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.”

Twelve Pictures ’17

Back to posting on January 2, 2018, or so. Like last year, I’m going to wind up the year with a leftover picture from each month. This time, for no special reason, no people, just places and things.

Champaign, Ill., January 2017Charlotte, NC, February 2017

Kankakee, Ill., March 2017

Rockford, Ill., April 2017

Muskogee, Okla., May 2017

Naperville, Ill., June 2017

Barrington Hills, Ill., July 2017

Vincennes, Ind., August 2017

Denver, September 2017Evanston, Ill., October 2017Chicago, November 2017

Birmingham, Ala., December 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

Pre-Christmas Christmas Items

Got a card from old friends Wendy and Ted today.

They do amusing handmade cards every year. I like this year’s, but my favorite, which I don’t have handy, was about Santa having to enter the Witness Protection Program.

Earlier this year, when Christmas wasn’t dead ahead, I acquired this card among a mass of old postcards that I bought from a resale shop that was going out of business. I was sorry to see it go, because the resale cartel — Goodwill, Salvation Army — doesn’t seem to deal in postcards.

Sent in Chicago in 1938.

From Dorothy to Violet May — at least I think that’s Violet, not Violit.

The 2300 block of West Montrose, and I assume the sender meant West Montrose, since east would be in the lake, probably doesn’t look so different nearly 80 years later.

One more thing, not related to Christmas, except this is the time of year when new calendars enter the house.

A desk calendar: The JAL Fleet Calendar 2018. It takes a different approach than yesterday’s fastener-oriented calendar, which was full of verbiage to mark the days. Except for making Sundays red, none of the days on the JAL calendar are distinct from any other — no holidays, nothing.

At 3¼ by 6¼ inches, it’s an unusual size, but I think I’ll use the months as they go by for postcards.

The Deering Family Galleries of Medieval and Renaissance Art, Arms, and Armor

Some years ago, the arms and armor gallery at the Art Institute of Chicago, a long hall packed with Medieval and Renaissance arms and armor, but also such artwork as reliquaries, disappeared during a renovation. A permanent exhibit of Indian art, as in the Indian subcontinent, took its place.

Indian art is a fine thing, but I missed arms and armor. Earlier this year, I read that the museum had restored the arms and armor display in a different place, but I was skeptical that it would be as good as the good old hall. I was wrong. The new galleries, collectively known as the Deering Family Galleries of Medieval and Renaissance Art, Arms, and Armor, are better.

An Art Institute press release from March says that the galleries are “the permanent home for nearly 700 objects from the museum’s rich holdings of art from 1200 to 1600, including monumental altarpieces, exquisite jewelry, and the beloved arms and armor collection.

“While much in the collection may be familiar to long time visitors, the installation expands the display of art of this period sixfold and enfolds them in an historically inspired atmosphere and context. The construction of these galleries marks the most ambitious architectural undertaking at the museum since the Modern Wing opened in 2009.”

In the very first gallery, you see the Ayala Altarpiece, dated 1396 and commissioned by Pedro López de Ayala, later chancellor of Castile. The museum spent three years recently restoring the painted wood altarpiece, 24 feet across by eight feet high, and it’s quite a sight.

Also in the first gallery are the likes of a crucifix by the Master of the Bigallo Crucifix, Italian, active about 1225-65.

And “Saint George and the Dragon” by Bernat Martorell, a Spaniard (1434/35).

“The galleries that follow are more intimate, focusing on late Gothic and Renaissance domestic life,” the museum continues. “Luxury goods and accessories for feasting fill one room while another displays works of art for the bedchambers of Tuscany’s merchant elite. Everyday objects from northern Europe, along with jewelry and items of personal display, complete the domestic picture of the period.

“From here, the space opens to the new home of the museum’s expanded arms and armor collection. Filled with weaponry and armor, the display is dominated by two armored figures on horseback — one dressed for battle, the other for sport — and two armed and costumed figures engaged in foot combat.

That’s a kind of armored contest I’d never seen depicted before. Clearly the object of the contest was to knock the other man over without crossing the cross beam, and probably striking below the waist was against the rules.

There were also some good old-fashioned displays of armor in a standing position.
Along with plenty of weapons representing many ways to hack into the other guy.

Revoliutsiia! Demonstratsiia! Soviet Art Put to the Test

After lunch at Shake Shack on Michigan Ave. on Saturday — crowded, but not impossible — we wandered over to the Art Institute. Been a while since we’d been there. I was particularly keen to see Revoliutsiia! Demonstratsiia! Soviet Art Put to the Test.

Mounted, I’m sure, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the revolution. Just inside the entrance to the exhibit was the “Lenin Wall.” Lots of Lenin, including a small statue.

Besides that, the exhibit featured paintings, posters, prints, drawings, photos, magazines, film, agitprop ephemera, porcelain, figurines, life-size reconstructions of early Soviet display objects or spaces commissioned especially for the exhibition, and more.

I was glad to see the Suprematist porcelain collection (I. I. Rozhdestvenskaia).
That’s because I used to have a Suprematist-style cup and saucer. Actually, I still have the saucer, but the cup broke long ago.

Remarkably, there was such a thing as Soviet advertising. Or an equivalent. At least early on (1923).
That’s a preliminary design for a Mosselprom building advertisement for cooking oil by Aleksandr Rodchenko, the Constructivist.

The cover of Produce! magazine (Mechislav Dobrokovskii, Sept. 1929).
And the cover of a magazine called Atheist at the Workbench, Jan. 1923 (Dmitrii Moor).
The theme of that cover is “We got rid of the tsars on Earth, let’s deal with the ones in Heaven.”

This is a model of the never-finished Palace of the Soviets in Moscow, whose partly completed structure was cannibalized for raw materials to fight the Nazis. That’s Lenin on top.
Here’s one of a series of 36 small posters extolling gender equality and increased industrial production (1931). All of them pictured women doing one kind of socialist labor or another, and graphs whose trends were always upward.
If there had been a collection of postcards in the gift shop based on these posters, at a reasonable price, I would have bought it. Or a Suprematist tea cup. But no.

State Street ’17

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving this year, I noticed a short item on the web site of the Telegraph, the British newspaper: “Best Tesco Black Friday weekend deals 2017.”
What? Black Friday is a thing in the UK? That big shopping day that’s the Friday after — the fourth Thursday in November? Which, I think, the British call “Thursday.”

Know what the United States needs? Bank holidays. Some of them overlap with U.S. holidays, but we could use a few more, such as the first Monday in June and the first Monday in August.

On Saturday morning we went downtown, taking advantage of above-freezing temps and a clear day. State Street near the store formerly known as Marshall Field’s was well populated with shoppers and the boomba-boomba-boomba of plastic container drumming.

This time of the year you go to that stretch of State Street to see the holiday windows that Macy’s carried on from Marshall Field’s. Two years ago, the windows were creative and pleasant to look at. This year, they were not.

“Generic” is how Ann put it, as in generic holiday scenes, and I agree — not a drop of the creativity of a window that had creatures on the outer planets throwing snowballs at each other.

At least the holiday trumpets were still in place.
The Marshall Field’s restorationists were out with their signs.
Or would they be revanchists? Not sure that applies, since we’re not talking about taking back the Alsace-Lorraine or wherever. Still, the “take back” could be said to be metaphoric, so you could argue that it’s retail revanchism. As far as I know there’s no specific term for agitating for the restoration of a name.

Or a name change. Maybe there should be such a term, considering that former slaveholders not named Washington or Jefferson are out of favor.

Thursday Havering

A lot of the ads popping up lately on YouTube have been to promote Canadian tourism. Mostly the ads depict, in music video style, young people doing the kind of vigorous activities that (some) young people must imagine is the essence of traveling to exotic places like Saskatchewan. Actually, one today featured the Yukon.

I’m all for visiting Canada, and encouraging people to do so, but the ads don’t really speak to me. Besides, Canada’s not really top of my mind in November. Then again, it’s good to plan ahead, so you can visit Canada, and even the Yukon, during that short window of opportunity when the place is pleasantly warm.

I never knew until recently that The Proclaimers did a charming version of “King of the Road” back in 1990. No one does it like Roger Miller, but I smile when I hear lyrics like, “destination Bangor, Maine” in that burr of theirs.

“King of the Road,” in the way things go on the Internet, soon leads to a song stuck in mid-60s amber, “Queen of the House.” Even better, the song is done in a Scopitone.

I was in the city not long ago with a camera in the front seat, so I took a few pictures while stopped at traffic lights. Such as this place. So very Chicago.
Then there was Thunderbolt.
It’s an ax throwing venue, only the second one in Chicago, according to the Tribune, opening this spring.

“Ax throwing — indoor or outdoor — is a skill-based sport; [owner Scott] Hollander likens it to pool or darts, where participants can take the competition as seriously or lackadaisically as they please,” the paper says.

“Easygoing ax throwers can book an hour at a lane for $15 per person Wednesdays and Thursdays, and for $20 per person Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Food and nonalcoholic drink is allowed and can be consumed at the plywood stands behind each pair of lanes or at the picnic tables in the building. Thunderbolt also is available for bachelor or bachelorette parties, birthday parties and corporate events.”

What do I think of when I hear about ax throwing? Ed Ames, naturally. Tomahawk, but close enough.

Thursday Tidbits

Last night Northern Illinois dropped below freezing, and it wasn’t a lot warmer during the day. A taste of winter, dressed like fall.
Fall colors, ChicagoI didn’t know until recently that Lotte Lenya, who can be heard here singing “Mack the Knife,” or maybe more properly “Die Moritat von Mackie Messer,” played Rosa Klebb, the SPECTRE operative who tries to off James Bond with her poison-tipped shoe in From Russia With Love.

Not an important thing to know. Just another one of those interesting tidbits to chance upon.

A rare thing: a YouTube comment that’s actually funny. It’s at a posting featuring “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag and Smile, Smile, Smile!” sung by Oscar Seagle and the Columbia Stellar Quartette, recorded January 25, 1918.

Someone calling himself Xander Magne said: ” ‘Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition’ ain’t got s–t on this, sonny. Damn 30s kids with their jazz and their swing and their big band and their ‘World War 2.’ We used to have a Great War and it was Great and you liked it!”

One more thing I saw at the International Museum of Surgical Science, a polemic cartoon by Edward Kemble that was part of a display about patent medicine, the Pure Food & Drug Act, etc.

International Museum of Surgical Science, Chicago“Palatable Poison for the Poor.” Whew. Good thing that’s not possible in the 21st century, eh?

Again, too melancholy a note on which to end. Here’s something I saw just before Halloween. Pumpkin π.

Pumpkin π

A bit o’ pumpkin whimsy.

Iron Lung & Shoe-Fitting Fluoroscope

Today I said to Ann, “Don’t forget, it’s the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution.” She wasn’t much impressed by that odd Bolshevik-calendar curiosity.

At the International Museum of Surgical Science recently, I saw a number of things I’d read or heard about, but never seen before, which is one thing I want from a museum. Two items stood out in that way.

One was an iron lung.

International Museum of Surgical Science

An Emerson device. Apparently that was the most successful kind of iron lung, invented and manufactured by John Haven Emerson (1906-97), a collateral descendant of Ralph Waldo and nephew of Maxfield Parrish.

I stood there for a while looking at the thing, thinking about the terror of such a disease. An iron lung sums that up pretty well. Something dim-bulb anti-vaxxers need to see.

Some ephemera next to the iron lung drove home the point.
Polio Pamphlet 1951Only 10 years before I was born.

In another room was another device I’d heard of, but never seen: a shoe-fitting fluoroscope.

Shoe-fitting fluoroscopeA x-ray machine found at shoe stores, in other words. Put your foot in and see the bones inside. Ostensibly for a better fit, but mostly as novelty. I can believe that kids wanted to see the inside of their feet.

X-Ray Shoe Fitter Inc. of Milwaukee made this particular one, ca. 1940-50, according to the museum. Feet were inserted into the side not visible in my picture.

As many as 10,000 such devices were in use in the United States during their heyday in the 1950s, after which time state legislatures, worried about radiation poisoning and the like, started banning the things. I doubt that any customers were harmed, but you have to wonder how many shoe salesmen suffered from their exposure to x-rays oozing out of the non-leaden boxes over a number of years.

Skulls and Bones and Things

Want to see some particularly good momento mori? Look no further than the International Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago. I visited recently and came face to face with these fellows.

International Museum of Surgical Science in ChicagoAlso, a fuller version.
International Museum of Surgical Science in ChicagoGlad I didn’t see these exhibits when I was a kid. I found skulls and skeletons particularly creepy then, which I guess is a fairly common feeling among youngsters.

The feeling is long gone. Now I look at a skull and wonder, who was that? How did his headbone come to be here, instead of in the ground, or made into ashes?

The museum is a division of the International College of Surgeons, which is headquartered on Lake Shore Drive and includes about 10,000 square feet of public galleries committed to the history of surgery. Much more than skulls and bones. A good deal more, mainly artifacts from the history of cutting people for their own good, as well as other aspects of medicine.

There’s a large array of surgical tools from the last few centuries, medical machines from the late 19th century onward (such as antique x-ray machines), photos, paintings, drawings and a lot of reading material next to the exhibits. Some of the surgical tools, such as Civil War-vintage amputation kits, give me the willies more than any old skull could, even a trephined one.

Some paintings depict highlights from the history of surgery. Such as a copy of Rembrandt’s famed “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp.”
International Museum of Surgical Science in ChicagoOne room is given over to larger-than-life luminaries in the history of medicine — the “Hall of Immortals” — commissioned by the museum in its early days, in the 1950s, and mostly done by sculptor Louis Linck. That’s just old-fashioned enough to make me smile.
International Museum of Surgical ScienceIncluded among the immortals are Imhotep, Hippocrates, Andreas Vesalius, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, Ambroise Paré, Joseph Lister, and Marie Curie.

International Museum of Surgical ScienceInternational Museum of Surgical ScienceInternational Museum of Surgical ScienceJust outside the Hall of Immortals is Asklepios, also by Linck.
International Museum of Surgical ScienceI suppose he wasn’t in the hall itself, since however much he’s part of the history of medicine, he isn’t an actual historic figure.