Chicago – December 2017 – A Cold Holiday Week

While our visit to Chicago for Christmas wrapped up as one of the coldest ever, it was fantastic. The lights and scenes of the city made being bundled up against the cold worthwhile.

A quick drive over to Burnham Park gave a seasonal perspective of the classic skyline view, minus the boats, but with frozen water instead.

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The Tribune Tower’s Nathan Hale statue was decked out for the season.

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A different view – the Willis (aka Sears) Tower looking north.

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With the extreme cold Lake Michigan iced over in the just few days we were there.

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Meanwhile up at Wrigley Field they had set up a Christmas Market, complete with an ice rink.

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Our final evening was spent walking along the (now frozen as well) Chicago River.

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And a walk along the Magnificent Mile.

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Chicago – December 2017 – Museum of Science and Industry

The Chicago Museum of Science and Industry was the perfect choice for another exceptionally cold December day.  Located in the Hyde Park neighborhood on the South Shore of Chicago, it is located in the former Palace of Fine Arts from the 1893 World Columbian Exposition.  It became the Museum of Science and Industry during the 1933 Century of Progress Worlds Fair.

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The famed ‘Christmas Around the World’ tree greets you as you arrive during the holiday season, standing 45′ tall with 30,000 lights and ‘snow’ falling twice an hour.

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My main purpose for the visit to what is essentially a children’s museum was to see the ‘Great Train Story’, a 3500 square foot HO model railroad display.

This model leads you from a large Chicago model along a 2200 mile journey to Seattle. It is located in the transportation hall, underneath a Boeing 727.

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The downtown Chicago model has many details including the El.

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When you reach Seattle it is complete with the Space Needle.

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The other exhibit I wanted to check out was the lego ‘Brick by Brick’ display. Interestingly despite all the interesting architecture in Chicago from Frank Lloyd Wright they chose to use Fallingwater, located near Pittsburgh (although it is the best architectural home in America)

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The Pyramids were represented, including a cutaway to show the interior.

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Same as with the Roman Colosseum. While the exhibits were nice, we have seen better exhibits for both the Lego’s and model railroad displays (Cincinnati History Center comes to mind, as well as Entertrainment Junction). Still it beat being outside in -2 Ft (-15 C) weather.

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Chicago – December 2017 – Architecture Biennial

The Chicago Architecture Biennial purpose is to “provides a platform for groundbreaking architectural projects and spatial experiments that demonstrate how creativity and innovation can radically transform our lived experience.”

As part of that this years exhibit includes an exhibit called “Make New History”. This exhibit features a number of architectural interpretations of a redesign of the iconic Tribune Tower.

Interestingly the venue for this very modern exhibit is the classic Chicago Cultural Center, including the stunning stained glass dome in the Grand Army of the Republic rotunda.

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Before arriving at the main exhibit room we visited some displays of miniatures.

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The details on most were amazing, although some of the more abstract ones looked like a discarded toy box. This model was an Asian interpretation of the Tribune Tower.

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Full view of the Serie Architects ‘Far Eastern Headquarters’ model.

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The Tribune Tower is a Neo Gothic building completed in 1925. The various interpretations varied greatly from that design.

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6a architects view was meant to resemble a totem pole of stacked artifacts.

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Architect and ‘urbanist’ Charles Waldheiim went even further with a number of interpretations of famous Chicago buildings including the John Hancock Center, Willis Tower, Marina City and the Thompson Center.

Called Heliomorphic Chicago it is set up in the classic Chicago grid street system.

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Chicago – December 2017 – Christmas Sunset

Christmas Day in Chicago, 2017 was a cold one, with temperatures near 10 Fahrenheit.  But it was mostly clear, with a beautiful sunset coming, so it was time to go back up the John Hancock Tower.

 

From here you had a great view of the snow covered, empty Navy Pier.

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The marina in Lincoln Park is vacant as well.

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But as the sun set the lights came on.

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Looking back toward the Navy Pier and Lake Michigan. Of note in the far distance top center is a bright light. One of the steel mills in northern Indiana was having a ‘burn off’ of gases causing what is known locally as the Pilot Light of Northwestern Indiana.

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The view southwest toward the Willis Tower (aka – Sears Tower) and beyond.

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The view down Michigan Avenue as the darkness approached from the east.

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The beautiful Wrigley Building. Built in 1920 as the first large office building north of the river, it continues to be one of the most majestic in the city.

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Casey, Illinois – October 2017 – World’s Biggest Little Town

The small town of Casey, Illinois is about 30 miles west of the Indiana border along I-70, in other words in the middle of nowhere.

Given that I-70 is a major east-west interstate thousands of cars travel along the road each day usually only getting off the interstate for gas or lunch. Casey decided that they could attract some people to get off in their town by having a collection of the ‘Worlds Largest’ things.

It must work because we were there just before sundown and of the 10 cars along Main Street we saw license plates from Maine, Kansas, Pennsylvnia, Texas and California.

Strangely they all had biblical saying on them, which only added to the weirdness of it all. God must like things supersized in mid America.

First up – a wind chime (it does chime)

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A rocker

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Birdcage

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Mailbox

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A pencil

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Top

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A golf tee at the local country club. They must have really large balls in Casey.

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A pitchfork

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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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