Chicago – October 2018 – Open House Chicago Special Tours

We were fortunate enough to get tickets to two Open House Special Tours.

Our first tour was of the CTA El Train Repair Shops in Skokie. Directions to our tour was to go to the Howard Street Station on the Red Line and gather on the far end of the platform.

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For this Saturday morning the platform was jammed with many people not used to taking the train, as they were in town for the University of Nebraska game against Northwestern in Evanston. To the normal commuter seeing a 1922 El Car come rolling into the station would be a surprise, but to this large out of town crowd it was stunning.

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One of the volunteers was dressed in a period uniform.

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While others had their safety vests on. All of the vintage cars are maintained by volunteers – many retired CTA workers.

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The passengers were excited…

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As we arrived at the yard we were greeted by other vintage cars awaiting restoration, as well as the revenue generating current cars.

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The 400 series cars really stand out against the modern cars in the yard.

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But it was time to tour the shop.

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Our tour guide was the manager of the facility.

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The shop.

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There were El cars in various states of repair.

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This station refurbishes the wheels.

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While another lifts the entire car for easy access.

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They also have some bays with pits to get underneath the cars.

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A great Chicago tradition is the Holiday Train. Started in 1992, the Holiday Train is a labor of love for the CTA employees who volunteer to work on the cars, as well as the public. During the holiday season the Holiday Train visits every El station on every line, usually taking food baskets to local organizations.

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Another vintage car along ithe snow removal engine (minus the blower)

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The El Cars have springs and shocks like a regular car, just much larger.

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An axle and wheels.

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A pile of wheels waiting on refurbishing.

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A collection of contact shoes that connect the train to the third rail to provide power to the engines.

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A series of trucks ready to go. After this we headed back to our vintage car and returned to Howard Street Station.

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Our second tour of the day was the Chicago Tribune Printing Facility

The Chicago Tribune Freedom Center is a printing and inserting facility located along the Chicago River. Built in 1981, it was located along the river with the theory of bringing the paper products directly into the facility by boat, but the first shipment showed that with the bend in the river, the bridges and the building itself they couldn’t get to the dock. While the doors are still there they have never been used for their original purpose.

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Our guide was someone from the receiving department.

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Our tour of the 800,000 square foot facility started in the warehouse with massive 1 ton rolls of paper.

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From this warehouse they are loaded onto carts that are electronically routed (via a wire in the floor – 1980s technology at it’s finest) to the appropriate press.

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There are a total of 10 massive presses that are used. The Tribune facility prints not only their own newspaper, but also for the regional suburban newspapers, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal for the Midwest, and even their local competitor the Chicago Sun Times.

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The tour group was very focused.

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The massive printing presses are very cool.

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The Chicago Tribune Printing Facility was a great tour – one of the best we have done.

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Chicago – October 2018 – Open House Part 1

Our Chicago Open House weekend started on Friday, before the official event started on Saturday. We made our own tour of places that were open.

 

James Thompson Center – Designed by Helmut Jahn, the Thompson Center is a 17 story curved glass building housing many government offices. From the interior all 17 floors are visible in the impressive atrium.

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On the plaza in front of the building is a sculpture from Jean Dubffet called Monument with Standing Beast. Standing at 29’ high, the sculpture weighs in at 20,000 pounds.

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Cook County Office Building – A classical 12 story office building located in the government section of downtown Chicago, to me it is most famous for where the Blues Brotthers went to pay the property tax for the childrens home (and yes the Cook County Assessors office is located in this building).

The building has the classic Art Deco look on the interior.

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Chicago Temple – The First United Methodist Church of Chicago was the first church to be founded in the city, even before it was a city, in 1831. In 1838 it moved to it’s current location at the corner of Washington and Clark.

In the early 1920s with downtown Chicago rapidly developing the church debated selling their valuable land and moving out to one of the neighborhoods. Eventually they decided on a novel approach, build a skyscraper with a church included, and in addition, put a chapel on the top. The result was a 568’ tall building with what is to this day the highest church from street level in the world.

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The first level has a traditional church.

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Known as the Sky Chapel, it was part of the original building but not fully completed until 1952 as a gift from the family of the Walgreen’s Drug Store founder.

To this day the church is self funded by the rents paid by other tenants in the building, allowing it to fully focus on serving the diverse community it serves.

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Outside is some unique art.

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Marshall Field’s (Macy’s) Tiffany Dome – With over 1.6 million pieces it is the largest Tiffany  mosaic in existence. Designed by Louis Tiffany in 1907, over 50 artisans worked on scaffolding for 18 months to complete this amazing masterpiece.

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The Pedway hosts a collection of stained glass.

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Some general scenes around the city.

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A tourist boat on the Chicago River.

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One of the lift bridge control buildings frame by a 60 floor building.

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Classic Chicago – The Merchandise Mart with a Brown Line El train coming in.

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Old street light and new skyscrapers.

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Up Wells Street from the 10th floor of a parking garage.

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A building along Madison Street.

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Millennium Park

Cloud Gate is a public sculpture located in Millennium Park. While the artists inspiration was liquir mercury, it is commonly referred to as The Bean. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city.

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The buildings along East Randolph Street.

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Pritzker Pavilion – A Frank Gehry design, the pavilion is a band shell that hosts numerous events each year. For this mid October night it was quiet, but still stunning with it’s red lighting.

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Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest and largest museums in the United States. From this part of the park, you get a great view of one of the modern additions along with the Michigan Avenue skyline.

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tomorrow the official events starts.

 

 

Chicago – October 2018 – Open House Part 2

Open House Chicago continue…

 

The North Leg of the Chicago River toward Chicago Avenue – clearly we are in … Chicago.

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151 North Franklin – a new, nondescript building saved by a great rooftop deck.

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Some strange lighting on a nearby building.

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180 North LaSalle – it was billed as Open House, but really just a lobby was open.

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Another (brief) revisit – The Builders Building. But this skylight is worth it.

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20 West Kinzie – Originally a Google Building it is now home to a flexible work space group called We Works.

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Their 17th floor common space offered some different aspects on some iconic buildings.

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They too have a nice outdoor space on the 17th floor.

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Just up the street in a 100 year old warehouse is the architectural firm of Ross Barney.

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330 North Wabash – Miles van der Rohe designed this basic, yet famed 695’ high skyscraper.

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The minimalist, but stylish lobby.

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Originally built for IBM and completed after Rohe’s death in 1969, the Open House Chicago event was held on the 15th floor in the offices of Thornton Tomasetti.2018 10 13 316 Chicago Open House.jpg

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This firm is a leader in engineering design, focusing on mechanical engineering of many famed skyscrapers around the world.

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Our final stop of the day – the John Hancock Observation Deck. Definitely not part of Open House Chicago, but worth the visit on this partly cloudy day.

We arrived about an hour before sunset and barely made it up in time, but we did!

Enjoy sunset and night time in Chicago.

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continued….

 

Chicago – October 2018 – Open House Part 3

Day 3 of touring the city with Open House Chicago started with another building that is not officially part of the tour – Union Station.

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Union Station is in my opinion the second best train station in America (Grand Central Terminal is first, and the Washington Union Station is tied with this one).

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You make a grand entrance down the staircase.

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Past the Corinthian Columns…

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A quick look back up the stairs…

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And you are in the Main Hall.

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Unlike Grand Central, Union Station still has the cool old wooden benches.

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On this early Sunday morning there were about 20 people in the Great Hall, and 15 of us were taking photos.

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The 100-400mm provides close up of the details on the ceilings.

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And the tops of the columns.

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Even the Amtrak ticket office has a good look to it.

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More classic touches.

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While the Amtrak ticket office matched the building this ugly kiosk does not.

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The Amtrak business class lounge is new but matches the look and feel of the rest of the station.

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Across (underneath) Canal Street is another newer section of the station.

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Leaving Union Station we headed down West Jackson Street toward our first official Open House Chicago stop of the day.

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But not before passing this great new addition to downtown Chicago, with a massive map of the Chicago River up the entire side of the building.

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200 West Jackson Street – The Open House Chicago spot was a 28th floor tenant lounge in a recently remodeled building.

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Even though we were on the 28th floor, the Willis/Sears Tower towered over us.

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A collection of south loop buildings.

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Additional south loop buildings.

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Just down the street is the Chicago Board of Trade – one of the classics.

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This is Art Deco at it’s finest.

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We have been here before, but our New York friend had not – what better way to show him what Chicago has than to come into this lobby!

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While minimalist, the elevators are classic Art Deco as well.

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As cool as the lobby is – the basement holds another treat, this massive vault door and safe deposit box room.

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For the really important stuff – a vault inside a vault.

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The security guard/stand up comedian entertained the crowd with his description of the room, and it’s history. He said all he really wanted to be was Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman – and I think he could do it. What a hoot, and informative.

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This box is reputed to have belonged to Al Capone.

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to be continued…..

 

 

Chicago – October 2018 – Open House Part 4

Open House Chicago continues….

After finishing our tour of the Board of Trade Building we were a bit early for 111 West Jackson, as it didn’t open until 10 AM.

With our time we toured one of the best blocks in Chicago – South Dearborn between Jackson and Congress. The Fisher, Plymouth, Old Colony, Manhattan and Monadnock all are in the same general area

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All were built in the late 1800s and early 1900s with amazing detail.

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The streetlights in the area retain the classic look.

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Of all of them, the Monadnock is the most important. Built in 1891 it continues to this day at the largest load bearing brick building in the world.

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While the Fisher Building has these ornate cornices.

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The nearby Harold Washington Library adds some bling to the neighborhood.

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All of the buildings are worthy of close ups of the detail.

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The Chicago School of Architecture (a style – not a specific educational facility) was famous for it’s use of bay windows.

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Another cool street light.

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Views straight up show the detail underneath.

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My New York friend was stunned and amazed at the massive external fire escapes. Note that they were manufactured locally.

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Finally 111 West Jackson was open for viewing from their 25th floor outdoor deck.

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This deck offered a wide view of the south loop skyscrapers from the Willis/Sears Tower to Chase Tower (aka 10 South Dearborn).

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Over on Michigan Avenue we paid a return visit to the Railway Exchange Building.

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The lobby is vastly different as the Chicago Architecture Foundation has moved to a new location, and taken the model with them. Personally I think the lobby looks better without the model.

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On the upper floors we visited two different architectural firms.

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Both still feature the cool view of the 17 story atrium.

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As well as commanding views of the park and lake (along with some of the building detail just outside the window).

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A southeast view towards Grant Park.

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The skylights at the very top of the Railway Exchange Building.  An amazing building completed in 1904.

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The architecture firm on the 17th floor had some models displayed.

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The top floor is also known for the portals for windows.

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to be continued…..

 

 

Chicago – October 2018 – Open House Part 5

Chicago Open House weekend concludes ….

 

Another ‘non official’ stop – The Chicago Athletic Club

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For 122 years it was a private club.

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That has recently been opened as a boutique hotel.

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The lower two floors are public space that we were welcome to tour – as long as we didn’t take photos with the SLR cameras.

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But fortunately iPhones take decent photos, including the classic bar.

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The game room retains that feel of a private club.

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As well as the lobby.

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Interestingly the Chicago Cubs ‘borrowed’ the Athletic Club’s logo in the 1880s.

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Chicago Cultural Center

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Built in 1893 as the Central Library it has housed the Cultural Center since the 1970s.

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Entrance to the stairway from the Preston Bradley Hall.

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Another view of the Hall with a glimpse of the highlight.

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A 38′ Tiffany Dome – many claim this to be the largest in the world.

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The dome and light are stunning.

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Directly across the street is Millennium Park.

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333 North Michigan Avenue

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The Eastlake Studio on the 26th floor was open – featuring a terrace with great views.

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A perfect spot for checking out the iconic Wrigley Building.

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The Jewelers Building, with a large collection of details at the top (when this building was built who did they think would be able to see these 400′ up — but they are impressive from this vantage point.)

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A close up of the Wrigley Building clock.

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A view across the river to a terrace on Chicago’s second tallest building that will remain nameless.

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A mix of old and new (with reflections of old).

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One of the reliefs in 333 North Michigan Avenue.

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Another nearby vintage skyscraper’s upper detail.

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Everybody was taking photos.

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For a nice Sunday afternoon the tourists boats were empty – everyone was attending the Open House Chicago events.

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Up Michigan Avenue and the Hancock Tower with the Lincoln Park Beach in the background.

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Back on the street we passed the Jewelers Building, with this great clock.

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A repeat visit from last year is 150 North Riverside, and the view from the 27th floor. Interestingly they had the north end of the empty floor blocked, which was disappointing as this had the best views, but there were still some great shots.

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The area to the immediate west and north of the loop is experiencing a building boom.

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The view south down the river.

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Further south (zoomed all the way in on a slightly hazy day) are El Rail Yards and Comiskey Park (or whatever it is called now).

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The top floors of the Civic Opera Building.

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Always one of my favorite’s the Merchandise Mart.

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Notice how the reflection of the El Tracks makes it appear they go through the building.

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Back down on the ground – a view from the Lake Street Bridge north.

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The older section of the LondonHouse Hotel.

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300 East Randolph Street – with an open elevator shaft.

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This building was originally a 30 floor building, but in 2007-2010 they added another 24 floors. For Open House Chicago the 30th floor was open.

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The views were different than all other we had seen all weekend – south towards the parks and South Michigan Avenue.

It was an amazing view.

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With a bit of zoom, the Field Museum and Soldier Field.

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More 30th floor zooming – across Northerly Island towards Hyde Park and the University of Chicago.

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The Adler Planetarium.

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BKL Architects had a model of their neighborhood.

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As well as an overview of downtown.

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The Lake Shore East neighborhood is another that has had substantial residential growth.

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The view from the Columbus Avenue Bridge up the river.

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We ended at the Navy Pier for some night time shots

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As Elwood said to Jake in the Blues Brothers ‘look it’s the Picasso’

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One final view for a spectacular weekend – The Chicago Board of Trade at night.

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Pittsburgh – October 2018 – Doors Open Part 1

Having been in and around Pittsburgh for most of our lives, we were excited to find that they offer an Open House like Chicago and New York.

Known as Doors Open Pittsburgh, the event took place over a weekend featuring 50 buildings downtown and on the North Side.

I had the opportunity to email a number of times with Bonnie Baxter, the founder of the organization that coordinates the event. Her input was instrumental in our planning that allowed us to visit over 30 of the sites over two (busy) days. Bonnie has done a great job pulling together an event of this scale – it shows her pride in her hometown.

The next 4 posts are fairly long but give a brief overview on each of the venues we visited.

 

Frick Building – As we were walking down Grant Street in downtown Pittsburgh waiting for the start of Doors Open Pittsburgh we saw a couple of people in their orange DOP volunteer shirts. Striking up a conversation with them, we found out that one of them, Al, was headed to the nearby Frick Building.

Al also volunteers with the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, and was more than happy to share his knowledge of Grant Street, and the nearby buildings as we walked along. This was a precursor of what was to come, as for the entire weekend we met enthusiastic volunteers who are proud of their city and the architecture.

Once we arrived at the Frick Building we entered the lobby from the Fifth Avenue Side. Al then gave us a personal tour of the lobby.

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This unique lamp served as a cigar lighter feed by natural gas with a perpetual flame (since there is no smoking in buildings anymore the flame has been extinguished.)

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The current main lobby elevators reflect the Art Deco look.

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The re-purposed telephone booths are fantastic. Al pointed out that most people under the age of 25 can’t even guess what they were used for.

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In what started a trend that we kept most of the weekend, most of the buildings have very stylish mailboxes that had to be photographed.

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Grant Street in Pittsburgh used to have a large ‘hump’. In 1914 this hump was taken out, but as a result what used to be a ground level entrance sudden was 15’ in the air, so any building that pre-dates the removal had to be retrofitted with a new entrance in what was the basements. The Frick Building is one of those buildings, having been completed in 1902.

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As a result the second floor/mezzanine level has a very ornate elevator lobby since it used to be the primary entrance.

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The elevator doors are a piece of art in themselves.

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One final look at the lobby; a stained glass window by John LaFarge titled Fortune and Her Wheel.

Whatever history thinks of Henry Clay Frick, he did build an amazing building. Thanks to Al we had a great tour of the lobbies.

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Benedum Trees Building – Our first ‘official’ visit was to the Benedum-Trees Building. I had been fortunate enough to secure ‘insider tour’ tickets for this building, with a visit to the 18th floor to visit the offices of the Benter Foundation.

The 19 story building was completed in 1905 along the Fourth Avenue financial district. The name came from the Benedum Trees Oil Company, founded by Mike Benedum and Joe Trees in the early 1900s.

Our tour started in the lobby with another classic mailbox, along with the building directory sign and some great lighting.

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We then headed up to the 18th floor.

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Our visit was topped off (literally) by checking out the roof top terrace, with commanding views around downtown – despite being somewhat surrounded by newer, taller buildings.

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Later that afternoon we were able to look back from Mt Washington to see where we had been.

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Bank Tower Building – Completed in 1902 as the Peoples Savings Bank Building, the Bank Towers exterior features figures carved by John Massey Rhind.

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Easily the most impressive feature of the building is the spiral staircase that goes the entire 16 floors.

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A very nice bonus to this stop was visiting the offices of MCF Architects, where one of the principals showed us the offices, and some of the amazing work they have completed, as well as historic drawings they have.

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Their security gate is modeled after da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man.

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Dollar Bank – Designed by Isaac Hobbs & Sons of Philadelphia in the late 1860s, the Dollar Bank Building on Fourth Avenue is built primarily out of brownstone. Hobbs was known for his ornate design of houses, and it is clear it was carried over to this design.

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Built in the Beaux Arts style, it’s most famous exterior feature are the large lion sculptures, symbolizing a ‘guardianship of the people’s money’.

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The original lions are located inside the building.

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The lobby is impressive, and is used to this day for it’s original purpose, a bank.

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The Park Building – We spent most of our time at the Park Building staring up at the cornices.

Built in 1896, this 15 floor building depicts men kneeling, holding up the building. We have seen this used previously, most recently in the ‘Ruins’ in Indianapolis.

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continued in the next 3 postings.