Plano, Illinois – October 2017 – Farnsworth House

The Farnsworth House is an architectural icon built along the Fox River near the small town of Plano, about an hour and a half from downtown Chicago. The house was designed by Mies van der Rohe for Dr Edith Farnsworth in the late 1940s, and was completed in 1951.

As Mies stated, it is designed to be ‘almost nothing’, a basic, yet elegant design of glass and steel.

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As with many famed architects and clients, Mies and Edith battled over many features. One was that Mies said there should be no curtains, Edit won.

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Another is there is very little storage in the house, as it was designed to be a weekend retreat.

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The house has had three owners since it was built. Since the early 2000s it has been owned by a trust.

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The flooring is Italian Travertine.

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While the owners have had their own furnishing in the house, it is currently set with stunning mid century modern pieces.

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While in the house, you feel as though you are still outside.

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Our tour included a number of European architects, who were ecstatic to be in the presence of greatness.

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Simple, elegant and stunning; the Farnsworth House is an American classic.

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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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Chicago – May 2017 – Scenes from around Wrigley Field

With a hotel in Wrigleyville, and a game scheduled, it was the perfect time to wander around the neighborhood while the crowd gathered. Without tickets, and being much too cold for late May, I skipped the game to focus on the outside scenes.

Th Addison El stop.

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Knock off T Shirts across the street from the stadium grounds.

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Pay homage to Cubs great Billy Williams.

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Security was out in full force.

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Some San Francisco Giants fans hanging out in front of the fire station.

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Need a Cubs shirt?

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Riding in style.

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With parking a premium, the flaggers go all out to attract attention. His 10′ high PARKING sign was mounted in his backpack. Many are jammed under the El tracks, and throughout small lots in the neighborhood. Most cost $40 for a 3 hour game.

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Chicago – May 2017 – Cloudy Views from the Lincoln Park neighborhood

With some time to check out the Lincoln Park neighborhood in Chicago I found two places for some quick photos.

First is Oz Park – with Wizard of Oz statues.

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The second were the views from the lakeside in Lincoln Park itself. The hazy, low clouds day made it tough to get clear shots, but with the view it is hard to mess them up.

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Chicago – August 2014 – A Day at Arlington Park

Finding ourselves in the Chicago suburbs one Saturday afternoon with a few hours to kill, we decided to go to Arlington Park to bet on the ponies.

While they have been racing on this site since 1927, the grandstands and other areas were rebuilt in the mid 1980s after a major fire. I have had the opportunity to visit a number of horse racing venues and Arlington Park is one of the nicer ones, just a step below Keeneland and Santa Anita.

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The clubhouse and grandstands have a ‘modern’ look to it, giving it a very different feel than Churchill Downs or Santa Anita.

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As with most thoroughbred tracks they have a dirt track and a turf track.

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We had an excellent time for the first 4 races….

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Until a tornado blew through (although to be fair it didn’t touch down at the track, but there were tornado warnings for the immediate area – with winds approaching 80 MPH with torrential rain).

The synthetic track stood up well, with an interesting look after the rain.

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