The town of Metropolis, Illinois was founded in 1839, and for 100 years it was just another small town in the midwest. All that changed when the Superman comics hit the newstands in the 1930s, and called a fictional Metropolis his hometown.
Since there is only one Metropolis in America, this town in Illinois found it’s fame.
I was expecting it to look like Roswell, where everything in town has an alien them. Metropolis is not like that, there are a few indications of this connection, but most business look like anytown USA.
There is however an excellent Superman statue downtown, and an equally impressive museum across the street.
Superman superfan Jim Hambrick has over 100,000 items, and the museum houses many of them. The young lady at the counter said she was his daughter and that they moved from California to Metropolis to open the museum years ago.
The ‘Time Travel’ series continues in Chicago start with Van Buren Street Station in 1907 and now. Note the Art Museum in both photos for orientation of the view.
The Chicago River looking west in 1946 and now. Same bridges, but not much else (although the Merchandise Mart is still there, just hidden behind Marina City.
Buckingham Fountain from 1955 to now gives evidence to how many buildings have been built in the last 60s years.
Michigan Avenue north of the river from 330 N Michigan again shows all the new buildings, although the Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower still grace the riverfront itself.
Meanwhile down at street level looking across the same bridge in 1955. Of note is the mid 50s Ford making the right turn compared to the Honda Civic today. Both were one of the most popular cars of their day.
Also of note are examples of clothing as well as the change in street lighting.
This view of State Street in front of Marshall Fields/Macy’s has the change over from streetcars to buses. At some point they must have cleaned the exterior of Marshall Field’s as it is much brighter today.
While turning around looking south down State Street – in the 1950s it was large old Plymouths, Packards and Chevy’s. Today is a Prius parade while the traffic blocked the intersection.
Moving back over to Michigan Avenue in the late 1950s shows the recently completed Prudential Building (1955). Not only was it the tallest building around it was the only building on Randolph Street, east of Michigan.
The reason for this was they were just beginning to replace the freight rail yards with buildings. Clearly by 2019 all available space has been built up.
This view from 1960 shows the freight yards east of Michigan Avenue, right in the middle of Grant Park. While Columbus Avenue took part, the park is much better for the city than the rail lines.
The El crossing the river to the west loop (at a slightly different angle in 2019) shows the huge growth along the river from 1960 until today.
The skyline view from Adler Planetarium also shows the dramatic change. This skyline view is from 1965. (full disclosure the ‘current’ photo is from last July, not this last week – nobody was sitting along the stone step along the lake in Chicago in February).
Our final view is from 1970, and the recently completed John Hancock Tower – the first 1000′ tall building in Chicago. This view too is impressive in the changes seen in downtown Chicago in the last 50 years.
Amazingly the Chicago History Museum was founded in 1856, just a few years after the settling of the town. Although twice destroyed by fire (once during the Great Chicago Fire), they still have a vast collection of artifacts celebrating the history of the city.
During our visit to Chess Records I had heard that the History Museum had a nice exhibit on the Chicago Blues, which was our encouragement to go to the History Museum.
In the display is this map showing the amazing collection of recording studios and clubs that featured the blues that have existed in Chicago over the years.
Raeburn Flerlage was a famed photographer of the blues scene from 1959-1971, although his career in music lasted much longer.
His photographs were used for many album covers.
Included in the collection is a copy of what is generally acknowledge as the first blues record of all time, St Louis Blues by W C Handy, from 1925.
The south side of Chicago was the hub of the blues, with Maxwell Street being the epicenter.
All of the blues greats were celebrated here, including Muddy Waters.
In the 1950s record companies were only allowed to have so many records in radio station airplay rotation at one time, so they would just start another record company.
This record of Koko Taylor’s Wang Dang Doodle is on Checker Records, the sister company of Chess Records.
Moving on from the blues display we checked out Chicago – Crossroad of America. This documented Chicago as the transportation hub of the country since the early days of the railroad.
Also on display was one of the original El cars from 1892.
A number of focus displays included one of the infamous gangland activities during prohibition in the 1920s.
Keeping with the infamous Playboy Magazine started in Chicago, as did the original club with the hostess (bunny) outfit on display.
As noted in other postings, Chicago was always mail order center of the country.
Another section celebrated entertainment events in Chicago including the 1893 World’s Fair.
As well as the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair.
Finally there was a small section celebrating the professional sports teams of Chicago – baseball’s Cubs and White Sox, football’s Bears, basketball’s Bulls and hockey’s Blackhawks.
We continued the architecture tours with ‘Art Deco Along The Riverfront’. This tour took us into many buildings we had been in before, but each docent will focus on different details, so you always come away with a new appreciation of the building.
We started on the Wacker Drive side of 333 North Michigan Avenue.
This building has granite at the bottom and limestone the rest of the way with reliefs carved into the stone on the exterior.
The elevator lobbies are great. The concept of Art Deco was it was new, young and fresh, and the doors that have decorative panels by Albert Stewart called Night Day illustrate that.
The panels show two young adults in a manner that 5 years earlier would’ve been unacceptable with their ‘risque’ look.
All Art Deco buildings have great letter boxes, and 333 North Michigan was the same. The letter box became a favorite subject for me of this tour.
We went back to the Carbide and Carbon Building. Each docent we have had has a slightly different story on the inspiration of this building, champaign bottle, battery, etc.
Our docent Jeff said it was modeled after the American Radiator Building in New York. Below is the Carbine and Carbon Building.
This photo off of the internet is the American Radiator Building. It seems obvious Carbide and Carbon Building was designed from this look.
The Water Street view of the building shows much of the detail on the exterior.
The Michigan Avenue entrance is the most impressive.
Once inside it is Art Deco heaven. The radiator grills.
The lobby lighting and mezzanine railing.
The letter box.
The elevator door detail. The full elevator lobby photo is the featured photo for this posting.
Even the trash cans have style.
We moved just down the block to the Chicago Auto Club building, now a Hampton Inn.
Again it seems every tour took us into this building, but close observation reveals more details previously missed.
Yet another letter box – which is best is up to individual opinions.
The detail of the balcony, with the light reacting strangely in this photo.
Since it was once a motor club they have retained where the maps used to be set out for the travelers (alas no maps anymore)
Lighting and wall detail.
The famed mural/map of American roads of the mid 1920s.
As we continued down Wacker Drive there was evidence of other Art Deco style, including the lighting, since Wacker Drive was built at about the same time.
While not all of the bridge houses are in Art Deco, this one is.
We passed by 121 West Wacker without going in the lobby, as it is under renovation. This building is interesting as it mirrors closely the Chicago Board of Trade Building – visible way down LaSalle Street in the lower right of this photo.
At the corner of Lake and Wells is the Trustees System Services Building. This building is unique with the mix of materials and the progressively lighter to give the illusion the building is taller than it is.
The interior of the large windows has a great art piece.
The main stairs depict someone who saves as good (on the left) and someone who didn’t as bad (on the right). Ironically the people who built the building were shysters and went bankrupt early in the depression, causing a riot outside the building.
Our last stop was the famed Merchandise Mart. This massive building has nearly as many square feet as the Willis Tower, more than the World Trade Center in New York at 4 million square feet.
Built in the Art Deco style, it has less ‘bling’ than others, but still many nice features.
The building logo is in the granite floors.
The interior of the building is 2 blocks long.
Our last letter box of the tour.
Jules Gierin completed 17 murals for the lobby depicting commerce throughout the world.
Our last stop on our tour came to appreciate the up lighting common in Art Deco buildings. As I almost always end these blogs, our docent Jeff was entertaining and informative – never having to rely on his ‘cheat sheet’ cards.
What do you get when you take America’s third largest metro population combined with the largest convention center in the country – the largest new car show!
With over 1000 cars and trucks scattered over two of the halls, each auto maker had room to show their standard cars (and trucks) and some special ones, like this Chicago Bears football team truck.
Alfa Romeo brought an F1 car.
To be honest most new cars are boring, and all look alike, so for this show I emphasized on the cars and people, including the ‘Product Specialists’.
Fortunately the auto shows have moved away from the ‘booth babe’ concept and the presenters actually know what they are talking about.
I have found that the larger shows like here and Detroit have a lot of extra features, like this engine display. There were over 10 different engine displays like this scattered throughout the hall.
Cadillac took an interesting approach and displayed this mint 1959 next to current cars. The ’59 showed them all up, as far more people surrounded this car than all the new ones in their display put together.
Like this boring box on wheels. Good luck to the Product Specialist to bring something exciting about this car.
All car shows have people who are constantly wiping finger prints off the cars. Here they all were dressed in these cool overalls like a New Car Show Pit Crew.
Even Porsche has mostly boring SUVs and sedans – but at least the 911 lives on!
Somehow 1974 got mixed in with 2019.
Land Rover had a huge area in the back where they showed the joys of all wheel drive. Jeep and Dodge Trucks had similar setups but they pale in comparison to this.
Not sure exactly what they were seeing but they were getting into it.
I believe this group was shopping cars for their grandparents, because I can’t imagine anyone of this age would have any interest in the ultra safe, boxy Volvo.
Another Product Specialist excited to tell us about their vehicle. All the presenters were very professional and could talk for hours (well minutes) about their car.
There were a few concept cars present, but this one from Lexus looks close to production.
Does this car have enough room in the rear seat for my friend?
Locked? How can I get in?
Hit the starter and lets get out of here – even if you can’t see over the steering wheel.
Thank a Robot for staying off the display and automating most of the production jobs. Thanks Robots!
I will take the dirt bikes and leave the Jeep.
Easily the most passionate presenter was for the Dodge Hellcat – 800 HP of smoke and noise.
The Toyota Impossible – like it will be impossible for this to sell in America.
Where are we – oh yeah – Chicago.
It was Latino Day at the Car Show – even Telemundo Chicago had their new truck (or camión de noticias). Especially cool was the singer doing Sinatra in Spanish.
Did you ever wonder why the car next to you has to blast their music so loud you can hear it through their closed windows and yours. Well they have taken care of that – the speakers are on the outside!
Yes it really is a full size Chevy Silverado made entirely out of Legos.
Enough of this reality – lets go virtual and get out of here.