Presidential Real Estate

“Presidents Day” weekend has rolled around again. Late last week I managed to make professional use of my slight knowledge of the presidency — or more exactly, the various U.S. presidents — to write an article about a selection of their houses. The final title: “The Fabulous Real Estate (And A Few Modest Digs) Of Past Presidents.”

It was a fun article to write. I didn’t want to make it overly long, so of course most of the presidents were left out. But I did have a nice selection from different eras: Madison, Jackson, Van Buren, Wm. Henry Harrison, Lincoln, Benjamin Harrison, Theodore Roosevelt, Hoover and Lyndon Johnson.

My sources included my own visits in some cases, online information, and two books that I own. One is the bare-bones Presidents, subtitled “Birthplaces, Homes, and Burial Sites,” by Rachel M. Kochman. I can’t quite remember where I got, but it’s the kind of book that sells in national park or national monument or national historic site bookstores. Acquired sometime in the late 1990s probably, since it’s the 1996 edition, with the most recent president covered being Bill Clinton.

Bare bones because while extensively illustrated, all the photos and drawings are black and white. That’s no problem, really, but it’s set in an ugly sans serif. That makes what should be a browsing book less pleasant to browse. Still, the book includes a lot of information on presidential sites.

I also have a coffee table book called Homes of the Presidents by Bill Harris, 1997, so it too ends with Clinton. A remainder table find. The text is a little uneven, but not bad. The pictures are the thing, of course, and they are well selected.

Mid-February Natterings

Remarkably foggy day Thursday.
Above freezing, too, reducing the snow cover and making random puddles.

Reading a book about Lincoln’s assassination puts me in a counterfactural frame of mind. Not so much What If Lincoln Lived — a lot of consideration has been given to that — but what would have happened to Booth had he capped his murderous impulse that day, and not gone through with it? What would have happened to him?

I picture him living into the early 20th century, since he was only in his mid-20s in 1865, a star of the American and European stage in the pre-movie years, so he was mostly forgotten by later generations. He did have a small part as an elderly wise man at the court of Cyrus the Great in D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance (but nothing in The Birth of a Nation, which was never made). Also, one of Booth’s sons founded Booth Studios in the early 1900s, which was later acquired by MGM.

In his memoir, published in 1899, Booth confessed that he had a strong impulse to murder Lincoln right at the end of the war, and was glad he never acted on it.

Got a form letter from the chancellor of the University of Illinois the other day. Let’s call it a worrywart letter. It seems that the public houses in old Champaign-Urbana are encouraging students, perhaps tacitly, to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in a blotto state of mind. The university frowns on such goings-on and wants me to know it will do what it can to educate the students about the perils of demon rum. Or more likely in this context, whisky.

Not that alcohol isn’t a form of poison, with risks. I expect that a handful of students manage to off themselves across the years under its influence, mostly via reckless driving. But do I need a form letter about this?

Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer

On Friday morning, I noticed that I could have watched the opening ceremony to the Winter Olympics via live streaming if I’d gotten up at 5 a.m. Ha, ha. I was busy about then enjoying a dream about something or other. Then I forgot to watch any of the replay on regular TV, maybe because NBC’s treatment is always tiresome.

Considering that today is Lincoln’s birthday, it’s fitting that I picked up a book about him — partly about him — on Saturday at a resale shop, and started reading it as soon as I got home. But I wasn’t thinking about that coincidence when I bought the book. It didn’t occur to me until this morning.

The book is Manhunt, subtitled “The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer,” by James L. Swanson (2006). I liked it from the beginning, namely “A Note to the Reader,” on page viii.

“This story is true. All the characters are real and were alive during the great manhunt of April 1865. Their words are authentic. Indeed, all text appearing within quotation marks comes from original sources: letters, manuscripts, affidavits, trial transcripts, newspapers, government reports, pamphlets, books, memoirs, and other documents. What happened in Washington, DC, in the spring of 1865, and in the swamps and rivers, and the forests and fields, of Maryland and Virginia during the next twelve days, is far too incredible to have ever been made up.”

In a case like this, I’d guess a surfeit of information and sources would be the writer’s challenge, rather than missing puzzle pieces. Among 19th-century crimes, Lincoln’s murder might well be the best documented.

So far Swanson seems up to the challenge. Even though I know a fair amount of the story, and have read other books about the assassination (e.g., The Day Lincoln Was Shot by James Bishop), Manhunt is a page-turner. I spent a fair amount of Saturday night and Sunday morning turning those pages.

Though the book hews close to the facts, that doesn’t keep Swanson from occasional interesting counterfactual musings. Such as a paragraph about what might have happened had Booth’s shot missed — his derringer had only one shot, after all.

“Had Booth missed, Lincoln could have risen from his chair to confront the assassin. At that moment, the president, cornered, with not only his own life in danger but also Mary’s, would almost certainly have fought back. If he did, Booth would have found himself outmatched, facing not kindly Father Abraham, but the aroused fury of the Mississippi River flatboatman who fought off a gang of murderous river pirates in the dead of night, the champion wrestler who, years before, humbled the Clary’s Grove boys in New Salem in a still legendary match, or even the fifty-six-year-old president who could still pick up a long, splitting-axe by his fingertips, raise it, extend his arm out parallel with the ground, and suspend the axe in midair. Lincoln could have choked the life out of the five-foot-eight-inch, 150-pound thespian, or wrestled him over the side of the box, launching Booth on a crippling dive to the stage almost twelve feet below.”

Also intriguing are the walk-on characters. Walk-on from the point of view of the main story, since no one is a walk-on in his or her own life. Such as “John Peanut,” the man — or teen — who worked as a menial at Ford’s Theatre and who held John Wilkes Booth’s horse in the alley behind the theater while the actor went off to become an assassin. Booth had asked Ford’s Theatre carpenter Ned Spangler to do so, but he fobbed the job off on “John Peanut,” who might have been named John or Joseph Burroughs or Burrows.

A little more information about this person is here, for what it’s worth. A Lincoln assassination buff named Roger Norton says, “I believe the best Lincoln assassination researchers in the world tried to find out what became of him, but nobody could succeed. The trail ends with his appearance at the trial. Mike Kauffman has suggested that his name was actually Borrows (sp?). Nobody knows his exact age in 1865 as far as I know, but ‘teens’ is a logical assumption.”

So there’s plenty in Manhunt to keep me interested. It’s become an express train blowing by the other books I’m reading at the moment: Trotsky: Fate of a Revolutionary, The Crossing (Cormac McCarthy) and a collection of Orwell’s essays, which is a re-read after a few decades.

Vulcan

While I was in Birmingham earlier this month, I noticed a lot of yard and roadside signs for the upcoming Senatorial election. Every single one was for Doug Jones or, more likely, against Roy Moore. Birmingham tends to be Democratic, and Jones is from Birmingham, but I think there was more to it than that. What I didn’t think was that Jones would win.

The simplest of the signs said: No Moore.

I’m only half-joking when I say that the modern world was invented either by Victorians, or for the 1893 World’s Fair, or for the 1904 World’s Fair, or by ad men in the 1920s. In the case of the massive cast-iron Vulcan overlooking Birmingham, Alabama, the statue was created for the World’s Fair in St. Louis, to tell the world about the city’s core competence in metal.That’s Vulcan atop the stone tower that the WPA built for him in the 1930s. Next, a view from a little further back.

Note the observation deck. You can reach that via stairs inside the tower, or by an elevator in the other tower. We took the elevator. From the deck, which goes all the way around the tower, Vulcan’s backside is close by.Besides Vulcan’s buttocks, we could see Birmingham stretching out in the distance.

There were also views of the surrounding hilly terrain.

For Vulcan, created by immigrant Giuseppe Moretti, the road from the 1904 World’s Fair to the top of Red Mountain in Birmingham wasn’t direct. After the fair, he was painted and displayed at the Alabama State Fairgrounds until the 1930s, when he was moved to Red Mountain and put on the 124-foot pedestal fashioned by the WPA.

Instead of a spear point, which was lost en route home from the fair, he had a lantern in his outstretched hand. It glowed red after a traffic fatality in Birmingham; green when there had been none for a while.

In the early ’70s, the tower was “modernized,” that is, made ugly. By the end of the 1990s, however, the statue was threatening to fall apart — no small matter for something that’s 56 feet high and weighs 100,000 pounds (the head alone weighs 11,000 pounds).

It took a while to raise the funds needed for repairs, but civic pride eventually came through. The statue was revamped by 2004, including restoring the structure and Vulcan’s original coloration, giving the tower back its WPA appearance, and putting a spear point back in the god’s hand.

Sloss Furnaces

Not far from downtown Birmingham is Sloss Furnaces, site of pig iron production from 1882 to 1971.

In our time, Sloss is an enormous forest of iron and steel, besides being a National Historic Landmark, sometime music venue, and site of a metal arts program. The long shed was, in fact, active with metal working while we visited. To see the main part of the site, you walk past the shed through a kind of tunnel.
“In 1871 Southern entrepreneurs founded a new city called Birmingham and began the systematic exploitation of its minerals,” the Sloss Furances web site says. It’s an excellent short history — you don’t always get that at web sites — so I will quote at at length, to go with some pictures.

“One of these men was Colonel James Withers Sloss, a north Alabama merchant and railroad man. Colonel Sloss played an important role in the founding of the city by convincing the L&N Railroad to capitalize completion of the South and North rail line through Jones Valley, the site of the new town.

“In 1880, having helped form the Pratt Coke and Coal Co., which mined and sold Birmingham’s first high-grade coking coal, he founded the Sloss Furnace Co., and two years later ‘blew-in’ the second blast furnace in Birmingham.”

The site these days includes relics towering into the sky.

And entrances into dark cavities.
“Construction of Sloss’s new furnace (City Furnaces) began in June 1881, when ground was broken on a fifty-acre site that had been donated by the Elyton Land Co. Sixty feet high and eighteen feet in diameter, Sloss’s new Whitwell stoves were the first of their type ever built in Birmingham and were comparable to similar equipment used in the North.

“Local observers were proud that much of the machinery used by Sloss’s new furnaces would be of Southern manufacture. It included two blowing engines and ten boilers, thirty feet long and forty-six inches in diameter. In April 1882, the furnaces went into blast. After its first year of operations, the furnace had sold 24,000 tons of iron. At the 1883 Louisville Exposition, the company won a bronze medal for ‘best pig iron.’ ”

“Nothing remains of the original furnace complex. The oldest building on the site dates from 1902 and houses the eight steam-driven ‘blowing-engines’ used to provide air for combustion in the furnaces. The engines themselves date from the period 1900-1902 and are a unique and important collection — engines such as these powered America’s Industrial Revolution. The boilers, installed in 1906 and 1914, produced steam for the site until it closed in 1971.

“Between 1927 and 1931 the plant underwent a concentrated program of mechanization. Most of its major operation equipment — the blast furnaces and the charging and casting machinery — was replaced at this time. In 1927-28, the two furnaces were rebuilt, enlarged, and refitted with mechanical charging equipment, doubling the plant’s production capacity. While the site strongly reflects the changes made from 1927-1931, some of the technology is more current.”

“Despite being dominated by black labor, the industrial workplace was rigidly segregated until the 1960s. Workers at Sloss bathed in separate bath houses, punched separate time clocks, attended separate company picnics. More important was the segregation of jobs.

“The company operated as a hierarchy. At the top there was an all white group of managers, chemists, accountants, and engineers; at the bottom an all black ‘labor gang’ assisted (until its demise in 1928) by the use of convict labor. Sloss utilized the convict leasing system only in its coal mines. As Lewis noted in Sloss Furnaces, ‘….convict labor, mostly black, was an important weapon in the district’s economic warfare with northern manufacturing.’ Slavery had not died but merely been transformed.”

Birm-Tex ’17

Before spending the last week in San Antonio visiting family, I spent about 36 hours in Birmingham, Alabama, during the first weekend in December. I went there to visit my old friend Dan, whom I hadn’t seen in about 18 years.
That’s too long, as the Wolf Brand Chili man said. See your old friends if you can, because we’re all mortal. I was also fortunate enough to become reacquainted with his wife Pam, whom I’d only met once, more than 20 years ago.

Dan and I had a fine visit, talking of old times and places — we’ve known each other 36 years — but not just that. He grew up in Birmingham and has lived there as an adult for a long time, so he was able to show me around and tell me about the city’s past and about recent growth as an up-and-coming metro. In this, he’s quite knowledgeable.

I’d heard something about that growth, but it was good to see some examples on foot and as we tooled around hilly Birmingham in Dan’s Mini Cooper, which was also a new experience for me. Not to sportiest version, he told me — he’d traded that one for this one he now drives — but it had some kick.

On the morning of Saturday, December 2, we first went to Oak Hill Memorial Cemetery, very near downtown Birmingham, and the city’s first parkland-style burial ground. Dan told me he’d never been there before. Not everyone’s a cemetery tourist. But he took to the place, especially for its historic interest, and he even spotted the names of a few families whose descendants he knows.

From there we drove to Sloss Furnaces, which, as the postcard I got there says, is “the nation’s only 20th-century blast furnace turned industrial museum.” Iron mining and smelting made Birmingham the city that it is. So it was only fitting that we went to Vulcan Park as well, to see the mighty cast-iron Vulcan on his pedestal on a high hill overlooking the city.

Toward the end of the afternoon, I suggested a walk, and so we went to the Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, which has 14 miles of hiking trails. More than that, the earth there is honeycombed with former mines, all of which are now sealed. But we got to see the entrance of one of them, dating from 1910.

After all that, we repaired to Hop City Beer & Wine Birmingham, a store that has an enormous selection of beer and wine in bottles, as well as a bar with a large draft selection, where we relaxed a while. Had a cider and a smaller sample of beer that I liked.

Along the way during the day, we also visited Reed Books, a wonderful used bookstore of the kind that’s increasingly rare: owned and run by an individual, and stacked high with books and other things, with only marginal organization. I bought Dan a copy of True Grit, which he’d never read.

We drove through some of Birmingham’s well-to-do areas, sporting posh houses on high hills and ridges along roads that I could make no sense of, twisty and web-like as they were. Luckily, Dan knew them well.

In downtown Birmingham, we also drove by some of the historic sites associated with the civil rights movement, including the new national monument. According to Dan, it would take a day to do the area right, so we didn’t linger. I got a good look at the 16th Street Baptist Church, the A.G. Gaston Motel, where King and others strategized, and Kelly Ingram Park, where protesters were attacked with police dogs and water cannons.

During my visit, I ate soul food, breakfast at a Greek diner — Greek immigrants being particularly important to the evolution of restaurant food in Birmingham, Dan said — excellent Mexican food (mole chicken for me), and a tasty breakfast of French toast and bacon made by Dan and Pam. On the whole, we carpe diem’d that 36 hours.

In San Antonio, as usual, I was less active in seeing things, but one sight in particular came to me. On the evening of Thursday, December 7, I looked out of a window at my mother’s house and saw snow coming down. And sticking. “I’ll be damned,” I muttered to myself.

At about 7:30 the next morning, I went outside to take pictures. Nearly two inches had fallen, according to the NWS. The snow was already melting. A view of the front yard.

Of the back yard.

It occurred to me that hadn’t seen snow on the ground in San Antonio since 1973.

His Final Battle

One thing I forgot to link to yesterday: Famous Balloon Movies, Chapter 2, a scene from CasaBalloona.

Watching Casablanca must have put me in a mood to read about the ’40s, because at the library today I saw a copy of His Final Battle, subtitled “The Last Months of Franklin Roosevelt,” by Joseph Lelyveld (2016). I picked it up at once and checked it out. About time I read some more presidential books anyway.

The cover features the well-known photo of FDR hoisting his hat over a clutch of radio microphones. That’s from a 1944 campaign appearance in Chicago, at Soldier Field. The image is fuzzy, but the president looks worn out indeed.

He was born much too early to benefit from the polio vaccine, but only a little too early to benefit from blood pressure medication. Turning at random to a page (p. 91), I found the following:

“The conclusion [about FDR’s death] that comes closest to known facts was propounded in lectures and articles by Marvin Moser, a retired Columbia University medical professor: ‘Roosevelt represents a textbook case of untreated hypertension progressing to [likely] organ failure and death from stroke.’ In the medical literature, such hypertension is sometimes called ‘malignant hypertension.’

“…Safe and effective drugs to lower high blood pressure and prevent clots didn’t begin to become available for more than ten years after Roosevelt’s death. In the 1940s, only commonplace aspirin was widely recommended for purpose.”

Pleasant Home, Oak Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Logan Square Walkabout

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

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

Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church (Minnekirken) Chicago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Milwaukee City Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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