Many of you gentle readers know my fondness for a quiet morning run to make up for all the Aurelio’s and wine I enjoy in my off hours. One thing I completely love about our city is the wonder architecture, the statues, the nature, the lake….okay that’s four things. But it’s just such a great city!
Today let’s focus on a particular type of public art that I adore. Pagan statues. Statues that connect this most modern of American cities deep into the past. Obviously these 19th, 20th and 21st century builders and architects had some incredible respect for days gone by. But of course, the ancient Romans, Greeks, Egyptians well, they could build! Here are some of the statues I pass most mornings. You might too – look up…look around!
Let’s start just north of The Loop on LaSalle. Take a look up at 120 N. LaSalle and see the mosaic of Daedalus and Icarus. You know these two, the guys who escaped the Labyrinth after ditching the nasty Minotaur. But don’t worry, here Icarus isn’t too close to the sun (you may want to look up that reference). While we’re on Greek mythology, jet over to Michigan Avenue and visit the old Illinois Athletic Association building to see the big guy himself, Zues, presiding over an Olympic game, nonetheless!
Head back to LaSalle to see truly one of the most iconic views of the city – the building my kids call the “Ceres Tower.” Perched atop the Chicago Board of Trade, the goddess of grain (holding her wheat and corn) looks down on the classical buildings below on LaSalle, the center of Chicago’s finance and commerce district. The always prudent traders apparently decided not to spend the extra money to actually create a face on Ceres! Maybe they figured that hundreds of feet up no one would be able to notice? Below Ceres’ gaze more statues grace the open courtyard. These interpretations of the goddesses of industry and agriculture have full faces (they’re at ground level, after all).
131 S. Dearborn building has simply a stunning replica of the Winged Victory of Samothrace in shining gold. The original residing inThe Lourvre.
From there, I often jog east to Grant Park to the small “spirit of music” garden on Michigan Ave. at Balbo featuring thegoddess of music holding a lyre. They’ve moved that statue to three different locations since 1930, or maybe she gets bored with certain parts of the park. Anyway, she is a stunning, half draped beauty in a wonderful garden. In the summer, they hold free dance lessons with a full band on Sunday nights! Thousands walk and drive past her each day. Take a look next time.
Then keep walking (or jogging) south to 11th – There’s Hebe, goddesss of youth. It was sponsored by a Joseph Rosenberg, who grew up as a newsboy in Chicago and could never get a drink of water from local merchants. He vowed that someday he would create a public water fountain for those newsboys. He did, and and Hebe stands over it with a lovely chalice.
Now go east to the lake and hang a ralph. I like to continue a bit south, past the planetarium and it’s mini stonehenge collection of rocks (just off the lake, just south of the building), not to mention the depictions of the 12 signs of the zodiac gracing the outside.
Keep going (there’s a drinking fountain on the way) – Northerly island hosts a section featuring the lovely Daphne garden. She was a beautiful nymph (in this incarnation made of old automobile parts!) who attracted the eye of Apollo. A truly striking figure. This is a 21st century sculpture – Nice to know that we STILL remember the old ways.
Well, that’s a baker’s dozen (plus), all right in the downtown area…..wonder what I’ll find in my afternoon run?
Gold Coast, Streeterville, Mag Mile, North Loop……yes, if you live there you have your own particular fondness for which name is most accurate. Oops, I forgot the New East Side. Let’s talk about these subset, adjoining neighborhoods since they all share great residential housing, a rich history and great entertainment/shopping/nightlife.
Back in the day life along Pine Street (Michigan Ave.) got pretty quiet north of the Chicago River. Then 1871 arrived with the Great Chicago Fire which pretty much flattened the city from the near south to the mid-north. In fact, the Gold Coast hosts the only surviving public buildings pre-fire – The iconic Chicago Water Tower and Pumping Station.
The area really began to pick up in the late 19th century and early 20th. when Potter Palmer, one of the richest guys around, made a bold statement by leaving the south Gold Coast on Prairie Ave. for life north of the river. Speaking of the river, the coastline north of the river ran about even with Michigan at this time. There were sand bars that extended out and, some say, rubbish from the Chicago Fire was dumped there as well. This made the area est of Michigan ave. a pseudo inhabitable, if not wet, space.
Back to our story, enter (so-called) Capt. George Streeter claimed that his boat which was stuck in a sandbar now owned that piece of Chicago. Just like a 19th century Columbus. I wish I knew the guy. He had some gumption. Streeter even sold and taxed portions of “Streeterville” (ah, now you see where I was going). He waged lengthy court battles attempting to validate his claim. Guess what? In 1918 the courts ruled he did not own the land. But it was too late! The name stuck.
In the 1920s some semblance of today’s “Magnificent Mile” began to take shape. The addition of The Michigan Ave. Bridge with the “canyon” of beautiful steel and stone emerged (check out Jack Nixon’s lovely pencil drawings of the bridge. The bridge kicks off the mile starting at the Wrigley Building (as Old Blue Eyes sang and Sammy Cahn wrote back in ‘64). Much of the Mile’s development was lead by real estate newcomer Arthur Rubloff. He was new compared to the Baird Family. I had the true pleasure of working with a student of Arthur Rubloff’s for many years while I was at Arthur’s namesake real estate firm (and now franchise). Wow, I’ve been able to work at some good companies in my career…..
As development down the Mag Mile continued, luxury condominiums followed suit. Today this is known as one of the most upscale, pricey, and truly luxurious areas in the country.
The neighborhood also hosts Navy Pier and a lovely bike and jogging path along the lake (well, institutional concrete, but the view is lovely). You can also drive between the Gold Coast and the lake up and down Lake Shore Drive (LSD). Buy if you do drive, please slow down. Us old timers remember the “S” curve at Oak but it seems many weekends some yokel fails to recall the treacherous “S” and manages to tangle up traffic.
If you want a great “from the bathtub” view of Streeterville/Gold Cost, swim along LSD among the triathlete training at Ohio St. Beach. It’s a one-of-a-kind view.
It’s easy to enjoy this neighborhood without living here. Stroll up North Michigan Ave all the way to Oak Street Beach where the Lake comes back into sight . You might as well do a little shopping on the way. Where? Burberry? Armani? Chanel? Versace? Louis Vuitton? Prada? Cartier? I bet you’ll find a place.
If you’re just visiting and need a place to stay, well you’ve got places to choose from! Within a block or two you’ve got The Peninsula, The Ritz Carlton and The Four Seasons. Of course if you need to get out of town quick you can buy Bentley or Lamborghini right in the neighborhood. Not too shabby….
I could rattle off the A-List restaurants there, including classic Chicago institutions like the 95th at the Hancock, Spiaggia, Tavern, Le Colonial, or the myriad of great steak houses (think institutions like Cap Grille, Gibsons). OR I could go on about Viagra Triangle’s night life at State/Rush/Bellevue (I’ll let you look that up). Just don’t forget the more quiet places, like the BASEMENT at the Hancock where you can grab a slice or a fantastic arancini at L’Appetito. Or head over to Pizanno’s Pizza and Pasta on State.
Finally, raise your hand if you ever had “one of those nights” in Rock and Roll Heaven at Ye Olde Hanggee Uppe. OK, put your hands down.
A neighborhood that embraces its culture – Chinatown
My early morning runs often take me down past the South Loop to CHINATOWN. I really dig Chinatown. It’s a very urban, very cool area. Many of Chicago’s ethnic communities have in large part dispersed (Little Italy, Ukrainian Village, etc.). But Chicago’s Chinatown still has largely maintained its culture and heritage and still has a vibrant residential community.
According to hearsay, our Chinatown is the second oldest in America. Originally it was settled by Chinese fleeing from persecution in sunny CA. Wikipedia says that in 1869 the Chinese originally settled in Printer’s Row – on MY BLOCK actually. In 1912 things migrated a bit further south to Chinatown’s current location. Oh these neighborhood overviews are so intertwined. Of course now my block just has a hair salon and the Fed Building. Obviously things have changed.
As usual Chinatown lives in multiple Chicago communities – i.e. it’s a part of the greater Armour Square community area. The main drag starts at Wentworth and Cermak (22nd) and goes on about 4 blocks south. Wentworth and Cermak is the big corner for the New Year’s Parade – always a blast. That’s the touristy piece (not to say it’s not cool and authentic). There is also “Chinatown Square” which is really a space (32 acre community) anchored by a very 80s looking two story mall. The mall is filled with every type of Chinese cuisine you can imagine plus some other little shops, beauty parlors, etc. Something tells me it’s more like what you’d find in….well in a town in China. I cannot, however, say for sure.
On Cermak there is a GREAT piece of artwork you’ve just gotta see – the Nine Dragon Wall. It’s a shortened version of a glazed tile wall in the Forbidden in City and one of only three replicas around the world. The original wall was created to highlight Chinese imperial power since nine is a prestigious number in Chinese culture and the dragon is a revered figure.
What to eat, where to eat? Well, everywhere and anywhere. You’ve got Chicago institutions like Three Happiness, and Phoenix. But don’t forget to go a block or two in and just wander Chinatown Square. You can always walk in somewhere where no one speaks English and just point to stuff on the menu. That’s what Chinatown (and Chicago) is all about – exploring and embracing the culture.
There are also a number of “gift shops” – which are just what you might think. Touristy gift shops. But hey, they’re fun. The few little grocery stores are great. Play it safe with an affordable bag of fortune cookies (or better yet, almond cookies) or live it up by asking what the heck those crazy green vegetables are over there – and buying some!
Now, a cool place where I hang with my kids is Ping Tom Park, over on 18th Street. It’s NOT touristy. It’s a huge park that runs along the river. There is this guy there who is a PRO with kites. Kind of scared the kids (and me) the first time since he talks a lot, but not in English. But he gently took our kites and brought them to new heights, with the addition of an official Chinatown Walgreens bag as a tail! It made for a great spring afternoon.
And in addition, Chinatown is the southernmost stop on the Chicago Water Taxi. If you’re um..frugal…like me (and you’ve already taken the fantastic Chicago architectural boat tours) $7 will get you an all day pass on the water taxi. Start at Chinatown and ride all the way to Michigan Ave. and the bridge (and back….and forth….and back). Kids love it. Of course I give free lectures on all the buildings so my kids kind of hate it now…. Regardless, chugging up and down the river is a great way to see the city, and this is the hands down most affordable way to go.
So come by boat, by train, or by car. Check out Chinatown.
So I went for a run through the South Loop, my current stomping grounds. I live in a loft in a very cool part of the South Loop known as Printer’s Row. Yes, Printer’s Row is like a neighborhood within a neighborhood. As you get to know Chicago you’ll learn that you’re usually standing in two or three neighborhoods in any given moment. You know, the Lincoln Park/DePaul or Lakeview/Wrigleyville/Boys Town thing. I think it can kind of depend on your mood and how you want to describe your location.
Anyway, once you’re standing in the South Loop it’s easy to see how it’s much different it is from many of the hoods in Chicago. It’s true “urban living.” Being adjacent to THE Loop it’s literally as close to downtown as you can be. Yes, I’ll say that about the North Loop in a few weeks, but it’s true. For both.
It’s a neighborhood mixed with high rises and lofts. 25 years ago you might have said warehouses and parking lots. But much, MUCH has changed. People realized how great this area is. You can walk to work. My walk is 6 minutes, about as long as my run to the lake shore. South Loop kisses the lake, the loop, Soldier Field, museum campus… it’s simply glorious! Being right in the thick of it means you truly have access to everything – every major highway that runs downtown; trains and El lines; shopping; dining; nightlife.
Former Mayor Daley moved to the area in ‘93- specifically the Central Station district. In addition to our mayor, the South Loop has a history of famous (or at least colorful) residents. It’s home to the 2nd oldest standing Chicago home, the Henry Clarke Home, located at 19th and Wabash (it’s very cool visit I have to say). Neighborhood residents in the 19th century included William Kimball (of keyboard fame), Marshall Field (no description necessary for Chicagoans), even railroad mogul George Pullman.
The far south side (as you enter Chinatown at 20th and Michigan) was known as “The Levee.” Back in the day this was Chicago’s most infamous red light district, created in response to the opportunities provided by The Colombian Exposition.
Boy, wish I could have visited the original Everleigh Club (for research reasons, of course). Speaking of politics, the area is also known as the home of organized crime in Chicago. But that story is for another day. Let’s focus on the happy things!
Let’s chat about the south loop some more….next time!
Holding up the north side of Chicago’s lakefront is the very real and very cool community of Rogers Park. This area is not just some El stops before you get to Evanston. Rather Rogers Park is a vibrant community. For me, it’s one of the few lakefront communities that still has life-long community members. Members who were born there, grew up in their family’s home, and stayed there through their adult lives. This isn’t to say Rogers Park isn’t home to many newcomers. It’s actually one of the most diverse communities in the city.
One of the major perks of Rogers Park is that it’s not beaches, lakefront parks, local joints (none of which are overcrowded) all surrounded by a culturally diverse set of residents. They say (well these guys say) that 80 languages are spoken among 60,000+ residents. I believe those guys.
A big presence in Rogers Park is Jesuit Loyola University. The lakefront campus is one of Loyola’s six campuses throughout the country. Loyola is a major employer and a major presence in this community. Not to be forgotten, the 1962-1963 Loyola Ramblers are the only basketball team in the state of Illinois to win the NCAA championship. A true pride for our city. The Ramblers defeated the top ranked two time defending champions, Cincinnati, in a legendary underdog story. (Think what Butler almost did in 2010.)
Just nine miles north of downtown, Rogers Park is connected by the Red Line and a number of bus lines making it a very affordable, very accessible community where you can live without a car and still easily get to where you need to go on a daily basis. You’ve got great stock in both Victorian homes and vintage condos. They even have a surviving FLW home – The Emil Bach House (not open to the public unfortunately).
Not surprisingly the community is a bit more compact right along the lake in East Rogers. Head out further west you are looking at single-family homes on decent sized lots. Just another great example of the diversity of housing you can find in a small area.
Great food choices include Heartland Cafe, Candlelight pub (on the west end), Gulliver’s for knock out pizza, and the CLASSIC Cap’n Nemos for subs!
Rogers Park may not have the panache or popularity of some of the sister neighborhoods to the South but when you’re there you know you’re in a real live Chicago ‘hood.’
Lakeview, Wrigleyville, East Lakeview, West Lakeview, Boystown. New Town (OK, no one says that anymore) … it’s the neighborhood that’s just one community north of Lincoln Park. Lakeview is definitely cool and diverse looking at the patchwork of micro-neighborhoods that make up this community!
I love Lakeview. I lived there in my youth (that means my 20s). It has a lot of what’s good: Huge housing stock (affordable studios, lovely flats, gorgeous high rises, charming single family homes, modern, vintage…..you name it); bustling nightlife (gay bars, sports bars, karaoke bars, Irish bars, dive bars, upscale bars, bars with food, bars with just peanuts, bars that are open til 5AM and bars that open at 7 AM); and a diverse restaurant selection (pizza, Thai, Korean, Chinese, Greek, Italian, Irish, Mexican, American, Jewish deli, steak, fusion, confusion, sandwich shops, Mediterranean joints, eclectic, electric, breakfast only, lunch only, coffee joints…..now I’m really hungry).
A pretty big community Lakeview runs east from the lake (duh), west to Ashland, or further depending on who you ask, as south as Diversey all the way north to Irving.
I used to be the president of the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce and then a commissioner for the neighborhood in the ‘90s. I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen it grow and prosper. One thing that always strikes me about the Lakeview community is their commitment to independent merchants. They aren’t entirely anti-chain stores, but it’s a really great environment for independents and entrepreneurs. Many of you are fans of that fantastic Intelligentsia Coffee – I remember when Doug Zell and Emily Mange opened it up (I was a Chamber of Commerce welcomer at the time, LOL). There’s also Deleece, Dinkel’s, The Bagel, The Alley, and The Lucky Horseshoe. Yeah, yeah, I know you’re going to say all the neighborhoods are full of independents. I guess I’m biased to the old hood. Forgive me.
Probably the best known sub neighborhood is the infamous area around the Friendly Confines at Clark and Addison -Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. Most Chicagoans have some story or other that begins in the bleacher seats at Wrigley Field.
Going to a Cubs game is a wonderful way to kill an afternoon either a weekday or a weekend afternoon. You can be at Cubs game on a Tuesday pretending it’s the weekend or sit back and wonder “don’t any of these people work?” Actually I have had a lot of business meetings, successful ones at that, negotiating while waiting for the seventh inning stretch (I’ve never seen so many thousands of people impressed by their own ability to sing a little song).
When the Cubs are not playing at Wrigley Field it’s one of the most interesting and lively venues in Chicago. Just in the past two years it’s hosted the likes of Pearl Jam, McCartney, Springsteen, the Bears (before Solider Field this was their home field), and the 2013 Stanley Cup champions Blackhawks play outdoor hockey in the outfield (yup outdoor hockey like when you were young).
Wrigley Field is an awfully cool place – and it should be for $8 beers. Personally, I prefer the bleachers across the street – the rooftops. I still think it’s the best deal in town. No waiting for the restroom, no pressure to watch the game, you’re got space to move and usually a high fat/high oil cornucopia of delights. For a set price that’s not too outrageous when you think about those $8 beers again….
So I took a very cold run this morning through Little Italy. You know, those mornings when the sun’s at a degree higher than mercury? Chapstick and mittens day….And while I only saw five people (and one dog) on the run, I ran through a very alive and resilient community – Little Italy.
You can’t write about Little Italy without writing about where to eat and where to buy good food. Little Italy is filled with many gems almost all of them on the famous Taylor Street.
While these gems have a deep rooted history in Little Italy the geography of the neighborhood has changed quite a bit. As my Uncle Tony said, the “cross-town highway that ‘kilt’ the old neighborhood.” And it did indeed cut the neighborhood in two, significantly isolating the western half. Why? Well, it was due to the fact that “hiz honor” adamantly pushed for construction of both the highway and UIC (University of Illinois at Chicago). If you want to be a real Chicagoan call UIC “Circle Campus.”
A lovely little island of taste and smells on the western end is Ferrara Bakery - a 100+ year old institution. YUM. Look for Nella behind the counter and ask for a tall espresso and a fresh filled canolli. Now that’s a Little Italy breakfast for ya.
After your coffee make sure to visit the Catholic churches of Our Lady of Pompeii and Holy Guardian Angel. For lunch, walk down to Pompeii Bakery and try the strudel. No, it’s not like a danish. It’s kind of like a calabrese, which is kind of like a turnover… ah, never mind.
Or take a stroll over to Mario’s Italian Ice. Here, I heard, stands at a location where a certain crowd used to buy bathtub gin back in the day. I also heard the shop sold shots right out the front of the two-flat. After the repeal of prohibition they went main stream and started selling truly the world’s best Italian Ice. Yeah, I don’t know if that story is true.
If you want to see how to eat a “sangwich” check out the stance taken by the patrons at Al’s #1 Beef on Taylor (the real one and only). Oder your Italian Beef sangwich either sweet, hot, wet, or all three. Not to be too cryptic this would be your choice of sweet peppers, hot giardiniera, and/or bread dipped in “the juice.” I’m a sweet hot myself. So called. Booths? Tables? Ha. How about a nice counter to lean on? The “Chicago stance,” according to “Man v. Food,” is how this meal is to be consumed. The stance is similar to how you would stand as if you’re leaning forward trying to take a picture of something that’s very far away. Hands right up to your face, feet slightly past shoulder length, leaning a bit forward.
You know, I’ve been to my homeland of Italy many times, and never seen “Italian Ice” or “Italian Beef” marketed. Hmm… then again, I never order “an Americano” in the states.
Finally, if you have a business partner or lady friend you’d like to impress you cannot go wrong at RoSal’s. It’s not my favorite restaurant JUST because they have a photo of the D’Ambrogio family in 1925 (Giovanni, Lena, Eddie, Marie and Tony – he’s the baby in the dress). No, RoSal’s has some the best food and service ever. You can order what you want whether it’s on the menu or not. Just talk about it with your server. Want shells instead of linguine? Just ask. Want the chicken scallopini but made with veal and with the tomato basil sauce? Just let ‘em know. Or ask for their advice. I also believe their bread is from DiMato’s, a very good bakery…
What was your first impression of Chicago? The iconic skyline? The patchwork of neighborhoods? These four Chicagoian’s share their thoughts about the second city’s impact. Please feel free to share you thoughts and stories below!
Hey, Tom Sawyer is back. It’s been a lot of fun letting friends and colleagues paint the relo fence for me, but I’m committed this year to getting back into the swing of things. So I’m starting (among other things) a new series on Chicago neighborhoods, called – My Kind of Town (no, that’s taken)… Chicago Neighborhoods (descriptive, yes, but lacking)…… Wild Chi… – No, that was that show on Channel 11. Anyway, I’ll call it “Cool Chicago” or something like that. I’ll let you know.
I’ll get to the hinterlands eventually but I’m going to start by writing about where I run. Those who know me know I run, mostly because I love pizza. Pizza and wine. Love pizza and wine. Especially Aurelio’s pizza (their wine, not as much). Anyway, my love of this combination forces me to run to keep at my high school football weight. And when I do run, it’s usually quiet, early in the morning, and I go by so many cool cool cool things that I always think “wow I should write about this.” So I will.
And as an added attraction, soon enough you’ll get to meet some of the folks who I take improv class with at Chicago’s Second City. What is that? 50 years of funny? Aykroyd, Belushi, Radner, Farley, Fey? Ever see Blues Brothers? Well you’ll have to wait (for the explanation of what 2nd city is, why Chicago is the second city, all that, you’ll have to wait). But….with the magic potion of Aurelio’s and wine I will coax them into performing some “Chicago style improv” in, around, and about some of the famous (and not so famous) landmarks and sites in the city of the stinking onion, aka Chicago. That’s the school of “yes, and.” But we’ll get into that later. Yes. And….
Yes! And I never leave Tom Sawyer far behind – If you’d like to chime in with some comments on a Chicago neighborhood, bring it on!
As Beatle George Harrison sang on Revolver, there is no escaping the Taxman’s ever vigilant gaze. Just ask Richard Parrillo whose 2012 property tax was the highest in all of Chicago’s nine counties. At $246,780 his property taxes were higher than the median home sale price of July 2012.
Most of the top properties reached their title thanks to construction or renovations. Karen Citow, owner and founder of Reach Yoga, built a new 11,894-square-foot home in Glencoe causing her property taxes to triple between 2010 and 2011. The new home placed her in with the other top ten.
While most people gawk at such prices the number probably didn’t come as a great surprise to the homeowners or at least should not have been out of the blue. Baird & Warner’s Katherine Malkin told Crain’s, “None of them have made money because they’re ignorant to what costs are.”
Eight of the ten on the list appealed their taxes due to their astronomical prices. Only two were successful in lowering the price – the rest were not so lucky.
Fun Fact: John Lennon wanted to be suspended upside down from the ceiling while he was spun around a microphone to sing the track on Tomorrow Never Knows. George Martin quickly showed him that the same effect could be created without the acrobatics.
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