Detroit – April 2019 – The Guardian Building

With the auto industry booming in the 1920s Detroit was flush with cash. As a result most of their grand buildings date from that period – which coincided with the Art Deco movement in architecture.

The Guardian Building is the best example in Detroit, and one of the very best in the world. It has made every single list of top 10 Art Deco skyscrapers every published.





In addition to the Art Deco, they use a Native American theme throughout the exterior and interior.





This unique, and stylish mix is fantastic.





The building is asymmetrical, with a taller tower on the north end, with a slightly shorter wing on the south.

The unique custom coloring became so popular that it is now known as ‘Guardian Bricks’.





As you enter the smallish lobby you are greeted by this great mosaic.




The north tower elevator lobbies are unique from any other with the native theme continuing. Note the stained glass window.





A close up of the stained glass. The building was designed by Wirt Rowland, and features the colored materials set in geometric patterns.





A close up of the elevator lobby ceiling shows this detail.





A Montel metal screen separates the lobby from the banking hall.





This close up of the Montel metal screen shows the very cool clock.





The massive banking hall gave this building it’s nickname – the Cathedral of Finance, with it’s strong design homage to the great cathedrals of the world.





The hall is 3 floors high and is flanked on the south end by an impressive mural.





The mural is by Michigan native Ezra Winter, and celebrates all the highlights of the state. Winter also did the mosaic featured above.





A detailed look at the mural shows this industrial side, which compliments an agricultural side (not pictured).





At the apex of the mural is a tribute to finance (after all it was built as a bank)





The newer lighting retains the art deco look.





The ceiling is covered in an acoustical absorbing material, a 3/4″ thick horsehair covering over the plaster ceiling.





This design keeps down the echoing in the great hall, as well as provides a much easier restoration that a 90 year old building requires from time to time.





Even the information sign contains the Native American elements.

The Guardian Building is truly one of the greats, worth a trip to Detroit by itself.







Detroit – April 2019 – The Fisher Building

A weekend in Detroit touched on a significant amount of the auto industry history without really seeing an actual car (except the obvious high percent of American made cars on the streets and freeways of the city).

An organization called ‘Pure Detroit’ offers tours of historic structures, including the Fisher Building. Completed in 1928 as an Art Deco masterpiece, the Fisher was designed by noted Detroit architect Albert Kahn.





Despite being one of the tallest buildings in the city when completed, it is not downtown, rather about 3 miles north in an area that was named ‘New Center’. Developed in the 1920s New Center was envisioned as one of the original ‘edge cities’.

In reality the Fisher Brothers had tried to purchase a complete city block downtown, but at that time Detroit was a boom town and no land was available, making the New Center option even more attractive.




The Fisher Brothers founded Fisher Body, who provided the automobile bodies to General Motors. Most of the office space in New Center was occupied by GM, and their suppliers.

They chose this area to be closer to their factories.





As you enter the three story barrel vaulted concourse. The building is noted mostly because it contains forty (yes 40) different types of marble.

The Fisher Brothers were noted for their philanthropy and they felt that by providing a grand space for their business, as well as the public in general, they were giving back to the city.





As an architect Kahn had to be elated when the Fisher Brothers essentially said, spend what you need, make it memorable.





Including in the building is the Fisher Theater. With over 2000 seats it remains one of the oldest theaters in the city. The day we were there a matinee of ‘Hamilton’ was performing, resulting a large crowd gathering as we completed our tour.





Even areas like a small food court is opulent.





The mosaics, as well as other pieces of sculpture and frescoes were completed by Geza Maroti. As with much of the art in the period, the works have symbolism, including numerous eagles symbolizing America stretching to greater heights.





Lighting is always difficult to capture properly but when made the focus they make an interesting look.





A close up of the ceiling reveals one of the numerous tributes to knowledge.





The mezzanine level offers a nice glimpse of the ceiling, along with the main concourse.





The railing are very stylish….





… but obviously not OSHA complaint height.





The mezzanine level has great symmetry.






Just across the street is Cadillac Place. From the 1930s until the 1970s, this was the headquarters of GM.





From the 26th floor there was a nice view back toward downtown Detroit on this hazy day.

Our effervescent tour guide Jordan was great. She was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable – Pure Detroit should be proud to have her.






Chicago – February 2019 – Then and Now

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.

Columbus – January 2019 – Time Travelling Up High Street

When we lived close to Pittsburgh I would sometimes take old photos and recreate them with the current view. Being a city that has developed significantly since the 1950s, Columbus doesn’t have the quantity of old buildings to match up with current photos, it still offers enough to make for an interesting Sunday afternoon.

Most of the old photographs are from the Library of Congress website, and are in the Detroit Photographic Company section of the online photos (easily the best collection of vintage photos anywhere).

For this effort we made our way up High Street from the south end of downtown to the north end, where the former railroad station was once located.

We start with the grand old Southern Hotel. Still there, and still in the hotel business, it hasn’t changed much from the street view since 1910. A few horse and wagons parked instead of cars, and obviously no traffic lights!





We continued north on High Street, stopping at State Street to take a view back south towards where we just came.

Interestingly none of the 1910 buildings seem to still exist, and those that replaced them have also aged long enough to be re purposed into other functions. Most noteworthy is the large building on the far right on the new photo – it was for many years the downtown flagship Lazarus Department Store, which closed in 2003.







Turning around and looking north on High Street – the State Capitol Building on the right (just out of view). I would estimate this photo to be from between 1910-1915, with the presence of a few automobiles.

Note the two 12-15 floor high buildings on the right. The shorter one was the tallest in the city when completed in 1901, with the slightly taller one surpassing it in 1906. One interesting bit of trivia, one of the original leaders of the NFL was a Columbus native, and as the president of the league their headquarters was in the building on the right from 1927 until 1939.

Along the street in the distance you see mass transit – a street car in the 1910 photo, and a bus in the new one.







A second view of Broad and High Street. The older photo was obviously taken from the 2nd or 3rd floor, which I can’t recreate exactly since the buildings are all closed to the public.

It is amazing that since Broad & High is often considered the center of Ohio, being the two main streets in the city directly across from the Capitol that the small buildings on the northeast corner survive to this day, albeit with significant remodeling.

This view also gives a closer view of the transportation choices of the times.








One last view of Broad & High. The line of streetcars in 1910 and buses now.







Another block north brings us to Gay Street. Note the buildings on the northeast corner are all still in existence – although the concept of a Target store was still 50 years away.








Long Street – The Atlas Building has always been a presence at this corner. Not much about the exterior has changed, a couple of neighbors are missing though. Note that Long Street was a two way street in 1910, with the streetcar tracks down the middle.








High Street at Spring Street – Absolutely nothing remains, most has been replaced in the last 40 years.

Even on a Sunday it was easy to get a bus in every photo, as they seemed to pass by about every 5 minutes. The old photos also had a streetcar in nearly every one.








Our final stop on High Street – Union Station. This location on High Street was the location of the main railway station for Columbus from 1851 until the last train left in 1977. The wonderful building was demolished by 1979.

The station was replaced with a convention center, and later the arcade (shopping mall – not video games) was replaced with shops and restaurants built over the freeway in a style that recalls the architecture of the original.




The convention center and hotel sits exactly where the main concourse was located.




It still remains a public gathering space, only for a different purpose.

With that our time travelling up High Street came to an end. Look for more in future visits to other cities (Chicago, Cleveland) or even more in Columbus.








Chicago – October 2018 – Open House Part 1

Our Chicago Open House weekend started on Friday, before the official event started on Saturday. We made our own tour of places that were open.

 

James Thompson Center – Designed by Helmut Jahn, the Thompson Center is a 17 story curved glass building housing many government offices. From the interior all 17 floors are visible in the impressive atrium.

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On the plaza in front of the building is a sculpture from Jean Dubffet called Monument with Standing Beast. Standing at 29’ high, the sculpture weighs in at 20,000 pounds.

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Cook County Office Building – A classical 12 story office building located in the government section of downtown Chicago, to me it is most famous for where the Blues Brotthers went to pay the property tax for the childrens home (and yes the Cook County Assessors office is located in this building).

The building has the classic Art Deco look on the interior.

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Chicago Temple – The First United Methodist Church of Chicago was the first church to be founded in the city, even before it was a city, in 1831. In 1838 it moved to it’s current location at the corner of Washington and Clark.

In the early 1920s with downtown Chicago rapidly developing the church debated selling their valuable land and moving out to one of the neighborhoods. Eventually they decided on a novel approach, build a skyscraper with a church included, and in addition, put a chapel on the top. The result was a 568’ tall building with what is to this day the highest church from street level in the world.

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The first level has a traditional church.

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Known as the Sky Chapel, it was part of the original building but not fully completed until 1952 as a gift from the family of the Walgreen’s Drug Store founder.

To this day the church is self funded by the rents paid by other tenants in the building, allowing it to fully focus on serving the diverse community it serves.

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Outside is some unique art.

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Marshall Field’s (Macy’s) Tiffany Dome – With over 1.6 million pieces it is the largest Tiffany  mosaic in existence. Designed by Louis Tiffany in 1907, over 50 artisans worked on scaffolding for 18 months to complete this amazing masterpiece.

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The Pedway hosts a collection of stained glass.

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Some general scenes around the city.

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A tourist boat on the Chicago River.

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One of the lift bridge control buildings frame by a 60 floor building.

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Classic Chicago – The Merchandise Mart with a Brown Line El train coming in.

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Old street light and new skyscrapers.

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Up Wells Street from the 10th floor of a parking garage.

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A building along Madison Street.

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Millennium Park

Cloud Gate is a public sculpture located in Millennium Park. While the artists inspiration was liquir mercury, it is commonly referred to as The Bean. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city.

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The buildings along East Randolph Street.

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Pritzker Pavilion – A Frank Gehry design, the pavilion is a band shell that hosts numerous events each year. For this mid October night it was quiet, but still stunning with it’s red lighting.

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Art Institute of Chicago is one of the oldest and largest museums in the United States. From this part of the park, you get a great view of one of the modern additions along with the Michigan Avenue skyline.

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tomorrow the official events starts.

 

 

Chicago – October 2018 – Open House Part 2

Open House Chicago continue…

 

The North Leg of the Chicago River toward Chicago Avenue – clearly we are in … Chicago.

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151 North Franklin – a new, nondescript building saved by a great rooftop deck.

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Some strange lighting on a nearby building.

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180 North LaSalle – it was billed as Open House, but really just a lobby was open.

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Another (brief) revisit – The Builders Building. But this skylight is worth it.

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20 West Kinzie – Originally a Google Building it is now home to a flexible work space group called We Works.

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Their 17th floor common space offered some different aspects on some iconic buildings.

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They too have a nice outdoor space on the 17th floor.

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Just up the street in a 100 year old warehouse is the architectural firm of Ross Barney.

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330 North Wabash – Miles van der Rohe designed this basic, yet famed 695’ high skyscraper.

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The minimalist, but stylish lobby.

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Originally built for IBM and completed after Rohe’s death in 1969, the Open House Chicago event was held on the 15th floor in the offices of Thornton Tomasetti.2018 10 13 316 Chicago Open House.jpg

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This firm is a leader in engineering design, focusing on mechanical engineering of many famed skyscrapers around the world.

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Our final stop of the day – the John Hancock Observation Deck. Definitely not part of Open House Chicago, but worth the visit on this partly cloudy day.

We arrived about an hour before sunset and barely made it up in time, but we did!

Enjoy sunset and night time in Chicago.

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continued….

 

Chicago – October 2018 – Open House Part 5

Chicago Open House weekend concludes ….

 

Another ‘non official’ stop – The Chicago Athletic Club

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For 122 years it was a private club.

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That has recently been opened as a boutique hotel.

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The lower two floors are public space that we were welcome to tour – as long as we didn’t take photos with the SLR cameras.

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But fortunately iPhones take decent photos, including the classic bar.

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The game room retains that feel of a private club.

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As well as the lobby.

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Interestingly the Chicago Cubs ‘borrowed’ the Athletic Club’s logo in the 1880s.

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Chicago Cultural Center

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Built in 1893 as the Central Library it has housed the Cultural Center since the 1970s.

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Entrance to the stairway from the Preston Bradley Hall.

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Another view of the Hall with a glimpse of the highlight.

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A 38′ Tiffany Dome – many claim this to be the largest in the world.

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The dome and light are stunning.

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Directly across the street is Millennium Park.

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333 North Michigan Avenue

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The Eastlake Studio on the 26th floor was open – featuring a terrace with great views.

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A perfect spot for checking out the iconic Wrigley Building.

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The Jewelers Building, with a large collection of details at the top (when this building was built who did they think would be able to see these 400′ up — but they are impressive from this vantage point.)

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A close up of the Wrigley Building clock.

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A view across the river to a terrace on Chicago’s second tallest building that will remain nameless.

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A mix of old and new (with reflections of old).

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One of the reliefs in 333 North Michigan Avenue.

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Another nearby vintage skyscraper’s upper detail.

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Everybody was taking photos.

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For a nice Sunday afternoon the tourists boats were empty – everyone was attending the Open House Chicago events.

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Up Michigan Avenue and the Hancock Tower with the Lincoln Park Beach in the background.

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Back on the street we passed the Jewelers Building, with this great clock.

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A repeat visit from last year is 150 North Riverside, and the view from the 27th floor. Interestingly they had the north end of the empty floor blocked, which was disappointing as this had the best views, but there were still some great shots.

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The area to the immediate west and north of the loop is experiencing a building boom.

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The view south down the river.

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Further south (zoomed all the way in on a slightly hazy day) are El Rail Yards and Comiskey Park (or whatever it is called now).

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The top floors of the Civic Opera Building.

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Always one of my favorite’s the Merchandise Mart.

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Notice how the reflection of the El Tracks makes it appear they go through the building.

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Back down on the ground – a view from the Lake Street Bridge north.

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The older section of the LondonHouse Hotel.

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300 East Randolph Street – with an open elevator shaft.

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This building was originally a 30 floor building, but in 2007-2010 they added another 24 floors. For Open House Chicago the 30th floor was open.

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The views were different than all other we had seen all weekend – south towards the parks and South Michigan Avenue.

It was an amazing view.

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With a bit of zoom, the Field Museum and Soldier Field.

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More 30th floor zooming – across Northerly Island towards Hyde Park and the University of Chicago.

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The Adler Planetarium.

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BKL Architects had a model of their neighborhood.

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As well as an overview of downtown.

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The Lake Shore East neighborhood is another that has had substantial residential growth.

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The view from the Columbus Avenue Bridge up the river.

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We ended at the Navy Pier for some night time shots

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As Elwood said to Jake in the Blues Brothers ‘look it’s the Picasso’

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One final view for a spectacular weekend – The Chicago Board of Trade at night.

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