Chicago – February 2019 – The Rookery

In my opinion the Rookery is the most architecturally interesting building in Chicago, and one of the best in the country.

Situated in the financial section of downtown Chicago on South LaSalle Street, it’s exterior doesn’t give any impression to a visitor of what awaits inside.





Famed architects Daniel Burnham and John Root designed the building in 1888.

With a mix of styles including Moorish, Venetian and Romanesque it was a remarkable building when completed. What makes it even more amazing is Frank Lloyd Wright lead the first of three major renovations in 1905-1907.

The second renovation was completed in 1931 by a former Wright assistant, William Drummond.

The third and final renovation was completed in 1992, and brought it back (mostly) to the FLW look.





Wright covered much of the ironwork with white carved Carrara marble.





The cantilevered staircase was something the people of the early 1900s hadn’t seen. Many refused to go onto the staircase, assuming it would fall off the wall.

Wright added the vertical supports, but they have never been attached – merely there to give assurance to people. The stairs are still doing just fine after 100 years of being cantilevered.





A close up of the marble work.





The stairs to the mezzanine are worn from a hundred years of feet going up and down them.





The mezzanine flooring is glass block.





The mezzanine also gives a great view of the light court.





The lighting of FLW.





Every photo blog posting seems to have a symmetry shot and this is this ones. It is the skylight lattice work.





This view shows one side of the cantilevered steps, as well as more of the marble and skylight.





The second floor elevator lobby looking towards the front of the building. At one time this was closed off for offices.





A view back down the stairs to the glass block. Every angle you look at this amazing building reveals a number of features.





The famed spiral staircase.





A view from the elevator lobby of the stairs.





The very cool lights near the elevators. Note the ‘Y’ underneath the light – it is a symbol of Chicago representing the Chicago River coming from the lake and forking into the North Branch and South Branch.

As you walk around the city you will find this ‘Y’ on numerous structures (but you have to look closely).





The elevator lobby, stairs and skylight! And then you get a reflection of it all off the floor.





Another view from the mezzanine including the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust gift shop.





Our docent Bruce was excellent, very knowledgeable and willing to share.

Here he shows where in the last renovation they left one of the original iron columns exposed.





Our final stop was a rare visit to the 11th floor Burnham Library. While it is a nice enough room, it is what was accomplished there that makes this a very special venue.

Essentially the design of the City of Chicago, and the 1893 World’s Fair were all decided in this room by the country’s greatest architectural minds.

Once again the Chicago Architectural Foundation docents were excellent. We look forward to more tours on this trip.







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 – Time Travelling again

As noted on a previous posting I took the opportunity to get some current photos of Cleveland for the second in the ‘Time Travel’ series.

The corner of Euclid Avenue and East 9th Street has always been the financial center of Cleveland. The view below is looking west on Euclid Avenue in 1905.

Note the red building on the left remains from the 1905 photo, while most of the closer buildings have been replaced over the years.

While streetcars no long run down the streets, there are dedicated bus stops in the middle, which is where the new photo was taken from.






Just up the block is the Arcade – which was featured in the earlier posting. This photo is also from around 1905.

And as you can see it hasn’t changed much at all! It is amazing to think of all of the people who have walked these corridors in 130 years.





The Colonial Arcade is just across Euclid Avenue. It too is nearly identical except for the fashion.






Meanwhile just outside of the Colonial Arcade on Prospect Avenue is an exterior view of the hotel.

If you look closely at the top of the new photo you will see a portion of the original sign painted on the outside wall.

Also of note a Kia is now parked where the horse and buggy was in 1900.






Meanwhile back on Euclid Avenue we see the Arcade from the outside, with a view in the distance of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Public Square.

As with the early 1900s one – traffic was light on our visit too.






This view is at the monument looking back down Euclid to where we just came from.

Notice the lamp post is still in the same spot in the foreground, just a different lamp.






The Williamson Building below was completed in 1899, and stood until the early 1980s.

In a brief departure from the normal ‘before and after’ photos, the photo below shows the implosion of the Williamson Building in the early 1980s. Of note I am in the crowd somewhere, and was covered from head to toe with the (most likely hazardous) dust.

The result is the aforementioned 200 Public Square Tower. Since the 1930s the iconic Terminal Tower dominated the Cleveland skyline, and Public Square.

When the long time Cleveland industrial giant Standard Oil of Ohio wanted to build their corporate headquarters, the city finally relented and gave permission to have this dominating building. Of course before it was even completed British Petroleum (BP) bought Sohio, so it opened as the BP Building! It has since then changed names a couple of times.

Again as with the earlier photo the wagon with horse has been replaced with the wagon from Honda.








The Northwest Quadrant of Public Square features the Old Stone Church, one of the oldest buildings in Cleveland – built in 1855. The right side has had an additional steeple added, but other than that it is the same.

The church is still there, but all of the other buildings have long since been replaced – so long ago that the replacements are now considered historic.









Finally a look east on Superior Avenue. The Arcade’s northern entrance is visible on the right (just behind the first streetcar in the old photo and with the canopy in the new photo).









Cleveland – February 2019 – Architectural Masterpieces

We spent some time in Cleveland recently and was taking some photos for another ‘Time Travel’ posting (which will be posted later this week), and was able to get some details of a few of the true masterpieces of architecture, not only for Cleveland, but the country.

At the corner of Euclid Avenue and East 9th Street is the former Cleveland Trust Building. Completed in 1907 it features a variety of architectural styles including beaux arts and neoclassical.





After serving downtown Cleveland for nearly 90 year, the building closed in 1996. For the next 20 years there was much discussion about what to do with the building.

In 2015 an upscale grocery store was opened in the impressive rotunda, as well as an adjacent building.





It’s not every day you see a ceiling like this in a grocery store.





Just down the street is the Colonial Arcade. Completed in 1898, the Colonial Arcade spans the entire block between Euclid Avenue and Prospect Avenue.





Today the first floor still has numerous small shops, just as it did 120 years ago when it opened. The upper level are hotel rooms for a Residence Inn.





There are numerous architectural details throughout.





Including the lighting,








Parallel to the Colonial Arcade, and connected via a small interior walkway is the Euclid Arcade.

While it is slightly newer, it is still almost 110 years old.





In most states these buildings would likely be considered some of the best around, but in downtown Cleveland they aren’t even the best ones on the block as just across the street is The Arcade! (so special it has no specific name)





It was completed in 1890, and is considered by many as the first indoor shopping center in America. In my opinion it is second to none in terms of opulence and style of any building around.





For nearly 130 years people have been shopping in this magnificent building, and they continue to do so today.

There are numerous things to see and do in Cleveland but a visit to the Arcade is tops among them.







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.