Monday, August 29, 2005


Back from Canada, eh. Here are a few things that piled up while I was away. Will be jumping back into the thick of all things ThePlaceWhereWeLive shortly. Thanks for coming back or stopping by for the first time.

Devon Avenue gets the Nan Nod

Devon Avenue was named as one of the new ten great public spaces in the world by The Project for Public Spaces.

Blogging from the Near North Side

There's a new city blogger in town -- Logan Square Dispatch, exploring that cool neighborhood with a lot of conflicting pressures upon it. Welcome LSD!

If you love place, Surf Here

Here's my new e-crack habit: ePodunk - The Power of Place

Friday, August 12, 2005

On Vacation Through End of August. But Let's Begin Exploring Abe Before I Go

I have lived in Illinois almost all of my life. And, there is one unwavering truth about this state: you can't escape Abe.

He's everywhere. Like oranges in Florida and lobsters in Maine, Abe = Illinois.

This fall, one of the things I'll be adding in my blog coverage is the many ways Lincoln manifests himself, or better yet, the many ways we manifest him, in our state.

He's a remarkably versatile icon -- he can do kitsch and gravitas. In 3-d or one dimension, he's hard at work everywhere.

Here are two previous posts where I began thinking about Abe:

Haiku for Abraham Lincoln
Imagining Lincoln

And, the statue pictured above is probably as appropriate a place as any to begin Exploring Abe. It was built in 1887 and sits in Lincoln Park just north of where Dearborn dead ends at the park. It was sculpted by the highly-regarded Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

This Chicago Landmark is a good starting place for thinking about Abraham Lincoln because before he was assasinated in 1865, this park was called Lake Park. It was renamed shortly after his death.

This is Abe at his most honored. This photo doesn't really do the setting of this sculpture justice. It is surrounded by a circular wall and sits at the end of a long, lovely flower garden. It's also just east of the Chicago Historical Society. This site (and park) are the city's main tribute to the man and leader. Thetone is respectful. It's serious Abe at his finest and it asks those who consider him to take him seriously, too.

Because this commemoration exists and Abe was rightfully andhistorically honored, it sort of paved the way for less reverant and comic depictions to emerge over time. Of course, the distinctive beard and hat didn't hurt either.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

What to do with an asbestos-infested building?

Eco-Absence noted this building last month in Harvey, Illinois. It used to be a chemical research facility for Arco. Who will pony up the money to clean it out? Why not Arco?

I was surprised to find that all those broken windows, even in a photograph, gave me the creeps. Not sure what it is -- perhaps the complete absence of people where once they belonged. The evidence of vandalism, of other people coming to do harm.

The broken windows make it feel like everyone who used to work and thrive there was wiped out. It emphasizes how "gone" they are. If the windows weren't broken, we could tell ourselves that the people might come back or someone new might move in.

Photo courtesy of Eco-Absence.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Signs of the Lake View Times

This building, which was home to a manufacturer of radiator covers, sits on the west side of Paulina at Belmont. But, of course, not for much longer.

As the gold sign in the right-hand window says, Barker MetalCraft has moved to a larger location at 2955 California to serve their clients better.

Born into Cabrini-Green and other Stories from Metroblog Chicago

Yesterday, I posted this story on Metroblog Chicago about Ken Hammond who was born on the fourteenth floor of one of the Cabrini-Green buildings. He's now working for the wrecking company that's pulling the buildings down.

Here's a post from Metroblog Chicago that touched my inner urbanista's heart. We named our favorite buildings to pass by that we'd never been in.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Cultural Role of Trees

The following is an excerpt of a book review written by Lori Vermaas of the University of Iowa about Republic of Shade: New England and the American Elm by Thomas J. Campanella.

Trees teach us about perception or, rather, self-perception.

As some environmental historians, like Michael P. Cohen, have intuited, "most people ... choose a tree that speaks to their condition," and the same can be said for a town, region, or nation.

New Englanders "drifted toward" (p. 65) the elm as a regional icon, a tree narrative that explicates a very unconventional but highly imaginative and revealing self-portrait of nineteenth-century American regional attitudes.

This is the allure of studying the cultural history of trees--the pleasant surprise that its analysis reveals less about botany than human culture.

If, as Campanella cogently suggests, "in trees we see ourselves" (p. 4), the American elm shows us to be a nation of city dwellers, left to understand ourselves in these places in ways that should include our relationship to trees.

Vermaas published the review on the H-Environment Discussion Network (aka listserv) out of MSU, and it was cross-posted to the H-Urban listserv.

Sign up for H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Discussion Networks here.

Image courtesy of Kristine George.

Friday, August 05, 2005


This photo was taken yesterday at the North Park Village Nature Center on the city's north side. It's a park district facility and has a few miles of trails. Even in the heat, it was a joyful escape.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Two Cool Public Space Sites

Hipster Canadian magazine out of Toronto called Spacing here with its own blog, and photoblog.

The Project for Public Spaces here, a thirty-year old American non-profit dedicated to "creating and sustaining public spaces that build communities."