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.

Chicago – December 2018 – Elevated Architecture: Downtown ‘El’ Train

Our final tour of this visit was one I was looking forward to – a tour of architecture of and from the El train. The tour would take us into a number of El stations, as well as checking out some of Chicago’s finest architecture from a view most don’t see – 20 feet up from the El platforms.

We made our way to our first station in the pouring rain. The group of 9 people were more than happy when we arrived at the Washington and Wabash Station. Rebuilt and opened just a year ago, this station is sometimes referred to as the Millennium Station as it is located just a block from the park (but to any Chicagoan it will always be Washington/Wabash).

The canopy is made of steel and glass, with waves that are to evoke the feeling of nearby Lake Michigan.

As you enter the station you are greeting by a significant amount of artwork.

A major portion of the tour was focused on the nearby buildings. We had seen the Sullivan Center previously, but on this tour we had the mix of the canopy of the station with the classic lines of the building.

This row of 5 floor buildings are survivors from the 1800s, and are classic buildings. All they need is someone to come along with $40-50 million to purchase and rehab them (perhaps into boutique hotels!)

We made our way clockwise around the loop to the stations at State and Van Buren, aka the Harold Washington Library Station.

While the station is a fairly typical El station, it has great views of the Fisher Building and the Monodnock Building.

The Fisher Building is an 1896 Daniel Burnham masterpiece. As with many buildings it was built in two phases. Note the bay windows on the portion closest to the camera, then a flat face just beyond that.

The building’s terracotta has numerous sculptures featuring fish and crabs, as well as mythical creatures.

The northbound view of Dearborn Street with the Monodnock on the left and the Standard Club on the right.

The rain and the Monodnock gave a basic light added character.

We had the good fortune of having the CTA Holiday Train roll through the station as we were checking out the sights. A Chicago tradition since 1992, the train is decorated by volunteers and corporate sponsor.

Prior to Christmas they will run open air flatbed cars with Santa on them (check out the blog posting on the CTA Skokie Repair shop for more details as it was being prepared when we were there in October).

Throughout our tour the CTA employees were more than helpful, holding the train briefly while we boarded en mass or letting us through the turnstiles without addition payment to check out the stations.

I am certain to them it is just a job, but how cool would it be to drive an El train around all day.

The Quincy Station was the highlight of the tour. It was opened in 1897 and is essentially the same as the day it opened (with a few additional safety features).

They even have a couple of the original (unused) fare boxes mounted on the wall

It is the only station in the system that does not have advertising, rather they have period correct ads from the early days of the station.

Interestingly the ad on the left for the South Shore could still be valid, as that commuter rail still runs down into Indiana.

The platform maintains the same look. Quite the contrast to the skyscrapers in the background (including the 1400′ high Willis/Sears Tower directly behind the platform).

Again the lighting adds to the overall look.

We continued around the loop, crossing Randolph Street past the Palace Theater.

We made a turn to the west at the northwest corner of the loop, giving a great view of the wood planking for the tracks as well as one of the control stations.

Our final stop was at the Clinton Station in the West Loop. With the recent construction of very tall buildings, and the rain, the views were diminished this day, but it still gave some great symmetry shots.

This station is next to Union Station. The building in the background was once a large warehouse but has been re purposed to condo’s.

The view back towards the loop. It is interesting how this 100+ year old transportation still works, skirting past the massive skyscrapers.

We were at a Metra Commuter Rail station and had the good fortune of seeing their Holiday Train as well! Talk about good luck (even with the pouring rain).

As always our volunteer docent was knowledgeable and personable. With so many tacky tourist hop on hop off bus type businesses in large American cities, the non profit, mostly volunteer Chicago Architecture Foundation is a real treasure. We are looking forward to returning for more tours.

Chicago – October 2018 – Open House Chicago Special Tours

We were fortunate enough to get tickets to two Open House Special Tours.

Our first tour was of the CTA El Train Repair Shops in Skokie. Directions to our tour was to go to the Howard Street Station on the Red Line and gather on the far end of the platform.

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For this Saturday morning the platform was jammed with many people not used to taking the train, as they were in town for the University of Nebraska game against Northwestern in Evanston. To the normal commuter seeing a 1922 El Car come rolling into the station would be a surprise, but to this large out of town crowd it was stunning.

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One of the volunteers was dressed in a period uniform.

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While others had their safety vests on. All of the vintage cars are maintained by volunteers – many retired CTA workers.

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The passengers were excited…

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As we arrived at the yard we were greeted by other vintage cars awaiting restoration, as well as the revenue generating current cars.

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The 400 series cars really stand out against the modern cars in the yard.

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But it was time to tour the shop.

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Our tour guide was the manager of the facility.

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The shop.

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There were El cars in various states of repair.

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This station refurbishes the wheels.

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While another lifts the entire car for easy access.

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They also have some bays with pits to get underneath the cars.

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A great Chicago tradition is the Holiday Train. Started in 1992, the Holiday Train is a labor of love for the CTA employees who volunteer to work on the cars, as well as the public. During the holiday season the Holiday Train visits every El station on every line, usually taking food baskets to local organizations.

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Another vintage car along ithe snow removal engine (minus the blower)

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The El Cars have springs and shocks like a regular car, just much larger.

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An axle and wheels.

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A pile of wheels waiting on refurbishing.

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A collection of contact shoes that connect the train to the third rail to provide power to the engines.

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A series of trucks ready to go. After this we headed back to our vintage car and returned to Howard Street Station.

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Our second tour of the day was the Chicago Tribune Printing Facility

The Chicago Tribune Freedom Center is a printing and inserting facility located along the Chicago River. Built in 1981, it was located along the river with the theory of bringing the paper products directly into the facility by boat, but the first shipment showed that with the bend in the river, the bridges and the building itself they couldn’t get to the dock. While the doors are still there they have never been used for their original purpose.

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Our guide was someone from the receiving department.

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Our tour of the 800,000 square foot facility started in the warehouse with massive 1 ton rolls of paper.

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From this warehouse they are loaded onto carts that are electronically routed (via a wire in the floor – 1980s technology at it’s finest) to the appropriate press.

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There are a total of 10 massive presses that are used. The Tribune facility prints not only their own newspaper, but also for the regional suburban newspapers, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal for the Midwest, and even their local competitor the Chicago Sun Times.

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The tour group was very focused.

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The massive printing presses are very cool.

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The Chicago Tribune Printing Facility was a great tour – one of the best we have done.

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New York City – September 2018 – Random Scenes of the City

After a week in the city running around each evening taking photos, a number were left without a theme, so they are grouped together here as ‘Scenes of the City’.

The view from the roof of the Met.

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The Guggneheim

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Cool interior shots of the Daily News Building on 42nd Street.

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A Bloomingdale’s on the Upper East Side.

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The 9-11 Memorial.

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The Oculus – I seem to take a photo or two every time I am there and it never gets old.

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George Washington keeping watch over Wall Street.

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A cool interior downtown.

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Fountain in City Hall Park.

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The Flatiron with interesting lighting and coloring.

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Statue on top of City Hall.

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Chambers Street Subway Station entrance.

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Before all the subways in New York consolidated into one large Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), there were many including the BMT (Brooklyn Manhattan Transit), The Independent Subway System (INT), and the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT).

Numbered trains are IRT, the letters are either INT or BMT.

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A vertical Madison Square view.

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A series of contrasting architectural styles.

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New York City always provides lots of subjects for photos.

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New York City – September 2018 – Abandoned Subway Station Tour

According to the New York MTA documentation there are 472 subway stations throughout the city. Over the years a few have been abandoned for various reasons.

Easily the most famous of those abandoned stations is the former City Hall station. Since 1945 it has sat unused in the loop at the end of the 6 train.

On rare occasions the New York Transmit Museum offers tours of this station. Tickets are hard to get and available to members only (I had a good friend who came through for me!)

We went to the current nearest station (also known as City Hall) and boarded a 6 train that went a short distance before stopping to let us off. The crowd was excited.

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The station itself was the masterpiece of the system when it opened on October 27, 1904. It was the first station to open on the first line.

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The station has a single platform that is curved. This curve eventually lead to the closing in 1945 as the newer cars were longer and made the gap between the cars and the station too wide.

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The arched ceilings and tile work make what the Transit Museum refers to as the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of the entire subway system.

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As with all subway stations the station name is a mosaic. While plain compared to some the tile work around it adds to the overall feel of the station.

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There are numerous skylights in the station. We had a night time visit so the ambient light from outside was minimal, but it too added to the aura of the tour.

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The mezzanine shown here (and the featured image of this posting) is amazing.

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The huge mosaic at the top is also a skylight, although for this tour there was no light from above.

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Back down on the platform the simple, yet elegant chandeliers provided dim lighting that accented the arched ceilings.

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The station is nearly intact, but some of the skylights need some work. Still the view of the ceilings and the curved platform is stunning.

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The primary station sign from the platform to the mezzanine level. Imagine the excitement in 1904 arriving and seeing this entrance to the station.

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There were 40 people on the tour so it was tough not having people in the photo (or getting into other people’s photos).

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A view from the mezzanine to the platform.

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A closeup of the platform ceiling and chandeliers. While we were there the 6 trains kept slowly rolling through their loop, their wheels screeching loudly on the sharp curve.

One not so hidden secret for the non paying tourists is to stay on the 6 train at the end and check out the station as the train makes it’s loop. Supposedly conductors will sometime allow this – the guides say do it on a bright sunny day so there is some light from the skylights.

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There are a few plaques commemorating the opening of the subway system.

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A close up view of the arched ceiling tile work.

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A close up view of the City Hall station sign mosaic and a skylight.

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The view down the platform into the tunnel with an oncoming train.

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Clearly I couldn’t get enough shots of the curved platform and ceiling. The style is known as a Guastavino Vault – the tile arch system using self supported arches and architectural vaults with interlocking terracotta tiles and layers of mortar.

It is named for Rafael Guastavino who immigrated to New York in 1881 from Barcelona. His work, and others in this style grace numerous buildings throughout New York City and beyond, including the Ellis Island Great Hall.

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Another view of a train rolling through with the arches and skylights (darkened). With no passengers they looked like ghost trains.

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One last look at the mezzanine level.

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And it was time to leave. Even this was amusing as our tour was holding up the entire 6 line as they stopped, set out a ramp to cover the gap and herded us on as fast as possible, with the people not wanting to leave.

Eventually we relented, and we left this fabulous place.

I feel fortunate to have had this opportunity – thanks to a good friend and the Transit Museum.

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Chicago – July 2018 – Weekend in the City

With a chance to spend a couple of nights in Chicago, we went without any specific plans. Once we arrived in town late Saturday afternoon we headed out for a walk.

Our first stop was the beautiful marquee for the Chicago Theater on State Street.

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While Chicago is known for the El trains there are a couple that are underground downtown, including the Red Line.

The entrance to the subway station has a great art deco look to it – backed up by a mural of Muddy Waters!

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State Street had a number of public art features – this one backed by the former Marshall Field Department store clock.

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As we made our way to Millennium Park we heard music.

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And were pleasantly surprised to find a symphony playing music from Lerner and Loewe movies.

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On our walk back we had the fortuitous timing to be crossing the Michigan Avenue bridge just as fireworks started from the Navy Pier.

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The view down the river framed the fireworks with the buildings.

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The next morning we took a 4 mile walk up through River North and Rush Street.

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Stopping at North Avenue Beach.

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Our walk continued through Lincoln Park, where they have made good use of dead trees.

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As we approached the zoo we saw a very large group of people – playing Pokemon!

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Eventually we made it out of the Pokemon crowd to a more serene part of the park, near Fullerton Street.

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Chicago even has skyscraper bird houses.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon back downtown at Grant Park for the Taste of Chicago.

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They had cooking competitions. This one is a Puerto Rico – Chicago specialty – the Jibarito.

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We finished the day walking along the river.

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Often when I photograph Marina City I shoot up – totally forgetting that there is actually a marina in Marina City.

As always we had a great time in Chicago.

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Washington DC – June 2018 – Views of the City

A day and a half in DC gave the opportunity to visit numerous museums (later posts) as well as check out the town. This post are randoms views of the city.

Starting with an unusual view of the Washington Monument down the tracks.

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Stores near Eastern Market

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The Eastern Market interior. I was surprised how small it was.

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A lone runner going past the capital. The reason there are no people around is the visitor center is underneath, and the police keep everyone off the steps.

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The aforementioned police.

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For those who read this blog that are not from America – nearly every 8th grader (13-14 year olds) make a field trip to Washington DC. They always have matching shirts so their chaperones can keep track of them.

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Apparently DC ducks don’t fly, so they have a ramp to get into the reflecting pool.

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The view down the Mall

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A well protected fountain

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The famed Watergate Hotel/Apartment Complex.

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And finally a ride on the Metro.

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