The Deconstruction of 110 N. Wacker Dr.

I spent a few hours in downtown Chicago on Thursday, and as I was headed toward Union Station to come home, I crossed Wacker Dr. at Washington St. Once upon a time, Morton Salt had its headquarters at 110 N. Wacker on that corner. In fact, the company had a five-story international-style building built for itself in the late 1950s, designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White.

By the time I spent much time in the neighborhood — my office was in the Civic Opera Building next door from 2000 to ’05 — Morton Salt had left and General Growth Properties occupied the building. GGP is a REIT that owns malls. Lately that company  left the property too, and here is what I saw today.

If I’d had more time, I might have captured some other angles. The building, which I always thought bland and colorless, has long been dwarfed by taller buildings on Wacker Dr. Soon a 51-story structure will be rising on the site.

Not quite all of the old building is going away. According to the Tribune, “In an unusual deal, the demolished building’s stainless steel panels — an example of Mid-Century Modern architecture, found around the building’s windows — will be preserved in the new tower.”

St. Edmund Catholic Church & Grace Episcopal Church, Oak Park

Unusually warm this week from Tuesday to yesterday. Still a lot of green leaves. Autumn, but not quite autumn. It’s also the time of the year for Halloween decorations, and to avoid any store or event that uses the terms boo-nanza or spook-tacular.

Two more places from last week’s Open House Chicago, both in west suburban Oak Park. One was St. Edmund, which the sign outside says is Oak Park’s oldest Catholic parish. The church building dates from 1910.

St. Edmund, Oak ParkHenry Schlacks, whose work I’ve run across before, design the church. The interior is resplendent.

St. Edmund, Oak ParkMuch of its splendor is the stained glass, created by a studio in Munich (presumably pre-WWI).

St. Edmund, Oak ParkSt. Edmund, Oak ParkAnd an interesting baptismal font that, when I was there, reflected one of the windows.

St. Edmund, Oak Park

A few blocks away, among the numerous churches on Lake St., is Grace Episcopal Church.
Grace Episcopal, Oak ParkFirst occupied in 1905 — and the building took a lot longer to complete according to its plans, namely another 70 years — Grace Episcopal also has a resplendent interior, in its more muted way.
Grace Episcopal, Oak ParkGrace Episcopal, Oak ParkA sign near the entrance reminds visitors that the church, designed by John Sutcliffe, figured in a scene in Home Alone. I wouldn’t have remembered that, since the last and only time I saw that movie was during a bus ride from Perth to Adelaide, or maybe it was Adelaide to Sydney, in early 1992. But I did see “Everything Wrong With Home Alone” not long ago, which was funnier than the movie itself.

We listened to the organist practice for a while at Grace. Very nice. It’s also good to see a church equipped with a gong.
Grace Episcopal, Oak ParkI understand that the gong used during the Winter Solstice Celebration at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York is quite the thing to hear. And see.

Pleasant Home, Oak Park

During the last part of our Chicago Open House visit-as-much-as-you-can excursion on Sunday, in the near western suburb of Oak Park, I found myself face-to-face with a Mills dime slot machine.
Pleasant Home Oak Park Mills slot machineA nearby docent encouraged me to put in a dime. I did so and watched the wheel spin. It might be an antique machine, but it will still give you a fruit-based result. What it will not do is give any sort of payout. My dime was a donation, so I could see the machine move.

Next the docent made it spin without putting a dime in, so I could see the machinery inside in action. The back had been removed just for that purpose. It’s impressive — mainly because I can’t understand at all how such a machine works.

My dime is going to the further upkeep of the building in which I found the slot machine: Pleasant Home, also known as the Farson House, built in 1897.

Farson House Oak ParkAs much as I understand these things, the house is important in the development of the Prairie School. The AIA Guide to Chicago not only has an entry about the house, it devotes more than a page to it, which is major attention from that publication. Prairie School and in Oak Park, but not by Frank Lloyd Wright. Rather George Washington Maher, a contemporary of his who didn’t live nearly as long (dying in 1926), designed the house.

The Maher web site says: “In describing the Farson house, architectural historian Paul Sprague wrote ‘…it was extraordinary… compared to typical residences of the late 1890s. Its clean lines, flat surfaces of Roman brick, stone and wood, and simple rectangular window frames, chimneys and porch openings would have been hard to parallel anywhere at the time except in building by Sullivan and Wright.’ ”

Got an expansive porch, all right.
Farson House porch Oak ParkWhat do slot machines have to do with all this? That’s a tangent worth pursuing — another benefit of looking at things and then thinking, What was it I saw?

The first owner of the house was, according to the Pleasant Home web site: “Famous for his immaculate white flannel suits, red cravats and ties and top hats or straw boaters. [John] Farson gathered around him a vast circle of friends who shared his interests in everything up-to-date. As his passions shifted from horses to automobiles to roller skating, Farson amazed Oak Parkers with his public-spirited nature and high energy.”

He was a Gilded Age millionaire banker (d. 1910), so he could indulge his interests. Slot machines were not one of them, however. That was the business of the second owner of the house, Herbert S. Mills.

“Shortly after the Worlds’ Columbian Exposition of 1893, the young Mills built the first coin-operated automatic slot machine and later manufactured Mills machines of all kinds for his penny arcades and fortune-telling machines. Mill’s penny arcades became institutions on American’s main streets and amusement parks at the turn of the century.”

I’ve read elsewhere — a tangent from a tangent — that it was actually Charles Fey who invented the modern slot machine, out in California. But he did partner with Mills to produce them on a mass scale, and no doubt become very rich as a result.

“Raising eight children during the years they spent in the home, the Mills lived more quietly than the Farsons… In 1939, when the Mills family sold the house to the Park District of Oak Park, the grounds were designated as Mills Park in their honor.”

One more detail: while it was probably a pleasant place to live, certainly by early 20th century standards, Pleasant Home takes its name from its location, at the corner of Pleasant St. and Home Ave. in Oak Park.

Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica

The only place we visited during Open House Chicago on Sunday that wasn’t in the northwest part of the city or in near suburban Oak Park was Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica on the West Side. Or more formally, the Basilica of Our Lady of Sorrows.

Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica, ChicagoIn our time, the neighborhood is blighted. Across the street from the basilica are more modest structures.
Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica, Chicago neighborhoodBut as mendicants, I expect the Servite Order that runs the basilica wouldn’t want to be in a posh neighborhood. The basilica itself, however, is jewel-box ornate.
Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica, ChicagoDesign credit is given to three gentlemen: Henry Englebert, John F. Pope, and William J. Brinkmann, with the structure going up from 1890 to 1902. I encountered a Brinkmann work earlier this year, out at Mount Carmel Cemetery.

No citation for it, but I have to mention his demise, as described by Wiki: “Brinkmann’s death was unexpected, gruesome and mysterious: his mangled, decapitated body was found on train tracks near 73rd street in February 1911… yet contradictory evidence prevented an inquest from finding a clear reason for his death or a finding of murder.
His funeral was held at St. Leo’s Church on 78th Street, a church he had himself designed in 1905. His death remains unsolved to this day.”

The AIA Guide to Chicago is succinct on the basilica: “It’s Bramante on the Boulevard — with a coffered, barrel-vaulted ceiling rising above the long nave. The stolid Classical facade is enlivened by an English Baroque steeple (its mate was destroyed by lightning).”

Looking straight up at that barrel-vaulted ceiling.
Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica, ChicagoIt’s familiar from a short scene in the 1987 movie version of The Untouchables. In our time, that’s easy to confirm. Sean Connery and Kevin Costner are toward the back of the very long nave. I didn’t remember that scene, since I haven’t seen the movie since it was new, but I read about it. The Chicago way, eh? The Federal way — busting Capone for tax evasion — proved more effective.

The sanctuary.
Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica, ChicagoAnd more.

Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica, ChicagoOur Lady of Sorrows Basilica, ChicagoOur Lady of the Sorrows Basilica Our Lady of the Sorrows BasilicaIt occurs to me that it’s been a good year for visiting basilicas. Our Lady of Sorrows makes the fifth so far. Hasn’t been a matter of planning, it’s just worked out that way.

Logan Square Walkabout

We’re no strangers to Logan Square, but there’s always more to a neighborhood. Aloft Circus Arts isn’t far from the square, but even closer is the Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church (Minnekirken). In fact, the church faces the square.

Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church (Minnekirken) ChicagoThe church dates from 1912, when I suspect there were a lot more first-generation Norwegians in the area, and was designed by an architect by the fitting name of Charles F. Sorensen. As we entered, I wondered just how Norwegian the congregation is a century later.

Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church (Minnekirken) Chicago

Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church (Minnekirken) ChicagoMore than I’d have thought. According to the church’s web site, my emphasis: “Minnekirken serves as a reminder of a neighborhood heritage long past in which Scandinavians played a significant part. The church is a place where one can experience Norwegian culture in a very real way — whether it be the Christmas celebrations, the after-service coffee hour with traditional Norwegian delicacies, a codfish dinner, or when Minnekirken hosts performers either from Norway or with Norwegian ties. Minnekirken is the only remaining Norwegian language church in Chicago.

By golly, that’s interesting. Like finding out in Charleston that there’s still a French Huguenot church.

Also interesting, and something I didn’t realize at first: the above stained glass window looks like it depicts the Veil of Veronica. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a window with that as the subject.

On the southern end of Logan Square is Logan Square Auditorium, dating from 1915, in the Gilbert Building.

Logan Square AuditoriumThe first floor has retail and the second floor small offices, for doctors and the like. The upper floor has a large ballroom, though with enough chairs I suppose it could be an auditorium. Not especially picturesque, but it would be a good place for an event with a lot of people.

The volunteer in the ballroom showed us a print of a photo of just such a large event, taken in September 1927. A luncheon from the looks of it, with the crowd looking very much like you’d expect, down to the round eyeglasses and Bendel bonnets. Most of the men had taken off their suit coats, so I’d guess the room was warm in those pre-air conditioned days.

According to the caption, the guest of honor that day was Illinois Gov. Len Small, then in his second of two terms. Generally forgotten now, but true to the tradition of Illinois electing crooks to that office.

Not far to the south of Logan Square Auditorium is Armitage Baptist Church. The leaves in this picture cover its ugly, and unfortunately placed marquee.

Armitage Baptist Church, ChicagoDeveloped in 1921 as the Logan Square Masonic Temple, in later years the Masons bugged out and the building was by turns an event venue and a school. Now Baptists meet an auditorium-style sanctuary that’s very spare, except for mostly Latin American flags. And conga drums.
Armitage Baptist ChurchOn one of the upper floors is a gym in need of some restoration, though it looks like you could still shoot some hoops. The church is working on the building, when funds are available.
Armitage Baptist Church basketball courtFew gyms in my experience have Bible verses on the walls, but I don’t visit many parochial schools.

Before leaving Logan Square, we got a quick look at the Illinois Centennial Monument rising over the square.
Illinois Centennial MonumentI took a closer look at its base some years ago. Next year is Illinois’ bicentennial. I still don’t think we’re going to get another memorial.

Open House Chicago 2017

On Saturday it seemed like northern Illinois got all of the rain that didn’t come in September in a single October day, beginning well before dawn and extending well after dark. The weather nixed our plans to attend Open House Chicago that day, as we did on Saturdays in 2013, 2014 and last year.

Open House Chicago 2017Fortunately, the event is both Saturday and Sunday, so we adjusted our plans a little — because some buildings aren’t open on Sunday, or open after noon (most churches, for instance) — and went on Sunday. By that time the weather was dry and fittingly cool for October.

This year we drove, making a U-shaped foray into the northwest side of the city and then out to Oak Park. In order, we visited: Fort Knox Studios, Aloft Circus Arts, Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church, Logan Square Auditorium, Armitage Baptist Church, the Stan Mansion, Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica, Pleasant Home (Farson House), St. Edmund’s Catholic Church, Grace Episcopal Church, and the Nineteenth Century Club.

I’ve been to churches and auditoriums and public event spaces and historic houses, all of which are represented on the list, but never to a recording studio. Fort Knox Studios was that and more.

Fort Knox Studios

The name seems like a play on the gold depository, devised by a promoter dreaming of gold records, but it’s also a fact that the facility is on N. Knox Ave., a minor street very near the Kennedy Expressway. In fact, the sizable facility (160,000 square feet) is tucked away in an anonymous industrial area that’s nevertheless readily accessible via the highway. Many years ago, I’ve read, televisions were made on the site.

Our guide claimed that artists liked the obscure location, the better to avoid attention while in town. The name she kept dropping as a studio user was Chance the Rapper, who’s a big deal to people who care about that kind of thing. Chance the Wrapper would be funnier, but I guess he’s not a comedy act. I checked, and he has a perfect real name for someone in that line of work: Chancelor Johnathan Bennett.

Besides the recording studio, Fort Knox also includes rehearsal suites — we passed through a seeming warren of them — and office space for booking agents and others in the business end of things. Just this year, an entity called 2112 opened there as well. It’s an incubator specializing in music, film and other creative startups. Or as 2112 puts it, an “ecosystem” for such businesses. That term has been creeping into business jargon lately.

2112 ChicagoThe fellow who founded 2112 is named Dan Fetters, and our guide said he picked the name because other incubators are named with numbers, especially 1871 in Chicago, but also as a die-hard fan of Rush. That suggests a man of a certain middle age. If he’d been a big fan of Van Halen, the place might be named OU812.

Further south, but still on the northwest side of the city at 3324 W. Wrightwood Ave., we also visited Aloft Circus Arts. From the outside, it looks like a church.

Aloft Circus ArtsThat’s because it used to be one. According to Open House, the structure dates from 1907: “Aloft Circus Arts, the third largest circus school in the country, moved into this more than 100-year-old former Evangelical church last year. Nearly $100,000 worth of renovations were made, including the removal of the pews and installation of rigging on the ceiling to allow students to learn and practice trapeze, aerial skills, pole acrobatics, trampoline, tight-wire, hand-balancing and more.”

People were busy when we walked through. They paid us no mind.

Aloft Circus ArtsAloft Circus ArtsAloft Circus ArtsDoing things I would never do, even if I weren’t a hefty fellow.
Aloft Circus ArtsAs I watched it all, I couldn’t help but wonder: how do you insure a business like that? There must be a way. Glad I don’t have to pay for it.

Seaside, Florida 2007

Has it been 10 years since I roamed the New Urbanist streets of Seaside, Florida? It has. Did a whole week’s posting about it, including Seaside, Florida Part 1 and the Last Photo Series of Seaside. Hope the recent winds and rain didn’t cause the place too much harm.

I stayed in WaterColor during that visit, a newer planned community next to Seaside. So close, in fact, that it’s an easy walk between the two.

Near Sideside, FloridaSideside, FloridaAlmost immediately Seaside offered up pleasant buildings to look at. These were along County 30A, which ran between the town and the Gulf.

Sideside, Florida

Sideside, Florida

Other structures were further into the town. In this case, commercial.

Sideside, Florida

Near the beach.

Sideside, Florida

Water’s edge near Seaside.

Sideside, Florida

The easily walkable brick streets of Seaside.

Sideside, FloridaEasy mainly because there was no one else around. I wrote at the time that “I saw only one or two other pedestrians, a couple of bicyclists and one car drive by in the hour or so that I spent on the streets, looking at things and taking pictures.”

Even the golf carts were idle.
Sideside, FloridaThere’s no golf course around that I know of, but such carts would be a good way to get around a town this size. I expect things are a lot busier starting around November and finishing in around April. Perhaps only the die-hard Seasiders stay for the sticky summers and the thrill of hurricane season.

I took a close look — zoomed it on in — at the last picture and saw that the house’s name (Seaside houses have names) is Apple Pie A La Mode.

Milwaukee City Hall

After spending much of the day in churches, we ended Milwaukee Doors Open by visiting a structure of the state. More specifically, Milwaukee City Hall, which is as palatial in its way as any ornate church.

The view of the building from the corner of E. Kilbourn Ave. and N. Water St.

Milwaukee City Hall“From 1895 until 1899, the tallest inhabited structure in the world was Milwaukee’s City Hall, a building noted for its Flemish design and landmark qualities,” says the Wisconsin Labor History Society. “Towering more than 300 feet, it was a pioneering building in an era as elevators finally were becoming practical. The building’s design has been heralded and it still stands as a trademark [sic] of Wisconsin’s largest city.”

The clock tower, from Water St. south of E. Wells St.
Milwaukee City HallI didn’t realize until I read more about the building, designed by local architect Henry C. Koch, that City Hall was featured in the introduction of Laverne & Shirley, probably because I haven’t seen that show in nearly 40 years. At the time, large letters midway up the clock tower said WELCOME MILWAUKEE VISITORS. A nice sentiment, but déclassé on your city hall, and the letters were removed at some point.

The first floor lobby offers a good first impression of interior.
Milwaukee City Hall“The building was one of the first to feature an extensive open atrium, of 20 by 70 feet, rising eight stories in the building’s center,” the city’s web site says.
Milwaukee City Hall“During the Great Depression, seven people jumped to their deaths, and an eighth died of a stroke after one of the jumpers nearly missed him. Afterwards, in 1935, protective wiring was placed around the center rails of the floors to prevent accidents and suicides and remained in place until Mayor John O. Norquist took office in 1988.”

A view from the third floor, looking toward the mayor’s office on the second floor.
Milwaukee City Hall“The building measures 393 feet from the base of the bell tower to the top of the flagpole, making it Milwaukee’s sixth largest. The flagpole measures 40 feet in length.

“The 22,500-pound bell – named ‘Solomon Juneau’ after Milwaukee’s first mayor – was fabricated from melted copper and tin from old church and firehouse bells around the city, and was hoisted to the tower in 1896, first chiming on New Year’s Eve.

“While Milwaukee’s Allen-Bradley building (Rockwell Automation) features the world’s second largest four-sided clock, City Hall’s 18-foot clock was believed to be the world’s third largest when it was fabricated.”

On the third floor is the Common Council chamber. A lot of natural light fills the room from behind the dais.

Milwaukee City HallMilwaukee City HallPeople were taking turns sitting at the dais, holding the gavel, so why not?
Churches have their stained glass. So do municipal buildings, at least this one, at the entrance to the Common Council.
Milwaukee City HallMilwaukee City HallTours of the upper reaches of the clock tower were booked by the time we got there. Too bad. Just another reason to go back next year.

Return to the Basilica of St. Josaphat

The last time we visited the Basilica of St. Josaphat in Milwaukee, the sky was slate gray and drizzly. This time, an unusually hot September sun in perfectly blue skies bore down on the church. The basilica looked as imposing as ever.
Basilica of St. Josaphat, Milwaukee

Back in 2011, I related the story of how the church was built of recycled bricks from a massive Chicago post office, and a bit about the saint, so I won’t repeat myself. The visit this time was mainly about getting a longer look at the opulent interior, patterned after St. Peter’s in Rome, only smaller.

Basilica of St. Josaphat, Milwaukee

The splendid dome.
Basilica of St. Josaphat, MilwaukeeAnd more.

Basilica of St. Josephat, MilwaukeeBasilica of St. Josephat, MilwaukeeBasilica of St. Josephat, MilwaukeeThe rose window.

Basilica of St. Josephat, MilwaukeeOther fine windows.

Basilica of St. Josephat, MilwaukeeDownstairs is the relic room. A big stash of them in many reliquaries. The room looks open, but I put my camera between iron bars to capture the image.
Relics of the Basilica of St. Josephat, MilwaukeeThere’s one from St. Josaphat, which seems appropriate, as well as St. Francis of Assisi, St. Nicholas of Myra, St. Sebastian, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Stanislaus Kostka, St. Bridget of Sweden, St. Pius X, and St. John Paul II, among others.

There’s also a Relic of the True Cross, according to one of the signs. More easily obtainable than I would have thought. Well, you know what Calvin, who of course had his own agenda, said about that.

Milwaukee Doors Open ’17

Temps have cooled down some, but it’s still warmer than usual for this time of year. At about 12:30 this afternoon, I saw an ice cream truck drive down our street. I can’t ever remember seeing one in October.

Last weekend, Yuriko and I drove up to Milwaukee to participate in Milwaukee Doors Open. Ann couldn’t make it, even if she’d wanted to, because she was attending her first high school speech tournament.

That’s a good thing. Her joining speech inspired me, while in Texas recently, to open up one of my high school yearbooks, the 1979 edition, to the page devoted to the National Forensic League. I was a member.
NFL AHHS 1979I discovered when Ann signed up for debate that it isn’t the NFL any more, but the National Speech & Debate Association, only since 2014. What kind of name is that? Hopelessly bland. It’s as distinctive as the name of a suburban office park in a mid-sized market.

Note in the picture above: the club’s officers (I was one of those, too) had fun with belonging to the NFL. We lined up like football players for the picture.

Doors Open Milwaukee 2017First we went to Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, which is in the near suburb of Wauwatosa. It’s best known for being one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s last works, and in fact was completed after he died. As I read, and as I saw, this 1950s church is informed by traditional Byzantine forms. But I also couldn’t help thinking of space age forms.

From there, we went into the city and revisited the Basilica of Saint Josaphat. Last time we were there was Good Friday 2011, and as you’d guess, the church was fairly busy that day. This time, it was open just for a look, so we were able to do that at some length.

East Town, the part of downtown Milwaukee east of the Milwaukee River, was next. A number of churches along or near Juneau St. were open, so they became the focus. Doors Open features a lot more than churches, but with so many clustered together, I figured that would be a good theme for this year.

They included All Saints’ Cathedral (Episcopal), Summerfield United Methodist Church and Immanuel Presbyterian Church. All were worth seeing.

At one of them, a U.S. flag and another flag graced the entrance. The other one, which I’d never seen before, intrigued me. Y held it so I could take a picture, since the wind wasn’t up.
The People's Flag of MilwaukeeI asked the volunteer inside the door about it, and she told me it was the new flag of Milwaukee. I took that to mean officially, but that’s not so. There’s a movement to make it the official flag, to replace this embarrassment, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Currently it’s the People’s Flag of Milwaukee. Sounds like the banner under which the proletariat would storm City Hall, but I don’t think the organizers of online poll to pick a new design had that in mind. I’ll go along with it, though I don’t live in Milwaukee. It’s a good design. Vexillologists hate the current flag, and I agree with them.

Speaking of Milwaukee City Hall, that was the last place we went for Doors Open Milwaukee after a late lunch at the downtown George Webb, the local diner chain with two clocks. I interviewed the mayor of Milwaukee in his office at City Hall in 2003, but I really didn’t get to look around. It’s a splendid public building, dating from the Progressive Era.