Joliet & Pontiac, Illinois – October 2017 – Route 66 begins

While officially Route 66 started in downtown Chicago it isn’t until you get out of town a bit to Joliet before it really is emphasized by the local communities.

Downtown Joliet has the unique position where Route 66 crossed the first major trans-continental road, the Lincoln Highway.

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Joliet is also the home of old Joliet Prison, home of the (fictional) Joliet Jake Blues – of Blues Brothers fame. Now closed the day we were there an Illinois Department of Corrections van and officer was in the parking lot – to keep people from breaking into prison!

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The Blues Brothers are celebrated throughout town – on the ice cream stand…

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An auto parts store…

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And a replica Bluesmobile high above a truck stop.

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Further south along Route 66 is the town of Pontiac, where they have a nice museum celebrating the history and impact of the road on Illinois.

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Also throughout town are mural/billboards. The town was once home to a ‘Walldog’ festival. Walldogs are the names of the group of artists who paint these impressive murals. During the 3 days they had the festival in Pontiac, 19 of the murals were painted.

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Inlcuding one that celebrates Route 66 across Illinois.

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Also throughout town are small  artistic cars and trucks.

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Finally in an alley we found another fabulous mural.

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Chicago – October 2017 – Open House Chicago – Part 1

Open House Chicago is an annual event where over 200 buildings open up for free tours. Most of the buildings aren’t normally even open to visitors, so it is even more special to get to see inside.

We spent two very long days touring as many as possible.

 

Our first stop was the Federal Reserve Bank, where they have a money museum.

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Next door is the Chicago Board of Trade, featuring a large vault in the basement housing safe deposit boxes, including one was used by Al Capone.

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The lobby of the Board of Trade Building is magnificent.

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Further up South LaSalle Street we were able to go up to a 22nd floor outdoor seating area of a financial firm.

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The lobby of 231 South LaSalle Street is very ornate, although cluttered with the Cubs ‘W’ flag because of the playoffs.

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One of the few lines we encountered was at the famed Rookery Building. On this day we could go up to the spiral staircase.

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The view from below leading up the staircase is equally impressive.

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The lobby at 1 North LaSalle Street continues with the Art Deco style of most of the buildings on the street,

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Another basement, another safe deposit section. This one was massive.

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One of the newest buildings is 150 North Riverside, with it’s tapered bottom.

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The position of 150 North Riverside at the corner of the branches of the Chicago River offered great views in all directions.

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Back on the ground for a panorama of the area.

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The Builders Building also has a great lobby.

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The Michigan Avenue lift bridge was open with views of the gears and the opportunity to go up to the tower.

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Chicago – October 2017 – Open House Chicago – Part 2

Part two of the tour starts at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. The tour indicated you could go on stage, which I was expecting a large concrete pad. Instead it was a beautiful wood stage with the risers for the orchestra behind it.

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Outside was the famed curved metal of the pavilion.

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Not officially part of the tour we went past the tourists at the Bean.

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The Maclean Center Grand Ballroom is the home of an art school.

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The famed Railway Exchange Building had an architectural firm open on the fifth floor, giving a rare view above the skylights.

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Along with a nice view of Millennium Park.

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111 West Monroe Street was the home of another architectural firm who had some great models that they have designed and built.

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Yet another firm down the street in the National Building had a visually interesting work on the entrance wall.

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While not open we passed by the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower)

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Also not officially part of the tour, but always open and interesting is Union Station.

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Our final stop in the Ravenswood neighborhood is the Ravenswood Events Center. Once a sign factory someone has purchased it and restored it to show off their exotic cars.

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Chicago – October 2017 – Open House Chicago – Part 3

The Open House tour continued in the Logan Square neighborhood with Metropolis Coffee. This small business roasts specialty coffee, using some vintage coffee roasters.

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In the West Loop area is Big Monster Toys. Situated in an old trucking terminal, they specialize in creating new toys to license to the major manufacturers.

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Also in West Loop is the Publisher Bed and Breakfast. Originally a publishing house, then a casket company, then a museum, the building now houses a very nice B & B

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Near Skinner Park is the Columbian Model & Exhibit Works. Here they do amazing work building architectural models. This was one of my favorite stops of the weekend.

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Further out on the West Side is the original Sears Tower. Built in 1906 it was the administration building for the vast Sears warehouse area that served the catalog sales for over 80 years. Today the 3 million square foot warehouse is gone, but the administration building has been re-purposed for community service.

 

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Across the street is the former powerhouse which has been converted into a high school.

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Zap Props is located in the Bridgeport neighborhood on the south side. Home of thousands of items, many have been used in the TV and movie filmings that have occurred in Chicago.

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Also in Bridgeport is Stockyards Brick and Timber. Here they specialize in reclaimed building materials.

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Just around the corner is the Decorators Supply Company. Expecting a sales office, we were pleasantly surprised to find a high end plaster trim and detail manufacturer.

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Continuing in Bridgeport we stopped at the Ling Sheng Ching Tze Buddist Temple.

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Our final stop was at the Chicago Maritime Museum

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Without a doubt Open House Chicago will be an annual event for us.

 

 

 

 

Chicago – June 2017 – Historic Skyscraper Tour

The Chicago Architecture Foundation is a non profit organization that encourages learning about the city’s architecture by volunteer docent lead tours. Compared to the commercial tours, these are always more informative, with the passionate volunteers adding much to the subject.

Our tour started out in their headquarters, the former Railway Exchange Building.

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The Railway Exchange Building was built by Daniel Burnham in 1904 for the Santa Fe Railway. Having previously designed the World’s Columbian Exposition a decade earlier which used the Greek and Roman-inspired, this building featured the same. The glazed white Terra Cotta of the Railway Exchange is similar in use to those used in the ‘White City’ of the Exposition.

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In the impressive two story lobby is a large model of downtown Chicago, along with impressive skylights.

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Marquette Building – Built in 1895 it is also one of the earlier steel frame skyscrapers, and is renown as the example of a ‘Chicago School of Architecture’ building. The reddish terra cotta has darkened over the years due to pollution. When entering the two floor lobby you are greeted by beautiful mosaics of native scenes as well as reliefs.

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Field Building – As the last building finished between a lull in construction between the Great Depression and World War II, the Field Building was completed in 1934. With a fantastic Art Deco interior, including the elevator indicator panel and mailboxes in the lobby, the building was an early adaptor of air conditioning and high speed elevators to take people up the 535’ high skyscraper.

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The Rookery – Name after an old City Hall building that had previously stood on the ground, it was a reference to not only the pigeons and crows that took residence there, it was also a pun towards shady politicians that worked city hall (a rook is known to scavenge things). Designed by Burnham and Root in 1888 it is considered their masterpiece. To add to that Frank Lloyd Wright redesigned the lobby in 1905.

An amazing building both inside and out, Burnham and Root combined a great mix of old materials (for time time) like plate glass, elevators and metal framing, with the traditional brick and ornamentation.

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Chicago Board of Trade – Opened in 1930 in a perpendicular position across the end of LaSalle Street it is striking in it’s 605’ height, copper roof, and limestone exterior. Built with ‘wedding cake’ setbacks to allow some light onto the street surrounded by buildings, a concession to being the first building in the city to crack the 600’ mark, and remained the tallest building until 1965 when it was exceeded by the Daley Center.

The highlight of the interior is the 19,000 trading floor, which at the time was the largest in the world. Also prominent is the black and white polished marble, along with the vertical hallway trim.

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Monondock Building – Boston real estate developers Peter and Shepherd Brooks were building a number of buildings in Chicago when, in 1881, they worked the then young Daniel Burnham and John Root on the Monondock. Of note is the 6’ thick walls at the bottom to support the load of the building.

With the success of the building, they purchased land to the south and built an addition. When completed it was the largest office building in the world, with space for over 6,000 workers. It was also the first building in Chicago wired for electricity.

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Fisher Building – A Neo Gothic, 275’ high building built in 1896 by Daniel Burnham. As only the second building built in the city 18 stories high, it remains the oldest, as the other was torn down in the 1930s.

Old Colony Building – Completed in 1894, at 215’ high it was the tallest building in Chicago at the time.

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Manhattan Building – Completed in 1891 it is the oldest surviving skyscraper in the world to use a purely skeletal supporting structure. With bay windows throughout it is obvious the Wyandotte Building in Columbus was patterned after it. The architect, William Le Baron Jenney was a pioneer in the skyscraper industry.

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Completed in 1929 in classic Art Deco, it too was designed by the Burnham Brothers. It is clad in dark granite, and green terra cotta. The top is said to be a champagne bottle with gold foil. It is now a Hard Rock Hotel.

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Chicago – June 2017 – 360 Chicago

The John Hancock observation deck has been renamed ‘360 Chicago’. With a sunny day it was a good time to check it out.

South view – Most of downtown including the Sears/Willis Tower.

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East view – Navy Pier and Lake Michigan

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North along the Gold Coast towards Lincoln Park.

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Wrigley Field in the distance

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North Avenue Beach and the faux ship/bar.

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The former Carbide and Carbon Building – now a Hard Rock Hotel.

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Straight down

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TILT – for an extra fee you can be scared @#$%less. I passed. It tilts out to about a 45 degree angle so you are looking straight down 1000′.

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Chicago – June 2017 – Tourist Scenes of The City

With a few days in Chicago there was time to be a tourist wandering around downtown and beyond.

Some of the highlights;

The merchandisers/retailers hall of fame. Woolworth, Penney and more.

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The Chicago River

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Water Taxi and the impressive Merchandise Mart

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Harold Washington Library

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A mix of old and new

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Tourist boat going past the touristy Navy Pier

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Chicago Cultural Center

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Adler Planetarium

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Harbor

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Maxwell Street Market – not on Maxwell Street anymore

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Chess Records – 2120 South Michigan Avenue (also a great song)

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For fans of the movie The Blues Brothers – The East 95th Street Bridge – where they jump the Bluesmobile.

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