These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Monday, May 08, 2006


dawn and i took a day and a half trip to chicago this weekend, with little more plans than just getting away for a bit. it turned out to be an architecturalally themed trip.

i have of late been curious about architecture, buildings, design, style, period. whatever. i'm no expert or even novice. i'm just trying to learn about architecture. this weekend we found some great things in chicago, which is a great city to come across interesting buildings. we hit a goldmine.

we arrived to beautiful weather, if not a little chilly mid-morning. we headed out with my sister-in-law laura and her husband todd. we went to graceland cemetery (4001 clarke st.)

i know it might sound morbid, but it was anything but that. we stopped and got a $10 book that sort of a walking tour guide that helped immensely. we set off. i had seen online some of the monuments and mausoleums and knew what to expect. i wanted to experience then in person.

some of what i wanted to see was work by louis henry sullivan, a chicago architect wit the firm of adler and sullivan. he designed three of the monuments there. his marker was a huge rock with a cityscape cut into the sides. very nicely done.

we found a work by sullivan that is egyptian but its style predates the pyramids. beautiful work.

we saw the burial places of marshall field, phillip armour, potter palmer, jack johnson, john root, daniel burnam, carter henry harrison and george pullman.

the sculptors who designed and created field's monument (a person sitting on a chair) are th same people who designed the lincoln memorial. seeing the graceland monumetn it's easy to notice the similarity between both. palmer and pullman's monuments were grand. way grand with columns extending more than ten feet high

two of the strangest are the seven-foot-tall statue of dexter graves. it's creepy. the color has faded and it's now green, except for portions of the face, which are still black. we photographed t, but it doesn't photograph well. in addition, there'a life-sized statue of a six-year-old girl (inez clarke) encased in plexiglass. she little girl died in the 19th century after being struck by lightning while on a picnic.

we made our way later to jackson park, the location of the columbian world's expositon of 1893. it was disappointing because there is nothng remaining of the fair or commemoration of it.

we headed through town back up north and stopped by prairie avenue and saw some nice mansions. we saw this big one belonging to marshall field jr. it was a big one. others, as a sign posted read, had been demolished. what a shame. prairie avenue was the place to settle down if you were rich, before potter palmer made it "cool" to settle up on north lake shore drive in what's now called the gold coast.

after driving up to michigan avenue, we stopped in at millennium park. it's not a typical park in the sense that there are trees and lots of grass. it's modern with metal bridges careening at odd angles and this weird metal type of network overhanging a place where bands or orchestras play. there is this weird object called "the bean" that is all glass and you walked underneath it or by it and you look short or tall. it's like a modern funhouse mirror where you change shape.

apparently the park cost hundreds of millions if not more. i can see why it might attract people, but it was only okay for me. i preferred looking at the various skyscrapers and old buildings surrounding the park.

sunday we headed off to astor street, where walked in awe of some of the structures and designs mixed in side-by-side. we encountered a building that is now the historical architectural society. the building was codesigned by sullivan and frank lloyd wright.

we then walked through old town and stopped by st. michael's cathedral and admired a buddhist temple.

it was quite enjoyable. there is so much there. and so much we still haven't seen. i love th sense of history and the work that went behind designing these monuments, parks or buildings.

i only wish my vision was better so i could see the finer details better. still, i have to appreciate it as i see it with what i can see.


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