Chicago Pride Parade ’17

The 47th annual Chicago Pride Parade, which was held yesterday on the North Side, is easily the most colorful parade I’ve ever seen.

Chicago Pride Parade 2017And the most exuberant since the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade. The girls and I posted ourselves on the west side of Broadway, a few blocks north of Irving Park Blvd., toward the beginning of the parade route.

That area had the advantage of a relatively thin line of spectators, at least compared to what the crowds must have been like further south along North Halsted St., which is in Boystown proper.

Chicago Pride Parade 2017 As it was, the girls found a spot next to the street, and I stood behind a street parking collection box, since I was tall enough to see over it without a problem. The weather was made to order for a parade, low 70 degrees F., partly cloudy, some light winds.

We were there for more than two hours, watching — and though overused, the word fits here — the diversity parade by: floats, trucks, buses, motorcycles, riders, dancers, and walkers with private organizations and clubs, public agencies, corporations, churches, synagogues, advocacy groups, and entities without easy definition.

Sound systems provided most of the music, though there were a few bands, with the paraders and parade-watchers not shy about making their own noise. Beads, candy and other trinkets were tossed freely.

All kinds of attire were part of the parade, as well it should have been.

Chicago Pride Parade 2017Chicago Pride Parade 2017Chicago Pride Parade 2017Chicago Pride Parade 2017Chicago Parade Parade 2017Chicago Pride Parade 2017

Chicago Pride Parade 2017

Chicago Pride Parade 2017

Chicago Pride Parade 2017

Chicago Pride Parade 2017

Various politicos were on hand, including aldermen, other local officials, state office holders, and a number of candidates for governor. U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth rode by.

Chicago Pride Parade 2017 - Tammy Duckworth

The standard rainbow flag was ubiquitous, but I also saw a few less familiar designs, such as a Libertarian rainbow and a Star of David rainbow.

Chicago Pride Parade 2017There was less political content than I expected, but there was some.
Chicago Pride Parade 2017Mostly the event had the feel of a big party, rather than a protest. With a party comes balloons. A lot of balloons. I’ve never seen such a concentration of balloons, many of them attached in some way to parade-walkers.

Chicago Pride Parade 2017

More than mere attachments, there were also examples of balloon-wear.
Chicago Pride Parade 2017Some floats blasted confetti, too.

Chicago Pride Parade 2017There was an acrobat, tossed into the air suddenly.

Chicago Pride Parade 2017Glad they caught her. Him. The acrobat.

Who was this bozo? Bozo, of course.
Chicago Pride Parade 2017For once not the most colorful attendee of the parade.

The Last Gasp of the Federal Works Agency

Not something you see everyday: a plaque marking a project by the Federal Works Agency. But there it was last weekend for me to see, at the Chicago subway station of the CTA Blue Line (O’Hare-Forest Park).

Federal Works Agency plaque, Chicago StationThe Federal Works Agency only lasted until 1949, but it’s a safe assumption that the subway construction project started under its aegis in the late ’40s, so it was thought fitting to use the name even in 1950. The agency had been created as a part of a major federal government reorganization in 1939, authorized by Congress and overseen by the executive branch.

To quote President Roosevelt, in his message to Congress on the Reorganization Act of 1939: “[The FWA will include] the Bureau of Public Roads, now in the Department of Agriculture; the Public Buildings Branch of the Procurement Division, now in the Treasury Department, and the Branch of Buildings Management of the National Park Service… now in the Department of the Interior; the United States Housing Authority, now in the Department of the Interior; the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works; and the Works Progress Administration, except the functions of the National Youth Administration.”

Various additions and subtractions were made to that list until 1949, when the FWA’s remaining functions were parceled out to other agencies, as well as the newly created General Services Administration. As federal bureaucracies go, the FWA had a fruit-fly lifespan.

With a 10-year run, there couldn’t be that many FWA plaques. Certainly not as many as the GSA — nearly 70 years now — or even the WPA or the CCC, which also had short runs, but were really busy in their heydays. So maybe in the hobby of plaque-spotting the FWA is a nice find.

If there is such a hobby. Surely someone looks for plaques in a more enthusiastic or systematic way than I do. And is Blue Plaque-spotting a thing in the UK, or does this Spectator article merely refer to casually walking by them?

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.

Toul 1956

Why my parents picked Toul, France as a destination in May 1956 is probably lost to time, since I doubt that my mother remembers. I’ve read that there are impressive old fortifications there, and a cathedral worth a look, so perhaps those were considerations. There used to be a NATO air base near the town, but my father was in the Army, not the Air Force, and probably didn’t visit on official business. Maybe someone they knew recommended the town for a look-see.

Anyway, they went. Many years later, I came across this slide my father made in Toul. Fortunately, he wrote down the place and time. Otherwise, I’d have no idea beyond it being somewhere in France.

ToulMay56

I think it’s most interesting because it captures an ordinary street scene in a French town more than 60 years ago, though the cathedral is in the background. Looking at image — peering back in time and far away in place — I notice certain details: the proliferation of telephone wires, the relative lack of parked cars, and the two figures beside the street: a schoolboy and a man.

Back when schoolboys were known by their short pants, it seems. I don’t know much about French fashion habits, but I suspect that’s long gone. Looks like the man is telling the boy something, maybe even dressing him down for something. Impossible to say.

Maybe the boy is still around, about 70 now. A grumpy old Le Pen voter? Again, I don’t know enough about France to know whether Le Pen captured the grumpy old man vote, though somehow I suspect she did.

I played around with Google Streetview for a little while today, looking at the area around the cathedral in Toul, though I didn’t get a precise fix on exactly where my father stood when he took the picture. Maybe I could, if I didn’t have anything else to do. I will say this: it looks like there’s been a fair amount of redevelopment in the area since 1956, and the telephone wires, probably the height of la modernité at one time, are gone.

Sometimes I try to capture street scenes myself. Here’s one in Shanghai in the spring of 1994, near the Bund.
Shanghai94And one of State St. in Chicago, looking north. Just last month.

State Street April 2017Looks ordinary now, but it might look a little odd in 60 years.

Thursday Trifles

My wooden back scratcher — one of earliest inventions of mankind, for sure, and still one of the best — still has its label attached. I just noticed that. A product of Daiso Japan, it was acquired in Japan early this year and brought to me as o-miyagi.

The label is in Japanese and English. The English WARNING says:

Please understand that there is a risk of having mold and bugs since this is made of natural material.
Please do not use this for any other purpose than what it should be.
Please follow the garbage segregation rules imposed by local municipality.

Here’s a picture from Lou Mitchell’s last month. “A Millennial Couple at Breakfast.”

Millennials

The flag between them is a Cubs W flag. They were all over when the Cubs were in the World Series, and you still see them sometimes. Ann asked me what it stood for. I said, Win. She said, couldn’t that be for any team anywhere? I assured her that that kind of reasoning has no place in sports fandom.

Here’s an article about Carvana. That’s a company that develops automobile vending machines. Or rather, mechanical towers that dispense cars previously acquired online. I’d never heard of it before. They’re in Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, among other places, so maybe I ought to take a look at one.

A few weeks ago, there was a thing going around Facebook: List 10 musical acts, nine of which you’ve seen, one you haven’t. Others are invited to guess which is the one you haven’t seen. Pointless but harmless. I refuse to do it on Facebook, but I will here. Alphabetically.

The Bobs
Chubby Checker
Irwin Hepplewhite & the Terrifying Papoose Jockeys
Gustav Leonhardt
Bob Marley
Natalie Merchant
Bill Monroe
Taj Mahal
They Might Be Giants
Francis Xavier & the Holy Roman Empire

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.”

Hotel Boom

The Chicago Architecture Foundation calls one of its new tours Hotel Boom. “Learn how and why a former athletic club, bank, chemical company, motor club and more were transformed into first-class hotels,” the description promises. I was game. So we (all of us, including Ann) took the tour on Easter Saturday, a warm, pleasant spring day in Chicago.

I suspected that I’d been in many of the properties, and I was right. But some of them weren’t even hotels the last time I visited, and it’s always good to hear about a property from a knowledgeable docent, which CAF docents tend to be. In order, we visited the Silversmith Hotel, Virgin Hotel, Hampton Inn (formerly the Chicago Motor Club Building; I got an international drivers license there), London House, Hard Rock Chicago, and the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel.

Mostly we got a look at the exteriors, and then at the lobbies, though at one property we didn’t enter the lobby, and at another we saw the rooftop.

My friend Geof Huth stays at the Silversmith Hotel, 10 S. Wabash Ave., when he’s in town. The exterior is an historic arts-and-crafts facade dating from the 1890s, done by one of Daniel Burnham’s men. I assume that silversmiths were once tenants, since that part of Wabash was Jewelers Row (and still is). When I met Geof there in previous years, the lobby interior — which is not a protected historic feature — looked like this, with brown predominating. Not any more. Now black and off-white is the thing in the Silversmith’s public areas.

Next up was the Virgin Hotel. Virgin as in one of Sir Richard Branson’s properties, and in fact the first hotel with that flag, opened only in 2015. This was a surprise. I used to work across the street, more-or-less, and I remembered the Old Dearborn Bank Building at 203 N. Wabash Ave. being an interesting but aged art deco building.

The exterior has been spiffed up, the better to appreciate some of the details.

Virgin Hotel Chicago 2017Virgin Hotel Chicago 2017We had to skip the interior. One of these days I might take a look.

There’s a Hampton Inn in what used to be the Chicago Motor Club Building at 68 E. Wacker Pl., originally developed in 1928 and converted into a hotel only a few years ago.
Chicago Automobile Club Building 2017Blair Kaiman writes: “All of Art Deco’s defining characteristics are compressed into this fabulous, 15-story package just west of Michigan Avenue: A trim silhouette with strong vertical lines; stylish geometric decoration; and a superb integration of art and architecture, especially in the lobby where a freshly restored mural map of the continental United States reigns with regal understatement.”

Chicago Auto Club Building US Map MuralIt’s a splendid mural. Done by an Illinois artist named John Warner Norton (1876-1934), who favored this kind of large work. More about him here, by a writer that doesn’t understand paragraphs.

I like this detail, too. It’s over the hotel’s main entrance.
 The Hard Rock Hotel Chicago at 230 N. Michigan Ave. is a Hard Rock. With that, you get musical embellishments, such as guitars on the wall and an express checkout station that’s fashioned out of a 45 record player.

The hotel is the Carbide and Carbon Building, yet another fine deco building, finished in 1929, just before the Depression ground building to a halt, deco or otherwise. Burnham Bros. did the original building (Daniel Burnham was long dead by then); Lucien Lagrange Architects did the conversion into a hotel, finished in 2003.

You might even call it noir deco, since carbon black is the motif.
Carbine and Carbon Building 2017Further south, fitting very nicely in the Historic Michigan Boulevard District, is the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel at 12 S. Michigan.
Chicago Athletic Association Hotel 2017The building, a Henry Ives Cobb design, goes all the way back to 1893, so it was spanking new at the time of the World’s Fair. No art deco for him. He was of a previous generation. He also did the Newberry Library, which I’ve always liked, and the fine Yerkes Observatory.

The redevelopment of a posh men’s club into a posh hotel by Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture was finished only in 2015. “Many of the building’s elaborate architectural details were preserved, as the ornate millwork and tiled floors throughout the interior and the stained glass and cast-iron exterior relief have all been restored,” says Curbed Chicago. “However, one of the greatest highlights of the new hotel is its rooftop restaurant’s deck space that offers sweeping views of Michigan Avenue and Millennium.”

On a pleasantly warm Saturday, the line to get to the elevator to the rooftop was long indeed. Some other time, maybe.

We did see the large bar on the first floor. It features a lot of games and a sports theme on the walls. Sports of an earlier time: leather football helmets, baggy golf knickers, and medicine balls.

The space also included a bocce ball court. People were playing it. I’d never seen anyone play bocce ball.
Chicago Athletic Association Hotel 2017 bocce ball courtGuess I don’t hang around enough Millennial bars. Or any bars, come to think of it.

Model Chicago

Most Chicago Architectural Foundation tours begin at 224 S. Michigan Ave., where the foundation is located and which is also known as the Santa Fe Center or, originally, the Railway Exchange Building. It’s a handsome structure by Daniel Burnham, dating from 1904.

“A building around a light well, a form common to Daniel H. Burnham’s work from the mid-1880s onward, received an undulating white-glazed terra-cotta skin, oriel bays, and a top floor of distinctive porthole windows,” notes the AIA Guide to Chicago. “As in the Rookery, there is a two-story covered court at the base of the light well dominated by a grand staircase.”

The view from near the grand staircase.
Railway Exchange BuildingNote the model of Chicago taking up much of the floor. At 25 by 35 feet, it’s an exact model of every building in more than four square miles of the city, or more than 1,000 of them. The obviously skilled Columbian Model & Exhibit Works created it for the Chicago Architectural Foundation in the late 2000s.

The Tribune reported in 2009 that the “model buildings came from Columbian’s workshop. The exhibit is broken down into 400 city blocks, in squares the size of dinner plates carried in food caterer’s serving carts. With the buildings already glued in place, the blocks were placed into the exhibit like waiters carefully placing food plates into a buffet table.

“[Foundation VP Gregory] Dreicer said the first step in the process was creating a digitized three-dimensional computer model of the city that could be manipulated on a screen. The designers did it using architectural drawings or drawings purchased from commercial firms that collect such information.

“To make each building, they went to firms that use the three-dimensional printing process called stereolithography, used to make design prototypes of various products like plastic containers for food, cleaning or pharmaceutical products.”

Wow. That’s impressive. And right there, for anyone to walk in and see, no charge. It’s not a static display, either. I’ve read that the CAF updates it periodically, as buildings come and go in Chicago.