The Laurel Hill Cemetery

The Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia is known as the second major rural cemetery in the country, dating from 1836. Its location isn’t remotely rural now, but in its early days the cemetery was outside the city on a sizable hill overlooking the Schuylkill River.

As the cemetery’s web site says, “Previously, churchyards were the only places available to bury the dead, and they were often as crowded and unsanitary as the streets that bordered them. Worse yet, rapid industrialization and population growth commonly led to the disinterment of burial grounds to make way for roads and buildings…. Laurel Hill was not only established as a permanent, non-sectarian burial place for the dead, but also as a scenic, riverside sanctuary for the living.”

As the city grew around it, Laurel Hill itself become crowded, and it’s now a sizable necropolis with about 33,000 permanent residents in 74 acres. Many spots are lush with growth.

Laurel Hill Cemetery 2016Trees grow on the slope down to the river.

Laurel Hill Cemetery 2016Many parts are thick with stones.

Laurel Hill Cemetery 2016Laurel Hill Cemetery 2016Some monuments reach toward the sky.
Laurel Hill Cemetery 2016There are less conventional stones. Find a Grave says that “the shattered urn symbolizes a violet death. Stewart was murdered by his manservant.”
Laurel Hill Cemetery 2016The cemetery also has a large stock of striking funerary art, such as the Warner Memorial. says: “The Warner Memorial, sculpted by yet another Scottish craftsman, Alexander Milne Calder, shows a full-sized female figure opening a casket while the spirit of its male inhabitant slips free and takes wing. Sadly, the monument has been the target of vandalism over the years; both of the woman’s arms are missing as is the nose of the rising male spirit.”
Laurel Hill Cemetery 2016Another detail from the Warner Memorial.

Laurel Hill Cemetery - Warner Memorial LionI didn’t seek out too many notable burial sites, except for Gen. George Meade, resident of the cemetery since 1872. He and some of his family have a spot with a nice view of the river, and I can report that people put stones on his grave.
Laurel Hill Cemetery - George Meade GraveOne of the oddest stones I saw belonged to Catharine Drinkhouse Smith and Levi Franklin Smith, a five-sided pillar (not four, as it says on Mrs. Smith was a noted spiritualist of her time.

Her side of the stone said, with curious precision about some things: “Mrs. Catharine Drinkhouse Smith was born at Reading, Berks County, State of Pennsylvania, on Thursday, the Fifth day of August, 1824, at 15 minutes past 5 O’clock in the morning, and passed to spirit life 15 minutes before 12 O’clock the 27th day of March, 1893, from the residence of her husband, Professor Levi Franklin Smith, 2430 Thomson Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mrs. Smith was a devoted Spiritualist, and one of the best mediums of her time, and accomplished great good, in spreading this beautiful truth, and in demonstrating a continuity of life.”

Another odd thing: the cemetery had a gift shop. Besides Arlington National Cemetery, I think that’s the only time I’ve run across that. The man behind the counter was an informative fellow, happy to talk about the place (and a bit about Professor and Mrs. Smith). I did my little part to support the cemetery by buying some postcards and a refrigerator magnet.

Phil-Tex ’16

Just returned from Texas, where I visited family, but before I went there I had about a day and a half to kick around in Philadelphia, the largest city in the United States that I’d never been to before. Of course, size is only one measure of a city. After only a small sample, I’d say that Philadelphia counts as a highly worthwhile place to go for all kinds of reasons.

The visit was partly mad dash — on foot, by bus and by rail to a few places I really wanted to see — while also trying to take a more leisurely gaze at interesting things as I wandered down streets or sat next to bus windows. Those sound like contradictory activities, but not really. I was helped by the fact that both days were good for walking for different reasons: Friday, October 21 because it was warm, clear and nearly summer-like; Saturday, October 22 because it was overcast, cool and a distinctly fall day.

The region’s fall appearance was very distinctive in some places, such as this view of the west bank of the Schuylkill River (I didn’t make it over to the Delaware River).

Schuylkill River from Laurel Hill CemeteryI made it to the Laurel Hill Cemetery, one of the nation’s first park-like burial grounds, and about as picturesque as a cemetery can be, with weathered stones and funerary artwork and massive trees covering large hills along the Schuylkill, plus a few famed residents.

Also, I visited Eastern State Penitentiary, a museum that was once an enormous prison for the state of Pennsylvania. Not just any prison, but a 19th-century structure that was the first of an important kind of prison, and so an historic site. In our time it’s a magnificent ruin and quite a tourist attraction. Urban ruins are a little hard to come by, but not impossible.

I fulfilled a childhood ambition — I was a peculiar child — when I visited the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia just before it closed for the day on Friday, October 21. The last time I’d been to a functioning U.S. Mint facility was in 1980 in Denver, back before Big Zinc took an abiding interest preserving the penny.

I wouldn’t have been a first-time Philadelphia tourist worth my salt if I didn’t find myself at Independence National Historic Park during my visit, whose star attractions are Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. It was a popular place. Tourists from all over were there, taking pictures of the place where the United States was invented.

Independence National Historic ParkAs well as of each other.
Independence National Historic ParkShe took five or six jumps before he took a picture she liked.

The Bridgeview Bank, Uptown

Back posting around October 30, when I might have seen another thing or two to write about, with any luck.

One more destination on this year’s Open House Chicago: the Bridgeview Bank Building in Uptown Chicago, originally known as Sheridan Trust & Savings and then the Uptown National Bank. It’s one of the taller buildings in the neighborhood. You enter the building on Broadway, into a small foyer. From there, a grand staircase leads to the second floor, which is mostly occupied by a resplendent former bank lobby.

Bridgeview Bank, Uptown Chicago

The building, and the lobby, is a Marshall & Fox design from 1924, and it’s ornate. And solid.

It occurred to me as I wandered around the marble and brass and ironwork of this sturdy structure that the FDIC probably helped kill off this kind of bank design. Before accounts were insured, a bank needed to look solid. The more solid, the better — at least as far as reassuring your customers was concerned. But if customers can’t lose their deposits, that consideration takes a back seat.

Just speculation. It’s also likely that the generation of bankers who came of age during the Depression (e.g., Milton Drysdale) considered such ornamentation frivolous spending. I should also note that the splendor of Sheridan Trust & Savings’ lobby didn’t save the bank during the Depression.

Never mind, Marshall & Fox did a stunning bank lobby. Here’s a closer look at the ceiling.

Bridgeview Bank, Uptown ChicagoThe tables where customers used to get ready for the tellers still sport some striking lamps. I want a couple of these at the colorless suburban banks I visit.
Sheridan Trust & Savings Uptown ChicagoThere are bank offices ringing the lobby, but otherwise the space isn’t used any more, certainly not for retail banking. Too bad; it should be used for something.

Down on the lower level is a vault — the very picture of a bank vault from another time.
Sheridan Trust & Savings Uptown ChicagoIt isn’t used for anything any more, either. I doubt that the bank would consider it, but maybe a hipster restaurant can go upstairs, along with a hipster bar in the vault.

Four Houses of Worship

A number of churches — and other houses of worship — were part of Open House Chicago. That’s one of the attractions of the event, as far as I’m concerned.

In Evanston, we visited First Presbyterian. It’s not just a church. It’s a Daniel Burnham church.

First Presbyterian, Evanston

The church’s web site says, “In July 1876 a new church building was dedicated after the original church burned down. However, this church only stood for 18 years. In February 1894, the second church burned to the ground [and maybe sank into the swamp]. The congregation met in a former roller rink while our current building was being constructed, at a cost of $80,000. Daniel H. Burnham, the famed architect who was the inspiration for Chicago’s lakefront, designed the new church.

“The church is constructed of Lemont limestone, with an interior finish of red oak and Georgian pine. The sanctuary is ninety by seventy-five feet, and with the balcony, seats eleven hundred persons.” A lovely sanctuary it is.
First Presbyterian EvanstonWith a lot of stained glass. This wall includes the Old Testament collection.

First Presbyterian, Evanston

In the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago is the Buddhist Temple of Chicago. I’m pretty sure we visited there ca. 1997 during a Japanese cultural festival (I remember the taiko drummers especially). Seems that there’s an new building on the site now, or newer anyway, built 10 years ago. The religious organization goes back much further, to when Japanese and Japanese-Americans forced off the West Coast resettled in Chicago.

A fine altar.

Buddhist Temple of ChicagoAnd a nice collection of wood panels. This one illustrates Gautama under the Bodhi Tree.

Buddhist Temple of Chicago

In the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, on the same street and the same block — Lunt Ave., near Ridge — are St. Jerome, a Catholic church, and the local HQ of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON Chicago).

Here’s St. Jerome, a century old this year, with its Italian Renaissance exterior. The architect was one Charles H. Prinderville.

St. Jerome, Chicago

Inside, an ornate Baroque sanctuary. At some point, the building was lengthened, becoming one of the longer church buildings I’ve seen lately.

St Jerome, Chicago interior

Practically across the street, the devotees of Krishna do what they do. Until 1980, the structure was a Masonic temple. Now inside you can see depictions of Sri Kishora, or the youthful Krishna, and Sri Kishori, or the youthful Radharani.

ISKCon Chicago

Then there’s this fellow.

ISKCon Chicago

That’s an awfully lifelike statue of Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (1896-1977), whom you might call a Vaishnavite Hindu missionary to the West. He seems to have done well with that.

I can’t resist one more thing: cutting and pasting his name here in Sanskrit (according to Wiki, anyway), just because I can: अभय चरणारविन्द भक्तिवेदान्त स्वामी प्रभुपाद

The Frances Willard House Museum & The Levere Memorial Temple

Here’s something I learned last Saturday while making the rounds at Open House Chicago. Learned it in fact at the first place we visited. Namely, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union is still in existence.

If you’d asked me beforehand, I would have put the WCTU in the same class as the GAR or Godey’s Lady’s Book or Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound or other things without much purchase beyond the early 20th century. Not only is the WCTU still around, the organization’s HQ is in Evanston, and it owns the Frances Willard House Museum, which is a few blocks south of the Northwestern campus.

Frances Willard House Museum

Frances Willard was one of the founders of the WCTU. As the organization’s web site says, “Willard recognized, developed, and implemented the use of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union as a political organizing force. Under her leadership, the Union increasingly saw its role as an organization advocating for broad social as well as political change.”

Frances Willard House MuseumThat is, she wasn’t the one who took a hatchet to saloons, but I’m sure she smashed them in other ways. She had a handsome home in Evanston, built in 1865 and made a museum only two years after Willard’s death in 1898. Clearly, the other members of the WCTU held her in high regard. Some artifacts are in place, such as this typewriter.

I like to think Frances Willard banged out some anti-demon rum polemics on it, but I’m not sure it looks old enough to be a late 19th-century machine. Maybe WCTU writers used it later to assure everyone that Prohibition was going swimmingly.

According to the volunteer on hand at the house, the place wasn’t open very much until recently, when it was cleaned and refurbished. Now the museum seems to be actively trying to attract visitors, which must have been the reason it was part of Open House Chicago. All the years I’ve visited Evanston I’d never seen or heard of it. Now I have.

At the other end of the alcohol appreciation spectrum is the national headquarters of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, which is closer to Northwestern — across the street, in fact. It too was part of Open House Chicago.

SAE HQA lot has been written about the SAEs lately, such at Inside Higher Ed, which noted that “there’s nothing quaint about the nicknames SAE has these days — on many campuses people say the initials stand for ‘Sexual Assault Expected’ or ‘Same Assholes Everywhere.’ ” (Then again, if you hold the entire frat responsible for the actions of a few, aren’t you badmouthing the United States of America?)

Whatever else you can say about the SAEs, they’ve got a swell national headquarters building, including a library, museum of frat artifacts, meeting and office space, and elegant chapel, which is called the Levere Memorial Temple. It was designed by Arthur Howell Knox in 1930.

Open House Chicago says of the structure: “This understated Gothic-Revival building sits across from Northwestern’s gate. It was the vision of Billy Levere, a Temperance preacher with a key role in the history of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity… [temperance again? Maybe there’s a ritual toast to Levere at SAE keggers.]

“It was the first national headquarters building of any fraternity (a use it still serves today). It was also a memorial for the fallen of World War I. A local architect and fraternity member designed the building, including its colorful chapel with a large but uncharacteristic collection of Tiffany windows that narrate the history of America and Sigma Alpha Epsilon.”

The fact that it’s called a “temple” led to some discussion with Yuriko about whether the structure was actually some kind of church — it certainly looks like one, complete with pews, stained glass, religious art, and an altar. No, I offered that whatever the SAEs call it, it’s a chapel. No one meets there regularly for services, after all, and I doubt that it’s been consecrated.

I was interested to see that the stained glass windows on one side started by honoring the soldiers of World War I, but didn’t stop there. In fact, there was a window for Persian Gulf War soldiers.
Levere Memorial TempleAnd Vietnam.
Levere Memorial TempleAnd Korea and WWII, going all the way back to WWI. Behind the altar is stained glass with a Union soldier on the left, a Confederate soldier on the right, and Jesus in between, with Pax Vobiscum on the banner below.

One more thing: hanging on the landing between the first and second floors is a painting of President McKinley.

Levere Memorial TempleHe’s the only U.S. chief executive that the fraternity counts as a member, having joined at Mount Union College during his short time there.

The Dearborn Observatory

Nestled among a thicket of other buildings at Northwestern University is the Dearborn Observatory. Whenever you can, visit an observatory. So we did on Saturday, since it was part of Open House Chicago.
Dearborn Observatory 2016This particular building goes back to 1888, with the aluminum dome was added only in 1997, though there must have been some other dome before that. The story of the telescope inside goes back further. The remarkable Frederick A.P. Barnard, chancellor of the University of Mississippi, tasked the also remarkable Alvan Clark & Sons to construct a 18.5-inch refracting lens for the school, the largest yet made.

That was in 1859. By the time the lens was finished in 1861, Ole Miss (not so ole then, I guess) was in no position to take delivery. Before long the Chicago Astronomical Society bought the lens for a telescope at the Old University of Chicago.

Old Chicago — not the same as the modern university — folded in 1886, and eventually Northwestern got the telescope with the Alvan Clark lens, which it uses to this day. It’s quite a thing to stand in the presence of such a storied telescope.
Dearborn Observatory 2016How storied? The One-Minute Astronomer tells us — even though it mistakes E.E. Barnard for Frederick A.P. Barnard — that “in 1846 Alvan Clark established a telescope factory at Cambridgeport, Massachusetts. Clark and his two sons, with almost no formal training, learned how to build the finest refracting telescopes in the world. Many of their instruments remain in use today…

“Many important discoveries were made with Clark refractors, especially related to binary stars, stellar motion, and planetary studies.

• Asaph Hall discovered Phobos and Deimos, the moons of Mars, with the 26-inch USNO telescope. He also discovered a white spot on Saturn that helped determine the planet’s rotational period.

• Percival Lowell (falsely) observed canals on Mars with the famed 24-inch Clark refractor at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff.

• And in 1861, Alvan G. Clark made a 18.5-inch lens for E. E. Barnard [sic] at the University of Mississippi. While testing it, he observed Sirius and glimpsed the faint companion predicted by Friedrich Bessel in 1844.”

Astronomer E.E. Barnard would have been about four years old when Clark was working on the future Dearborn Observatory lens. Oddly enough, I’ve known about him a long time — I happened across a reference to Barnard’s Star when I was in junior high, and wondered, who was Barnard and why does he get a star? Good reasons, it turned out. Alas, no Earth-like planets seem to orbit his star. Much later, I learned that Barnard Hall at VU was named after him; he attended Vanderbilt in its early years.

The Dearborn Observatory is open to the public for viewing on clear Friday nights. It’s a bit far to go to Evanston just for that, but one of these days we might do it.

Open House Chicago 2016

Turns out there are two kinds of building-visiting events in the world, Open House and Doors Open, and a good many cities in a lot of countries participate in one or the other. (Shucks, missed Milwaukee’s — next year, maybe). As far as I can tell, the idea is exactly the same in both cases: one weekend out of the year, various buildings are open — maybe a little more open than they’d usually be — and you can wander in and look around. A really good idea, if you asked me.

I was out of town last year, but participated in Open House Chicago in 2013. Yuriko and I went in ’14, and again this year, on Saturday. This time our focus was Evanston and some sites on the North Side of Chicago. All are parts of metro Chicago that we know well, but no matter how well you know a place, there’s always more to it. First we drove to Evanston, and then on foot and by El train, we managed to visit more than a dozen places new to us.

Including, in Evanston: the Francis Willard House Museum, Sigma Alpha Epsilon National Headquarters (Levere Memorial Temple), Northwestern University’s Charles Deering Library and its Dearborn Observatory, Stone Terrace (an elegant B&B near Lake Michigan), the First Presbyterian Church of Evanston, and the Lake Street Church of Evanston.

In the Uptown neighborhood of Chicago, we had lunch at a good Vietnamese restaurant — there are many around Broadway and Argyle — and then went to the Bridgeview Bank Building, the Buddhist Temple of Chicago, the ICA GreenRise and the Preston Bradley Center (the Peoples Church).

In the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, just as our energy flagged, we managed to make it to the International Society for Krishna Consciousness building and then, practically across the street, St. Jerome’s, a Catholic church just about to start one of its Saturday masses, in Spanish.

With Evanston as target for the morning, we naturally spent a while walking around the still-leafy campus of Northwestern. The university, we saw, was quick to honor faculty member and recent Nobel laureate, Sir Fraser Stoddart.

Sir Fraser Stoddard banner Northwestern University 2016

Among other things, Sir Fraser is known for his work on mechanically interlocked molecular architectures. How it’s possible to understand such things, besides what they are in the first place, is a source of puzzled wonderment to me. But I’m glad there are people who do understand such things.

Sir Fraser’s banner was on Sheridan Road, near the southern edge of the school. From there we went further north, into the heart of the campus, where we chanced on Sir Fraser’s parking space.

This amused me for no good reason. Maybe it’s because Sir Fraser drives a Camry too (and does have a license plate, which I’ve blocked). His looks in better shape than mine.

Thursday Residuum

No overnight freezes yet, though it can’t be long. Thus a lot of greenery is still hanging on. So are blood-red blooms in our back yards.

I don’t know the species, but the plant produces late-season flowers that are so heavy that the blossoms face the ground. Of course, that’s a human interpretation; no blossom is obliged to orient itself in any particular direction to please a human sense of aesthetics. Even so, I held it upward for the picture.

I discovered a giant cucumber on the ground recently.

It was hiding — again, a human perspective (it’s the only one I’ve got) — under the many leaves of the cucumber plants we’ve been growing near the deck since late spring. So we didn’t notice it when it was green. As you can see, it devolved into a yellow Hindenburg of a vegetable.

“Many people wonder, why are my cucumbers turning yellow?” asks Gardening Know How. “You shouldn’t allow cucumbers to turn yellow. If you encounter a yellow cucumber, it’s usually over ripe. When cucumbers become over ripe, their green coloring produced from chlorophyll begins to fade, resulting in a yellowing pigment. Cucumbers become bitter with size and yellow cucumbers are generally not fit for consumption.”

Ah, well. Guess I’m a failure when it comes to that cucumber, though the mother plant did produce small and tasty green cucumbers this year (as tasty as possible with cucumbers, anyway). The giant yellow cucumber was indeed unfit for human purposes. It’s been returned to nature to rot.

A couple of weeks ago I read about some seasonal haunted house in the western suburbs, and looked up its web site. Its advertising mascot is a zombie scarecrow or some such. It’s an ugly face, anyway.

I can’t count the number of times since then that I’ve seen that ugly face pop up on all kinds of other web sites. It’s an insane amount of digital advertising, an exercise in overkill, and I’m really tired of that face. I’d toyed with the idea of taking Ann to the place, but I’ll be damned if I will now.

Another little annoyance: about a week ago, I was driving along not far from home, and I heard what sounded like an aluminum plate rolling near the car. I thought I’d had a near-miss with some kind of round metal object in the street until about 15 minutes later, at home, when I noticed my car was missing a hubcap.

That’s what that sound was. I drove back to look for it. Gone. Hell’s bells. That’s never happened to me in any car I’ve ever driven, not over the course of many, many thousands of miles. Go figure.

Best to end with a more upbeat note. Somehow, our dog’s more photogenic on the stairs. She sits there often, but only when we’re nearby.

Maybe she likes to sit there to be more-or-less as tall as we, the rest of her pack, are. Just speculation.

Ann Goes to New Places in Greater DC

I spoke more with Ann about her trip to DC, especially about some of the places that they visited that I never got around to for one reason or other, despite a number of trips to Reagan-era Washington, one visit in the mid-90s, and our week in the city in 2011. The kids had the advantage of someone else handling all the logistics, with buses to take them around, so they got around.

For instance, last Saturday morning they went as far afield as Annapolis, where the place to go is the U.S. Naval Academy. Ann says she was particularly impressed with the tomb of John Paul Jones. I asked her about the Stribling Walk and her eyes got a little wide, remembering that she’d seen that too.

I told her about Rear Admiral Cornelius Kinchiloe Stribling, who had a long career in the antebellum U.S. Navy, and when the war came, sided with the Union, despite being a native of South Carolina. His son John, however, joined the Confederate Navy and died in its service. At one point in his career, he was superintendent of the Naval Academy, and apparently was well regarded.

Also, the kids made it to Mount Vernon. So did I, once upon a time. When I got there, the place was closed — by the shutdown of the federal government in early 1995. Ann got to see George Washington’s teeth, among other things. Looks painful to wear.

Washington's teeth, Mount Vernon

They also went to the Washington National Cathedral, formally the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in the City and Diocese of Washington. In 2011, we opted to go to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception instead, because the basilica is within walking distance of a Metro station, while the cathedral is not.

Ann said she admired the design, both interior, for its intricate carving, and vaulting exterior.

National Cathedral 2016

The tour group also hit all of the major war memorials on the National Mall: WWII, Korea and Vietnam. By the time we got around to that part of the Mall in 2011, it was dark, so we really didn’t see Korea or Vietnam, though I remember seeing the Vietnam memorial in the mid-80s, when it was new and remarkably striking; the Korean memorial wasn’t finished until the mid-90s.

This is part of the Korean War Veterans Memorial, as Ann saw it in the morning.

Korean Veterans memorial Dc 2016

Each of the stainless steel soldiers, I’ve read, weighs about 1,000 lbs., and include members of each service, though are mostly Army. Sculptor Frank Gaylord did them.

Ann Goes to Washington

Yesterday Ann returned from Washington DC after a long weekend there. She took advantage of the quasi-holiday that’s Columbus Day to go on a quasi-school trip; four days and three nights (there was no school last Friday because of parent-teacher conferences).

Quasi because it wasn’t actually a school function, or even a school club trip, but organized by a company that makes money from the trips, with some teachers participating as chaperons, not as teacher-chaperons. Three busloads of kids from a number of junior high schools around here went. It was a crowded scene at the parking lot where they boarded the buses.

In some ways, the moment of departure is the best part of any trip.

She says it was a good trip. Except that she had a camera-phone mishap and deleted a lot of her pictures before she could get home. All I could tell her was that the important thing was being there, not taking the pictures. As often as I take pictures myself these days, I believe that. I’ve been plenty of places without a camera, and even now leave it behind when I don’t want to mess with it.

Among other things, she saw various memorials, such as those honoring Lincoln, Jefferson, FDR, MLK, and the U.S. soldiers of WWII, Korea and Vietnam; visited Ford’s Theatre and the Peterson House, Arlington National Cemetery, the Holocaust Museum, the Newseum, Mount Vernon and the National Cathedral; went on a dinner cruise on the Potomac; and swam at the Spring Hill Recreation Center in Fairfax County. Those kids were busy. Sounds like good tourist value for the money to me.

And some of her pictures survived.


That’s a better shot than I ever got of the Lincoln Memorial.