A Walk Around the Colorado State Capitol

Carved on the riser of one of the front steps of the Colorado State Capitol is a well- known phrase: One Mile Above Sea Level. I’ve read that the measurement has been resurveyed a couple of times, and that step isn’t actually at a mile, a lower one is. Never mind. This is the tourist mile-high line.

Mile High Line Colorado State CapitolAs part of the city’s identity, that metric is well known. I saw a group of Korean tourists (I’m pretty sure that’s what they were speaking) snapping away at the mile-high step just like I did.
Colorado State Capitol Mile High LineCurious. No doubt they only had a vague notion of a mile as a measurement, since presumably they’d be more familiar with the metric system and the traditional Korean units like the ri, which is about a quarter of a mile, a unit descended from the Chinese li.

Then again, that’s the spirit of tourism for you. If I found a carving in East Asia asserting that the spot was One Li Above Sea Level, I might want to pose with it too.

Whatever the elevation, the capitol dome is impressive.
Colorado State CapitolCopper panels gilded with gold leaf from a Colorado mine. Fittingly, since the state owes its origin to a gold rush. The capitol itself dates, as many capitols do, from the late 19th century, designed by Elijah E. Myers, who also did design work on the Texas and Michigan state capitols. He was the only person to work on three, it seems. Now that’s a Jeopardy question to stump the best of ’em.

A further-away exterior shot.

Colorado State CapitolNot visible is the fact that the building is “the first state capitol in the country to be cooled by geothermal power, completed in 2013,” notes the State of Colorado’s web site. “An energy performance contract issued in June 2012 by the Colorado Department of Personnel & Administration and Chevron Energy Solutions allowed the upgrade of the Capitol’s HVAC system and installation of a geothermal well that heats and cools the House and Senate Chambers.”

As mentioned, the capitol was closed on Saturday. I got a good look around the grounds instead. The area isn’t heavy on memorials, not like some states, but there are a few. Such as this Colorado Union soldier.
The memorial mentions the Colorado Volunteers’ 22 battles and the names of the 279 who died. You’d think that would be OK, but it turns out that only most of those battles were for the Union. A few were against Indians, including the notorious Sand Creek Massacre, so there’s been some grumbling about the memorial.

An effort is under way to built a permanent memorial on the capital grounds to the victims of Sand Creek. If there’s a temporary memorial there now, I missed it. Adding that, I think, would be better than tearing down Billy Yank.

I did notice, on the other side of the capitol, a much less dramatic memorial.
There are two plaques on the structure, and two other spots seemingly made for plaques, but which are empty. One plaque honors Colorado Gov. Ralph Carr, who objected publicly to the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, unlike all the other Western governors.

The plaque quotes him: “When it is suggested that American citizens be thrown into concentration camps, where they lose all privileges of citizenship under the Constitution, then the principles of that great document are violated and lost… we are disregarding the very principles for which this war is being waged against the Axis nations…”

His stance probably cost him a seat in the U.S. Senate in the 1942 election. He has a number of other memorials in the state in our time, however. The other plaque on the memorial is about the Amache detention camp (Granada War Relocation Center) in eastern Colorado.

More Vincennes

At Grouseland in Vincennes, during the tour, our guide pointed out a sizable crack in the wall of one of the upstairs bedrooms. She said that was the only damage to the interior walls that the long-time modern owners of the property, the Daughters of the American Revolution, decided not to repair. That’s because the 1811-12 New Madrid earthquakes make the crack. That crack might be the only visible relic anywhere of that long-ago event. Historic damage preservation, you might call it.

Outside of the Harrison mansion are a few memorials, one of which is homely indeed.
Two blocks south of this marker on March 6, 1814, was born Sarah Knox Taylor, daughter of Capt. and Mrs. Zachary Taylor.

Miss Taylor married Lieut. Jefferson Davis at Louisville, Kentucky on July 17, 1835 and died in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana, on September 15 of that same year.

Zachary Taylor subsequently became the twelfth President of the United States, and Jefferson Davis the first and only President of the Confederate States of America.

Erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy 1964

A Confederate memorial, sort of, but somehow I doubt that memorial revisionists are going to be flustered by it.

Grouseland has a small gift shop. You can buy William Henry Harrison Pez dispensers there. I did.

William Henry Harrison PezWHH Pez is now going to keep company with my Franklin Pierce bobblehead.

At the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park gift shop, you can buy a flag I’ve never seen anywhere else: the George Rogers Clark Flag. I got one of those, too.
George Rogers Clark FlagThe Clark flag is now going to keep company with my Come And Take It flag that flies on our deck during the warm months.

Apparently Clark’s men didn’t carry the flag at the Battle of Vincennes, but it was around — a previous American commander at Sackville, before the British took the fort, might have used it. Clark got his name attached to it anyway. Also, it isn’t clear why red and green were its colors. Never mind, all that mystery adds interest. It’s distinctive, and you can find it displayed with more conventional flags at the National Historical Park.
George Rogers Clark Memorial flagsVisible from the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park is the Lincoln Memorial Bridge across the Wabash (US 50), the border at that place between Indiana and Illinois. An elegant bridge.
Lincoln Memorial Bridge, Vincennes, IndianaThis was where a young Abraham Lincoln (age 21) and his family is thought to have crossed into Illinois for the first time in 1830. On the Illinois side of the river, that event is marked with a memorial.
Lincoln at 21 memorial, entering IllinoisProbably the Lincolns crossed the river on a ferry. Crossed the river, checked out the memorial, and then when on their way. I admit, that sounds like a scene from a Mel Brooks movie, but it’s something I thought of while looking at the memorial.

Lincoln crossing into Illinois memorial

Officially, it’s the Lincoln Trail State Memorial, designed by Nellie Verne Walker and erected in 1938.

One more thing in Vincennes: a small museum to a native son. Anyone younger than me (roughly) might have a hard time identifying him.
Red Skelton mural, VincennesThe museum was closed on Sunday, and we didn’t have time for it anyway, but I did tell the girls that Red Skelton was an old vaudevillian, long before my time. I remember him on television, which was essentially televised vaudeville in his case. Who in our time would do comedy that included “The Silent Spot”?

The Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, Vincennes

Ah, woe is Houston. It could have easily been my hometown. Even though it isn’t, I hate to see it underwater.

Vincennes, Indiana, has a handsome downtown, or at least a well-appointed main street. We drove on that street on August 20, but didn’t stop because the 90-plus temps that day discouraged walking around. Elsewhere in the town, I noticed the grass as it should be in August: brown, indicating sustained heat and not a lot of rain recently.

A few blocks away from downtown Vincennes is the Greek Revival-style Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, dating from 1826 and built on the site of two previous churches, the first going back to Frenchmen building a log structure ca. 1732. A plaque near the entrance calls it The Old Cathedral.

Center of the Catholic faith and scene of the great events of early American history in the old Northwest Territory. This historic and stately cathedral was raised to the rank of a basilica by His Holiness, Pope Paul VI, March 14, 1970.The Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, VincennesThe Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, VincennesThe interior sports large wooden Doric columns dividing the nave from aisles, a painted ceiling, murals and some fine stained glass. Stately indeed.
The Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, VincennesI told Ann how stained glass was used to tell Biblical stories to people back when most were illiterate, and that the tradition continued after that. Or sometimes they illustrate general principals, such as Jesus being Jesus.
The Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, VincennesOne you don’t see too often, or at least I don’t think so: the Lord as a 12-year-old at the Temple.
The Basilica of St. Francis Xavier, VincennesI’m just guessing, but the mural to the left of the altar (its own left) seems to be St. Francis Xavier in the Spice Islands (Malikus). Here’s a detail.

St. Francis Xavier Basilica, Vincennes

Toward the back is a fine-looking organ. I can’t say a thing about it, except I wouldn’t have minded hearing its pipes blow.
St. Francis Xavier Basilica, VincennesOut in front of the basilica, there’s a statue that’s unlikely to rise the ire of any would-be memorial revisionists: Father Pierre Gibault (1737-1802). Sculpted by Albin Polasek, much of whose work is visible in Florida.
St. Francis Xavier Basilica, VincennesI had to look him up. He was a Jesuit missionary and priest in the Northwest Territory, and when war came, he provided vital help to George Rogers Clark in his effort to capture Vincennes from the British in February 1779. Perhaps that was his way of paying back the British, whom he witnessed conquer New France in the Seven Years’ War.

Roadside Wisconsin, Part 1: “The World’s Largest Penny”

Roadside America and I go back a ways, even before it was a web site. I bought an edition of it when it was a book, sometime in the 1990s at some remainder table. Now of course it’s a sprawling web site whose wisdom I occasionally consult.

I’m pretty sure that’s where I first heard about the “World’s Largest Penny.” That object can be found in Woodruff, Wisconsin. Traveling via US 51, we passed through Woodruff, a town in Oneida County, on the way to the UP and on the way home. On the way home, I watched for a sign pointing to the “World’s Largest Penny.” I wasn’t disappointed.

A block off US 51, at 3rd Ave. and Hemlock St., is the “penny.”
World's Largest Penny, Woodruff, WisconsinA sidewalk from the edge of the intersection leads up to the object, and behind it is senior housing. I’ll be nitpicky and insist that it’s a depiction of a penny, of which it might well be the largest anywhere. It’s made of painted concrete, for one thing. And even as a depiction, it’s only half there: expecting a wheat penny reserve, I went to the other side and found it blank. All you get is the Lincoln observe.

Still, the town’s heart is in the right place with its penny-depicting concrete object. The sign next to it (all sic) says:

THE MILLION PENNY PARADE

Dr. Kate NewComb had a dream — a hospital for the Lakeland area. Through contributions and volunteer help, the hospital was started. Because of the lack of funds the building was discontinued. Pennies would now help the compete the hospital.

The pupils of the geometry class of Arbor Vitae – Woodruff School wanted to see a million of something. Their teacher, Otto Burich, suggested that they collect pennies for the new hospital. The Million Penny Parade was launched.

In March of 1954, Dr. Kate went to a Doctors convention in California. She was a surprise guest on the T.V. program, “The is Your Life.” Because of her appearance people all over the country sent money for the hospital. With this money, amounting to $106,000 the hospital was completed and equipped.

As a result of this Penny Parade, the residents of this area had the beginning of the present Lakeland Memorial Hospital. This Penny is dedicated to the work of Dr. Kate and the people of the community who helped make the hospital a realty.

Donated by eighth grade class of 1969.

On a small plaque below the “penny” itself is a mention of the Woodruff-Arbor Vitae High School, as well as a Lions Club emblem. Perhaps the club had something to do with erecting “The World’s Largest Penny.”

A more detailed and somewhat different history of the fundraising efforts to build the hospital is at the web site of the Dr. Kate Museum, which isn’t far from the “penny.” Dr. Kate Newcomb (1886-1956) was apparently beloved in her time as a roving North Woods doctor. Remarkably, a clip of her on This is Your Life is posted on YouTube.

On Hemlock St. leading up to the “World’s Largest Penny,” Dr. Kate is also honored by painted images of snowshoe prints. Her nickname was “Angel on Snowshoes.”

Kate Newcomb Painted Snowshoe Prints, Woodruff, WisconsinThe small museum honoring Dr. Kate is off in that direction, but we didn’t spend any time at it. One more nit to pick: whoever painted the prints made it look like Dr. Kate hopped through the North Woods to see her patients.

Ironwood Public Art, Except For the World’s Tallest Indian

Yesterday, the Space Weather Prediction Center, a branch of NOAA, had this to say: “A watch has been issued for likely G2 (Moderate) geomagnetic storm conditions on 16 Jul and early on 17 Jul.” Thus the Aurora Borealis might thus just be visible at my latitude, according to the map. So at about 11:45 pm on July 16, I went outside and looked north. No dice.

But I’m glad the Space Weather Prediction Center is a real thing. It’s something we (humankind) should have in the 21st century.

Ironwood, pop. somewhat less than 6,000, is Michigan’s westernmost town, on the east bank of the Montreal River, which flows into Lake Superior not far away and is the border with Wisconsin. On the morning of Sunday, July 2, we stopped there to look for coffee for Yuriko.

We were unsuccessful in that, but we had a few moments to look around. Unfortunately, we didn’t see the World’s Tallest Indian. That’s what I get for not looking up what’s to see in a town before I go.

I did see the Ironwood Area Historical Society and the Historic Depot Museum. Being Sunday morning, it was closed, but it looked like a fine old depot, dating from the 1890s.
Ironwood, Michigan DepotThe Ironwood Area Historical Society says, “Its architecture is true to its Richardson Romaneque origins. The exterior is baked-red brick above and a heavy base of Lake Superior sandstone from the brownstone quarries located on the mainland and Apostle Islands near Bayfield in Northern Wisconsin. The Ironwood depot is a stunning structure with three tapering roof lines, including an unusual hipped, cross dormer and a signature finial cupola reflecting flanged rail wheels crowning the pinnacle.”

On the grounds is a statue — a carving, really, made from a tree trunk — of what appear to be three workingmen from the Ironwood past, one a miner, another a lumberman. Not sure about the third, but certainly some kind of hard 19th-century job.

Ironwood Depot Park tree carving

Ironwood Depot Park tree carvingI didn’t see any information about who carved the thing, or whether it has a title. It wasn’t created from an old tree that grew on the site, even though it looks like that. I know because if you check Google StreetView for that short stretch of S. Suffolk St., there’s no tree at all there, nor a carving. Google came by in September 2008. Guess even information behemoths can’t be everywhere on a regular basis.

At the intersection of S. Suffolk and E. McLeod Ave., a few blocks from the depot and the wooden workers, there’s a small building. According to Google’s nine-year-old information, its wall facing McLeod is long and painted white.

Not any more.
Miners Mural, Ironwood, MichiganA remarkable mural. I was thoughtless not to take a longer look at it. A mural of Ironwood miners, back when Ironwood miners dug into the earth looking for iron. A detail:
Miners Mural, Ironwood, MichiganRoadside America says: “Artists Kelly Meredith and Sue Martinsen spent over four years researching and painting the mural, which depicts over 100 real miners. It was unveiled on June 16, 2012, and proved so popular as a photo-op that in 2013 the city created a car-free zone in front of the mural. A booklet available in Ironwood provides biographies of each of the miners.”

Millennium Carillon, Naperville

Near Riverwalk Park in Naperville is the Millennium Carillon, which is in a 160-foot structure called Moser Tower. Though the tower wasn’t completed until 2007, work began in 1999 and it must have been partially finished soon after, because I’m pretty sure we listened to its bells as part of the city’s Independence Day celebration in 2001, or maybe 2002.
Millennium Carillon, NapervilleIt’s possible to pay $3 and take a tour of the tower, but I didn’t have time for it on Friday. It’s 253 steps up to its observation deck, so we better visit before we get much older. Also, before the tower gets much older. It’s possible the tower will be gone in a few years.

“Cracks and deterioration of its concrete walls could cause pieces to fall ‘without notice,’ and corrosion of structural steel connections could decrease the building’s stability, a consultant found in a two-year, $50,000 study of the tower’s condition,” Marie Wilson writes in the Daily Herald.

“Options include fixing the structure and maintaining it as-is, fixing it and improving the base to help prevent future corrosion, or maintaining it for a while and then tearing it down.”

Such problems after only 10 years. Luckily, nothing fell without notice when I visited (though shouldn’t that be “without warning”?). I’m not a structural engineer, but it sounds like corners were cut during the original building. Of course, it was a money problem.

“The most expensive options would involve upgrading the bottom of the tower to match original designs by Charles Vincent George Architects, which called for the lower 72 feet and 9 inches to be enclosed in glass and temperature-controlled, Novack said.

“Enclosure plans were scrapped when the Millennium Carillon Foundation, which conducted the first phase of work in 1999 to 2001, ran of out of money.”

According to the Naperville Park District, the Millennium Carillon is the fourth largest in North America and one of the “grand” carillons of the world, featuring 72 bells spanning six octaves. Didn’t hear the bells during this visit. Concerts are inconveniently on weekday evenings. Inconvenient for non-residents, that is.

Near the tower is a bronze of Harold and Margaret Moser, who ponied up $1 million for the tower’s construction.
Harold & Margaret Moser statueBeginning after WWII — and that was the time to subdivide in earnest out in the suburbs — Harold Moser was a major residential developer in Naperville, credited with building at least 10,000 houses in the area. His nickname was Mr. Naperville, and a plaque on the back of the statue calls them Mr. and Mrs. Naperville.

They both died in 2001. The statue, by Barton Gunderson, dates from 2009.

Mr. & Mrs. Naperville

It’s fitting to honor the Mosers in bronze, but their smiles are a little unnerving.

Bremen, West Germany, 1983

Around this time of the year 34 years ago, I spent a couple of days in the north German city of Bremen. City-state, actually: Freie Hansestadt Bremen, the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen. Once a state in the German Confederation, then a component state of the German Empire, it was merely a city according to the Nazis. Since 1947, it’s been a state again, the smallest in area of the Federal Republic.

Odd, Bremen and Hamburg got to be states again, but not poor old Lübeck. Such are the vagaries of history.

I had a fine time. How could I not? I was a young man with exactly nothing else to do at that moment but see a new city in an interesting old country. I was a free man in Bremen/I felt unfettered and alive… Well, that lyric wouldn’t have quite the same vibe, but that’s not too far off. Anyway, my tourist impulse was in full flower.

This is David and me. He was the brother of a New Yorker friend of mine in Germany, Debbie. Mostly I was by myself in Bremen, but I met up with them toward the end of my visit. The background is the Schnoor, more about which later.
BremenJuly2.83The following is an edited version of what I wrote at the time.

“Rode a morning train from Lüneburg to Hamburg-Harburg. Some punkish fellows sat across from me: colorful pants & leather jackets with steel studs & short, almost crewcut hair with a mandatory earring each. One wore a digital watch.

“At Hamburg-Harburg, I had 40 minutes to wait. I met a fellow, more conventionally dressed and only a little older than I am, who spoke British English so well I wasn’t sure whether he was British or German for a few minutes. Turned out he was from near Lübeck. His book for the ride was an English-language edition of The Lord of the Rings. The German translation, he told me, ‘is rubbish.’ We talked about a number of other things as well. He told me he didn’t like the prospect of Pershing IIs stationed in West Germany, but he thought they were necessary.

“At Bremen I exited the station, got a map, and experienced the first-time rush of a new place. You aren’t tired, you feel open to the world, you want to look at everything you pass by. I crossed downtown Bremen’s large fussgangerplatz, walked by shops and goods and people, and enjoyed the sights and sounds. That kind of rush doesn’t last long, but it’s great while it does.

“I found the Judenherberger, an ugly squarish building between downtown and the industrial Weser riverside. Check-in wasn’t until 1:30, so I sat under a bridge near St. Stephen’s and ate the bread and wurst I brought. The brot was a little dry and the wurst something like raw hamburger, but I needed the sustenance.

“Then I checked in and began wandering. I found the Rathaus first, then the famous 1404 statue of Roland. I spent a good while in Bremen Cathedral (St. Petri Dom zu Bremen), marveling at its intricate, aesthetic wonders, such as the painted pillars and the statues illustrating the Parable of the Ten Virgins. Went to the crypt, thought to be the oldest room in Bremen, dedicated in 1066.

“Sometimes I mulled a bit gloomily that time will sooner or later reduce the cathedral to dust — via nuclear attack in August or 10,000 years of erosion or something. But it’s here, now, and so am I. Before I left, I bought a little book about the cathedral.
Bremen Cathedral“Not long after I left, I spotted a series of white dots painted on the sidewalk, with the words Zum Schnoor –> every 30 or 40 feet to go with them. I followed them to the Schnoor. I’d heard that the Schnoor was the oldest surviving section of the city, and so it seems. The Schnoor is focused on a narrow street of that name, lined with aged shops and other buildings. Some of the side streets are even narrower, barely wide enough for two people to pass.

“En route to a church I never got into because it was always locked, I came across Böttcherstraße. Every ten feet or so is another work by one Bernhard Hoetger, some interesting stuff dating from pre-you-know-who Weimar years. Apparently the Nazis didn’t much like the works, but they survived them and the war. [Brick Expressionism, I’ve read, is the term, at least for some of the buildings.] There was also a small cinema tucked away in the area. Showing that evening: Death in Venice. An Italian movie with German subtitles, probably, or dubbed in German. I decided not to go.

“I walked further afield, near some small city lakes, and then to the Übersee Museum Bremen, near the main train station. It’s an ethnographic museum, complete with huts from New Guinea, a Japanese shrine with a manicured garden and a pond with goldfish, and a elegant Burmese temple. All of the labels were in German, but that didn’t matter much [I experienced something similar some years later at the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka.]

“There was a special exhibit of schoolchildren’s paintings: ‘Japanese kids see us and German kids see Japan.’ A funny mix of cultural and political images, mostly, tending toward the stereotypical. My favorite was a Japanese drawing of a German with a grinning Volkswagen for a head, eating sausage and drinking beer. Hitler’s face and swastikas were common, as was Beethoven’s face, and some drawings showed Germany torn between the Stars & Stripes and the Hammer & Sickle.

“After the museum I had dinner at the Restaurant Belgrade. For DM 16, I had an excellent Hungarian goulash, potatoes, salad, bread and beer. Returned to the hostel at about 10, very tired, and went to sleep almost at once.

“At breakfast at the hostel I talked with a Japanese girl who’d been to the Bremen Geothe Institut and who was about to go home. She was pleasant, and showed me postcards of Japan. After checking out, I wandered the streets on the other side of the Weser a while, then at 10 took a harbor cruise.

“It was a busy place, with ships from all over, and vast industrial areas along the banks, including a huge drydock belonging to Krupp, and a Kellogg’s factory with enormous murals of Tony the Tiger and Snap, Crackle & Pop on its side. I couldn’t catch a lot of the narration, but it seemed mostly about ship sizes and carrying capacities, so I didn’t mind.

“Back on land, I visited the church opposite the Dom, Unser Lieben Frauen Kirche, the second-oldest church in the city, and not as ornate as the cathedral. I took a tour of the Rathaus, and as Steve promised, the place has remarkable woodwork. For example, the puti-like faces on some of the chairs managed to have lustful and leering expressions. The Rathaus also has a fine collection of model ships, mostly the 17th-century Bremen fleet, and an assortment of portraits of Holy Roman Emperors.

“As if that wasn’t enough, I then went to the Ludwig Roselius Museum, which houses paintings & furniture & gold & maps from the 17th and 18th centuries. Saw the original black painting of Martin Luther that I’ve seen reproduced a number of other places [Lucas Cranach].

“My energy was low by this time, but I walked some more, returning to the Böttcherstraße at 3 and hearing the chimes of the Glockenspiel House and seeing the rotating woodcarvings of explorers and airmen. Met Debbie and David soon after, and we repaired to a nearby cafe for beer. They’d been there the day. Returned to Lüneburg soon after on a faster direct train, and had dinner together at another Yugoslav restaurant. For DM 14, got Serbian combo of meat, rice and beans, along with beer.”

One more thing. In Bremen, near the Schnoor, I found a memorial I didn’t expect. I made notes about it in my Bremen Cathedral book, which is what I had at hand.
Bremen CathedralUnsere Jüdischen mitbürger

Martha Goldberg
Dr. Adolf Goldberg
Heinrich Rosenblum
Leopold Sinasohn
Selma Swinitzki

Wurden in dieser Stadt in der Nacht vom 9. zum 10.11.1938 ermordet.

Murdered during Kristallnacht, in other words. This is what the plaque looks like. Remarkably, Adolf Goldberg has a Wiki page, which also tells me that the memorial was erected in 1982, only a short time before I saw it.

The Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago

The BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, mentioned yesterday, is on route Illinois 59 in Bartlett. As I was preparing for my visit, looking at Google Maps, I noticed something else similiarly interesting just a few miles to the north, also on Illinois 59 in Bartlett: the Jain Society of Metropolitan Chicago. A Jain temple, in other words.

This too had escaped my notice all the years I’ve lived in the northwest suburbs. I figured if I were going to be out in Bartlett to see the monumental mandir, I might as well drop by to see what the Jains have built. So I did.

Jain Society of Metropolitan ChicagoThe Jain temple, next to a large parking lot on an even larger bit of land, isn’t as massive as the BAPS structure, but it’s pleasing to the eye, and made all the more interesting because it’s such a rare thing here in North America. That despite what Wiki asserts: “The most significant time of Jain immigration was in the early 1970s. The United States has since become a center of the Jain diaspora [citation needed].” This particular temple was built in the early 1990s.
The Jain Society of Metropolitan ChicagoThe temple interior is essentially a single room with rows of eye-level effigies along the walls, and some other ornamentation. It all reminded me how little I remembered about Jainism.

I studied Jainism briefly — a class or two — in Survey of Eastern Religions, as taught by the highly learned Charles Hambrick, but that was 35 years ago (a professor emeritus these days, but last I checked still with us). Mainly I remember the strong emphasis on pacifism, which often has the unfortunate side effect of inspiring nearby and less pacific people to acts of persecution. If indeed the Jain diaspora is focused in this country, I hope they’re doing well.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Chicago

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, a monumental Hindu temple on 27 acres in suburban Bartlett, Ill., is less than 10 miles from where I’ve lived for most of the 21st century so far. How is it that I never knew about it until a few weeks ago? You imagine that you know your part of the world pretty well, but it’s just a conceit.

BAPS, incidentally, stands for Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Sanstha, so the full name of the site would be the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Sanstha Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Chicago. I can see why it’s abbreviated. I can’t pretend to know how the group that built the temple fits into the galaxy of Hinduism, though I’ve read that it’s a relatively modern movement, originating in Gujarat state. I wouldn’t mind knowing more, but whatever knowledge I take away from reading about the details of Hinduism tends to evaporate in a short time, sorry to say.

The suburban Chicago temple is just one of a half-dozen such in North America. The others are in metro Atlanta, Houston, LA, and Toronto, and in central New Jersey. Judging by their pictures, each is about as monumental as the metro Chicago temple, though Chicago’s supposed to be the largest. In fact, it’s the largest Hindu temple in North America, at least according to one source. Even if that’s not so important, the place does impress with its size.

On a sunny but not exactly warm day recently, I drove to the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir for a look. The structure, finished only in 2004, is stunning.
BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir ChicagoBAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir ChicagoThe exterior is limestone, the interior marble and granite. The temple’s web site has a sketch of the structure’s creation, which I’ve edited a bit.

The Carrara marble was quarried in Italy and the limestone was quarried in Turkey.
From there it was shipped to Kandla in western India.

The material was then transported to Rajasthan, where it was hand-carved by more than 3,000 craftsman over a period of 22 months.

The finished pieces were then shipped to a final location for polishing, packaging and numbering before being shipped back to the port in Kandla.

It took two months for a container ship to journey from India to the US.

Upon reaching Virginia, the containers were put on a train to Chicago and then transported to the project site.

Upon arrival at the site, the stones were grouped and classified based on a detailed database of each piece.

The pieces were then assembled together like a massive, three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle.

The finished products of rich carvings are a testimony to the exquisite skills of craftsmen, aided by superb logistics and engineering.

I’ll go along with that last sentence. Even though I didn’t understand the details of what I was looking at, I admire the artistic and engineering skill it must have taken to create the thing.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir ChicagoBAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir ChicagoBAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Chicago

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Chicago

Next to the mandir is the haveli, a fine building in its own right, featuring some exceptionally intricate wood carving. It serves a number of functions. For my purposes, it included a visitors center, gift shop (with a few postcards) and the entrance to the mandir, which is open to the public.

BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir ChicagoBAPS Shri Swaminarayan Haveli ChicagoThe mandir is accessible via an underground tunnel from the haveli. Exhibits about Hinduism line the wall of the tunnel. The inside of the mandir, marbled and quiet, is an astonishing forest of carved columns and sculpted walls. No photography allowed, but of course pictures do exist.

I might not ever make to India. Can’t go everywhere. Fortunately, a striking piece of India is within easy driving distance.

Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park ’17

On Saturday we visited Governors State University in exurban Chicago — way down south in the Will County burg of University Park, Ill. — for a look at its expansive sculpture park, which mostly features large-scale metal works. Its formal name is the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park. I visited the place in 2002 and posted about some years later.

“Formally established by the Governors State University Board of Trustees in 1978, the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park was named for Nathan Manilow, a visionary developer who, along with Carrol Sweet and Philip Klutznick, formed American Community Builders at the conclusion of World War II,” says the GSU web site. “They planned and built the neighboring Village of Park Forest for returning GIs. The history of the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park predates GSU in that sculptor Mark diSuvero spent the summers of 1968 and 1969 living and building sculpture on the land that was to become the university.

“1968-69 – Lewis Manilow, son of Nathan Manilow, loans the use of a house on the future campus of GSU to sculptor Mark diSuvero. DiSuvero spends two summers creating sculpture. His presence attracts other artists: John Chamberlain, Richard Hunt, John Henry, Charles Ginnever and Jerry Peart, among others, to the area. DiSuvero creates at least three sculptures: ‘Yes! for Lady Day,’ ‘Prairie Chimes’ and ‘The Mohican.’ ”

After nearly 15 years, I figured it was time to go again. Turns out that sculptures have been added since then. Many of those we saw had not only been added since then, but created since then. Such as “Windwaves” by Yvonne Domenge from 2010.

"Windwaves" by Yvonne Domenge“Oscar’s Inclination” by Michael Dunbar dates from 2004.

"Oscar's Inclination" by Michael Dunbar "Oscar's Inclination" by Michael Dunbar

Beyond “Oscar’s Inclination” was “Falling Meteor” by Jerry Peart, which I’m pretty such was here in 2002. It was created in 1975.
"Falling Meteor" by Jerry PeartThis was one of the smaller works that we saw, “Meeting Ends” by Chakaia Booker, from 2005.
"Meeting Ends" by Chakaia BookerMade of rubber tires and stainless steel. An artwork for us, but also a nesting site for birds.
"Meeting Ends" by Chakaia BookerGSU has a lot of land: 750 acres, which is plenty of room to keep large metal sculptures. Beyond the pieces that are near the school’s buildings, you need to walk along mowed pathways, sometimes soggy considering the recent rains, to see other works.
Governors State UniversityA couple of favorites from last time: “Phoenix” by Edvins Strautmanis, one of the vintage 1968 works, and off in the background, “Flying Saucer” by Jene Highstein, 1977. “Phoenix” looks like it’s been refurbished.
"Phoenix" by Edvins StrautmanisAnd “Icarus” by Charles Ginnever, another early one: 1975.

"Icarus" by Charles GinneverThe director and curator of the park in recent years has been Geoffrey Bates, who just retired. More about him and the park is here.