George Rogers Clark National Historical Park

There’s probably no way to measure this, but I believe that the George Rogers Clark Memorial, which looks very much like it belongs on the National Mall or somewhere equally prominent, is the most obscure large memorial in the country. Who’s ever heard of it, especially outside Indiana? But at more than 80 feet high and 90 feet across at the base, with walls two feet thick, it cries out to be acknowledged as Founding Father-class memorial.George Rogers Clark MemorialThe structure is the centerpiece of the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park, which is near the Wabash River in Vincennes, Indiana, just across from Illinois. In early 1779, when Indiana and Illinois were unrealized political entities contingent on a Patriot victory in the Revolution, Fort Sackville stood on the site — more or less. It was around the area somewhere, and occupied by a British garrison.

Above the memorial’s 16 Doric columns, the inscription says: The Conquest of the West – George Rogers Clark and The Frontiersmen of the American Revolution.
George Rogers Clark MemorialIn a tour de force, days-long maneuver in the dead of a Midwestern winter, George Rogers Clark led the forces that assaulted Fort Sackville and took it from the British. But that was just the climax of his efforts.

“Clark began his campaign of attempting to weaken the British position by influencing the French settlers in the area to support the American cause,” the NPS says. “Through these efforts, Clark was able to capture the Illinois Country posts of Kaskaskia, Prairie du Rocher, and Cahokia. Soon after, this French influence was extended over 150 miles to the settlers in Vincennes, and they also declared themselves allies to the Americans.

“… George Rogers Clark in the late summer of 1778 [was] in Cahokia, at a council he called with local Indian tribes in an effort to negotiate peace. By convincing [British Lt. Gov. Henry] Hamilton’s Indian allies to switch sides, Clark could further diminish the resources available to the British.

“Although Clark’s forces at this council were far outnumbered by the Indians in attendance, he impressed the warriors with his bold manner. Many of the leaders of these tribes were convinced to accept the white belt of peace rather than the red belt of war. While this council certainly strengthened Clark’s efforts, there were still many tribes who chose to continue their alliances with the British.”

In older histories, at least, Clark is thus credited with allowing the United States to acquire the Northwest Territory under the terms of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Of course, more recent historians disagree about how important Clark’s campaign was in influencing that outcome, as historians do.

Probably the Crown considered that part of North America lost anyway, since newly independent Americans would surely pour into the territory. On the other hand, who knows? Had there been a British garrison in Indiana, and more British-aligned Indians, they might have tried to hang on to the area, as they did Canada.

Also, just in passing, Clark established a settlement in Kentucky that would become Louisville. Finally, he’s William Clark’s elder brother; he of Lewis & Clark fame, whom everyone has heard of. So why is George Rogers Clark so obscure? (Well, not completely to Hoosiers.)

Such is the ebb and flow of historic reputation. Still, Clark got himself a spiffy monument eventually, at the insistence of the people of Vincennes and probably a fair number of Indiana politicians in Washington, around the time of the 150th anniversary of the battle.

New York architect Frederic Charles Hirons designed the memorial, and it was considered important enough for President Roosevelt himself to come dedicate it in 1936 (though the Coolidge administration got the process started).

Inside — air conditioned in our time, a good thing — is a bronze of Clark. On the floor is Clark’s statement to the Virginia Council in 1775, requesting aid for Kentucky: If a country is not worth protecting, it is not worth claiming.

George Rogers Clark statue, Vincennes

Hermon Atkins MacNeil did the sculpture. I’d heard of him already — he also designed the aesthetic Standing Liberty Quarter, which I’d argue we should go back to, once Washington’s been on the quarter 100 years (coming up in 2032).

The murals depicting the campaign are by Ezra Winter. Some details:

George Rogers Clark Memorial

George Rogers Clark Memorial - muralAfter I wrote about Geo. Rogers Clark and his NHP, I mulled over how many National Historical Parks there are, and how many I’ve been to. Fifty-one all together — not the same as National Historical Sites, of which there are 78. I remember visiting 13 such NHPs, two of which were only this year, though I might have forgotten a few. As for sites, only 11. I need to get out more.

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.

Bucktown Sunday Morning

At about 5 pm on Friday afternoon, wind and rain and lightning struck Chicago’s northwest suburbs with special fury, knocking down trees and large branches. Itasca was particularly hard hit.

Lilly, whose train from the city was due later that evening, found herself delayed by a hour because of debris on the tracks near Itasca. On Sunday morning, we drove through that town on Irving Park Blvd. and saw several large trees laid low, including one on top of a building.

Our neighborhood didn’t get hit quite so bad. But we did get hail for a few minutes. Smallish ice pebbles that made some noise, but did no damage to the roof or the car that I could see.

Bucktown Chicago 2017By Sunday, the weather was very warm and steamy and not especially violent. Just the kind of day for a walk in the city, which is where we were going as we drove through Itasca. For a stroll I picked Bucktown, which is directly north of Wicker Park.

I didn’t live, dine, shop or play at all during my late morning amble, except that I was a living being as I passed through, and maybe I “played,” in the sense that walking around and looking at things isn’t work, unless that’s what you’re paid to do.

I don’t remember hearing much about the neighborhood during the late ’80s, but by the late ’90s, Bucktown was known as a gentrifying area. The gentrifying process is now mature, in that the area’s not a cheap place to live, though I suppose Lincoln Park and the Gold Coast and their ilk still outprice it.

With the cost, you get amenities. Such as a statue of a bovine looking through a telescope, or maybe a fanciful theodolite.
Bucktown Chicago cowAnd shady residential streets to walk down. That turned out to be an important feature on Sunday, as temps climbed toward 90 F.
Bucktown, ChicagoBucktown features a fair number of interesting older buildings put to new use.

Bucktown Chicago 2017Bucktown, ChicagoAs well as new construction.
Bucktown, ChicagoAlong with some interesting detail sometimes. This figure looked out from just above the entrance to an older brick building on Damen Ave.
Bucktown Statue of LibertyYou never know where you’ll find Statue of Liberty-like images. The statue deserves to be called the i-word, but that word has been beaten to death in our time. My own favorite use of Liberty Enlightening the World — or La Liberté éclairant le monde to be more than pedantic — was a sizable one I saw years ago over the entrance of a pachinko parlor in Osaka.

Sixth St., Calumet, Michigan

From Houghton-Hancock and the Quincy Mine, the town of Calumet isn’t far north on the Keweenaw Peninsula. I was half-expecting something like Houghton, mainly because I didn’t do much research beforehand. None, really. But I’ve owned a postcard depicting the Calumet Theater for a long time, and I knew I wanted to see that.

So we did. It’s a fine old building. Wish it had been open for a look-see inside.

Calumet Theater, Michigan

Copper fortunes built the Calumet. A local architect named Charles K. Shand designed it. The historical marker next to it says, in part: “One of the first municipal theaters in America, the Calumet opened on March 20, 1900, ‘the greatest social event ever known in copperdom’s metropolis.’ The theater contained a magnificent stage and elegant interior decorations, including an electrified copper chandelier.”

The theater’s web site says: “The Theatre opened… with a touring Broadway production of Reginald DeKoven’s The Highwaymen. In the ensuing years, the Theatre’s marquee read like a Who’s Who of American Theatre: Madame Helena Modjeska, Lillian Russell, John Phillip Sousa, Sarah Bernhardt, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., Lon Chaney, Sr., Jason Robards, Sr., James O’Neill, William S. Hart, Frank Morgan, Wallace and Noah Beery.

“With the decline of copper mining and the local economy, and the advent of motion pictures, stage productions became less common in the late 1920s. From the depression through the late 1950s, it was almost exclusively a movie theatre…

“The auditorium was renovated for the village’s centennial in 1975, and the exterior was restored in 1988-89. The technical and code improvements and backstage reconstruction have just been completed.” These days, the theater holds 50 to 60 events a year, including plays, movies and concerts.

The theater is on Sixth St. in Calumet. The street hasn’t evolved into a day-trippers shopping district, but it does have some other interesting buildings, dating from copper times, from the looks of them.

Calumet, MichiganCalumet, Michigan Sixth StreetCalumet, Michigan Sixth Street

The buildings of Sixth St. also sport a few ghost signs.Ghost Sign, Calumet MichiganVertin’s Department Store (since 1885, headquarters for Lee overalls, union made). The store turns out to have been located in the building pictured above, between the Sixth St. streetscape and the Michigan House Cafe & Red Jacket Brewing Co. This is an example of the kind of thing I learn from a trip after I’ve gotten home. I didn’t know what I was looking at when I stood across the street from the former Vertin’s on the afternoon of July 1. Now I do.

The Vertins were Slovenian immigrants to copper country in the 1870s, and rather than mine themselves, they enterprisingly sold goods to miners and their families. Remarkably, the store endured until the 1980s. More about them is in this article in Copper Country Explorer.

This ghost sign has advertised, through many UP summers and hard winters, for a widely available product: Pillsbury Best flour.

Calumet, Michigan Ghost Sign Pillsbury

Slute’s Saloon has been a saloon, though not under that name, and as the sign says, since 1890. Curiously enough, a descendant of the Vertins is one of the partners in the business, at least according to this 2010 article. A look inside is here.

After I got home, I learned that George Gipp was from nearby Larium, Mich. — where you can find the George Gipp Recreation Area & Ice Arena — and is buried in Calumet. Dang. That would have been something to know beforehand, but you can never really prepare for going somewhere new. Still, I’d have looked for the Gipper’s grave had I known. It isn’t everyone who can inspire motivational speeches down the decades.

Houghton & The Quincy Mine, Keweenaw

Who could look at a map of the Upper Peninsula, taking a solid gaze at the UP’s UP, namely the Keweenaw Peninsula, and not think I want to go there. Probably a lot of people would not think that. But I do.

So on July 1, unfortunately a bit late in the afternoon, we approached Keweenaw via M-26 (a part of the Lake Superior Circle Tour). Aside from a gas station in South Range, first stop was Houghton, a town with a pleasant main street — Shelden Street — that tries to capture the tourist trade, but isn’t a full-blown, Gatlinburg-class tourist trap. Yet it is an old street formerly given over to ordinary commerce, then repurposed over time to feature restaurants, gift shops, boutiques and so on.

Shelden Street isn’t the most frenetic example of that kind of street that I’ve seen — that might be in Banff Ave. in Banff in July — but it was busy enough. Red brick and red sandstone structures line the street, including the handsome Douglass House Hotel, which is an apartment building these days.

Across the street and down a block or so, tucked away in a pedestrian passage leading to parking off Shelden Street, was a wonderful mural map of the Keweenaw Peninsula. I can’t find an image of it online, but whoever did it was a first-rate map muralist. The artist managed to straddle the line between creating an actuate map with too much detail and a map illustrated by small images (like in a tourist brochure), which often doesn’t have enough detail.

Houghton is separated from the town of Hancock by Portage Lake, which is part of the canal cutting through the peninsula. The Portage Lift Bridge, with its unusual look, connects the towns. It’s the fourth bridge on the site.

“This… bridge would have double decks with the upper deck carrying four lanes of traffic while its lower deck supported rail traffic,” Keweenaw Free Guide says. “Its lift section – the largest and heaviest in the world – could be raised 32 feet to allow the passage of modern ore carriers below it. Construction on the new bridge began in 1959 and was finished by the following summer. The old steel bridge was demolished.”

We crossed the bridge — driving, though walking across would have been an excellent thing to do — and went into Hancock, whose traffic was bollixed by road construction. As we drove slowly along, however, I was able to see the campus of Finlandia University.

Founded in 1896 as Suomi College, “Finlandia is one of 26 U.S. colleges and universities affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the only private institution of higher learning in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula,” the school’s web site says. “It is the only remaining university in North America founded by Finnish immigrants.”

Note also that the web site is honest enough to depict students in the snow. The University of Hawaii, it’s not.

Just north of Hancock is the Quincy Mine. Driving by on US 41, you can’t really miss it.
Quincy Mine, MichiganThat’s only the largest of the complex’s surface structures. There are other buildings.
Quincy Mine, MichiganAs well as picturesque ruins.

Quincy Mine, MichiganQuincy Mine, MichiganQuincy Mine, MichiganEngines, probably for ore-hauling trains. Or maybe they brought coal to power the mine. Or both.
These days, the relics are part of the Keweenaw National Historical Park. Once upon a time, Quincy Mine was the most successful copper mine on the peninsula, which is saying something, since Keweenaw was the site of a copper rush beginning in the 1840s and had a lot of active mines for a while (unsurprisingly, Indians dug for copper there for centuries before that).

The National Park Service says: “1840. Douglass Houghton, state geologist of Michigan, publishes a report on the geology of the Upper Peninsula and describes the Keweenaw’s copper deposits. Despite his appeal for caution, a land rush would soon start as investors, miners and entrepreneurs attempt to acquire copper-rich real estate.

“1856. The Quincy Mining Company begins work on the profitable Pewabic lode. Quincy soon becomes an important copper mine, and earns the nickname ‘Old Reliable’ for its nearly constant profits.

“1861: Demand for brass buttons, copper canteens and munitions increases. Despite the need, copper production at many older and profitable mines in the region actually decreases as new, speculative mines open, causing labor shortages.”

Later, telephones and electric wiring spurred more demand for copper, and the Quincy Mine remained in production until the Depression, despite competition from mines in Montana and elsewhere. Quincy’s last gasp as a mining concern was World War II. Remember, copper was in such short supply then that pennies were made of steel in 1943.

Now Quincy is a tourist attraction. You can take a tour down in the mine, at least at the levels that aren’t flooded. We didn’t get there in time to do that, but we were able to look around the ruins and the small museum inside one of the intact buildings. If I come this way again, I’ll time things to see the depths of the Quincy Mine.

The Driehaus Museum

A fine Solstice. Clear and not particularly hot, followed by a short cool night.

The least plutocrats can do for posterity is build lavish, highly aesthetic houses that, decades or even centuries later, are restored and open to the public in one way or another. I suspect modern magnates, business tycoons, and captains of industry are mostly failing in this regard.

Late 19th-century and early 20th-century plutocrats, on the other hand, did not shrink from their duty along these lines. They might have imagined they were celebrating their worldly success in a highly visible way, and maybe they were, but sic transit gloria mundi. Beyond their own time and concerns, they were leaving something for later hoi polloi to ogle.

I will give Richard Dreihaus his due, however. I’m not sure he counts as a plutocrat, but he is a wealthy fund manager of our time. He might not have built a lavish house — or maybe it’s still private — but in any case, he managed to restore the Samuel M. Nickerson House at 40 E. Erie St. on the Near North Side of Chicago to its Gilded Age glory.

Now it stands, stocked with fine art and objets d’art, for the hoi polloi to see (for a fee). Hoi polloi such as Yuriko and I on Sunday afternoon, when we visited the Richard H. Driehaus Museum, which occupies the Nickerson House.

Richard H. Driehaus Museum

Chicago magazine in 2007 on the philanthropist: “Driehaus, the founder of Driehaus Capital Management… is no ordinary preservationist. He is a man who can afford to indulge his passions — for art, for parties, but mainly for restoring historic architecture — on a boundless scale, as anyone who has visited his many residences and offices around the world can attest.

“In the past two decades, Driehaus has emerged as one of Chicago’s most prominent advocates for historic preservation. He has also taken a leading role in encouraging the city and public institutions and groups to adopt a more design-centered approach to civic projects.”

Driehaus bought the building at 40 E. Erie St. in the early 2000s, when it was being used as an art gallery, and spent a good deal restoring it, including cleaning the exterior, which I’ve read was black from a century-plus of pollution. Considering its location on Erie, I’m sure that I walked and rode by the building any number of times in the 1980s and ’90s — and took exactly no note of it.

Since 2011, it’s been open to the public as the Driehaus Museum. I still took no note of it until last year, when I was walking by and saw its sign. Museum? This is a museum? Since when? Even in the Internet age, it’s hard to keep track of things.

Samuel M. Nickerson was a successful banker in early Chicago who tasked Edward J. Burling of the firm of Burling and Whitehouse to build him a mansion, which was completed in 1883. Burling had a long career in Chicago, with many of his buildings destroyed by the Fire.

The Nickerson House rooms feature 17 types of marble, along with onyx, alabaster, carved and inlaid wood, glazed and patterned tiles, mosaics, and Lincrusta, which was brand-new to the United States at the time. During Nickerson’s time, the place was replete with his and his wife Mathilda’s artwork, later donated to the Art Institute. Driehaus not only restored the house to its Gilded Age look, after years as office space and other uses, but made it into museum space for his collection of art from the period.

The museum says: “When the Driehaus Collection was formed during the early 1970s, acquisitions focused primarily on Art Nouveau posters by Alphonse Mucha and his contemporaries. From that essential core, the collection has grown to include master works of design by such Belle Epoque luminaries as Louis Majorelle, the Herter Brothers, Édouard Colonna, John La Farge, Emile Gallé, and Josef Hoffmann. In addition to these important holdings, the Driehaus Collection is one of the country’s leading private collections of works by preeminent American decorative designer Louis Comfort Tiffany.”

The lighting was good for looking, less so for non-flash photography. I got a few half-decent images, mostly of some of the artwork or room details, but not the rooms.

Richard H. Driehaus MuseumRichard H. Driehaus MuseumRichard H. Driehaus MuseumThat statue is in the Gallery Room. Always good to have a reminder of the Psyche and Eros story around. I especially liked the fireplace behind it.

Richard H. Driehaus MuseumThe fireplace was put in by the second owner of the house, paper baron Lucius Fisher. He also had the distinction of commissioning Daniel Burnham to do the excellent Fisher Building, which still stands in the South Loop.

The fire surround, dating from 1901, was by Giannini & Hilgart, done in lacquered cherry and iridescent glass. Remarkably, traces of that operation remain on line. The studio also did the striking glass dome in the same room as the fireplace. Looks like Tiffany, but no.

Whatever else you can say about the Gilded Age, its aesthetics were first-rate, if you had the scratch for that kind of thing. A better look at the interior is this WTTW production, but even so it’s a pale substitute for being there.

St. John Cantius, Chicago

On Sunday I visited St. John Cantius, a Catholic parish church in what’s called the River West neighborhood, east of the Kennedy Expressway and west of the North Branch of the Chicago River. It’s easily accessible via the El, which is in fact a subway by the time you get near St. John Cantius.

St. John Cantius, ChicagoThe church was part of a wave of Polish-style Catholic churches built in Chicago more than 100 years ago, as the city local Polish population expanded mightily. I’d seen a few of these churches before — St. Adalbert and St. Stanislaus Kostka, for instance — but not this one.

“Designed by Adolphus Druiding and completed in 1898, St. John Cantius Church took five years to build,” the church web site says. “The imposing 130 ft. tower is readily seen from the nearby Kennedy Expressway.”
St. John Cantius“The unique baroque interior has remained intact for more than a century and is known for both its opulence and grand scale — reminiscent of the sumptuous art and architecture of 18th-century Krakow. In 2012, St. John’s completed an ambitious restoration, returning the lavish interior to its original splendor.”
St. John Cantius, ChicagoSt. John Cantius, ChicagoI also wanted to visit so I could hear a Latin mass, or part of one anyway. According to the church bulletin, I arrived in time for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (Tridentine High Mass in Latin). Actually I was a little early, so I sat for a while in a back pew and admired the interior, as a pleasant wind blew in through the main doors and on my back, adding additional texture to the experience.

By the time the mass began, the sizable church was fairly full, though not packed, with a diversity of ages. I haven’t seen that many women cover their heads in quite a while, including some elaborate lace coverings.

Soon the church was filled with music. I was sitting in the back and couldn’t see the choir or the other musicians up in the balcony, but I surely did hear them. I’ve had only spotty exposure to sacred music, but that didn’t keeping me from understanding how astonishingly good it was.

Much more impressive, it turned out, than the priests and their Latin, mainly because I wasn’t within hearing range of much of it. Mostly I heard a hum of words, a few of which I could pick out. Not that I would have understood all of it anyway. Some other time at some other mass I’ll sit closer. My impression is that Latin is a pleasing language to hear.

Regarding St. John Cantius’ music, the church says: “Our Sunday Masses regularly feature Gregorian chant, chanted by our schola cantorum and by the congregation. The parishioners of St. John Cantius are intent on preserving the choral traditions of the Roman Rite which gives Gregorian chant ‘pride of place.’

“Additionally, the people of St. John Cantius work to preserve the patrimony of liturgical music that comes from the Renaissance period and from the Viennese choral tradition. But our choirs also sing modern choral works that are consonant with the Roman tradition of sacred music.” More about the church’s music is on this short video.

Wicker Park, The Neighborhood & Wicker Park, The Park

Juneteenth has come around again. We need more holidays in the summer, and that would be a good one, celebrating human freedom.

We went to the city on Sunday, giving me an opportunity to wander around Wicker Park on a warm but not too hot day. I visited both places of that name. Wicker Park’s both a fashionable area — which it was not 30 years ago, when I first lived in Chicago — and the name of a smallish triangular park within the neighborhood.

The intersection of North, Damen and Milwaukee is part of the neighborhood, but I didn’t hang around there much this time. Instead, I walked along some of the side streets. Much of the residential North Side of Chicago looks like this in June.
Wicker Park June 2017The handsome Wicker Park Lutheran Church is at 1502 N. Hoyne Ave.
Wicker Park Lutheran ChurchIt was already closed by the time I got there, but the interior looks like this.

The building dates from 1906, though the congregation goes back to 1879. “It boasts a basilica design, with double colonnades and an apse, a style used in ancient Rome for courts of law or places of public assembly,” notes the church web site. “The two towers are based on those of Abbey of Sainte-Trinité (the Holy Trinity), also known as Abbaye aux Dames, in Caen, France, which was built in the 11th century.”

A few blocks to the east is Wicker Park, the park. It isn’t one of Chicago’s great parks, but it is pleasant on a warm summer Sunday, well stocked with people and their dogs enjoying the warm summer Sunday. The park has some trees, a lush garden sporting flowers and bushes, a field house, a modest water fountain, and some open lawn.

There’s also a statue of Charles Gustavus Wicker (1820-1889), complete with stovepipe hat, heavy coat and broom. It’s been in the park since 2006.
Charles G. Wicker Statue, ChicagoCharles G. Wicker Statue, ChicagoThere’s a plaque at the feet of Wicker that asserts that he was an important figure in the development of this part of Chicago. In fact, it’s a lot like a press release in bronze, this plaque. A sample: “The broom symbolizes his initiative and readiness to take personal responsibility. He, and people like him, established Chicago, where all who truly do their best will continue to make this unique community a place of opportunity with justice, freedom, and equality for everyone.”

About Charles and his brother Joel Wicker, the Chicago Park District says: “In 1870, when businessmen and developers Charles G. and Joel H. Wicker began constructing drainage ditches and laying out streets in their subdivision, they donated a four-acre parcel of land to the city to be used as a public park.

“Fencing the triangular site to keep cows out, the city created an artificial lake in the center of the park, surrounding it with lawn and trees. As the Wickers had hoped, the area developed into a fashionable middle- and upper-class neighborhood.”

Further discussion of Wicker and his brother is at the Chicagoist. A few years ago, the statue fell down — was knocked down — tumbled down somehow, and there’s a story about that as well. The statue was restored, of course. Oddly enough, the sculptor who created the statue of Wicker, and pushed for it to be in the park, was a great-granddaughter of his, one Nancy Wicker, who died just last year at over 90.

In one corner of the park, a troupe called Theatre-Hikes was doing a low-budget version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. No sets, just costumes. I sat down for a few minutes to watch. I’m no expert on the play — in fact, this is the only live performance I’ve seen of any of it — put I was able (later) to pin down that I’d arrived during Act 3, Scene 1.

Here’s Bottom.

Theatre-Hikes, Wicker Park

Titania and Bottom. Both actors were good, and able to ham it up when the play called for it, to the amusement of all.

Theatre-Hikes, Wicker Park 2017

Titania:
Be kind and courteous to this gentleman.
Hop in his walks and gambol in his eyes.
Feed him with apricoks and dewberries,
With purple grapes, green figs, and mulberries.
The honey bags steal from the humble-bees,
And for night tapers crop their waxen thighs
And light them at the fiery glowworms’ eyes
To have my love to bed and to arise.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis

The Old Cathedral of St. Louis, formally the Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, is near the Gateway Arch. In February 1990, after visiting the Arch, I took a look at the Old Cathedral, which dates from the 1830s. It’s a fine old church (recently restored, so I suppose I should take another look someday).

A man I met there briefly told me, in so many words, that this one was nice, but you should see the “New” Cathedral of St. Louis, which is a few miles away in the city. He also told me how to get there. So I went, even though I was racing a winter storm to get back to Chicago. (The storm won, and I spent the night in a Normal, Ill., motel room.)

At least, that’s how I think it happened. I’m not completely sure. But I know I went that day. I entered the cathedral, shook off the cold, and let my eyes adjust to the relative dim. I was astonished by what I saw.

On May 26 this year, Lilly and I paid the place a visit en route home. I’ll never be as astonished — I had no idea what I was going to see beforehand — but I’ll always be impressed. Photography barely does the church justice, my photos even less so.

The Cathedral Basilica of St. LouisThe Cathedral Basilica of St. LouisThe Cathedral Basilica of St. LouisAfter seeing the cathedral for the first time, I wrote: “It isn’t necessary to cross oceans to savior the majesty of large-scale mosaic art, vaultingly expressed in a cathedral. You only need to visit the Cathedral of St. Louis, about 10 minutes west of that city’s well-known Arch. Composed of millions of tesserae — tiles of stone or glass — the mosaics of the cathedral dome and walls offer visitors a pageantry of Christian saints, symbols and stories rendered in hundreds of subtle hues. Its architecture is deeply reminiscent of the great Byzantine cathedrals of Italy and points East.”

I based that on what I’d read about (and pictures seen of) places like Ravenna. I thoughtlessly did not go there when I was in Italy, even though I knew about it. Ah, well. The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis will have to do for now.

The mosaics are especially easy to see in detail just above the entrance.

Cathedral Basilica of St. LouisThe basilica’s web site says: “George D Barnett of Barnett, Haynes, and Barnett of Saint Louis designed the entire structure of the Cathedral, including a circular Sacristy on the north end which was not built when the main structure was completed in 1914. The semicircular Sacristy which was eventually built was designed by George John Magualo of Magualo and Quick.

“Barnett also designed the main Altar, the baldachino, and the Lower Sanctuary mosaics. The mosaics were installed by the Gorham Company of New York in 1916. Barnett also designed the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and its mosaics which were installed by Gorham in 1916 and 1917.”

As for the fact that it is now the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, which it was not in 1990, the web site notes: “On April 4, 1997, Pope John Paul II honored the Cathedral of Saint Louis by making it a Basilica, a place of worship of special distinction. As a Basilica, the Cathedral displays two special symbols — the tintinnabulum or bell and the ombrellino or umbrella.”

A warm spring day is a better time to take exterior shots. Also impressive.
Cathedral Basilica of St. LouisThe last time I saw the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis was in 2005 (I think), when I took Ann — and she was small enough to pick up when she didn’t want to walk. I know I took Lilly at a similar age, and showed the place to Yuriko, when we visited St. Louis in 2000. In any case, those visits were too long ago. Good to make it back.

The London House Hotel & The Tower on Top

When I took pictures from high up in the Aon Center, I didn’t know that a few weeks later, I’d be on top of another nearby building. Not as tall, but with also with a terrific view of Chicago. And one (formerly) associated with an insurance company: The London Guarantee & Accident Building, 360 N. Michigan Ave., vintage 1923.

Chicago architect Alfred S. Alschuler designed the Beaux Arts tower for the U.S. branch of a British insuror, and since last year it has been occupied by the London House Hotel. I didn’t know that, probably because I don’t keep track of the Chicago real estate market in detail right now. I still think of it as an office building that was home to Crain’s Chicago Business for a time, and which also used to count the Turkish Consulate as a tenant. Once upon a time, Armenian sympathizers would periodically protest on the sidewalk outside.

There’s a tower on the top of London House, marked with a circle.

Chicago from Aon Center 2017Up close, it looks like this.
London House Chicago cupola 2017The tower is supposedly modeled after the Choragic Monument in Athens. I’m not expert enough to know, but there are visual similarities at least.

The London Guarantee & Accident Building was on the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Hotel Boom tour, and it was the only property we explored beyond the exterior and the lobby, though those parts are interesting too.
London House Hotel Chicago 2017This is the ceiling inside the Michigan Ave. entrance.
London House Hotel Chicago 2017The docent said that it was original to the building, but had been uncoveraged fairly recently. At some point probably in the 1950s or ’60s, it had been Eisenhowered by a lower ceiling.

From there we looked around the lobby, and then took an elevator to the 21st floor, which is occupied by a bar. On a spring Saturday afternoon, the place was packed. Then, another elevator takes you up to two levels of outdoor terraces. One of which has tables and chains and (on a warm day) people with their drinks.

London House Hotel Chicago rooftop 2017

The views are exceptional. Looking west down the Chicago River.
London House Hotel Chicago rooftop 2017North up Rush St. The building with the clock tower is, of course, the Wrigley Building.
London House Hotel Chicago rooftop 2017Stairs from this level lead up to the Choragic Monument-ish tower, which offers some views of its own. Looking to the east, you get a good view of the upper reaches of 333 N. Michigan Ave., another building of the 1920s.
333 N. Michigan Ave ChicagoI was intrigued by the busts way up.

333 N. Michigan Ave ChicagoWho is supposed to see them? Angels? Even from inside the building, it looks like they would be hard to see. A modern example of painting the back of the statues in a cathedral niche.

About 333 N. Michgan and environs, Blair Kaimen wrote: “Its designers, Chicago architects Holabird & Root, drew heavily from Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen’s influential second-prize entry in the 1922 Tribune Tower design competition. Continuous vertical lines and gentle setbacks mount to a top without a cornice or cupola. The building superbly takes advantage of a bend in North Michigan Avenue to dominate the view as you look southward.

“Together, 333 and 360 join with the neo-Gothic Tribune Tower and the eclectic Wrigley Building to form an extraordinary quartet of 1920s skyscrapers that frame a great urban space around the Michigan Avenue Bridge.”