Pettit Memorial Chapel

Belvidere, town of about 25,000 and seat of Boone County, Ill., is east of Rockford, but not very far, so it’s part of the Rockford MSA. Rather than take the Interstate all the way back from Rockford, we drove on US BUS 20 for a while, then US 20. That route takes you near Belvidere Cemetery, home of the Pettit Memorial Chapel.

Pettit Memorial ChapelThe chapel counts as minor Wright, vintage 1906 (pre-running off with a client’s wife, in other words, and pre-ax murders at Taliesin). The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust says that “the Pettit Memorial Chapel is a small structure on the grounds of Belvidere Cemetery… Emma Glasner Pettit, the sister of William A. Glasner, for whom Wright designed a home Glencoe in 1905, commissioned the chapel in honor of her deceased husband, William H. Pettit.

“The chapel consists of a long narrow porch and an adjoining, rectangular room for memorial services. Raised above ground level, the chapel is accessed via a staircase at the front of the porch, or a set of angled staircases that flank the meeting room at the rear of the porch. Just as he did in his residential designs, Wright included a centrally located fireplace with a broad chimney that emerges from a low-hipped roof.”

We went onto the porch.
Pettit Memorial ChapelThen we went around back. The rectangular room — marked by green window trim — was locked.
Pettit Memorial ChapelThe cemetery looked fairly nice, but we didn’t take any time for a closer look. This is a view from the chapel.
Belvidere CemeteryWe didn’t see William Pettit’s stone. According to the nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places (by an Oak Park architect named Thomas A. Heinz), “Dr. Pettit had the largest practice in northern Iowa, and most of the state mourned his sudden passing in 1899… After proper deliberation as to a suitable memorial, it was decided to build a chapel in Belvidere, his hometown…”

Also in the nomination form: “[The chapel]… is the only structure of its kind in the oevre of [Wright’s] work, the only memorial or cemetery structure ever built.”

The Rockford Art Museum

The Riverfront Museum Campus in Rockford is, true to its name, next to the Rock River in that northern Illinois city, though the entrance to the complex actually faces a parking lot.

Riverfront Museum Campus, RockfordThere are a handful of outdoor sculptures on the campus. Here’s one — “The Juggler,” by David J. Foster (2010) — that would be fun to have in the back yard. Except for maintenance costs and all the unwanted attention it would attract, especially at first.
Riverfront Museum Campus, RockfordThe campus, which opened in the early 1990s, includes the Discovery Center Museum, Northern Public Radio, Rockford Art Museum, Rockford Dance Company and some part of the Rockford Symphony Orchestra, though that group performs at the ornate Coronado Theater. I’m pretty sure that the Discovery Center, which is a children’s museum, hasn’t been there that long, but relocated in more recent years. I remember taking the kids there more than 10 years ago, and while I couldn’t say exactly where we went, it wasn’t near the river.

This time we came to visit the Rockford Art Museum. Its four rooms, two upstairs, two downstairs, maintain a spare aesthetic.
Rockford Museum of Art 2017The museum has some interesting items. That’s all I ask of most museums. Here’s a detail of “Indigo Deux” by Ed Paschke (1988).

Rockford Museum of ArtAnother detail, this one of “Millennium 16/The Launderer” by Steven Hudson (1993).

Rockford Museum of Art

“Condor” by Les Sandelman (1987).
Rockford Museum of ArtAnd “Not Knot #18” by Jackie Kazarian (1991).
Rockford Museum of ArtAll in all, a small but good museum. Worth the relatively short drive to Rockford, as are the Nicholas ConservatoryKlehm Arboretum and Anderson Japanese Gardens.

Before we visited the museum, we ate a tasty lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant in Rockford. We were sitting at a large table in the back because all the smaller tables were full, and some other patrons were sitting at the table as well. One of them, a young woman who introduced herself as Sally, asked whether we’d eaten there before. No, this is our first time. We’re from out of town.

She said she was from Rockford, and seemed a little surprised that anyone would come to town just for a visit. I assured here that we turn up once a year or so, in this case to see the museum. I’m all for visiting large art museums with sprawling collections — be they in Brooklyn or Arkansas or far-off Russia — but smaller art museums are generally worth a look as well. Smaller cities, too.

A Poster, A Sign & A Lot of Bumper Stickers

Persistent rain starting last night and on through most of today. Mud season has started. But it also looks like the grass is greening.

Spotted on a telephone pole on Randolph St. on the near West Side of Chicago late last week. Looks like someone added the toothbrush mustache.

anti-Trump poster March 2017Spotted in Itasca, Ill., also last week, sometime after the presumed wedding. Glad that “Bubba” isn’t dead as a name.

Itasca Baptist Church 2017Spotted at a rest stop on I-57 between Champaign and Chicago.

Been There Bumper Stickers 2017I can’t quite make out all of the stickers, and there are more on the non-visible side of the van, but included in the destinations are the Kennedy Space Center, California, Nevada, Laughlin, NV, Key West, Roswell, NM, Wyoming, Mackinac Island (two), Naples, FL, Ventura, CA, Texas, the UP (more than one, including the 906 sticker), North Dakota, Piggly Wiggly, the Full Throttle Saloon (Sturgis), Route 66, Mississippi, Montana, Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, and a sticker that says, “There’s a place for all God’s creatures. Right next to the mashed potatoes.”

Alma Mater, UIUC

I took Lilly back to school on Sunday. I didn’t do quite as much of a walkabout on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus as I did in January, but I was determined to pause on the way out to see one thing: Alma Mater, a sculpture by Chicago’s own Lorado Taft.

Alma Mater UIUCAccording to UIHistories Project by Kalev Leetaru, “Unveiled on Alumni Day, June 11, 1929, the statue depicts ‘a benign and majestic woman in scholastic robes, who rises from her throne and advances a step with outstretched arms, a gesture of generously greeting her children.’ Behind her stand the twin figures of Labor and Learning, joining hands in a bronze incarnation of the University’s motto.”

This is Labor. The muscular man in the work duds.
Alma Mater UIUCLearning, in Classical garb. It would be more interesting if the costuming were reversed, since labor involves learning and learning involves labor, but never mind.
Alma Mater UIUC

Older pictures of the statue depict a green patina, acquired over time. During the 2010s restoration of the sculpture, that was stripped away, so presumably it now looks a lot like it did when new.

“Conceived in 1922, Alma Mater was cast in 1929 by the American Art Bronze Foundry and paid for by donations by the Alumni Fund and the classes of 1923-1929,” notes Leetaru. “It was crafted by Taft as ‘his gift to the University in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of his graduation.’ Alma Mater rests on a granite pedestal conceived by Charles Platt.

“The statue was originally placed directly behind the Auditorium, and at night spotlights cast twin shadows of Labor and Learning onto the rear wall of the Auditorium, making them truly larger than life. On August 22, 1962, the Alumni Association moved the sculpture to its present location in front of Altgeld.”

Altgeld being Altgeld Hall, named after the Illinois governor. There’s a bell in that tower, and I took this picture as it was ringing 4 o’clock on Sunday.

building behind Alma Mater UIUC“Completed in 1897, Altgeld Hall, originally known as the Library Building, was designed by Nathan Ricker and James McLaren White…” writes Leetaru. “From 1955 to the present, the Department of Mathematics and the Mathematics Library have called the building home.

“The building is an example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture and the external stonework is pink limestone. The original pink hue may still be seen in the interior of the East entrance.”

My Own kWh

More wind today. Enough so that the blue recycle bin, which usually rests inert on the deck, took a new position against the back yard fence in the morning.

ComEd sent me another of its non-bill mailings recently, to tell me how I stand vis-à-vis “efficient neighbors” and “average neighbors,” for the period December 22 to January 25. Efficient and average in terms of electricity usage, that is, not (say) snow removal or vacuum cleaning of interior carpets.

We used 560 kWh over that period, and thus 1 percent for more electricity than efficient neighbors. Guess that’s good. A smidgen less coal burned somewhere, a few fewer atoms split. “Efficient neighbors are the 20% who use the least amount of electricity” among 100 houses in a one-mile radius or so, according to the utility.

In the fine print, the letter says, “This program is funded by ComEd customers in compliance with Illinois law.” Hm. Not an unfunded mandate as far as ComEd is concerned, then. The company gets to charge its customers to tell them how efficient they are. That would be OK if I got a discount for efficiency, a few tenths of a cent per kWh, say, but I don’t think that’s in the offing unless I’m an industrial user.

The Spurlock Museum

Just before bugging out of town on Sunday afternoon, I stopped at the Spurlock Museum on the UIUC campus. I was surprised to find it open. As opposed to the Krannert Art Museum, the focus of the Spurlock — in full the William R. and Clarice V. Spurlock Museum — is ethnographic. I didn’t want to spend a long time, so I only wandered through the first-floor galleries, one dedicated to the ancient Mediterranean, the other to North and South American Indians.

The Mediterranean room offered reproductions of ancient statues and a wide mix of smaller artifacts. It’s always good to run across Augustus, though maybe he should be painted in bright colors.
Augustus, Spurlock MuseumIt’s a plaster cast of a first-century Roman marble that’s in the Vatican Museum, which itself was a copy of a Roman bronze original, ca. 20 BC, which was lost to time.

Next, Artemis.
Artemis, Spurlock MuseumAgain a plastic cast of a marble Roman copy, ca. 2nd century AD that’s now in the Louvre. Unlike Augustus, she’s wearing sandals. The original Greek bronze, ca. 350 BC by Praxiteles, is also no more.

The Doryphoros.

Spear carrier, Spurlock Museum

That is, the spear carrier. No fig leaf for this fellow. No spear, either, though he could pick one up at any time. The original bronze, ca. 450 BC, is lost (of course, sigh). A 1st century AD marble copy is in the National Museum in Naples.

Now for a different aesthetic.

Diablada costume, Spurlock MuseumAccording to the museum, this Diablada costume was acquired by Isabel Scarborough in Cochabamba, Bolivia; the mask, whip and matracas were acquired by Cynthia LeCount Samane in Oruro, Bolivia, in both cases in the late 2000s.

A drum from Andean Ecuador in the 1970s.

Andean Drum, Spurlock Museum

Canelos Quichua Miniature Pottery Festival Group, by Marta Vargas Dugua, Puyo, Ecuador (2008).
South American figures, Spurlock MuseumUpstairs are exhibits about East Asia, Southeast Asia, Oceania, Europe, Africa, ancient Mesopotamia, and ancient Egypt. Guess I’ll have to drop by again.

UIUC Walkabout, January ’17

The first time I took a walk through the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus, when visiting with Lilly not quite a year ago, we didn’t have much of a plan. On Sunday, I took another walk around UIUC, studying a campus map beforehand. Not exactly a plan, but at least informed guesswork about an interesting route.

I parked on 6th St. next to the College of Business and near a side street named after sculptor Lorado Taft, a distinguished early alumnus, and headed out from there on foot. I saw more evidence of Taft’s connection to the university elsewhere, though not the well-known “Alma Mater” sculpture (this time).

Nearby was the Architecture Building. Four panels are embedded in the walls of the building, on conspicuous display. Here’s one, featuring Michele Sanmicheli.

Architecture Building panel UIUC“The Architecture building, also known as Architecture and Kindred Subjects, was designed in the Georgian Revival style by Charles A. Platt in 1926-1927,” writes Muriel Scheinman in Explore C-U. “Platt, who also designed ten other buildings on campus including the University Library, David Kinley Hall, and Mumford Hall, embedded four panels with medallion portraits of famous architects on the Architecture building. Michelangelo Buonarroti and Michele San Michele are displayed on the west gates, and Christopher Wren and Inigo Jones are on the east gates. Frank G. Menconi, an architectural sculptor based in New York, designed the panels.”

Back to Lorado Taft. One of his monumental works is the Fountain of Time in Chicago. He had planned a similarly monumental work nearby called the Fountain of Creation, but the project was never realized.

He did complete four figures intended for the Fountain of Creation, however, and now they stand in front of the UIUC main library and behind the Foellinger Auditorium. I wandered by and saw them all. Here’s one of two near the library’s entrance, “A Daughter of Pyrrah.”
A Daughter of Pyrrah, Lorado Taft, UICU“Pyrrha” is how it’s spelled in my go-to reference on the subject, Gods and Mortals in Classical Mythology: A Dictionary (Michael Grant and John Hazel, 1979) and other places. She was part of the husband-and-wife team who survived a worldwide flood and then helped re-create mankind by tossing rocks over their shoulders, which then became people.

Pyrrha had natural-born daughters as well as rock-created ones. It isn’t clear which one Taft was thinking of, at least from reading the plaque.

Here’s the other.
A Daughter of Pyrrha, Lorado Taft, UICUWhatever else, they seem to be in some kind of distress. A collegiate title might be, “I’m not ready for my exam!” A more topical title could be, “The inauguration’s coming soon!”

Not far away, behind the Foellinger Auditorium, are two sons of Duecalion, whom Taft called “Eucalion.” He was the husband in the flood myth.
A Son of Duecalion, Lorado Taft, UICUIf anything, the sons look even more distressed than the daughters.
A Son of Duecalion, Lorado Taft, UIUC

“After a weekend bender” might be a good title for that one.

“Around 1917, [Taft] proposed to the city a pair of huge fountains, one at each end of a strip of public park known as the Midway Plaisance on the Chicago’s South Side,” explains Chicago Outdoor Sculptures. “On the western edge, the Fountain of Time and at the eastern edge would stand the Fountain of Creation. Although the Fountain of Time was completed, The Fountain of Creation was never completed… Taft planned 38 monumental figures and figure groups for the Fountain of Creation. But only four were carved in stone.”

Nearby is the UIUC Observatory. It wasn’t open for inspection, but I liked the outside.

UIUC Observatory Jan. 2017“The University of Illinois Observatory was constructed in 1896,” the university says. “…Though none of the astronomical instruments are being used for professional research today, the observatory still contains a 12” Brashear refractor. The observatory played a key role in the development of astronomy, as it was home to a key innovation in the area of astronomical photometry. The facility has been directed by such noted scientists as Joel Stebbins and Robert H. Baker.”

Looping back, I took in the view from the steps of the Foellinger Auditorium, which is nice even in winter. It encompasses the Illini Union. You wouldn’t know it to look at the building, but part of the financing for its construction came from the WPA.
There’s a bowling alley in there somewhere, among other things. I’ll have to take a closer look inside sometime. Likewise with the Foellinger Auditorium, which was closed on Sunday afternoon.

Mt. Hope Cemetery, Champaign/Urbana

RIP, Gene Cernan. That leaves six of 12 moonwalkers.

I took Lilly and a friend of hers back to UIUC yesterday. It was a good day for popping down to Champaign/Urbana, at least as good as you’re going to get in January, with overcast skies but no ice or snow or much wind, and temps a bit above freezing.

After I dropped them off, I did a little walkabout of my own before returning home. I soon found myself all by myself, at least among the living, at Mt. Hope Cemetery. The cemetery, founded in 1856, is older than the university, and these days is a long stretch of land south of the school, totaling 52 acres between Florida and Pennsylvania avenues.

It’s fairly flat, but then again, this is Illinois.

Mt. Hope Cemetery, Champaign/Urbana

There’s a nice variety of stones and some mature trees, though not quite the arboretum I’ve encountered in other places.

Mt. Hope Cemetery, Champaign/Urbana

Many of the stones date from the 19th century. That is, people whose lives came and went entirely during that century, though there were also a good many early 20th-century burials. I also saw some newer stones as well, such as this curious one.

Mt. Hope Cemetery, Champaign/Urbana

That’s a style I’d never seen before: the grave marker as bench.

Mt. Hope sports some interesting funerary art, including some stone styles you see in a number of places, such as this Woodman’s monument.

Mt. Hope Cemetery, Champaign/Urbana

A few larger monuments, like the obelisk below, dot the landscape, but mostly the stones are more modest. There’s a modern-ish looking building that serves as a mausoleum, but not many of the freestanding family mausoleums you find in other older cemeteries.

Mt. Hope Cemetery, Champaign/Urbana

“Prior to Mt. Hope, locals were buried in the Old Urbana Cemetery (now Leal Park), the Old Jewish Cemetery, or on family farmland,” writes Laura Miller in Explore C-U. “Jesse Burt, a local farmer, recognized that the growing community of Urbana needed a larger and more organized burial ground with scenic walks more in keeping with the park-like cemeteries then popular and contributed land for this purpose…

“Many families moved their ancestors’ graves from the old burial grounds to Mt. Hope. The drives through the cemetery were named after trees. Once, numerous footpaths weaved through the cemetery making it a popular place for walks and picnics; however, this space has been reclaimed over the years for burial lots. After it opened, it became the primary cemetery for burials until 1907, when Woodlawn and Roselawn Cemeteries began operation.”

In the 1890s, veterans and their supporters erected one of the larger monuments in Mt. Hope. “Dedicated,” it says, “to the memory of the defenders of our flag, 1861-1865.”
Mt. Hope Cemetery, Champaign/UrbanaNot long after, the GAR put up a cannon next to the statue.
Mt. Hope Cemetery, Champaign/UrbanaAll in all, a fine graveyard to visit, even when you need a coat. I’ll have to take a look in springtime.

The Surviving Kankakee Gazebo

One more thing about Kankakee: there’s only one surviving gazebo of the two that David Letterman gave the city. Of course I had to see that.

Kankakee Dave Letterman Gazebo, Cobb Park

It’s in Cobb Park, near the Kankakee River. Not the most impressive of structures, even among gazebos (this one’s better). It’s like something someone would buy at a DIY store and put in his back yard.

But that’s not so important. A sign inside the gazebo says, “this is one of the world famous [sic] gazebos as seen on the Late Show with Dave Letterman. Presented to Kankakee on air in 1999, in a spoof to nickname the city: “Home of the Twin Gazebos.” In 2015, the City of Kankakee returned their [sic] gazebo on air to Dave Letterman in the form of a rocking chair.”

Needed an editor, that sign. It meant that the city, at the suggestion of Kankakee high school students, tore down one of the two gazebos and used some of the wood to build a rocking chair for Letterman (to remind him of his retirement?). The other one still stands, or at least it did as of October 1, 2016, when I got out of my car — Yuriko wasn’t interested, and waited in the car — and crossed Cobb Park to see it. More detail is in the Chicago Tribune.

I vaguely remember Letterman making fun of Kankakee (“puts the ill in Illinois” and “puts the annoy in Illinois”) after the city ranked last in some places-to-live article. Giving the city a couple of gazebos was a Lettermanesque extension of the gag, I guess. Also, it doesn’t hurt that “gazebo” is simply a fun word to say.

The B. Harley Bradley House

I wondered recently, when did I first hear about the small Illinois city — or maybe the large Illinois town — of Kankakee? (Pop. 27,000 or so.) Not a very urgent question, since there’s usually no reason to remember when you first heard of most places — and no way you can remember. With a few exceptions in my case, such as Stevens Point, Wis., which I never heard of till Mu Alpha Theta held its national meeting there in 1978, which I attended.

Even so, I’ll bet I heard of Kankakee because it was in the lyrics of “The City of New Orleans” in the early ’70s, so artfully written by Steve Goodman, so memorably sung by Arlo Guthrie. “Kankakee” makes a clever rhyme with “odyssey.”

All along the southbound odyssey
The train pulls out at Kankakee
And rolls along past houses, farms and fields.
Passing trains that have no names
And freight yards full of old black men
And the graveyards of the rusted automobile.

A lot of people could probably say that’s where they heard about Kankakee. Even some Germans. Years ago, my friend Rich played a German-language version of the song for me. Apparently it too was popular. In our time, those lyrics are easy to look up.

Auf seiner Odyssee nach Süden passiert der Zug Kankakee,
rollt an Häusern, Farmen und Feldern vorbei,
passiert andere namenlosen Züge,
Abstellplätze voller alter farbiger Männer
und verrostete Autofriedhöfe.

More recently, the Bradley House in Kankakee came to our attention. In full, the B. Harley Bradley House, vintage 1900.
The B. Harley Bradley HouseIt doesn’t take too much looking to see that Frank Lloyd Wright did the house. One of the first ones — the docent claimed the first one, others claim differently — done in his distinctive Prairie School. I can’t comment authoritatively which was first, and I don’t really care, but even so the house was interesting enough for a day trip.
The B. Harley Bradley HouseThe house, and the one next to it — the Warren Hickox House (behind it in the pic above), another Wright design that’s still a private residence — are in the the western edge of the town’s Riverview Historic District. The neighborhood features large old houses in various states of repair, but no others like these two.

The Bradley House is also close to the Kankakee River.
Kankakee RiverDuring the tour, I asked the docent whether flooding had ever been an issue — as it has with the Farnsworth House — but apparently the Kankakee isn’t as testy as the Fox River, at least at that place.

The house has had a long string of owners over the last century-plus. Within living memory, for instance, it was a well-known local restaurant, The Yesteryear. For a considerable time in the early to mid-20th century, a wealthy man named Joseph H. Dodson owned the place. He was a bird lover and used the house’s stable, which is now the gift shop, as a bird house factory. It seems that Dodson bird houses were quite an item at one time.

Then there’s the sad story of Stephen B. Small. Another wealthy Kankakee resident, he acquired the property in the mid-80s and set about to restore it. That came to a halt in 1987 when he was kidnapped and buried in a box whose air tube wasn’t large enough to supply him enough air, and so he died (both kidnappers are still in the jug).

More recently, through various twists and turns, the house came to be owned by a nonprofit that’s aiming to pay down its mortgage. Our little part in that was paying for the tour, along with buying a postcard an a refrigerator magnet.

I did not, however, want to pay $5 to take interior pictures, which wouldn’t have turned out all that well anyway. The interior restoration, completed only in 2010, restored the place to its 1901 appearance. A nice bit of work: long halls, spacious rooms (except for the servants’ quarters), wooden floors, art glass in the windows, and the kind of alcoves and recesses and the like you associate with Wright, though few low ceilings. Guess this was before, as The Genius, he could insist on ceilings fit only for short people.