The tag read “Victorian-era painting of girl in a mahogany frame with original wavy glass.” Even though I knew the portrait wasn’t a painting but a print, possibly made as recently as the 1970s, still I bought the thing after getting the price knocked down. The subject of the picture, and the way it was framed, spoke to me. I figured I’d learn what I’d bought after getting it home. More
I love it when the Board of Trade Building looks grand and glorious, when it’s wreathed in fog and looks as though Batman could be capering about on its heights. A night like this, and the tower evokes the whole era that it was made in, when the Thin Man was in and the money flowed.
One of the funny things about the Loop is that it contains lots of streets that have an “out-of-the-way” feel. The northernmost block of Plymouth Court, off Jackson, is this way.
It’s a backwater that the main currents of the city sweep past, unfrequented except for a valet loitering in the doorway of the Standard Club, waiting for something to do. Waiting for important people who have business in the federal courts, chauffeured cars loiter, along with the occasional television crew. Plymouth Court is the green room of politicians, lawyers, criminals: the class of people who make Chicago go.
The only notable thing on the block is this restaurant with its proud paint and retro sign. It’s called The Plymouth, but it used to be Binyon’s, a very famous hangout that closed in the 90s. I was too young to remember it, but I found this picture of what it looked like in the 1950s.
Someday I’d like to step in to the Plymouth and ascend to its rooftop deck for a drink.
Historical image courtesy of Chuckman’s Collection.
Chicago architecture can be divided into two periods: the period of glass and steel we live in now, and the ‘stone age’ preceding it, which lasted from the Great Fire of 1871 (when Chicago swore off New England clapboard) until the 1930s. During the stone age, commercial buildings grew taller (‘scraping the sky’) but were finished off in traditional materials and styles.
From the perspective of south Grant Park, the fruits of these two eras of building can be seen. The old stone skyscrapers lining Michigan Avenue are quaint but massive. Among our most famous buildings, they are loaded with lore and personality. Their fronts are covered with ornamentation–fancy glazes and castings, symbols, and special decoration to emphasize the windows, roof-lines, and doorways. Many have fancy caps, whether turrets or curlicues, special windows, or “beehives.”
Dwarfing and surrounding them are newer buildings, with their reflective surfaces, bold blocks of color, and greater heights. While the older buildings may be more interesting, it’s the specific mix of the two types that gives our skyline its particular charge. Without the soaring glass boxes, we would lose our way. We’d be stuck in a bad period piece, with a city center badly dated and gloomy.
Chicago is problem-plagued, but we do take comfort in our buildings. They are the tangible products of talent and belief, the work of generations, created at considerable risk. Insensate though they are, they continue to charm, inspire, and guide, supplying everyone who hangs out here with a point of pride.
Click on images to enlarge them.