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 – 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…..

 

 

Pittsburgh – October 2018 – Doors Open Part 2

Doors Open Pittsburgh continues…

 

Koppers Building – When it was completed in 1929 this 35 floor building was topped out at 475 feet high, making it Pittsburgh’s tallest for a time (passed a short time later by the Gulf Tower).

Constructed of polished granite and Indiana limestone, it is an excellent example of Art Deco.

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Lets head inside.

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As we entered we were greeted by a couple of the more than 200 volunteers. Events like this rely on volunteers, and all weekend we met welcoming, enthusiastic people who made the visits more worthwhile. A big thank you to all of the volunteers, but on to the visit….

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The three story lobby has a variety of marble finishes.

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There is significant use of bronze throughout the lobby including another great mailbox.

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Do you ever wonder where the elevator is? Not in this building!

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The cool clock collection continues…

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Even the handrail is stylish.

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First Lutheran Church – One stop that was not originally on our itinerary was the First Lutheran Church, but a hard rain shower had come along so we ducked inside.

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They are proud of the fact that this church was the first English speaking Lutheran church west of the Alleghenies, having been founded in 1837.

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The ceiling is amazing.

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As is the pipe organ.

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As with most churches, this one has some very ornate stained glass windows.

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Union Trust Building – Another building built by Henry Clay Frick, the Union Trust Building was completed in 1916 in a Flemish Gothic structure.

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It is believed that the roof is modeled after the Woolworth Building in New York, with the terra cotta dormers and mechanical towers that look like chapels.

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Even with this stunning roof, the most amazing feature of this building is the lobby, and its massive atrium leading up to the skylight.

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A closeup of the skylight.

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What a great building.

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The clock tour continues in the Union Trust Building.

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As does the mailbox tour.

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City/County Building – As we continued our day it became obvious that Pittsburgh experienced a massive building boom in the 1910s. Another example of this boom is the City/County Building, which was completed in 1916.

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The entire build emphasized local resources, from the architects to the materials and construction workers, it was directed that all the resources should come from Allegheny County.

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The lobby features a bust of William Pitt.

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As well as sculpted columns.

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Our visit included a stop at the Mayor’s office.

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Pittsburgh is noteworthy for their unique dialect, differing from the rest of the country with the accents and use of words. The most common of these is ‘Yinz’, which is Pennsylvanian for Y’all. Another is the way that downtown is pronounced (Dahntahn), and is celebrated with this sign in the Mayor’s office.

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Also open were the Council Chambers, located directly next to the Mayor’s Office.

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Oliver Building – The Henry Oliver Building is located directly across Smithfield Street from Mellon Square. Completed in 1910, the 25 story building now contains offices and an Embassy Suites hotel.

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The building was designed by Daniel Burnham. Interestingly other than Chicago, Pittsburgh has the most Burnham buildings still standing (7), and when first built they were actually taller than those in Chicago. It is thought by some that this is as a result of the steel barons, whose steel was required for the skyscrapers, for this ego boosting building boom.

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The building features another great safe.

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Art Deco is used throughout.

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The mailbox collection continues….

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The highlight however was being permitted to go check out the 25th floor lobby of the Embassy Suites, and the views from the windows throughout the floor.

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continued…..

 

New York City – September 2018 – Grand Central Details

America’s greatest train station is Grand Central Terminal. While hundreds of thousands of people commute through the terminal every day, and nearly every tourist who comes to New York stops by, I had the opportunity (and the zoom) to check out close ups of some of the details.

The feature photo is a closeup of the clock and sculptures that are at the top of Grand Central facing south towards Park Avenue.

Let’s head inside.

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The iconic information kiosk clock backed by one of the schedule boards. The information kiosk is reached via an internal spiral staircase from the lower level of the terminal.

The clock was made by the Seth Thomas Clock Company. The clock has made appearances in numerous movies including North by Northwest, The Fisher King, the Godfather and others.

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The Beaux Arts Chandeliers frame the Main Concourse, with five on both the north and south side.

The bulbs have a basic look to them, but in reality they were replaced in 2009 with far more efficient fluorescent ones.

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Looking up from one of the lower level walkways you see a chandelier, skylights in the ceiling and the famed ceiling.

There are numerous photos on display in the terminal showing sunlight beaming through the side windows – something that is no longer possible because of the tall buildings surrounding GCT.

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Also in the lower level are some classic wooden benches. Before a restoration in the 1970s these benches were used for waiting passengers in the Main Concourse.

Since then, their primary use has been in the food court in the lower level, but others are in the corners of the lower level.

In addition the Springfield, Massachusetts train station recently installed some restored GCT wooden benches that were unused. They are currently on ‘permanent loan’ to Springfield, who restored them as part of the deal.

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While technically not in Grand Central Terminal, the Graybar Building has been closely associated with GCT since it’s construction in 1927.

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The building has the classic art deco mailboxes in the granite wall, as you walk through the GCT passage to Lexington Avenue (more on the Graybar Building later).

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Back in the Main Concourse one of the chandeliers accents the departure boards perfectly.

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The famous sky ceiling – 125 feet across and hung from steel trusses, the ceiling has 2,500 gold stars.

One of the earliest passengers in 1913 quickly figured out that the sky is ‘backwards’, on the ceiling east is on the west side of the concourse, and vice versa.

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Until the 1990s the grime was so bad the ceiling was barely noticeable. As a reminder they have left a black patch to show how dirty it was.

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A random look up shows amazing detail.

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GCT ‘hidden’ high up on one of the side walls.

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A ticket sellers window.

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Down in the lower level even the elevator lobbies have amazing detail.

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As do the track entrances.

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Heading out onto Lexington Avenue we see the main entrance to the Graybar Building. Note the giant reliefs on each side.

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Eagles are a recurring them in GCT, and the entire area.

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More detail on the exterior of the Graybar Building.

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The Graybar Rats – The sculpted rats are depicted as though they are climbing ropes that anchor a ship. In reality it is what is holding up the canopy over the entrance.

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Other canopy supports have more traditional artwork on them.

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Easily one of the most overlooked vintage New York Skyscrapers, the Graybar is worth spending some time looking up at.

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Another building that is closely associated with GCT is the Helmsley Building.

While not quite as famous as GCT’s clock facing south, the Helmsley clock greets the Park Avenue traffic coming from the north.

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This building too has numerous gargoyles and other sculptures throughout.

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More Helmsley Building detail.

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The former Postum Building at 250 Park Avenue is a prewar survivor where all the other buildings of it’s time (circa 1924) have long since been torn down and replaced with taller, newer giant glass boxes.

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Finally one last look at another of the famed GCT Eagles.

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Bloomfield Hills, MI – June 2017 – Cranbrook Art Museum & Saarinen House

The Cranbrook Academy of Art was founded in the 1920s by George Booth, who asked renown Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen to design the campus and buildings. Eventually the campus was expanded to include both boys and girls schools, a Science Museum as well as the Art Museum.

The Saarinen House has been restored to it’s 1930s look, and the museum offers tours, which we attended. The house itself (in my opinion) was somewhat disappointing as it did not give the ‘wow’ feeling that I often have when going into other famous homes, such as many of the Frank Lloyd Wright homes of the same period. Instead it seems more ‘practical’ and commonplace, in a 1930s art deco way.

The grounds of the campus are very nice, with gardens scattered about, along with numerous sculptures and fountains. The museum was somewhat smallish, but had some interesting artifacts including the chair collection.

 

The Art Museum

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Gardens and Fountains

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The interior of the Art Museum

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Saarinen House

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