You're gonna get hungry reading this.
Who remembers these restaurants? Please comment and share with me your memories / photos. I'd love to learn from you. Thanks & bon appetit!
Chicago then was not Chicago now.
Our lovely lakefront with its museums, parks, bike trails - all that used to be factories, smokestacks, trains spewing smoke, horses (and their uh...you know) and factory waste being dumped straight into the river and lake.
This basically is where Millennium Park is today.
The same space in 1965:
Check this out. Illinois Center & The Hyatt? Factories. NBC Building & 401 N Michigan Avenue? Soap factory & warehouse. Hybrid cars? Nope. Muddy streets, horses & their "leave behinds" ? You bet your nose this city was stinky.
Doesn't it make you appreciate where we are today?
The 1893 World's Colombian Exhibition...yes, we all know a lot about it. "Devil in the White City", Museum of Science & Industry, Ferris Wheel - etc.
Take another look at it now. Closer. Over to the left. On top of the dome.
Anything look familiar here?
That statue from the fair reminds me of the statue on top of the headquarters of Montgomery Ward. I realize they are not the same statue but to me, they are cousins. What do you think?
Turns out they are cousins! Take a look at this: https://chicagology.com/goldenage/goldenage015/spiritofprogress/
I love this booklet. It was from a Museum of Modern Art's 1947 exhibit, Modern Rooms of the Last Fifty Years.
Here is what is not modern interior design but maybe at their respective times, maybe they were considered modern:
What do you think about these now?
As you may know, I have a thing for real estate trivia and humor. So fasten your nerd hat on your head and check this out.
Look at the aerial photo on the left. First, see that helicopter? That is a commuter helicopter service that used to go between Winnetka, Meigs Field, Midway Airport and O'Hare....but that's not the story here.
The important part of the photo is what's missing around the Prudential Building? Lot's of things like the Standard Oil Building (now AON Building), the Blue Cross Blue Shield Building, Illinois Center plus a zillion new condo buildings. Instead in their place are parking lots and tons of train tracks. How did all those buildings get built where the tracks are?
The man on the right is Arthur Rubloff, literally a Hall of Fame Member of the Illinois Association of Realtors. He had the vision of air rights. He decided that he could negotiate to purchase the space above a space to build on this upper level. It happens all the time now but not then. This was way out there.
Rubloff negotiated with the city and state to basically build a huge platform above all those tracks and parking lots. They didn't have to move at all. Rubloff just made it possible to build thousands of square feet of office, retail and residential space in thin air.
Pretty powerful realtor, huh?
So say you're driving down Cermak Rd just west of Chicago around Cicero Avenue. You'd see something you can see basically all over America - a big strip mall with a Taco Bell, a dollar store and lots of similar businesses.
BUT wait a sec - what the heck is a medieval tower doing behind it?!?!
Let me explain. You are looking at the tower that once belonged to the enormous Western Electric Hawthorne Works. (Guess what the name of the strip mall is today by the way? Hawthorne Works Shopping Center.) Anyway, around the late 1920's and early 1930's, this plant was where most of the country's telephone equipment was made. The plant covered 200 acres and employed thousands.
Northbrook might be the place to head to go shopping or to play golf but usually I don't think to go there to go fly in an airplane. If it was 1929 though I really could.
Funny story - during training for WWII, many a Glenview Naval Air Station trainee pilot would mistake Sky Harbor's runways for the naval base's, just south east of here. When this happened, most often the plane was too large to safely take off from Sky Harbor's runways. So mechanics from GNAS would have to drive over to Sky Harbor and strip the plane of nearly all fuel and all its armament to lighten it for a safe takeoff.
For more great information on Chicago's old airfields, go to www.airfields-freeman.com. It's an amazing site!
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.
So this is 1921.
Notice anything different?
Does this make you think differently about the Wrigley Building? To me it really does. The architects, Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, really made a statement by cladding the building in terra cotta. The bright white surface really made the building stand out. Of course, it does stand out simply as being one of the tallest around at the time. I just love the building. This photo is also great because it really shows you how the Illinois Center area as well as the Equitable Building and NBC Building were manufacturing areas back then. Can you imagine that today?
It's sort of like 1960 was like last week.
I have this Margolin Builders beautiful home for sale now. Isn't it amazing how the home today still looks like the original advertising model home? Inside mine the home has been mechanically updated over the years and has great bones. This model is the extra large one with the huge eat-in kitchen that is wide and long enough to have bonus cabinets. The house also was designed for 4 bedrooms upstairs, the largest style, but the homeowner decided he wanted one extra large bedroom for his boys so this home features 3 bedrooms instead, one being super large.
Anyway, come check it out at Sunday's open or any time at www.419alpineln.com.
Here is what the ceiling in my living room looks like:
Luckily, we don't all have to live below such boring spaces. Take a look at some of these breathtaking ceilings:
West Wilmette has secrets? Yes!
Next time you're over at Dairy Queen, drive or walk across the street and go behind that apartment building. You'll find some amazing things.
Go check out amazing West Wilmette.
Can you spot the difference here?
Yes, the name changed. That's not it.
The picture on the left is from 1915. The one on the right is from 1926. See what changed in those 11 years?
Where are the women in 1926? Seriously!
I just love that in 1915 in this firm women architects were incredibly well represented. In its infancy, this field was not very open to women yet Holabird & Roche had many women in their firm photo of 1915. Eleven years later - not so much. Quite sad I think.
photos c/o Chicago Architecture Foundation
* - Ok, my brother created the name and game. I hope he doesn't sue me for using it for my blog.
This is where I took my dogs for their walk this morning. It is the Wilmette dog area just west of west park, just south of Lake Street. Standing under those wires may not be one of my favs but this is a really interesting place - really. Here's why:
Do you know who this is?
Nope - not Mayor Daley. Nope - not Ike Sewell, founder of Uno's Pizza. This is architect Mies van der Rohe.
Disclosure - for no real logical reason I once had a dream where I was an architect working on a job site of his and I had an entire discussion with him in German. Weird, I know!
From the Chicago Architecture Foundation's website:
"It’s difficult to imagine what the skyline of Chicago might look like without architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. He influenced an entire generation of architects while tenured as head of the architecture department at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). During his 60-year career Mies established a design vocabulary that helped define Mid-Century Modern architecture.
Mies did not design buildings with a particular style in mind. For him, the philosophy came first. How a building looked was purely an expression of its time and materials. He explained, “I am not interested in the history of civilization. I am interested in our civilization. We are living it. Because I really believe, after a long time of working and thinking and studying that architecture … can only express this civilization we are in and nothing else.”
When Mies arrived in the United States in 1938, he was already internationally known and established in his field. He designed one of his most famous buildings — the Barcelona Pavilion — as the German Pavilion for the 1929 International Exposition in Spain. It’s a magnificent example of his trademark emphasis on open space. Soon after that success he served as director of the Bauhaus, the school of design in Germany. He elected to close the school in 1933 and eventually left his home country due to mounting pressure from the growing Nazi regime.
From 1939-58 he served as head of the architecture department of IIT where he not only redesigned the department’s curriculum but also the university’s campus. A year after his appointment he developed plans for the recently expanded 120-acre campus. Mies designed a collection of buildings with steel and concrete frames wrapped in brick and glass curtain walls, including his masterpiece: Crown Hall. The campus was revolutionary at the time and perfectly expressed Mies’ design principles and “less is more” approach.
In 1960 he was awarded the AIA Gold Medal, which is the highest award given by the American Association of Architects. Considered among the greatest architects of the 20th century, Mies’ influence can be seen throughout Chicago and certainly reaches far beyond his adopted hometown."
Who knows what terra cotta is?
From the Chicago Architecture Foundation's website:
"Latin words for "cooked earth"; a building material such as a tile piece; terra cotta is made from moist clays formed in molds and then fired at a very high temperature in a kiln"
You see a lot of terra cotta decoration on Chicago buidings. When walking around even in neighborhoods, look up above the store windows on some buildings & you'll probably find some terra cotta.
Let's say you find yourself in the Lincoln Square neighborhood. First, go get something yummy to eat at Cafe Selmarie and get something for me too. (Priorities people!) Second, walk south on Lincoln to 4611. That is the former Krause Music Store designed by Louis Sullivan. Take a look at this masterwork of terra cotta design. Pretty special!
Ever hear of a "soft pull" credit report?
A "soft pull" credit report is required by lenders/investors prior to a loan closing in order to determine whether or not a borrower has applied and/or taken on additional credit obligations. Most investors require that this "soft pull" report be done no more than 5 days prior to closing.
Why is this important?
Additional credit obligations may impact a borrower's ability to qualify for their loan. Known as the "Quiet Period", the lenders want to see no additional debt incurred during this time. Wait until after your closing date to go open that department store credit card or take on a car loan.
Who knows what clear-span construction is?
From the Chicago Architecture Foundation's Website:
"a structural system that does not use any columns between the exterior walls"
Think Mad Men. Think about the cubicle farm you probably have worked in. It doesn't seem like such a big deal today but back in the day, a building needed a lot of interior columns and walls to hold itself up. The Mondanock Building on Dearborn and Jackson is a great example of this. In a building like that you don't get big big open rooms. With engineering advances - mostly developed here in Chicago I might add - the building was able to start holding itself up with an exterior cage-like structure. This left the interiors able to have much bigger open spaces uninterrupted with columns and walls. The picture above by the way is the Inland Steel Building on Monroe in Chicago, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. My uncle, Tevis Freeman, was an architect on this amazing project.
The Mad Men tv set.
Who knows what bundled tube construction is?
From the Chicago Architecture Foundation's website:
"a structural system for a tall building that uses giant square tubes, made up of individual columns, that provide stability again wind loads"
So you can tell from the photo that this was utilized in the construction of the Sears Tower. The brilliant engineer, Faziur Rahman Kahn, of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill developed this system to provide the building the necessary stability while meeting the client's space needs. More info here.
Chicago truly is the town of skyscraper history - the first one, the tallest, x-braced, - it all happened here first.
Ok, this sort of post is dry I know but it is still important - sort of like your Great Aunt Rita's pot roast.
Sarah Rothschild, Realtor & Architectural History Nerd.