Chicago – February 2019 – Union Station Architectural Tour

Back in Chicago for more architecture tours starting with the Union Station.





We passed by the symmetrical cool train shed and post office in the distance on the way.

Chicago was for more than 100 years mail order capital of the world with Sears, Montgomery Wards and others shipping products around the country. With all that business, the post office was massive. It is now being converted to condo’s and offices.





The entrance along Canal Street are graced with this massive colonnade the entire length.





The exterior doors and the surrounding ironwork.





Once inside, a quick look back at where we just came from reveals a grand entrance.





The Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge – AKA – The Pennsylvania Room, from the days of the Pennsylvania Railroad.





As you reach the Great Hall you are greeted with these massive Corinthian columns, and a scaffolding free skylight!





When we last visited for Open House Chicago in October the ceiling was covered with scaffolding. The temporary inconvenience has paid off – what a magnificent hall and ceiling.





Even the statues look brighter.




The detail on the tops of the columns are stunning.





A second view of a column as well as the period perfect lighting.





The south end of the hall.





With the renovation complete hopefully they tear down the hideous Amtrak kiosk that is so out of place.





The benches are original to the 1925 construction.





We were fortunate enough to get to visit the Burlington Room. In the early days it was the women’s lounge.





This creepy looking guy keeps watch over the room.





Our final stop was in the Legacy Club. It is awaiting some remodel for private event use.

The city of Chicago should be proud of their grand rail entrance now that the renovation has been completed.








Cleveland – February 2019 – Radwood

There is a group of auto enthusiasts who celebrate the 1980s and 90s automotive style couple with the overall feel of the time. They encourage period correct dress to go along with the cars.

Normally held outdoors with large audience participation I read online that the Crawford Auto Aviation Museum was holding an exhibit.





The small display of about a dozen cars did feature some fashion.





Some of it the classic (some would say tacky) look straight from Miami Vice.





It is not their goal to have the best, or most expensive cars presented, just ones that are representative of the era.

Overall the exhibit was disappointing because it lacked that audience participation. Fortunately there is more to see at the Crawford.





Most of the museum celebrates the long history of auto making in Cleveland and northern Ohio. One of the longest in business was White Motors who started building cars and trucks in 1900.





In addition to the cars and planes there are numerous large banners celebrating historic Cleveland events including the 1936 Great Lakes Exposition.








For many years Cleveland held the national air races. The exhibit includes a couple of the planes.





The lower level featured more automobiles with historic significance..













We finished by checking out this sweet Cleveland motorcycle







Columbus – January 2019 – Time Travelling Up High Street

When we lived close to Pittsburgh I would sometimes take old photos and recreate them with the current view. Being a city that has developed significantly since the 1950s, Columbus doesn’t have the quantity of old buildings to match up with current photos, it still offers enough to make for an interesting Sunday afternoon.

Most of the old photographs are from the Library of Congress website, and are in the Detroit Photographic Company section of the online photos (easily the best collection of vintage photos anywhere).

For this effort we made our way up High Street from the south end of downtown to the north end, where the former railroad station was once located.

We start with the grand old Southern Hotel. Still there, and still in the hotel business, it hasn’t changed much from the street view since 1910. A few horse and wagons parked instead of cars, and obviously no traffic lights!





We continued north on High Street, stopping at State Street to take a view back south towards where we just came.

Interestingly none of the 1910 buildings seem to still exist, and those that replaced them have also aged long enough to be re purposed into other functions. Most noteworthy is the large building on the far right on the new photo – it was for many years the downtown flagship Lazarus Department Store, which closed in 2003.







Turning around and looking north on High Street – the State Capitol Building on the right (just out of view). I would estimate this photo to be from between 1910-1915, with the presence of a few automobiles.

Note the two 12-15 floor high buildings on the right. The shorter one was the tallest in the city when completed in 1901, with the slightly taller one surpassing it in 1906. One interesting bit of trivia, one of the original leaders of the NFL was a Columbus native, and as the president of the league their headquarters was in the building on the right from 1927 until 1939.

Along the street in the distance you see mass transit – a street car in the 1910 photo, and a bus in the new one.







A second view of Broad and High Street. The older photo was obviously taken from the 2nd or 3rd floor, which I can’t recreate exactly since the buildings are all closed to the public.

It is amazing that since Broad & High is often considered the center of Ohio, being the two main streets in the city directly across from the Capitol that the small buildings on the northeast corner survive to this day, albeit with significant remodeling.

This view also gives a closer view of the transportation choices of the times.








One last view of Broad & High. The line of streetcars in 1910 and buses now.







Another block north brings us to Gay Street. Note the buildings on the northeast corner are all still in existence – although the concept of a Target store was still 50 years away.








Long Street – The Atlas Building has always been a presence at this corner. Not much about the exterior has changed, a couple of neighbors are missing though. Note that Long Street was a two way street in 1910, with the streetcar tracks down the middle.








High Street at Spring Street – Absolutely nothing remains, most has been replaced in the last 40 years.

Even on a Sunday it was easy to get a bus in every photo, as they seemed to pass by about every 5 minutes. The old photos also had a streetcar in nearly every one.








Our final stop on High Street – Union Station. This location on High Street was the location of the main railway station for Columbus from 1851 until the last train left in 1977. The wonderful building was demolished by 1979.

The station was replaced with a convention center, and later the arcade (shopping mall – not video games) was replaced with shops and restaurants built over the freeway in a style that recalls the architecture of the original.




The convention center and hotel sits exactly where the main concourse was located.




It still remains a public gathering space, only for a different purpose.

With that our time travelling up High Street came to an end. Look for more in future visits to other cities (Chicago, Cleveland) or even more in Columbus.








Cincinnati – January 2019 – Union Terminal

As noted in previous postings the Cincinnati Union Terminal is a masterpiece of art deco that was completed in 1933. It has the largest semi-dome in the western hemisphere, measuring 180 feet wide by 106 feet high.









Once it closed as a rail station in the early 1970s it lived on briefly as a shopping mall before becoming the Cincinnati Museum Center in 1990.

It is immensely popular, with the original information booth serving as the ticket booth for the museums.





Fortunately each weekend day they offer tours of the building. While (as noted in other posts) portions of the building are undergoing restorations, it is still an amazing place to see any of it.

Our docent lead us on an hour tour, giving highlights and details.





The art deco touch is evident throughout, including this ticket booth for one of the smaller theaters.





Among the highlights are the massive mosaic murals on the main rotunda, as well as others hidden in corridors. The detail in the murals are amazing.

All depict either transportation or industry of Cincinnati over the years (up to 1932).


















An ice cream shop off the main rotunda was once the women’s tea room. The entire room is Rookwood (a famed Cincinnati ceramics pottery company).









While it was abandoned as a train station in the 1970s, Amtrak has returned and uses a small portion of the building. It too has a great art deco look, with inlaid wood depicting railroad scenes.





A bank of phone booths grace one wall – without phones, but you can always close the door and use your cell phone.





Pierre Bourdelle was a framed French artist who designed linoleum panels with floral design for the walls of the women’s lounge.

Fortunately it is no longer a women’s lounge so anyone (including me) can see it.





A private dining room, and former men’s lounge, has a large mural of a map of Cincinnati and nearby northern Kentucky on the wall and mirrored walls giving a great effect.





A second view of the room.





Finally a stop in the main dining room that features some recently discovered food themed artwork.

The Cincinnati Union Terminal was, and continues to be, one of Ohio’s great buildings.









Chicago – December 2018 – Elevated Architecture: Downtown ‘El’ Train

Our final tour of this visit was one I was looking forward to – a tour of architecture of and from the El train. The tour would take us into a number of El stations, as well as checking out some of Chicago’s finest architecture from a view most don’t see – 20 feet up from the El platforms.

We made our way to our first station in the pouring rain. The group of 9 people were more than happy when we arrived at the Washington and Wabash Station. Rebuilt and opened just a year ago, this station is sometimes referred to as the Millennium Station as it is located just a block from the park (but to any Chicagoan it will always be Washington/Wabash).

The canopy is made of steel and glass, with waves that are to evoke the feeling of nearby Lake Michigan.





As you enter the station you are greeting by a significant amount of artwork.





A major portion of the tour was focused on the nearby buildings. We had seen the Sullivan Center previously, but on this tour we had the mix of the canopy of the station with the classic lines of the building.





This row of 5 floor buildings are survivors from the 1800s, and are classic buildings. All they need is someone to come along with $40-50 million to purchase and rehab them (perhaps into boutique hotels!)





We made our way clockwise around the loop to the stations at State and Van Buren, aka the Harold Washington Library Station.

While the station is a fairly typical El station, it has great views of the Fisher Building and the Monodnock Building.

The Fisher Building is an 1896 Daniel Burnham masterpiece. As with many buildings it was built in two phases. Note the bay windows on the portion closest to the camera, then a flat face just beyond that.





The building’s terracotta has numerous sculptures featuring fish and crabs, as well as mythical creatures.





The northbound view of Dearborn Street with the Monodnock on the left and the Standard Club on the right.





The rain and the Monodnock gave a basic light added character.





We had the good fortune of having the CTA Holiday Train roll through the station as we were checking out the sights. A Chicago tradition since 1992, the train is decorated by volunteers and corporate sponsor.

Prior to Christmas they will run open air flatbed cars with Santa on them (check out the blog posting on the CTA Skokie Repair shop for more details as it was being prepared when we were there in October).









Throughout our tour the CTA employees were more than helpful, holding the train briefly while we boarded en mass or letting us through the turnstiles without addition payment to check out the stations.

I am certain to them it is just a job, but how cool would it be to drive an El train around all day.





The Quincy Station was the highlight of the tour. It was opened in 1897 and is essentially the same as the day it opened (with a few additional safety features).





They even have a couple of the original (unused) fare boxes mounted on the wall





It is the only station in the system that does not have advertising, rather they have period correct ads from the early days of the station.

Interestingly the ad on the left for the South Shore could still be valid, as that commuter rail still runs down into Indiana.





The platform maintains the same look. Quite the contrast to the skyscrapers in the background (including the 1400′ high Willis/Sears Tower directly behind the platform).





Again the lighting adds to the overall look.





We continued around the loop, crossing Randolph Street past the Palace Theater.





We made a turn to the west at the northwest corner of the loop, giving a great view of the wood planking for the tracks as well as one of the control stations.





Our final stop was at the Clinton Station in the West Loop. With the recent construction of very tall buildings, and the rain, the views were diminished this day, but it still gave some great symmetry shots.





This station is next to Union Station. The building in the background was once a large warehouse but has been re purposed to condo’s.





The view back towards the loop. It is interesting how this 100+ year old transportation still works, skirting past the massive skyscrapers.





We were at a Metra Commuter Rail station and had the good fortune of seeing their Holiday Train as well! Talk about good luck (even with the pouring rain).

As always our volunteer docent was knowledgeable and personable. With so many tacky tourist hop on hop off bus type businesses in large American cities, the non profit, mostly volunteer Chicago Architecture Foundation is a real treasure. We are looking forward to returning for more tours.







Chicago – December 2018 – Making Old New Again

Our second Chicago Architecture Foundation tour of the day was ‘Hotel Boom – Making Old New Again’. It focused on the current trend of adaptive reuse, taking old buildings that may or may not have previously been hotels, and updating them as boutique hotels.

As with our first tour we headed south on Michigan Avenue, stopping across the street from the Chicago Athletic Association Building.

The CAA members were the movers and shakers of Chicago in 1893 as the World’s Fair was going on. Anxious to impress their out of town visitors, they engaged Henry Ives Cobb to build them a building rivaling anything that anyone would find in the great cities of the world. One would have to agree they did!





In 2015 the building was remodeled into the aforementioned boutique hotel style, as the club membership had dwindled. The results are one of function, but retaining most of the original look and feel.





The upstairs game room features the Chicago Athletic Association logo. Look familiar – it should as the Chicago Cubs bought the rights to use it in the 1800s.





As we made our way to the next stop we passed the Reliance Building. Designed by John Root in 1890 it remained a commercial property until the late 1990s when it was rehabbed into a boutique hotel.

As part of the Chicago School of Architecture it has the famed bay windows throughout.





On nearby Wabash Avenue is the Silversmith Hotel, so named as it is in the restored Silversmith Building on Jeweler Row. The architect, Peter Weber of the Burnham Architectural Firm, completed the design in 1896.

While it is an early example of the Chicago School of Architecture, the remodel has added modern elements to it (the exterior is required to remain ‘original’ per the Historic Registry requirements).





As we made our way back up Wabash we passed the Virgin Hotel Building, another re purposed building. Unfortunately we were unable to explore the interior.





The Chicago Motor Club Building was famously designed and completed in only 265 days in 1928. It is regarded as one of the finest Art Deco buildings in Chicago. The Motor Club used the building for office until 1986, and others used it for commercial use until 1996.

It sat vacant for many years before Hampton Inn (of all corporations) restored the building into a boutique hotel.





The lobby retains the Art Deco look.





A famed 1928 mural of the United States road system adorns one wall. Since the 1926 directive to give roads numbers was not quite implemented yet, this mural still uses the historic ‘trails’ designations such as the Lincoln Highway, etc.





The spiral staircase continues the Art Deco feel. For a company mostly known for small motels along freeways Hampton Inn really came through with this one.





Across the river, and in a different planet from a hotel room price perspective is The Langham. Often cited as one of Chicago’s priciest hotels, the Langham occupies a portion of the famed Ludwig Miles van der Rohe’s famed IBM Building.

It has a mid century meets gaudy feel.













Our final stop was the London House Hotel. The unusual name comes from the building’s original owners, the London Guarantee Company, an insurance company.

It is situated on the site of Fort Dearborn, the first settlement of any kind in what is now Chicago. As such a sculpture of the fort graces the entrance.





The traditional entrance has an impressive ceiling that amazing was covered up for 50 years by a drop ceiling.





Completed in 1923, it was topped with a cupola made to resemble the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates,





The view from the 21st floor outdoor bar is fantastic.





Earlier in the day, and totally unrelated to any of these posts we visited the 9th floor Winter Garden of the Harold Washington Library. It is not historic, but is cool.





Our night ended up with our cool view from the 23rd floor of the hotel down Kinzie Street toward the Wrigley Building, Tribune Building and others.

Our good luck with the Chicago Architecture Foundation tours continued. While the docents all have their unique approach, and you might pass by or go inside a building you have previously seen, you always learn something new. We are looking forward to more tours.





Chicago – December 2018 – Ravenswood Architectural Artifacts

A trip up the El’s Brown Line took us to the Ravenswood Architectural Artifacts. Located in 80,000 square feet of an old industrial building, they have high end ‘artifacts’, many costing into the thousands of dollars.




They even had a couple of small cars, like this great Fiat.




The collection was unique, and large.


Where else can you find that mummy you were looking for.


Some sculptures from the top of old buildings.




One of those not really sure what they are piles.




Need a sign for the toilet?


Or a letter?


Forms for making masks.




A fireproof suit for working around a blast furnace.




Glass ornament – perhaps it once had a purpose other than decorative.




What a cool collection of ‘stuff’.




Well worth the visit – the Ravenswood Architectural Artifacts. Just off the Brown Line at Montrose.