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This will put a little spring in your step today…
Just a short walk a few blocks east of the Ogilvie Metra Station is the theater district. Our destination yesterday was The Chicago Theater. We were going to see Straight No Chaser, so we planned ahead to do a tour of the theater earlier in the day. The tour lasts over an hour and visitors get to really appreciate the architecture since the building is empty. Below is just a few of the thousands of light bulbs in the front of this theater. How many people does it take to change these light bulbs? …sounds like a joke I’ve heard about a million times, but this would be a real job!
Below the bulbs are all lit….still can’t imagine how long it takes to change these babies.
The Chicago Theater opened in 1921 as a movie house and was the first of its kind. It was a model for other theaters that followed. For 40 years the theater was known for movies and live entertainment. But from the 70’s until the mid 80’s the theater business hit a lull and the theater was eventually closed in 1985. In 1986, the theater was purchased and saved from demolition. (Are you starting to see a pattern here? People love to knock things over. It doesn’t end in childhood. Thank goodness for the other little kids who yell …nooooo, I’m gonna tell Mom!!) The theater was saved, refurbished and reopened in 1986 with Frank Sinatra as a headliner.
To marvel at the workmanship, is an understatement in this building. It was covered and remodeled in the 50’s with Formica and other trends at the time, but they were smart enough just to cover the details. All of it was preserved underneath to appreciate today.
At just .25 for the ticket, this was an event, not just a movie. Even the entrance to the men’s restrooms is elegant. This is where the men would lounge and have a pipe or cigar with the guys.
Elegance and opulence was the intention. The ceilings of today just don’t seem to get this much attention…
Treat yourself to this grand dame of a building. A Christmas Story, the Musical, is here for the rest of December. Next time you are there for a concert or musical, try to take a tour ahead of time and take time to look around…there is so much to see from days gone by.
Straight No Chaser is still in town, by the way, at The Rosemont Theater tonight (Dec 4) at 7:30. Run to the phone if you want to get tickets. Both shows were sold out yesterday. They were OUTstanding. Or get some of their music, you will love it.
My nephew and his lovely new wife just got their slideshow back from their wedding and it was set to this. Put this in your headphones on the train today. You should probably put it on repeat.
Timing. Timing is everything. I had been saving the following blog for when the weather got colder since it describes an inside tour. I thought it would be a good thing for people to do when it was just too bitter to be out in the wind. And then Maggie Daley died. I knew immediately what I was going to submit this weekend.
As it has been spoken and written about this weekend, Maggie Daley was a “Champion of Culture”. She gracefully pushed to have the city infused with it. The building that will host her visitation was high on her list of beautiful importance that deserved to be preserved, renovated, and put to use for the people of Chicago and visitors. I am happy to give you a visitor’s view…
Free things are usually classified as “And it was worth every penny.” or “Wow! That was free!”. I stumbled upon this free tour while I was in the Chicago Cultural Center the other day. I actually was there to take the Chicago InstaGreeter walking tour and another tourist recommended this one. It is a guided 1 hour tour of the Cultural Center building itself.
The building was built for the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. It is a building you might pass on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Randolph when you are at Millennium Park without even really noticing it. But if you look closely enough, it is a real gem of a building that was just days from being bulldozed when it was renovated in 1974. The building was first built as a library to show the rest of the world that Chicago had class and that they were educated and cultured and not the “aggies” that everyone in New York thought they were. There is so much marble in the building it will make your head spin. It reminds me of a lot Rome with the marble and detail in the cathedrals there. But the real surprise is the incredible amount of the Tiffany glass that is inlaid in the marble on the walls.
In the photo below is a sample of just how much. If you stand in this particular spot, you can see all 5 floors….of white marble.
The building was days away from destruction, electricity cut off and bulldozers ready, when the first Mayor Daley stopped it and decided then and there to start preserving old historic and beautiful buildings. (History says that his wife, Eleanor “Sis” Daley, and other ladies were behind this…happy wife, happy life.) I cannot imagine what they were thinking when contemplating bulldozing this place. It is literally full of marble.
The tour is approximately one hour and is full of historical nuggets of information regarding this time in our history, not too long after the end of the Civil War and after the Great Chicago Fire.
Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and kept the group interested by asking questions. I am the proud owner of much useless information inside this coconut of mine, so I answered some questions. (You know in school when you are saying under your breath…”When am I EVER going to need to know this stuff?”… on a day like today, that’s when. If you were wondering what this useless, but prize winning info was… I will brag…What is the the origin of the t-shirt? and What is the pineapple a symbol of?… Rhodes Scholar, I know….and no, I will not give you the answers. Just like your teachers used to say…”Do I look like an encyclopedia? Go look it up.”)
I would advise that this tour is not for real little ones. They might want to poke their eyes out if you bring them along. Actually, they might want to poke your eyes out if you bring them along.
The domes, yes plural, are amazing.
The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Rotunda, a tribute to the Civil War, has doors that are this big and overhead are etchings of the battles won.
Since this building originally was the 1st Chicago Public Library, the Preston Bradley Hall has many references to literature and books,
And here is another stained glass Tiffany dome from the Preston Bradley Hall. This is the hall where the books were delivered to patrons. A downloaded book could never give you the goosebumps this room can give. The day I was there a pianist was giving a free concert playing the most gorgeous music and it really did bring tears to my eyes.
This is the amazing view of Millennium Park from the upstairs window.
The views inside and out are well worth seeing. (This one falls under the category of “Wow! And it’s free!”) What a bargain! No reservations are needed, but the tours are only on certain days of the week. Best to check the website. There are free events planned in this building daily. It is a great inside tour if the weather is snarky outside. And you just never know when you are going to stumble upon some culture…
like a free concert,
a soft chair,
or a good bowl of Cajun Corn Chowder.
Go see the Chicago Cultural Center and tip your hat to the Daley women. The one who saved it and the one who brought it to life. Thanks, Maggie. Your legacy will definitively live on.
Photo Credit: William DeShazer, Chicago Tribune / May 6, 2010 http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-maggie050610toast20100506095210,0,5366786.photo
I have been a fan of this singer songwriter for about a year now. Everything this man touches turns to gold. Musically, he can do no wrong. He recently released an EP on itunes called Stark Perspective which you can buy here:
I can’t get enough of the raw acoustic feel that McLoughlin has that goes along with his great voice. Enjoy your new favorite song!
Next Saturday, after all of the crazy Black Friday shopping is over, there is a call to arms to head downtown. (Not “The Downtown” as in the o.b.v.i.o.u.s.l.y. cool phrase for downtown Chicago to make it sound like it is the only downtown you know.) Not THAT downtown, but head to your local Main-Street-USA downtown and support a local business owner.
Support your neighbor.
You may not have been in a small American downtown in a while, and if not, you don’t know what you’re missing. You might only shop at Amazon, Target, Best Buy, Nordstrom’s, Kohls…or Walgreens. (It’s probably best not to tell your beloved that you got their gift at Walgreens though.)
So this Saturday, pick a downtown. Local if you can, but if you are visiting relatives, go to their downtown. Find a new downtown. Head West, young man! Jump on the UP-W and shop Oak Park or River Forest, Elmhurst, Lombard, Glen Ellyn, Wheaton, West Chicago, or Geneva. Meet the owner and thank them for being there before they thank you for the business. And support them with your hard earned cash; don’t just eat the free food they’re serving. We would never want our downtowns to be ghost towns. They are the best slice of Americana there is.
And if you really want a hometown experience, head south 1 hour over the Mason Dixon Line in Illinois (Interstate 80) to Morris. (Take your passport if you feel the need.) Morris has a fabulous downtown. Make a day of it. Have lunch, shop, have dinner and stay for one of the live bands that the bars or restaurants schedule on any given weekend. …55 South to 80 West, you can’t miss it. Scroll down to see just a few (ok, more than a few) of the shops in this great little town.
American Express is even helping you out with a $25 advance to spend locally. You just have to “like” them on Facebook and pledge to shop small and they will gift your card.
Now get out there and do your civic duty! Get out of your Big Box Store rut! No need to “Occupy Anything”. Black Friday sounds like drudgery, but Small Business Saturday sounds like fun and you don’t even have to go at 3am. Plan ahead… shop small, but BUY BIG, and maybe you will find that for the rest of the year you will choose to support these stores, too.
Count the number of times I used the word “downtown” and you could be a winner. I said “you could”, but probably not. There is actually nothing to win.