-foot murals depicting winter and spring, and the 4,200 seats, including some way, way up in the third balcony. These days, I understand, there are 3,877 seats; people have grown fatter in the last 130 years.

The theater has plenty of other distinctions, which are best explored at its web site. Like many other grand buildings, it was nearly destroyed. Supposedly in the early ’30s, when it seemingly had outlived its economic usefulness, bids were taken for demolition. But the theater and its surrounding building (more about which later) were so solidly built that no one wanted to pay to have it razed.

Another story I enjoyed about the theater is its World War II use. The USO had the stage and some of the front-row seats removed to install a bowling alley. It looked like this.

For Chicago developer Ferdinand Peck, the theater was only one component of the property, and so it remains today. The Auditorium Theatre is part of the Auditorium Building, which originally included office space and a hotel, and now has office space and classrooms. Since 1946, Roosevelt University has owned the building as well as the theater, which have separate entrances. The Auditorium Building also could be explored as a part of Openhousechicago, so I took a look.

The building has a fine lobby, and a grand staircase with nice stained glass, and a good view of Grant Park and Lake Michigan from its library on the 12th floor. It also pays homage to a president and first lady.

This mosaic is on the landing between the first and second floors. Also in the lobby are busts of Franklin and Eleanor, in case you’re inclined to think the school was named after the other famed Roosevelt.

Openhousechicago ’13

This weekend the Chicago Architecture Foundation held its third annual Openhousechicago (that’s how the organization styles “Open House Chicago”). Last year, I heard about the event a week or two after it was over. Yesterday, I participated.

The CAF describes it this way:  “A free, citywide festival that offers behind-the-scenes access to more than 150 buildings across this great city. Explore historic mansions, hidden rooms, sacred spaces, private clubs, offices, hotels, iconic performance venues and more much – all for free.” Note the emphasis on free.

Sounds like my kind of event. At each place there were volunteers at folding tables taking attendance in the form of asking you your zip code. At a few places, you had to join a short guided tour, but most of the time you just offered your zip code, walked in, and looked around. Not all of the spaces were open 9-5 on both Saturday and Sunday, so it was worthwhile to check the CAF guide to the event, which had such details, as well as useful maps.

That and the purchase of a $10 CTA all-day pass got me ready. I didn’t arrive downtown until about 11 a.m. – it’s impossible to get up early on Saturday, unless you need to catch a flight somewhere interesting – and I ran out of energy at about 4 p.m.. I was on the move constantly in between.

In order, starting in the South Loop and trending northward by bus and foot, I went to the Auditorium Theatre, the Auditorium Building of Roosevelt University, the Cliff Dwellers, the Monroe Building, the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist, the Harvest Bible Chapel (formerly the Scottish Rite Cathedral), the Moody Church, the National Shrine of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, and the Elks National Memorial.

I bypassed participating places I’d already been, such as the Chicago Temple, City Hall, the Fine Arts Building, the Blackstone Hotel, the Marquette Building, the Palmer House, Holy Name Cathedral, the Chicago History Museum, and the Lincoln Park Conservatory, though I made an exception for the Auditorium Theatre, where I saw at least one show in the late ’80s. A handful of interesting-sounding places required CAF membership to visit, including 35 E. Wacker’s crowning cupola, which is leased by Helmut Jahn. The Newberry Library was accessible only by tour, and the wait was 45 minutes, so I didn’t go there, either (since I used to visit there in the late ’80s, too).

I also spent time walking through Lincoln Park, and saw a few things not on the CAF list. The weather was cool and windy, partly cloudy, and good for walking. I took my camera. If you frame things right, you can edit out the fact that 9 million or so people are in the vicinity.

That’s looking southward at the edge of North Pond in Lincoln Park. If you move a few yards from that spot, it’s easy enough to see the city looming over the park.

The green seems to be hanging on a little later this year than usual. Maybe that’s because we haven’t had a frost yet.