Cleveland – June 2019 – Architecture and Public Art of University Circle

Featured on a number of postings, the University Circle area of Cleveland is home to Case Western Reserve University, as well as most of the museums for the city.

We were in town on this sunny Saturday for ‘Parade the Circle’ (featured on an upcoming posting), we also wanted to participate in a walking tour of the area lead by the volunteers from ‘Take a Hike Cleveland’, but apparently because of the parade they cancelled. As with other times like this, we made our own tour.



The Cleveland History Center features a carousel from a long lost amusement park – Euclid Beach.



The Cancer Survivors Plaza. A local independent newspaper named this the worst public sculpture in America, with the surreal look of the people seemingly running away from something.




The tower in the background (and on the featured photo for this posting) has unique brickwork.




Just across the street the Museum of Natural History has an excellent welcoming sign.



While the population of Cleveland has dropped precipitously over the last 50 years, there are still some grand old apartment buildings in the city, as evidenced by the Park Lane Villa.



The Maltz Performing Arts Center. Built in 1924 as the Temple Tifereth, it now serves the arts community.



There are statues scattered throughout the area.



A view of University Circle United Methodist Church.



There was once the largest skating rink the world located in here – the Elysian. It is celebrated by art on an electrical box.




Mark Hanna – While William McGinley was officially the president, Mark told him what to do.




A view of the Museum of Art.




Severance Hall – home of the Cleveland Orchestra.



The Kelvin Smith Library at Case Western Reserve.



Case Western Reserve was at one time two separate entities, including the Western Reserve College for Women.



A chapel at Case Western Reserve.




Finally, the best building in the area. It is now home to the Cleveland Institute of Art, but it’s first life was as an assembly plant for making Ford Model T’s!






Birmingham, Alabama – May 2019 – Civic Culture

For more than 100 years Birmingham was the center of manufacturing for the southern United States. It was often referred to as Pittsburgh of the South in reference to all of the steel mills. As with Pittsburgh, the industry has for the most part left town.

As with the northern industrial cities there was significant investment in civic culture, and in Birmingham there is none better than the main library.


While the primary entrance is a modern building, across the street is the Linn-Henley Research Library. Built in 1927 it reflects the art deco style of the period.



The building is most known for the Ezra Winter murals. Most depict historic events such as below left – Dante and Virgil. On the right is Don Quixote.



In addition to the murals, the main reading room has a fantastic ceiling.



The west side of the room shows the interesting mix of the murals with the art deco balcony railings.



Ezra Winter was raised in Michigan, but spent his early adult years in Europe where he was classically trained in painting. Interestingly they were completed in New York City and applied to the Birmingham Library walls with white lead.



The Children’s Library has a mural depicting fairy tales.



A seemingly out of place modern art piece is also present.



The library, county courthouse and city hall all frame a public park. As they were all built about the same time all reflect the art deco style.

The courthouse was designed by the famed Chicago firm of Holabird & Root.



Reliefs high up on the building reflect local history.



Outside is the Statue of Liberty – well a small replica of the Statue of Liberty.



Murals depicting the history of the region are in the lobby of the courthouse. This mural, entitled Old South, has caused great controversy as it depicts slaves picking cotton. A multi racial committee of 16 reached a consensus that they would create a retractable cover that would obscure them except during educational tours.

They apparently haven’t yet decided to cover up their history as it was available for us to see.



The accompanying mural entitled ‘New South’ depicts the industrial work. As previously noted, the industry is gone, so I suppose they will have to come up with a ‘New New South’, depicting Birmingham’s current major employers including Education, Finance and Engineering firms.



As part of the agreement on the Old South mural, a new mural entitled Justice Is Blind was added with a modern collection of symbols that show, among others, a black lady justice along with a white lady justice.



Less controversial is the scales of justice relief as well as the art deco clock.



The final building in the area is Birmingham City Hall.



City Hall has a gallery of noteworthy city residents over the years.



While not a Birmingham resident, Martin Luther King was instrumental in bringing social justice to the city, and is honored with a portrait in the gallery.

Birmingham turned out to be far nicer than I was expecting. It is a city that is recognizing it’s past (good and bad), and moving forward into the future.





Lexington, Kentucky – May 2019 – Scenes of the City

Two things are important in Lexington – horse racing and bourbon!




Even some of the public art – including giant sculptures of books often depicts horse racing.


A number of artistic horse sculptures are scattered around town.

A downtown sculpture area is called Thoroughbred Park – depicting the finish line in great detail.


The best ‘ghost sign’ in town is for Horse Racing Oats.

But there is more to Lexington that just horses and bourbon – there is the University of Kentucky, and their stunning library.



For a city this far off the east coast there are a number of early 1800 or older buildings and homes.



A former courthouse is now the main visitor center – as well as other civic offices.



The area has been growing, and there is evidence of new investments downtown with government buildings and plazas.



The main library is newer as well, and features this 5 story pendulum clock – reputed to be the largest in the world.



We visited Transylvnia University and an art fair that was occurring there. The college was the first institution of higher learning west of the Allegheny Mountains. It is named for the Transylvania Colony – a proposed 14th colony that never really came to be – but the university name stuck.




Our final stop was the arboretum shared by the University of Kentucky and the city of Lexington. On this spring day there were a number of groups using the setting for their backdrops – homecoming groups, weddings, engages, and others…




Our final stop was a memorial to 49 people who lost their lives in a commuter airline crash in 2006. They are represented by 49 birds in flight.

For a mid sized city Lexington has a lot to offer – a good place to spend a day or two.






Bienvenue a Paris (Kentucky) – May 2019

So many small towns in America are named after other places – and Paris is no different. According to Google there are 23 towns and cities in America called Paris, but the one in Kentucky is one of the nicer ones.



This town was originally called Bourbontown because it is the county seat of Bourbon County (more on that later), but was renamed to Paris as a thank you to France’s contribution during the Revolutionary War.

They have a small Eiffel Tower next to the Visitor Center/Farmers Market.




The town itself is very well preserved, as there is a lot of money in the area from the thoroughbred farms (more on this later as well).




Horse Racing is a recurring theme throughout all of Central Kentucky.




The pots along the street for flowers and bushes are re purposed horse troughs.




Hollywood has a walk of fame – but so does Paris – with horseshoes for the great ones – including the greatest – Secretariat.




Most of the downtown area buildings are 100 years old and in good condition.






The Duncan Tavern is the oldest building in town – dating from 1788.




The highlight though is the Bourbon County Courthouse. Completed in 1902 it is spectacular.


From the mosaics in the floors….




To another horse racing tribute.



The fantastic view of the dome from below.



Much of the ironwork came from nearby Maysville.



Great care has been given in the upkeep of the courthouse. We were lucky enough that on this Saturday morning it was open for absentee voting – and the Boubon County Clerk of Courts Richard Eads gave us a detailed history of the building, taking time out of his busy day for us.



The ceiling of the courtroom has a mural of Lady Justice.



But with that it was time to head out of town….






Detroit – April 2019 – Cultural Center

The Cultural Center of Detroit is located in the Midtown section, just north of downtown. We had the opportunity to visit two of the centerpieces of the neighborhood, the Main Library and Institute of Art.

We started at the Library where one of Detroit’s newest features, a streetcar called the Q Line’ was passing as we arrived.





We made our way around the building to the Cass Avenue entrance, which is much newer than the Woodward Avenue side.





The original building is in an Italian Renaissance style, with it’s impressive stairways and ceilings.





This look is carried over to one of the exhibition halls.





While one of the hallways on the second floor resemble a cathedral.





Reliefs celebrating the classics adorn this level.





A look at the main entrance ceiling.





We are still in the library, not the Institute of Art…





Directly across Woodward Avenue is the Institute of Art, with a statue of the Thinker greeting you.





The exterior had a significant amount of sculptures.





It is immediately apparently that the library and art museum were designed in similar style and completed at the same time.





Coincidentally there was a celebration of India going on the day we were there.





We came for the Rivera murals and ended up celebrating India as well!





The artists were happy to tell you about their culture.





A Rangoli demonstration.





This henna artist was very skilled, with a steady hand.





The east lobby had this great display.





Another exhibition hall featured pop art.





Some great chairs.





Ruben & Iabel Toledo had an exhibit called Labor of Love.








They also paid homage to the River murals. The DIA is a destination just for the murals, but the rest of the exhibitions are world class as well.





Chicago – September 2018 – South Side Sights

Our weekend continued as we made our way into Chicago on an early Sunday morning. There were a couple of places I wanted to check out as we made our way across the city.

First up is the Pullman District. Built in the 1880s by railroad car manufacturer George Pullman, the neighborhood was a model for a company town. Pullman was determined to make a town that met all the workers needs, thus resulting in attracting better workers.

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They built many homes throughout. While most of the workers lived in row houses, there are a number of single family homes.

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A strike in 1894 brought to light the fallacy of some of Pullman’s statements, as the workers struggled to make ends meet.

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The neighborhood however lived on until the 1950s when many people left to move to the suburbs.

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Threatened with the possibility of the entire neighborhood being bulldozed for an industrial park, community leaders pulled together  a civic organization and lobbied the city to save their neighborhood.

By the early 1970s the Pullman Historic District had received landmark status. Today it is a National Historic Park, as well as a neighborhood that people live in.

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There is still more to do, but it does live on as a showcase for the South Side.

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Further into town is the Fountain of Time, a sculpture that is 126′ wide x 10′ high. Completed in the early 1920s, it was designed by Lorado Taft.

It’s location is at the edge of Washington Park and the Plaisance Midway.

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Nearby is Jackson Park, and the 59th Street beach. The grasses protect erosion from Lake Michigan.

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The Golden Lady is a 24′ gilded bronze likeness of a statue that was known as the Republic. The original was a 65′ high statue that was displayed in the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

She sits in the general area they are planning on building the Obama Library.

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With the University of Chicago nearby there are a number of architecturally interesting buildings in the area.

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The most important building in the area is the Robey House, a classic Frank Lloyd Wright design.

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They are restoring the interior so we opted just to check out the exterior and return after the restoration work is done for a full tour.

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Even from the outside the style and grace of FLW is noticeable.

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The area that the park and the university is located is known as Hyde Park. This was President Obama’s Chicago home, which he still owns The block is off limits to traffic, but someone has modified the ‘Residents Only’ sign to be more appropriate.

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Leaving the South Side we headed downtown, passing Soldier Field. Originally built in 1924 in a Neoclassical style, with columns lining the sides, it has undergone numerous renovations.

The last in the early 2000 added a strange modern look sitting on top the classical columns.

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Passing through downtown, we crossed the Chicago River on Lakeshore Drive.

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While not technically on the south side the Washington Library is Chicago’s main branch.

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Definitely not on the south side, the 606 is a bike/walking path on former elevated train lines (similar to the High Line in New York). It’s name comes from the zip codes for the areas it passes.

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Originally a rail line known as the Bloomingdale Line, it was converted to a trail starting in 2009. At 2.7 miles long it is twice as long as the High Line.

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Washington DC – June 2018 – Library of Congress

Since the beginning of the U.S. government there has been a Library of Congress. Starting in Philadelphia, then New York, it came to DC in 1800. The current main building was constructed in the 1890s.

When you enter the building you are greeted by a two story Great Hall.

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As with many grand buildings constructed during this period the ceiling is impressive as well.

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There are numerous sculptures throughout.

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The upper level is lined with stately columns.

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While from the upper level you get a clear view of the zodiac symbols in the main level’s floor.

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Additional stylish ceilings and artwork.

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The map room.

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The mosaic in the lower levels floor.

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The building is easily one of the most impressive in DC.

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The Reading Room viewed from above.

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We were so impressed with this room that we went through a process to apply for, and receive, a library card – only to find out that on the reading room floor itself photography is strictly prohibited!

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So we went down the hallways and continued on our way.

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