Chicago – December 2018 – The Field Museum

Our major museum visit this trip was to the Field Museum of Natural History. It is known as one of the premier natural history museums in the world, and attracts millions of visitors per year.

We were here to learn about natural history.

As we entered the lobby we stopped by a small kiosk with a display of bugs.

Our first hall major exhibit we toured was the Hall of Ancient Americas. This wing covered both North and South America.

Each region featured pottery, sculptures, jewelry and more, and started with South and Central America cultures such as the Aztec and Inca (and many more)

The final section included the Northern Cultures. While similar to the southern cultures, these featured more large scale sculptures like the totem poles.

The second level featured Griffin Hall – a large dinosaur exhibit.

The most famous is Sue – the most complete T Rex ever discovered. For some reason there was unusual lighting on Sue when we were there.

One the main display the head is a cast of the original, which is in the next room in a display so you can inspect it closer.

We paid a brief visit to the cultures of the Pacific

Our final stop was an Egyptian display, including mummies.

Chicago – December 2018 – Ravenswood Architectural Artifacts

A trip up the El’s Brown Line took us to the Ravenswood Architectural Artifacts. Located in 80,000 square feet of an old industrial building, they have high end ‘artifacts’, many costing into the thousands of dollars.

They even had a couple of small cars, like this great Fiat.

The collection was unique, and large.

Where else can you find that mummy you were looking for.

Some sculptures from the top of old buildings.

One of those not really sure what they are piles.

Need a sign for the toilet?

Or a letter?

Forms for making masks.

A fireproof suit for working around a blast furnace.

Glass ornament – perhaps it once had a purpose other than decorative.

What a cool collection of ‘stuff’.

Well worth the visit – the Ravenswood Architectural Artifacts. Just off the Brown Line at Montrose.

Hawaii – November 2018 – Day 18 Art and History of Maui

Day 18 of the Hawaii trip is a travel day, so we stayed fairly close to the airport for our late afternoon flight. We found a number of interesting artistic and historic sites to visit.


First up was the Sacred Gardens. This location seemed to be part gardens, part religious, part cosmic and more.




They did have a ‘Buddha Garden’, with some nice sculptures.




Their claim to fame though is their labyrinths.




Just down the road is the Hui No’eau Visual Arts Center. Situated on the grounds of a former sugar plantation owner, there are a number of buildings for various uses including a tiny high school.

The grounds are immaculate.




Makai Glassworks is located in another former sugar plantation. We were able to observe the artist at work.








In the same area, but off the tourist path, is the Dingking surfboard shop.




A true find, they make custom surfboards.




In addition to the surfboards, they do other custom woodwork including this great canoe.




But their specialty is surfboards.




Our next stop was the Surfing Goat Dairy, and as our directions had us turn into the road we were amazed that a dairy would have such a fancy entrance – until we realized the entrance was for a neighborhood of multi million dollar houses, and the dairy was off to to the side.



But they did have goats, and surfboards.




While most of the employment in Maui now is tourism, they once had thriving businesses in agriculture, primarily the sugar plantations and pineapples. They even once had railroads to bring the goods to the port, as evidenced by this former railroad office.

In my 3 weeks in Hawaii I did not see 1 railroad track (although there are apparently a couple of historic railroads around).




Sugar cane processing was once a big business, but it is all now gone. This was the last processing plant, and it closed a few years ago.




The history is celebrated by a museum housed in the former superintendents home.




The interior has a nice display of the people and lifestyles of the plantation life. Outside they have some of the equipment used in the processing.

This truck and trailer was used to bring in massive amounts of the sugar cane into the factory.




While these large claws picked up the cane in the fields.




A quick stop at Target – where they are ready for Christmas Hawaiian style.




And a great Hawaiian pizza – and it was off for our flights to Kauai.







Hawaii – November 2018 – Day 6 Hilo

Day 6 started with some rain as we made our way down the mountain towards Hilo. As we drove along in the rain to our first destination I found the Apple Maps (the rental car has Apple Car Play) can let you down.

It had me turn on this ‘street’, which after about a mile I decided to give up, and back up until I could turn around. It is literally at the edge of town, so we weren’t way out in the middle of nowhere.




Eventually we reached the town of Kalapana, about 20 miles south of Hilo, and Kaimu ‘Beach’. At one time it was a black sand beach, but in 1990 a lava flow overtook the beach and filled the entire bay.

As noted yesterday many believe that Hawaii is an independent Kingdom, not part of the U.S., especially for any new land that wasn’t part of the U.S. acquisition.




This lava flow had some large cracks in it when it cooled.




We are standing ‘in the bay’ looking back towards town.




Further down the road is where the Spring 2018 lava flow wiped out 700 houses. While I feel bad for the people and their loss, who builds their house in the path of a volcano that has been flowing nearly continuously for 100 years or more.




Yet here they are again, already popping up these little houses on the freshly cooled lava.




Returning the other direction along the coast, we passed through some great forests.





Eventually we reached MacKenzie State Park. Note the fisherman climbing the precariously placed ladder on the left and his fishing pole on the right. I am not sure what he is catching, but I hope it is worth it.




On another recent lava flow people have placed Cairns made out of coconuts and leaves instead of the traditional rock piles.




But it did lead to another great coastal view.




Returning to Hilo, we went to Wailuku River Park, and found this impressive Banyan tree.




The highlight of the park is Rainbow Falls. If you are there in the morning you will most likely see a rainbow, but it was afternoon so alas, we only saw the waterfall.




About 20 miles north of Hilo is Akaka Falls. The hike down was through another ‘jungle’, although this one was nicely paved.




At 442′ high it is one of the tallest waterfalls in America.




There are even small waterfalls coming out of the rocks to the side of the main falls.




The falls in located near the town of Honomu.




Interestingly many small Hawaiian towns are built in the ‘old west’ style, albeit much more colorful.




Once again we had a great view from our hotel, facing west across Hilo Bay towards the mountains (obscured by clouds in this photo).




Next door was Lili’uokalani Park and Gardens. The site was donated by Queen Lili’uokalani, with the park being built in 1917 in the Edo style Japanese Gardens.

It is thought to be one of the best in the world outside of Japan.




Well maintained with beautiful trees and landscaping.




Along with some sculptures.




I am not sure what these are known as so I called them Bonsai Palms.




The park was very relaxing, and a great way to end the day.






Many of the native trees have really cool, funky looks to them.






Chillin’ on Coconut Island.







Our hotel grounds were directly on the bay.




As the sun was setting the last of the days flights were arriving. The airport was nearby, and the flight path brought the planes down the coast with a hard left turn just before the field. The clouds and setting sun added to the look.




Another great Hawaiian sunset. Note that Manua Loa has come out of the clouds in the background.




With that it was time for dinner, with entertainment.






Hawaii – November 2018 – Day 4 First Look at the Big Island

The Hawaiian Road Trip continued with an early flight to Kona. As with many things in travel, even getting there can be amusing.

Our flight was scheduled to leave at 6:45 AM. About 6:15 they announced a gate change, so we moved down 1 gate only to look out and see the mechanics working on the front wheels of the plane. They changed the front wheels – 4 times!

Finally satisfied we were ok to leave the first passenger boarded – a shackled prisoner with a goofy smile being lead down the jetway by a policeman.

Thankfully the flight itself was short and uneventful, and after about 25 minutes we found ourselves on the Big Island.

About an hour south of the Kona Airport we arrived at Pu’uhonua O Honaunau, a National Historic Park.

This park preserves a site where Hawaiians who broke a law could avoid death sentences by fleeing here as a place of refuge. By serving their penance, they could be absolved by a priest and set free.




The site is considered sacred to native Hawaiians. Out of respect to the native Hawaiians, no activities occur within the park. It is a place for reflection and inner thoughts and peace.




After leaving the park, we continued south along the coast. This area has for centuries been impacted by volcanic activity. Amazingly many of the houses are built on the lava flows.




Our next destination was the South Point of the island. As we made the turn onto South Point Road, we stopped at a farm called Paradise Valley, where we met Raccine.

Paradise Valley is a small working farm where they have an assortment of Hawaiian specialties including Macadamia nuts, coffee trees, and banana trees (among many others), Raccine was more than happy to share with us an assortment of flavored nuts, and their specialty coffees. Later she took us on a tour of the farm.




I was particularly amused with the banana trees.




Finally we left (chowing down on the local chocolate and macadamia nuts), we made our was to the South Point of the Big Island. For those who have been to Key West and seen the ‘Southernmost Point in the United States’ marker, they are way off.

This part of Hawaii is on the same latitude as Guatemala. The point, as with much of the coast here, is from lava flow.




While nearby the sea cliffs make an impressive view.




People jump off he cliffs into the ocean!




Many native Hawaiians feel their land and culture was stolen from them by the U.S. (very similar to the natives across the entire continents). We saw a number of signs stating – This is not the U.S., this is the Kingdom of Hawaii.

It should be noted that almost all of the people we met were very pleasant, receptive and welcoming, they just feel their land and culture has been hijacked.




Nearby is the famed ‘Green Sand Beach’. I had read about this place before we arrived, so we made our way over to the parking lot at the top of a bluff overlooking the ocean.

As we walked across the parking lot there were old 4 wheel drive pickups that said ‘shuttle’. One of them asked us if we wanted a ride – nah I can see the ocean just down the hill.

With a total lack of preparedness we set off – only to figure out much too late it was a 3 mile hike across lava fields and dusty trails to get to the beach. To top it off I forgot water as I thought I was just heading down the hill.




It was a long dusty hike to reach the beach. As we arrived one of the pickup shuttles was parked there. I told the driver I had 2 questions – first, do you do 1 way trips. Absolutely (whew)

Two – do you have any water for sale. Nope, but I can help you out. With that he opened his cooler in the back and handed me a cold beer! My new best friend.

With that cold beer I could finally enjoy the view of the famed green sand beach.

The ride back was insanely bumpy (almost so much I spilled my second beer).




Safely back at the car we continued our journey, with our next stop being the Honu’apo Black Sand Beach. Thankfully it was only about 100 yard walk to the beach, and the sand was indeed black.

It was beautiful, and had an interesting somewhat coarse texture that felt good on the feet.




It is also a turtle habitat.





Our first day on the Big Island complete, we headed to our hotel at Volcano National Park in preparation for tomorrow.










































Pittsburgh – October 2018 – Doors Open Part 1

Having been in and around Pittsburgh for most of our lives, we were excited to find that they offer an Open House like Chicago and New York.

Known as Doors Open Pittsburgh, the event took place over a weekend featuring 50 buildings downtown and on the North Side.

I had the opportunity to email a number of times with Bonnie Baxter, the founder of the organization that coordinates the event. Her input was instrumental in our planning that allowed us to visit over 30 of the sites over two (busy) days. Bonnie has done a great job pulling together an event of this scale – it shows her pride in her hometown.

The next 4 posts are fairly long but give a brief overview on each of the venues we visited.


Frick Building – As we were walking down Grant Street in downtown Pittsburgh waiting for the start of Doors Open Pittsburgh we saw a couple of people in their orange DOP volunteer shirts. Striking up a conversation with them, we found out that one of them, Al, was headed to the nearby Frick Building.

Al also volunteers with the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, and was more than happy to share his knowledge of Grant Street, and the nearby buildings as we walked along. This was a precursor of what was to come, as for the entire weekend we met enthusiastic volunteers who are proud of their city and the architecture.

Once we arrived at the Frick Building we entered the lobby from the Fifth Avenue Side. Al then gave us a personal tour of the lobby.

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This unique lamp served as a cigar lighter feed by natural gas with a perpetual flame (since there is no smoking in buildings anymore the flame has been extinguished.)

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The current main lobby elevators reflect the Art Deco look.

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The re-purposed telephone booths are fantastic. Al pointed out that most people under the age of 25 can’t even guess what they were used for.

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In what started a trend that we kept most of the weekend, most of the buildings have very stylish mailboxes that had to be photographed.

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Grant Street in Pittsburgh used to have a large ‘hump’. In 1914 this hump was taken out, but as a result what used to be a ground level entrance sudden was 15’ in the air, so any building that pre-dates the removal had to be retrofitted with a new entrance in what was the basements. The Frick Building is one of those buildings, having been completed in 1902.

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As a result the second floor/mezzanine level has a very ornate elevator lobby since it used to be the primary entrance.

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The elevator doors are a piece of art in themselves.

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One final look at the lobby; a stained glass window by John LaFarge titled Fortune and Her Wheel.

Whatever history thinks of Henry Clay Frick, he did build an amazing building. Thanks to Al we had a great tour of the lobbies.

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Benedum Trees Building – Our first ‘official’ visit was to the Benedum-Trees Building. I had been fortunate enough to secure ‘insider tour’ tickets for this building, with a visit to the 18th floor to visit the offices of the Benter Foundation.

The 19 story building was completed in 1905 along the Fourth Avenue financial district. The name came from the Benedum Trees Oil Company, founded by Mike Benedum and Joe Trees in the early 1900s.

Our tour started in the lobby with another classic mailbox, along with the building directory sign and some great lighting.

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We then headed up to the 18th floor.

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Our visit was topped off (literally) by checking out the roof top terrace, with commanding views around downtown – despite being somewhat surrounded by newer, taller buildings.

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Later that afternoon we were able to look back from Mt Washington to see where we had been.

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Bank Tower Building – Completed in 1902 as the Peoples Savings Bank Building, the Bank Towers exterior features figures carved by John Massey Rhind.

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Easily the most impressive feature of the building is the spiral staircase that goes the entire 16 floors.

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A very nice bonus to this stop was visiting the offices of MCF Architects, where one of the principals showed us the offices, and some of the amazing work they have completed, as well as historic drawings they have.

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Their security gate is modeled after da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man.

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Dollar Bank – Designed by Isaac Hobbs & Sons of Philadelphia in the late 1860s, the Dollar Bank Building on Fourth Avenue is built primarily out of brownstone. Hobbs was known for his ornate design of houses, and it is clear it was carried over to this design.

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Built in the Beaux Arts style, it’s most famous exterior feature are the large lion sculptures, symbolizing a ‘guardianship of the people’s money’.

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The original lions are located inside the building.

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The lobby is impressive, and is used to this day for it’s original purpose, a bank.

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The Park Building – We spent most of our time at the Park Building staring up at the cornices.

Built in 1896, this 15 floor building depicts men kneeling, holding up the building. We have seen this used previously, most recently in the ‘Ruins’ in Indianapolis.

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continued in the next 3 postings.



New York City – September 2018 – Historic Skyscraper Details

As noted on other postings New York City has a plethora of skyscrapers, many that have been built in the last 50 years that are massive glass boxes.

Prior to that the buildings were built with much more style. This posting looks at some of the architectural and artistic details of those early skyscrapers.

The Corbin Building is at Broadway and John Street in lower Manhattan. Dating from 1889, it was built in the Romanesque Revival style with French Gothic details.  It was restored in 2014 by the MTA as part of the Fulton Subway station complex.

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The Woolworth Building was completed in 1912 as the world’s tallest building, at 792 feet high. The exterior is limestone colored, glazed Terra Cotta panels.

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The Woolworth Building is built in a Gothic style, with it’s impressive crown visible still above most of the buildings in the city.

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The Equitable Building is a massive structure on lower Broadway. It has been credited (or cited) as the reason for the 1916 set back law to allow light and air to reach the streets, as this building goes 40 floors straight up from the sidewalk.

With this density it provides 1.2 million square feet of office space on a plot of less than 1 acre.

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The  Equitable Building does provides this impressive eagle.

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The sculptures above the New York Stock Exchange Building. The original sculptures from 1904 were replaced in 1936 as they were too heavy and were causing cracking in the building.

The theme of this sculpture is to show that money is not the root of all evil, rather it is required for the betterment of man.

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The buildings along Beekman Street show the contrast to the new  Frank Gehry 76 story ‘twisted’ skyscraper.

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Surrogate’s Courthouse, completed in 1907

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A sculpture outside of the Custom’s House on Bowling Green.

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Rockefeller Center provides numerous reliefs and sculptures including these two.

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The French Building on Fifth Avenue in Midtown has an impressive entrance.

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A contrast of style along East 42nd Street.

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The Brunswick Building is on Fifth Avenue at 27th Street. Completed in 1906 is has served as a hotel, a warehouse and a sales showroom for gift wholesalers, thus earning the unofficial name as the New York Gift Building.

It is now luxury apartments.

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The famed Flatiron Building. Everyone takes a photo of the narrow front section, this is the side section.

Clearly it does not have central air conditioning.

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A detail on the Flatiron.

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A close up of the Met Life clock.

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The Met Life Building crown.

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The classic art deco – with the ubiquitous eagle. There are eagles on nearly all the older skyscrapers.

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Another contrasting styles view.

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70 Pine Street – Completed in 1932. The top area of the building was once an observation deck.

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Detail of a building along Broadway near Trinity Church.

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Cascading cornices in downtown Manhattan.

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The very cool American Express building.

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Another sculpture in front of the Customs House.

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Cunard Lines building – note the ships.

The new buildings like the World Trade Center are great, but nothing beats the detail on the early 1900s skyscrapers.

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