Friday, October 19, 2012

thursday 13 - random places i love in chicago

Random Places/Buildings that I love in Chicago, inspired by a lunch meeting I had last week at #13. And these are in no particular order.

13. Cliff Dwellers Club, penthouse floor at 200 S. Michigan Avenue. There are stunning views of Grant Park, the museum campus and Lake Michigan. Members of the club can visit for lunch or dinner any day of the week and bring guests (like myself.) Every entrĂ©e I’ve had has been delicious, the company, great. Customer service, impeccable. Desserts, fantastic. And the view, unparalleled.

12. The Chicago Theater. Love this place. Even made watching “Dora the Explorer LIVE!” somewhat bearable. Tip: Get the mezzanine seats!!

11. The Statue of the Republic in Jackson Park. I pass by this statue every day, and when the girls were younger they used to say “Good morning, Sister Statue.” Even now she comes up fairly regularly in our conversation because my daughters swear that she moves. Anyway, apparently this statue was erected to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the World Columbian Exposition (World’s Fair), as the original wooden statue burned. (wood statues?) Nearby Hyde Park and the Midway are also a subset of this favorite spot that I love that was the site of one of the world's greatest World Fairs ever. Supposedly Erik Larson’s book about that Fair's serial killer, Devil in a White City, is being made into a movie (starring Leonardo DiCaprio)…they’ll have to show this area of the City that I love.

10. Promonotory Point. Directly on the lakefront in Hyde Park, this gem is situated along the lakefront path and includes a building, benches, sitting areas and even firepit areas. The Museum of Science and Industry is viewable on the south side of the point, downtown on the north side.

Here's a picture of my girls that I had a photographer friend of mine take in the spring of this year at the Point. That's the Museum in the background.
9. 63rd Street Beachhouse. This is the largest and oldest beach house in the city, and was built as a result of repeated cries of the surrounding community to extend the beaches and public access to the lake. Power to the people. It's still used today, supposedly, though not in a capacity like typical park district facilities. Back in its heyday the had showers and changing facilities for swimmers. Part of the reason I like it is that it signifies "you're almost done" when returning from a long run along the lakefront. It sort of looks like a fortress. This part of the lakefront will always be home to me, no matter where i go.

8. Beverly (neighborhood). This south side neighborhood is so unexpected…it’s an enclave of lovely homes, well-manicured lawns and rolling hills. I have a favorite house in this area at 99th/Leavitt. If I didn’t have so many life commitments in other far reaches of the city, I would love to live here.

--GUESS I'll have to get out here and take my own pictures.

7. North Avenue Pedestrian Bridge/Seating area just south of there. Some of the best views of the city can be found right here. And I could sit here all day looking at the lake. Seems like a great place to fall in love...or something.

Here's a view from the pedestrian bridge:

6. 1250-1260 Lakeshore Drive…two of just 7 homes directly on LSD, I’ve always admired these two buildings, and imagined what it would take to live there. (Winning the largest mega millions jackpot ever, maybe?) The contrast these two buildings present against the tall apartment buildings is breathtaking. This blog provides more information about these beautiful mansions (and is also where I got the pictures from.) And side note: these mansions are pretty much directly behind the pavilion seating area above.

5. The Drake Hotel. I’ve never stayed here but would love to someday. This block of the city, from the hotel and eastward is so beautiful. I’m pretty sure that the building east is where Oprah lived. I saw pictures of her place when it was for sale and was 99.99999% sure that I recognized the windows on the outside pictures. What views they must have each morning as the sun rises over Lake Michigan. Sometimes when traffic is backed up on the Drive, I don't mind so much because there is just so much to take in here. It's so beautiful. I live in a beautiful city, and you don't need to be filthy rich to enjoy the view. Speaking of enjoying the view, you can see The Drake from the pavilion area, also.

4. The 1500 block of West Jackson. When I lived on the west side, I found this block when walking my 2-month old baby in her stroller. I can only describe it as an urban oasis, where the trees create a canopy of shade and beauty. In the summer, it provides welcomed relief from the sun and concrete. In the fall, the colors are just breathtaking. The backdrop of grandiose brownstones offer a glimpse of old-time Chicago urban architecture. And it’s just a block away from one of the best high schools in the city. This blcok is part of the Jackson Boulevard Historic District and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

3. Florsheim Shoe Factory. Once upon a time when America was in the height of the industrial area, there were factories all across Chicago. One of them was the Florsheim Shoe Company, a factory building located at Belmont/Pulaski in the Avondale neighborhood. I've seen factories come and go, demolished in favor of rampant retail or condominiums at the height of the housing bubble. Brach's Candy...Fannie Mae...(not sure why I'm only thinking of candy companies...but I digress.) So whenever a building can be saved and reused (planning terms: adaptive re-use), I love it. It may sound weird, but to me buildings have a certain soul about them. When we save a building, it's as if we save a little piece of Chicago's past, too.

Today as the Florsheim Shoemaker Lofts:

2. Comiskey Park home plate commemorative. A tribute to yesteryear. The old park is now gone, but the exact place where home plate is commemorated in the parking lot. Sigh.
1. The Chicago Park District system of regional parks, connecting boulevards and neighborhood parks. The Chicago Park District is the largest park district in the nation—yes! Something we beat NYC on--oh SNAP! There are over 500 parks. Large regional parks serve as destination points for Chicagoans. Jackson, Washington, Douglas, Humboldt, Columbus, Garfield and Lincoln all have ornate fieldhouses, sit on acres and acres of beautifully countoured land, and are home to a variety of activities including boat harbors, swimming, a conservatory, biking amenities, multiple sporting fields, and major annual festivals. These regional parks are the jewels of the city and provide open space for city dwellers to commune with nature. These parks are connected by a series of boulevards, and though not all of them are the green corridors they were intended, they still provide quick and direct access from park to park, by car, and increasingly so by bike. WTTW-11 (Chicago’s PBS station) has a fantastic documentary about the history of the boulevards, and biking on them today. Lastly, the neighborhood parks offer many of these benefits. Unique, architecturally distinct fieldhouses (not all, but many), multi-generational play space, year-round activities and more. If you’re a Chicagoan and aren’t benefitting from the park district…what are you waiting for?

Much of the beauty in Chicago's parks we owe to one person: Jens Jensen. Never heard of him? I suspect most people haven't, yet he was a giant. Read more about him here if you're interested. As a landscape architect "everywhere he championed his core conviction: people must have some contact with the "living green," – flowers and plants native to their home. To Jensen, landscape architecture was not just a profession, nor was the use of native plants just one style among many – they expressed his near-mystical belief in the renewing and civilizing powers of nature. He was a reformer with his hands on a spade and his head in the clouds."

Here are some pics from the Church of Jens Jensen:
Columbus Park

Columbus Park waterfall

Clearly my list is influenced by things I love: history, urban planning (and cities in general), and architecture. This is who I am. I fall in love with places like they are people. And whether I live here forever or leave tomorrow, it doesn't matter--the beauty of these places is that they will "live" on forever. They were here before me, and they will be here after me. I often wonder when I'm in an old building, or in public space meant for the enjoyment of many....what stories would these old walls tell if they could? What secrets do these 100 year old trees keep? Who else has loved these places? Did they walk here and take it all in, too? On the alma mater at the University of Illinois there's an enscription that reads "To thy happy children of the future, those of the past send greetings." With its arms spread open wide, welcoming students year after year to the Quad and its impressive architecture. I feel that those visionaries of Chicago's past, their monuments left behind offer this same sentiment. And I hear you loud and clear. Thank you.

(p.s. I started this Thursday 13 list on Thursday, but just got around to finishing it today. Oops!)

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