Chicago Relocation

Pagan symbols on my morning run…..

December 2, 2013

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Chicago neighborhoods
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John D’Ambrogio

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 in The Lourvre.

From there, I often jog east to Grant Park to the small “spirit of music” garden on Michigan Ave. at Balbo featuring the goddess 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?



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