Sunday, November 28, 2010
In the second decade of the Twentieth Century, Wright entered into a working relationship with the developer Arthur L. Richards whose company would implement Wright's System-Built designs in developments all over the country. Re-usable plans, and materials which would be cut to size at the mill and then assembled on site, greatly cut the cost of building the homes. The six Burnham Street structures would serve as model homes for the project and they were built on what was at the time the edge of the city's south side in 1916. Four of them are duplexes of nearly identical design although the westernmost is the mirror image of the other three. The remaining two houses on the block are single family homes.
Unfortunately the United States entered World War I in 1917 and home construction all over the country was suspended. Meanwhile Wright had other commitments and his relationship with Richards soured. That leaves this wonderful, eccentric collection of homes on Burnham Street and a few other System-Built homes scattered throughout the Midwest including two on the far south side of Chicago, as the only extant examples of this ambitious project. The Wilbur Wynant house in Gary, Indiana, as previously mentioned in this space, was recently demolished after many years of neglect.
The six houses make up Milwuakee's Burnham Street Historic District, and they were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985. Wright in Milwaukee is a site that deals exclusively with the Burnham Street homes, including detailed history, as well as tour information.
The homes are well worth a visit off the beaten path.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
It still takes getting used to the early dark after we turned our clocks back after Halloween, and nobody missed the point that the mild fall we just experienced had come to an abrupt end. The only good thing was that it was the day before Thanksgiving and the normally shoulder to shoulder crowd was reduced considerably, there were even a few remaining seats after the train exited the Loop. From my window seat, there was not much to see through the fogged up windows.
There is a multi-level parking lot just north of the S curve at North Avenue. Except for a flickering light and some movement that was on the same level as the L tracks, the lot was empty. I wiped off the window to see the source of the light.
It was a group of people putting on a shadow puppet show for our benefit. I don't know how many people on the train saw it, but I sure did appreciate it.
Happy Thanksgiving guys, and thank you.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
There are a few distinct categories of sports fans. There's the fan who's never satisfied. Last night the Bears played a splendid game against the Miami Dolphins, winning 16-0, dominating the game on both sides of the ball as they say in football parlance. But listening to some of the calls coming in on the post-game radio show, you'd think the score had been the other way around. The Bears settled for field goals when they should have gotten into the end zone, our quarterback threw a terrible interception (granted he did do that), and even though the defense "pitched" a shutout, it wasn't all that impressive since Miami's quarterback was a third stringer with little experience. And on it went.
Then there is the fan whose team can do no wrong. I have a friend who told me once in a mildly drunken stupor: "in life there's only one thing I believe in, and that's the Chicago Bears." This is the kind of fan for whom there are only two possible outcomes to a game, either his team wins, or the game was stolen from them.
Finally, there are Cubs fans. There's not much to say about the Cubs and their fans that hasn't been said before. Simply put, they are the fans of a team who has not won a championship in over 100 years. The Cubs have not even appeared in a World Series since, well as the late Steve Goodman once sang: "since we dropped the bomb on Japan."
Yet they cluster to the old ballpark on the north side like moths to a flame every spring when hope springs eternal, only to have their hopes dashed, usually by mid-July. But they keep coming until the bitter end in early fall, just before the ivy on the outfield walls changes color.
On those rare occasions when they are still playing ball at Wrigley Field after the ivy has turned a lovely shade of rust, Cubs fans are dealt the cruelest blow of all. That's when the eternal hope that turned into cautious anticipation in July, which later blossomed into passionate frenzy by September, has been crushed to a pulp in October, when the Cubs find yet another creative way to lose.
Odds alone would say that with all those years and opportunities, the Cubs somehow would have managed to stumble into the World Series. But it has not been meant to be. Surely it must be destiny or some other outside force that is preventing the men in blue from success.
Which is why Cubs fans turn to that old reliable comfort in times of trouble, the scapegoat. The Cubs fans' most enduring scapegoat has in fact been a real goat. It seems that during the 1945 World Series, a local barkeep was banned from the ballpark along with his "lucky" goat. So incensed was he that he placed a curse on the Cubs who didn't win then and they haven't won since. The barkeep's ancestor, Sam Sianis, current proprietor of the subterranean institution known as the Billy Goat Tavern has tried in vain for years to remove the curse but so far, no luck. The "curse of the billy goat" endures to this day.
A couple of winning seasons were laid to rest late in the year and the scapegoats were individual players for their less than sterling play in the field. In 1969 it was outfielder Don Young, and in 1984 it was the normally reliable Leon Durham, doing exactly what Bill Buckner so famously did a few years later in the World Series for the Red Sox, namely letting a routine ground ball trickle between his legs. Of course as the old adage goes, "you win as a team and lose as a team" and those players' gaffs were only the most memorable of many that led to the Cubs' demise in those years.
By far the most unjust scapegoat of all was a twenty-something, lifelong Cub fan who attended a fateful playoff game in 2003. That year the Cubs seemed finally destined for the World Series. They swept the Braves in the first round of the playoffs, then in the League Championship Series, came home to Chicago with a 3 games to 2 lead on the Florida Marlins, their two best pitchers, at the time two of the most dominant pitchers in the majors scheduled to pitch games 6 and 7. With one out in the top of the eighth, the Cubs were coasting with a 3-0 lead in the game, and five outs away from the pennant. Louis Castillo of the Marlins hit a foul pop-up. It was headed for the stands with Cubs left fielder Mioses Alou in pursuit. When he got to the wall, Alou jumped, reached into the stands but couldn't come up with the ball. It would have been just another out of play foul ball except Alou and pitcher Mark Prior made an impassioned plea to the umpires that fans interfered with the ball. The umps immediately dismissed Alou's plea as they should have.
After a ridiculously long to do about the play, the Cubs, especially Prior lost their composure and gave up 8 runs that inning which cost them the game.
During all this, the TV announcers took it upon themselves to determine what kind of "ignoramus" could possibly interfere with such an important play for the home team. Replay and slow motion technology determined which of the many hands going for the ball actually made contact deflecting it away from Alou's glove.
Then with the most abhorrent misuse of their power as broadcasters, for all the world to see, the camera zoomed in on a young man wearing a Cubs hat and headphones, all by himself, sitting sheepishly in his seat. The announcers proclaimed: "That's the guy."
The rest is history. The Cubs went on to lose game seven and the series the following evening. The young man received death threats, was blamed for the Cubs losing the game and the series, and forever more his name will be affixed to that season of Cub fan misery.
Over the last couple of weeks, there's been a new scapegoat in town held responsible for the Cubs' losing ways. It's none other than the Friendly Confines itself, the home of the Cubs since 1914, beautiful Wrigley Field. The new chant around town is: "given the choice between keeping Wrigley Field and a championship for the Cubs. I'd take the championship hands down." Now I'm not sure if this is a hypothetical choice between two unrelated events, like saying "given the choice between me winning the lottery and having peace on earth..." or if there is a real cause and effect relationship, saying that Wrigley Field is somehow preventing the Cubs from success on the field. Some say the facilities are too old, the weight rooms and training areas for the players are decrepit, the locker rooms are uncomfortable and the food is no good.
What is absolutely indisputable is the fact that the Cubs are a tremendously successful franchise at the box office, and the main engine behind that success is none other than Wrigley Field. The team markets the "Wrigley experience" and what an experience it is. It is one of only two places in the world, the other being Fenway Park in Boston, where you can see a major league baseball game in a classic park that has seen nearly 100 years of baseball history. At these ballparks it's all about the game, you are not inundated with the distractions of incessant nonsense on a Jumbotron scoreboard and blasting music over the PA system. Of course ballclubs like all that stuff because it brings in advertising revenue. So does plastering up ads in every available nook and cranny of the park. Somehow much of that has been avoided at Wrigley.
Then there's the shear beauty of the place, I won't go into it here because I've written about it before in this space.
In this article, Steve Chapman of the Tribune points out all reasons he thinks Wrigley Field should be torn down. The article is filled with such nonsense that frankly I'm not sure if it's intended to be serious or just tongue-in cheek. Assuming the former, I'll say that I think he's dead wrong about virtually everything he says in the piece:
Blessed with one of the biggest markets in America, and fans who turn out win or lose, they (the Cubs) are not about to pick up and move to Nashville.
One of the biggest markets, absolutely true.
Why, because of the quality of baseball?
Could it be Wrigley Field?
I'd be willing to bet my firstborn.
No they're not going to Nashville because Wrigley Field is in Chicago.
A new park would rid the Cubs of their maintenance headaches, while providing them better ways to relieve fans of cash — lots of luxury boxes, better dining, new shops and diversions.
There are already significant methods in place at Wrigley Field to relieve fans of their cash, seven dollars for a crappy beer is just a start. And what's better, to have 40,000 people at the park, sitting in the stands, or have 15,000 in the park, half of them in the skyboxes the other half in shops and other diversions?
It would allow the team to hire better players and pamper them in style.
How would it allow the team to hire better players? Do good players NOT come here because of Wrigley Field? I don't think so. The Cubs have one of the top payrolls in the major leagues. Clearly money is not an issue. And what the heck constitutes "pampering" more than paying a single player millions of dollars per year to play baseball? I just don't get it.
The architect could lovingly re-create the treasured features of the existing stadium, while omitting the shortcomings...
Yes like the architects of new baseball parks all over the country are imitating the treasured features of Wrigley Field. We have the real thing here, why replace it?
... the cramped concourses, primitive restrooms, modest kitchen facilities and obstructed views.
- Far be it for me to judge but don't most people go to a ballgame to see the game? Yes I know many like the diversions of stores, places to eat, sideshows, etc. But it's the game, the field and the stands that count isn't it? Or could the 40,000 people who show up to every game at Wrigley Field be wrong?
- Giving up the columns that create the obstructed views means you have to build high and far from the field. It's a tradeoff, go to the nosebleed seats at the Cell if you don't believe me.
- I could write a book on the superiority of the in and out efficiency of the "primitive" troughs found in the johns at Wrigley vs. the modern individual urinals found everywhere else, but I won't. You're welcome.
- I can't comment on the women's rooms at Wrigley Field since I haven't been there, sorry ladies. But let's face it, no one is ever satisfied with women's rooms in any large public venue.
With this I agree. Some of the on-line comments to this article questioned the the logic of someone buying a team then not being able to afford maintenance of the stadium. I don't believe that the Ricketts family is being straight with us on this one, and if they are, then they had no business buying the team in the first place.
To even think of replacing the nostalgia-drenched ballpark is heresy to diehard Cubs fans. But Yankee Stadium was even richer in history and tradition — winning tradition, by the way — when the Yankees abandoned it in 2008.
Yes they tore down old Yankee Stadium and there was tremendous opposition to it. One big difference is that the "House that Ruth Built" was remodeled beyond recognition in the seventies. In the end it bore no resemblance to the old ballpark.
They built New Yankee Stadium next door to the old one and made it to resemble the Yankee Stadium of old. Building a new park for the Cubs in Wrigleyville is inconceivable as space there is at a premium. There is no parking lot to build on top of. In fact it's hard to conceive a site, on the north side at least where they could build. One possibility is the former site of US Steel in South Chicago. plenty of land, lots of room for parking, heck they could even build apartment buildings with roof top decks down there to recreate the atmosphere of Wrigley Field. Then Chicago would have two teams, the South Siders being the White Sox, and the really far South Siders, the Cubs. Unlikely to appeal to your average brie and chablis north side Cub fan.
Well there are always the suburbs who would welcome the team with open arms. However it's very likely that a future Mayor Mosley-Brown, Del Valle, or Emmanuel would not take too kindly for the team to use the City of Chicago in their name. So we may end up with the Schaumburg Cubs. Problem is there's already a Schaumburg baseball team, a minor league team called the Flyers.
Chapman points out a huge difference between the Cubs and the Yankees in his argument when he brings up the "winning tradition." Think of the Yankees and what names come to mind? Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Roger Marris, Reggie (Mr. October) Jackson just to name a few. Think of the nicknames, the Bronx Bombers, Murderer's Row, the Iron Horse, all the great teams, all those championships.
What makes a winning tradition? Great players and even more important, a great team. The Cubs have had a few great players over the last hundred years. Ernie, Billy, Fergie and Ryno, all hall of famers who played on so so teams. It's a shame for those players as well as for the fans. The bottom line is that management for whatever reason has failed to put together a team that could win it all. Period.
Wrigley Field means more to the Cubs franchise than any other ballpark with the possible exception of Fenway Park. When they tried to replace that venerable ballpark with a new one across the street, with architects "lovingly re-creating the treasured features of the existing stadium, while omitting the shortcomings", the uproar was so great, they bagged the idea.
Tearing down Wrigley Field would not be merely heresy, it would be plain stupid.
Take the Yankees out of Yankee Stadium and you have future hall of famers Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees playing in New Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.
Take the Cubs out of Wrigley Field and what do you have? Overpaid underachievers Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke (Mr. April) Fukudome and Carlos Zambrano of the Illinois Cubs of Schaumburg playing in brand spanking new IKEA Park. I can just hear the vendors now, "Meatballs, get your Swedish Meatballs."
Now there's a team for the ages.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Bur oaks are often found on the crests of ridges near waterways, as this one is, along the North Branch of the Chicago River in the neighborhood of Edgebrook. They also typically form the dividing point between wooded areas and the prairie, which is also the case with this tree. Except here the prairie is a big open field in the middle of a residential neighborhood that fronts the woods that surround the river.
The Bur Oak is slow growing, most of its early stages are devoted to the development of the root system. It is both fire and drought resistant which accounts for its longevity as it is able to survive the annual prairie fires that once claimed most of its neighbors.
I came across this magnificent tree eleven years ago while working on a project documenting the Chicago River. While I could have stood back far enough to fill one frame with the tree, I knew I had to get up close to photograph it this way, twelve times, looking straight at the trunk, down at the ground, up into the branches, to the right into the woods and to the left left into the prairie. Looking at the picture when it is printed big, you are embraced by the tree, almost as you are in real life.
In those eleven years I've come back many times, sometimes to photograph, some times just to visit. This picture from an earlier post, was made in the summer of 2002. My son who was not yet born when I first encountered the tree, was with me. I used for the first time a camera that once belonged to my dear friend, the photographer John Mahtesian, who had recently passed away. When the picture hung for a while in the lobby of the Park Hyatt Hotel on North Michigan Avenue, I asked them to make a plaque, dedicating the picture to him.
A few weeks ago I returned to make what would be the first autumn picture with leaves both on the tree and on the ground. Two years ago I was a little too late and the leaves had all fallen. That time I brought both my son and my daughter who herself was not born the previous time I photographed the tree. This time however, I was alone, as both kids were at school. Time marches on.
Whenever I visit after a long absence, I always dread that all may not be well, this tree is after all pushing the edge of its life span. Even great oak trees don't last forever.
Well here it stood proud and magnificent as ever. My old friend.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
I love it. Since we have had roads and cars shoved down our throat for so so so long it is easy to forget that oil companies make billions because they do not pay for the roads that people use. Car companies also do not pay for the roads. It appears that when you get the federal government to subsidize something it forces the population to use something they might not otherwise use because they are already paying for it. The goal of transportation is to foster economic growth and profit indirectly not directly. Roads do not turn a profit.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
It does seem rather absurd to prohibit the principal tool of the people you are commemorating. Some folks might be offended by the sight of guns but what the heck, that's what war is all about, or so the argument goes. With that I agree. It's foolish to honor men and women who have gone to war without acknowledging war itself. I also agree that political correctness has gone haywire, that in our attempts to avoid offending anyone at all costs, we are creating a society that is afraid to address anything.
But I don't believe it's "political correctness" per se, whatever that may be, that's at fault. The problem lies in the very human flaw of mistaking the letter of the law for the spirit of the law, something that goes back to biblical times and beyond. For millennia, the religious of all stripes have famously been guilty of being obsessed with the tiniest details of the laws of their faith while missing the bigger picture.
Catholics for example are made fun of for seemingly arbitrary customs such as abstaining from eating meat on Fridays. The purpose of the custom which is virtually as old as the Church itself, is filled with deep significance and is quite beautiful. It revolves around performing acts of penance through personal sacrifice, commemorating Friday, the day Jesus died on the Cross. Not eating specifically the flesh of animals reminds us of God's works of salvation, particularly bringing to mind the animals that accompanied Noah and his family on the Ark. All of this of course all in the name of giving thanks and praise to God. This somehow got lost in the translation and for centuries many Catholics dutifully followed the rule without understanding it, either having forgotten their third grade catechism, or simply not bothering to ask why. Fridays became all about finding a suitable substitute for meat rather than a day to reflect upon God's supreme sacrifice for us.
Religious law in all faiths works this way, dogma serves the greater purpose of bringing the believer closer to God. Without that, a law is utterly pointless. Yet so many believers focus only the law, and not the meaning behind the law.
I think the same can be said about political correctness. The very term conjures up notions of absolutism and dogma, which is why it has been whole-heatedly grasped, most often by those on the right, as an ironic and pejorative description of their left leaning adversaries.
The first time I heard the term used in conversation, it was not as a slam against the left. It was used by a left leaning friend who described (without any irony in the least), a political candidate as being "politically correct". That is to say, the candidate's positions were exactly the same as my friend's. I was immediately struck by the arrogance of the statement, he essentially said: "either you think my way, or you're an idiot." That arrogance is unfortunately quite pervasive on the left, especially among the highly educated.
Small wonder that those on the right have grasped the opportunity to mock the other side, in particular their dogmatic approach to so many aspects of society, especially education and speech. But if PC is indeed dogma, then as is the case with all dogma, it has at its core, significant meaning and substance. Many of its adherents have simply over-reached by grasping onto the trivial, while forgetting the important stuff.
This idea of equal rights for all is not a left vs. right issue. Granted there are still people in society who proudly proclaim their intolerance of those of different races, genders, you name it. We call them racists, sexists, homophobes, the list goes on and on. These folks are for the most part on the fringes of society as they should be. It is not appropriate to speak in language that expresses and encourages hatred of others. I believe this to be right, appropriate, and by golly, correct.
There are words that are unspeakable in every language. In the old days swear words referred to bodily functions or the sex act. The late comedian George Carlin based a popular routine around the "seven words you can't say on TV". Carlin's point was that it's really silly to single out words that cannot be said, after all, "they're just words."
The intolerance in a large portion of academia today is directed toward the works of the dreaded DWM, the dead white male. I dare say that Western Culture, both European and American, the culture that paved the way for democracy, civil rights, women's rights, for freedom of religion, freedom of the the press, freedom of speech, not to mention PC itself, is filled with these DWMs. That is certainly NOT to say that DWMs are solely responsible for all that is good about our society. Far from it, although they have played a part. Nor is it to say that all's well with the West, and the DWMs can claim more than their share in that as well.
But to throw some 2,500 years of collective knowledge out the window, as some universities have been doing, seems a little extreme in the least.
The events of the sixties that gave birth to PC, namely the civil rights and women's rights movements, and the many other movements they inspired, are the step children of revolutions for the rights of individuals and against oppression that go back thousands of years. Every revolution begins with the shout: "off with the king's head." Gradually as the foot-soldiers of the revolution become more emboldened and convinced that they are more true to the cause than the next guy, they demand the heads of the king's petty officer, the king's barber, and anyone who may have ever met the king.
Inevitably however, at some point reason and common sense start to take over. We may not have reached that point in the PC revolution yet, but it is coming.
In a time when political consensus is difficult to achieve, all men and women of reason should still be able to grasp the core values of the revolution that has in part resulted in PC. Today it is difficult to argue against this truth that we hold to be self-evident, as found in Thomas Jefferson's words (with the critical exception of one), that all people are "created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Those were and are still revolutionary words indeed.
Fortunately no one lost their heads, in the literal sense at least, in the PC revolution. The Great Books are still in print and thank goodness there will always be talk radio hosts to let us know when we screw up.
Apparently the lack of my business hasn't slowed them down a bit.
It sits right around the corner...
...from this wonderful throwback, another long time favorite. They just don't make 'em like that anymore.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Last week our community lost one of its direct connections to Harry and Aaron, the photographer and teacher Joesph Sterling.
Joe may not be as familiar as some of his fellow ID alums, Barbara Crane, Joseph Jachna, Richard Nickel, Art Sinsabaugh, Ray Metzker, Ken Josephson, and Yasuhiro Ishimoto to name a few. But he created a body of work in one project that stands up to the best work of his peers, even that of his teachers.
The project began as his graduate thesis in 1959. It was titled: "Age of Adolescence." Now I must say the title is a little misleading. To me it implies an authoritative, universal and timeless look into the difficult teenage years, something akin to the massive endeavor that Edward Steichen produced at the same time for the Museum of Modern Art called "The Family of Man."
Sterling's pictures are anything but authoritative, timeless and universal. Joe's style and the appearance of his subjects speak to a very specific time and place, late fifties and early sixties Chicago. In the photographs, you'll find all the trappings of teenage life of the period: cars, dances, soda shops, ("I had to go where the kids were", Joe admits in his statement), greasers, cigarettes, (lots of them), acne, tight jeans, the combing of hair in public, (mostly guys), leather jackets, horsing around, bobby socks, and sexuality, some subtle, some not.
The book is arranged chronologically so we see the drastic change in fashion that defined the span of time the photographs were made, 1959 to 1964. Slicked back hair and white tee shirts with cigarette packs tucked in the sleeves give way to mop tops and suit jackets for the guys, teased hair without any discernible style to bouffants and pageboys for the girls.
That's as far as the stereotypes go. Sterling's subjects are not straight out of central casting, the images of teenagers we think of from TV from period pieces like "Leave it to Beaver" or the insipid characters from the nostalgia driven "Happy Days". Nor are they the equally contrived, rough and ready, live fast and die young, troubled anti-heros from the movies as portrayed by James Dean, or Marlon Brando in the film "The Wild One". There is nothing about Sterling's subjects that is remotely romantic or even particularly attractive for that matter. Unlike the iconic images of Dean and Brando, no advertising agency would bother to use one of Joe's pictures to sell jeans or cologne.
Joe's work like the man himself was honest and real. Looking at the pictures, one gets the sense that he was in tune with his subjects, maybe he was one of the subjects himself as he was just barely out of his teens when he made the work. At first Joe admits, he was painfully shy, especially around girls, and would only photograph his subjects from behind. Slowly as his confidence grew, he was able to work from an intimate distance to forge a working relationship with his subjects. Outside of the occasional image of Joe getting flipped the bird, there appears to be little self-consciousness or primping and posing as kids often do, trying to make themselves look good for the camera. Unflattering as some of the pictures may be, Joe in no way attempts to denigrate or make fun of his subjects. Joe's intent was not to editorialize or make a particular statement, just to show his subjects as they were. He succeeded brilliantly.
The work gained instant success, early versions of it were published in the national photographic publication Aperture in 1961. That same year Hugh Edwards gave Joe and four of his classmates, Josephson, Jachna, Metzker and Charles Swedlund (the group later to be known as the ID 5), an exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2005 for the first time, the work was published in book form. David Travis, long time Curator of Photography at the AIC wrote the introduction.
There is a dark undercurrent running through Joe's pictures. People of all races are to be found in Joe's book but seldom together in the same frame. When they are, there is hardly any interaction between them. On the cover of the book is a picture of three menacing young men confronting the camera. It is as if they are saying to Joe, and by de facto to us, "what the f... are you lookin' at?" Anyone who grew up in Chicago around that time would immediately recognize these guys as characters you wouldn't want to come across in the wrong place or time.
Monday, November 8, 2010
The sad story of the building's imminent demise can be found here on Blair Kamin's blog.
Lynn Becker in this scathing piece, bookends Michael Reese with the travesty of Block 37 in chronicling the current mayor's less than heroic destiny as protector of Chicago's legacy. There, if you remember, in 1989 an entire block in the heart of the Loop bounded by State, Washington, Dearborn and Randolph Streets was destroyed (save for a Com Ed substation) for a speculative project that fell apart not long after the wrecking crews finished their work. Among the victims was an official city landmark, the 1872 McCarthy Building, a should have been landmark, the 1890 Unity Building, and several other notable if not landmark buildings. The block remained undeveloped until 2005 when ground was broken for the current travesty that occupies the entire block.
During the fifteen years that Block 37 stood empty, it hosted a number of public activities including an ice skating rink and the Christkindlmarkt in winter, and numerous events devoted to arts education in the summer. As an open space it provided a spectacular vista of the buildings on State, Randolph and Washington Streets. As an empty lot in my opinion anyway, Block 37 was vastly superior to the current waste of steel and glass that replaced it.
To be fair to Mayor Daley, the original Block 37 project, including the de-landmarking of the McCarthy Building, was initiated under Mayor Washington's administration as Becker points out. The promise to bolster the city's economy with the infusion of millions in tax dollars and the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs from the ill-fated project, must have seemed at the time to be a no-brainer. But with twenty-twenty hindsight, the contrast of what could have been given the high quality of the buildings that once occupied the site, and the lack of quality of what what we have now, is most depressing.
By contrast the mayor cannot escape responsibility for what's going on now at the former Michael Reese campus. The idea to raise the defunct hospital was originated when its campus was proposed as the site for the Olympic Village for the proposed 2016 Games. Demolition began before the International Olympic Committee voted Rio de Janeiro to host the Games. In lieu of the Olympic Village, the city remained committed to clearing the site for "future development."
In addition to the main building, the campus consisted of several impressive Modernist buildings by Walter Gropius, as well as beautiful landscape work designed by Hideo Sasaki and Lester Collins which you can find documented here. Losing the Gropius buildings is a particular shame as they represent the esteemed architect's only extant work in Chicago. And while Schmidt's and Garden's buildings still grace the city, the Chapin and Gore Building on Adams Street just west of the Art Institute being a prime example of their firm's elegance and style, the loss of the Reese Main Building will be a major loss to not only Chicago's architectural legacy, but its historical legacy as well.
Becker's comparison of Block 37 to Michael Reese is apt considering that any future development at the site needs to be looked at as a 50/50 proposition at best given the current economic climate, even more doubtful than development at Block 37 was in 1989. When and if any new construction ever takes place at the site, it is almost certain that it will not measure up to what will have been wantonly destroyed.
It seems that we continue to fail to learn from the mistakes of the past.
Such a pity.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans--born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage--and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
And of course, this:
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
Refreshing isn't it to read after listening to politicians with little or no vision of their own resorting to the most viscous attacks on their opponents for the past six months.
By far the most atrocious ad that I heard this year was one that urged voters not to approve the retention of Illinois State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride. In the ad, actors read first person accounts of criminals recounting their crimes. One began: "I sexually assaulted a woman and her daughter, slit their throats and burned them..." It then continued: "...but Judge Kilbride let me off." The ad was sponsored by a special interest group that opposed the judge's rulings on placing caps on malpractice suits, but apparently felt that this angle was more likely to get voters' attention.
It turned out that Justice Kilbride won another term to the state's highest court, but only after waging what turned out to be the most expensive campaign for that post in the state's history. He won with 65 percent of the votes in the affirmative, (he needed 60 percent). One can only assume that many of the the 35 percent who cast no votes (an unusually high number) were influenced by that ad.
The fact is that ads that play on people's fears, despicable as they are, work. Who can forget Willy Horton?
Lyndon Johnson won that election by a landslide, thereby sparing the little daisy girl and the rest of us from Armageddon.