Ghosts of Celery Past
Ever hear the one about the home haunted by the Celery Ghost?
Me neither but if it did exist, this is the place! This black and white photo on the left is of Chicago's old produce market which was in use really until recently when a newer one was built around Damen and Blue Island. Anyway, what should the city do with these former spaces? Loft 'em baby! You can now live is some really really beautiful lofts in these exact buildings. And if you listen really really closely, maybe you'll hear the Celery Ghost.
Let's go back aboard the Empress of Britain.
Earlier I drew the comparison (at least in my opinion) between the ship's pool and the hotel lobby from the set of the film, The Grand Budapest Hotel. Now let's dry off and walk over to the ship's Knickerbocker Bar for a refreshment. Here's what we see:
Across the walls and even the ceiling we see the story of the evolution of the cocktail as told through the illustrations of legendary illustrator Heath Robinson. They are hysterical. I am guessing the longer one stayed in the bar, the funnier they became.
Interested in the connection between Robinson and Rube Goldberg? Go check out each of their portfolios and you'll see it right away.
Ok, follow me on this one. It really has to do with real estate. See....I was sitting an open house one day and it was sort of quiet so I checked out this book on the coffee table about the history of ocean liners. Basically real estate brought me this information, don't you see?
In the 1920's & 1930's the Empress of Britain sailed as one of the finest luxury liners. To make it even grander, for the winter it reduced its passenger capacity to bring the staff to passenger ratio nearly 1 to 1. Then it set sail for four month voyages leaving New York and heading around the world.
Two things drew my attention to this ship. The pool here reminded me so much of the lobby of the Grand Budapest Hotel in the later years during the film. That clock and the artificial skylights trying to be created with the ceiling like that just reminded me of the film set. What do you think?
In my next post I'll tell you what noted illustrator Heath Robinson has to do with any of this.
Question - how can a solid, presumably very heavy statue get around town so much? Wait, it gets better - it's been run over & even blown up two times. Do you know the story about the travels of this statue? Let me tell you.
The statue initially was created in memory of the policemen killed in the violence of the 1886 Haymarket Riot. The funds for the statue was raised by members of the Union League Club of Chicago.
The first incident happened on May 4th, 1927. A streetcar jumped its tracks and crashed into it. The driver said he was sick of seeing that policeman with his arm raised. The city fixed the statue and moved it to Union Park the next year.
The Kennedy was built in the 1950's and the statue got moved over to the original Haymarket Square area overlooking the new expressway. In October 1969 the statue was destroyed by a bomb. The Weathermen took credit for this. By May the next year the statue was rebuilt and set back on its base. Five months later, it was blown up again by the Weathermen.
You'd think the city would give up but did they? No way. Mayor Daley had it rebuilt now for the third time and placed in the lobby of Police Headquarters. Four years later for some reason he was moved to the courtyard of the Chicago Police Academy. When the new Chicago Police Headquarters was built at 35th and South Michigan Avenue, there was the statue outside the building. It seems to be living a very quiet life there...so far.
Check out the photo above. This is looking east into New York City from Pier 57 on the Hudson. Pier 57 sits at the end of West 15th Street. See the big National Biscuit Company building above? There is is below in the current photo. (The middle of the three buildings, sort of set back.)
What's so cool about these photos is how some things right in front of you can have very long interesting histories. First, this ship you see in the older photo was the Champlain. In the 1930's she was an Atlantic luxury ocean liner. She was one of the first ocean liners to have a clean open upper deck to be used by passengers for sports, sunning and strolling. Sadly, in June of 1940 she struck a mine at La Pallice, France & sank.
Back to that National Biscuit Company building. Think about that name, quickly think about it. Kinda sounds a bit like....Nabisco doesn't it? Bingo! Same company. The company has moved on to other locations but know what is in their former building today? Rachel Ray, Bobby Flay, Alton Brown + all the others at The Food Network.
Yup, today that building is Chelsea Market, a fantastic food hall and home to The Food Network studios.
Ok, one last piece of odd information - know why the National Biscuit Company would want to build their big plant right in the middle of what was until quite recently New York City's meat packing district? Gross but because of lard. To make biscuits, breads, crackers at the time you need a shortening. It was cheapest to work right at the source's neighborhood, the meat packing plants all around there.
So on that very gross but historical note, thanks for reading this.
Sarah Rothschild, Realtor & Architectural History Nerd.