Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Real Dirt on Farmer John: 90 Minutes later and I'm CSA'ing

I just saw The Real Dirt on Farmer John last night but couldn't blog about it until now. I was so moved that I needed a good night's sleep to organize my thoughts.

In case you haven't heard, the film is a documentary that was written and narrated by Farmer John Peterson of Angelic Organics in northern Illinois. He sketches a portrait of Midwestern life that is quirky and truthful, depressing and hopeful.

The film is about triumphing over tragedy, the merits of an open-mind versus a closed one, and the horrible creep of ostracism. It honors the human spirit and the dirt black earth. It crystallizes the heartbreak of development's encroachment on our farmlands in a single 20-second scene. It's a loving tribute to a way of life and the rewards awaiting all of us who pursue a greener planet.

Needless to say, I urge you to go see it.

About Community Supported Agriculture

The film also introduced me to the concept of Community Supported Agriculture or CSA. Simply put, it means that individual buyers of produce (like you and me) establish a direct buying relationship with farmers like him.

After getting home from the movie last night, I logged on and bought a share of his farm. When harvest time comes, he'll deliver a carton (the size of a small microwave oven) full of fresh, organic produce to a single drop off point in Bucktown once a week for twelve weeks (or 20 if you prefer).

If for some reason, the crop should experience a disastrous year, we'll all suffer via our less full box of produce. The farmer's risk is spread out among all of us. In turn, he farms the land organically, provides us with the nutritious abundance, and protects his part of the earth from development.

It's not cheap, about $50 per week for 12 weekly shipments of veggies and fruits. (It's less if you drop the fruits.) But, it's certainly on par with or less than the costs of an equivalent box of organic produce at Whole Foods. The food will be exceptionally fresh, and, assuming a solid harvest season, it will leave me with plenty to share. (Although, I may seek a second family to split the costs and produce with.)

I can't think of a better thing to do for my family and my planet with my grocery money.

(And, if you're not in the Chicagoland area, this link will help you locate one near you. )

Monday, January 30, 2006

Bridgeport B-News: Developers Gone Wild

Bridgeport's B-News (dispatched from the city's near south side) reports that condos are marching steadily into his community. He makes a few predictions for Bridgeport's fate, including this one:

"Frustrated that the townhomes next to the tracks (are) not close enough to the trains, developers will build condos on each train car as they pass the 31st viaduct."

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Second Annual "Honor the Eagle" Pow Wow Will Also Honor a Win Against Developers

"We are pleased to bring our way of life back to the land that knows us from long ago."
--Midwest SOARRING Foundation

On May 20 and 21 this year, the Midwest SOARRING Foundation will hold a pow wow at Starved Rock State Park. They're honoring a "win" that their organization, the Illinois Audubon Society, Lt. Governor Pat Quinn, and many others gained against developers. The developers wanted to build 50+ cabins on Plum Island, which sits in the Illinois River near Starved Rock. It's a favorite nesting spot for bald eagles, and a native burial ground. In March 2004, the island was purchased with a grant and the deed given to the Illinois Audubon Society for stewardship and protection.

Helmut Jahn on his new Residential Tower in Chicago

Pioneer Press's real estate section, "Today's New Homes," carried an unattributed article this week about the forthcoming groundbreaking of Jahn's first residential property in the city, 600 North Fairbanks. The story's obviously a p.r. piece, so maybe I shouldn't be surprised that I found Helmut Jahn's quotes to be comically inane. (And, maybe, at $300K+ for a 900-sq.ft. one bedroom they have to be.)

Here's what he said:

"The goal is to bring European influence into the design at 600 North Fairbanks Court in the Streeterville neighborhood. Europe has encouraged innovation in technology and materials. The expectations for living accommodations are high in Europe in such areas as fresh air, light, and visual privacy."

"600 North Fairbanks is the place to live in Chicago. What was clear to Gordon Beckman -- the day-to-day supervisor of this project -- and myself was that we were working for a developer who had a conviction to do a quality high-rise building that was different."

"We decided we wanted a transparent facade. Innovative, modern European buildings are designed and built from the inside out. You need to look out and bring air and light into the building."

"(The inside design is) minimalist with exposed concrete pillars and plenty of floor-to-ceiling glass-but not minimalist in quality. Penthouse ceilings at 600 North Fairbanks are 12 feet high-- like the city's grand old apartments, and the buidling features high-end appliances, great fixtures, and wonderful wood floors."

"We tried to leave out the unnecessary in the design of 600 North Fairbanks. The real art in architectural design is taking away, until nothing can be taken away anymore. It is the opposite of ornate."

Image via leverkusen.com

Back Issues: Urban Planning vs. Urban Design. What's the Difference?

Jerold Kayden set the record straight, for Harvard University at least, in the Spring/Summer 2005 issue of Harvard Design Magazine. I learned a lot about the history of these professions and the challenges facing them by reading this article. Here's a snippet in case you missed it:

Here's a proposed mission statement: The Harvard Urban Planning program teaches students how to understand, analyze, and influence the variety of forces—social, economic, cultural, legal, political, ecological, technological, aesthetic, and so forth—shaping the built environment. More than any individual creative act, these forces affect the “form, function, and feel” of the built environment in ways not fully appreciated by scholars and professionals alike. The built environment, in turn, shapes the quality of human experience at work, residence, and play, thereby linking Design School-styled urban planning to a central human project worthy of any profession.

(That's also the issue where Lynn Becker wrote about Chicago's recent building boom and design. You can find the text at his site here.)

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Housekeeping: RSS & Atom Feeders Up

Finally. Really Simple Syndication and Atom feeder. HellifIunderstand what these feeds do fully, but they're all the rage. I needed to have one. Now I do. Please enjoy as you see fit. You can find the links at left, beneath the City of Chicago logo.

Thanks, Matt, for the nudge.

Thanks to Random Notes for the graphic.

Update: Didn't mean for this to sound as pissy as it does. Probably hints at my frustration at trying to figure all this techy stuff out. Note to self: no blogging before coffee.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Forthcoming Center on Halsted

Thanks to the Chicago Architecture Foundation, here's a first look at the design for the Center on Halsted that will host cultural and social services for (primarily) gays, lesbians, and transgendered persons.

The Center is being designed by Gensler. As best as I can tell from the Center's website, it's being funded with private funds and a generous nod from the city with regard to the acquisition of the property. In many regards, the center marks a wonderful milestone for the city and its progress in supporting the GLBT community.

However, after my initial look via this photo, I found myself asking this: If a core group of citizens from the gay, lesbian, and transgendered communities and another group of supporters of the Museum of Contemporary Art won't commission architecture that's something more than elegantly safe, who in this town will?

Read the Center's mission here.

Photos of "Queer Eye for the Staight's Guy's" Ted Allen helping to raise funds on for the center
here. Looks like they had a blast.

What are we to think of Ira Glass leaving Chicago?

I was startled to read today in Gapers Block that Ira Glass's This American Life is leaving Chicago and moving to the Big Apple.

I typed up a whole blog entry, and then read this comment by "J" over at Gaper's Block. I'm not nearly as eloquent as "J," so I deleted what I had. Please go check out his/her comments. I think they're spot on.

The tug of New York is inexplicably strong. Chicago is no New York City, but it's no second city either. Perhaps a more apt description would be "The City that Stands Alone." We are free of the baggage (particularly, the media baggage) of NYC and LA. It's our strength and our drain.

Happy trails, TAL. Sorry you chose to go.

One more note: Oddly enough, about a year ago, Ira Glass was generous enough to stop by this blog and comment on a minor quibble I had with him over, get this, notions of comparing NYC to Chicago. See here and here. Unfortunately, I never picked up a second thread that I alluded to in the second post as "Quibbling over the importance of New York." Too bad.

Update: The Chicago Reader published an article (pdf) this week (2/3/06) about Ira's decsion to leave. He sounds pretty matter of fact about it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

An Invitation Worthy of Mention

"The RENEW NEW ORLEANS FOUNDATION is . . . a non-profit organization established by a group of New Orleans natives who want to contribute back to their hometown.

The RENEW NEW ORLEANS FOUNDATION invites you to be a part of the massive rebuilding effort of the Crescent City by donating and wearing a distinguishable silicone wristband highlighted by the traditional purple, green, and gold colors of Mardi Gras and emblazoned with the phrase “RENEW NEW ORLEANS.” These unique bracelets can be purchased online with your minimum donation of $5 to the RENEW NEW ORLEANS FOUNDATION.

The RENEW NEW ORLEANS FOUNDATION will in turn donate to local Greater New Orleans charities involved in renewing the “city that care forgot” to her former glory."

Text and photo borrowed directly from the foundation's website.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Lakeview Post Office Mural Now has its own Website

Dr. David Baldwin recently wrote to let me know that the The Lakeview Post Office Mural website is up and running.

The site is stocked with beautiful photos, like this one above, called "The Knocker's Cap." The photos give real insight to the rich details of the WPA artwork by Harry Sternberg. The mural was commissioned in 1937 by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

I first blogged about Dr. Baldwin and the mural's restoration in July 2005. I mentioned how fortunate our community was that Dr. Baldwin became the mural's "friend."

I asked if he had any plans for future restorations, but because he was away, his wife, Jane, responded on his behalf:

"Working on that mural project was a magical experience for him. Not only did he work with post office personnel who couldn't get over that a private citizen would undertake this project, but he also met and became friends with mural preservationists, WPA mural lovers, Chicago historians, philanthropists, (I may have missed some others!), and, most rewardingly, the artist, his family, and friends.

Harry was still alive when David started the project, and they communicated by phone and letter. The curator of a retrospective show of Harry's work flew out here for the donors' mural dedication party that we threw with the post office and gave a wonderful speech. The whole project was filled with positive energy in a delightfully unanticipated way.

David has never done anything like that project before, and I'm not ruling out the possibility that he may take something on in the future. It will be hard to top that experience, though."
It's nice to hear that Dr. Baldwin got to reap a little of the joy he sowed.

Ecology of Absence Posts Updated Photographs of Burnt Louis Sullivan Church

Ecology of Absence posted photographs by Rob Powers of the Adler & Sullivan burned-out Pilgrim Baptist Church on the south side. The series is titled simply "Devastation." (See previous post on the church here.)

Vi Daley on the State of the 43rd Ward

My attitude toward my alderman, Vi Daley (no relation to the mayor), has been neutral to positive. Like many in the ward, I've had little contact with her. Once she turned down a request from my townhome association to resolve a problem with excessive parking tickets in our area. That was probably the right thing for her to do.

Another time I interviewed her about a local zoning conflict, and she seemed thoughtful, engaged, and not at all schmoozy. She was against the smoking ban, which I appreciated, and she supports public art in our neighborhood. She is not the kind of "Chicago politician" you read about in the papers.

My frustrations with her office have been mainly with their lack of communication. They're variable at best about returning phone calls and e-mails. You have to work hard too hard to unearth news about what's happening. Her website is helpful, but it's short on updates and details.

Therefore, I was a bit startled when I read that the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce was hosting a "State of the Ward" luncheon featuring Vi and the 42nd ward alderman Ted Matlak. A-ha! I had never been invited or offered an update on the state of my ward before so I ponied up the $35 and went. (See previous post here.)

After a round of stock speeches, Vi Daley got up to address the suits and skirts who do business in her ward. Her first item of business? The truckloads of donated goods our community shipped to victims of Katrina. She spoke with pride about our response and thanked Lincoln Park Market owner Bruce Longanecker for helping to make it happen.

Her next item of business? A firm vote of support for the Lincoln Park Community Shelter, which is undergoing a raucous fight with NIMBY's to expand its services to the poor. She expressed hope that a workable solution to protect the shelter's services could come of it.

Let me reiterate: at a chamber of commerce meeting she began with the priority that every community should hold and honor -- taking care of the less fortunate. Then she moved on to the business of growing our collective good fortune. Wow. I completely didn't expect it. What a happy surprise.

She didn't short-shrift businesses either. She identified an ordinance she got passed that will extend the city's summer sidewalk cafe season. This she did in a climate, to remind my readers from out of town, where many alderman prefer to ban foie gras and protect elephants.

As I suffer through the Bush administration, I'm understanding more deeply than I thought possible how much I value talented leadership. So far, it seems to me, that at least at the ward level, we've got the real thing. I'm thankful for it.

Coming soon: Alderman Matlak's comments on the 42nd.

Update: To be completely fair on the communications thing, someone in the alderman's office was kind enough to e-mail me a copy of the new call for entries in the Lincoln Park Community Art Initiative. I'll post soon. Thanks, alderman Daley's office.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Looper's Chicago Temple: Memories and a Little Insight

This photo was taken by Looper. It's a lovely shot of the Chicago Temple, which is a First United Methodist Church with an office building on top. I was married in the sanctuary on the first floor. My favorite wedding photo is the one of John and me standing in the Daley Plaza across the street, dwarfed by the Picasso. I like to think that on that one day, I in my white gown and he in his handsome tux, outdid the master. Ah, buildings and memories.

Anyway, back to my points: so the top floor you can see here, right below the spire, is called "The Sky Chapel." It was created with funds donated by Mrs. Walgreen's in memory of her late husband. The chapel holds about 30 people, so it's very intimate. Its centerpiece is a wood carving depicting Jesus overlooking Chicago from the top of the Temple! If I remember correctly, there is no view out of those windows. They're all stained-glass. That adds to the chapel's peacefulness.

Even more compelling is the parsonage, which is housed in the three levels just below the chapel. It must have been 15 years ago, when Gene Winkler was pastor, that John and I were invited inside this incredible home. As you'll note, there are no right angle exterior walls, and only a few (if any) on the interior.

They also have what might be the most exquisite outdoor deck in the city. It's on the left in this photo, just above the line of lights. I remember we stood outside on a summer day, twenty-five stories above the city. We marveled at how the winds gushed and held our napkins tightly to keep them from blowing away. The minister and his wife served fresh strawberries.

The Burling Tree: Zoning Board Tosses Issue to Another Entity

Here's an update from Dr. Buchman (pictured at right) on Friday's zoning meeting regarding the Burling Street Tree (see previous post here):

"The zoning board, to the property owner's dismay, refused to discuss the tree and only considered the much more minor issue of the encroachment of the planned building on the sidewalk and our property. They wanted to leave the tree up to city hall and the forestry department.

I have a petition for neighbors to sign and will try to get around to do that next weekend. We are open to any ideas on how to pressure the city not to allow these trees to be cut."

Dr. Buchman may have identified an area of the city's care of nature that's fallen through the mayor's green crack, so to speak.

Who is the Chicago organization with a mission of shaping the city's policies toward the favorable care of our non-parkland trees?

Stay tuned.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Week 2 at UIC's Master's Program in Urban Planning: A Student's Inside View

Matt Kuzma, who blogs over at Interesting and Helpful and comments here as "Kuz," recently embarked on a journey of urban planning education at the University of Illinois-Chicago. (Congratulations again, Matt!)

I asked him to give me the word about his new program. Here's what he said:

"I just finished Week 2 of my Masters in Urban Planning and Policy at UIC's College of Urban Planning and Public Administration. It's a 2-year program, with a choice of concentrations: Economic Development, Community Development, Urban Transportation, Physical Planning, and Globalization/International Development. I chose Economic Development, because I feel the classes in that area would be most applicable to a career in government, politics, or consulting.

I'm taking 3 required classes this semester --
500, 502, and 504.

History and Theory of Planning with Brent Ryan has been very interesting so far. We'll be reading the actual Burnham "City Beautiful" plan next week, which should be fascinating. Our main text is "Cities of Tomorrow" by Peter Hall.

Planning Skills should be fun - We have 3 small groups that will be comparing two neighborhoods in the area using all sorts of data collecting and interviewing techniques, then putting together a presentation. That's with Ting-Wei Zhang. Our text is "The Planner's Use of Information" by Hemalata Dandekar.

Economic Analysis for Planning and Management is basic microeconomics 101, with planning applications at the end. My undergrad degree was in economics, so it's pretty repetitive for me, but we'll see how it goes. My professor is Saurav Bhatta.

I've been very impressed so far with the connections of the college administrative staff--it seems that there are 3-4 job or internship opportunities in my mailbox each and every day. I think this is going to open a lot of doors for me.

Thanks for asking!"

Thanks for telling! I look forward to future updates.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Chambers of Commerce: Tracking Mine Down for Lunch

One of my goals this year is to expand my writing business. I recently read a recommendation that I should join my local Chamber of Commerce because so few writers do. Next thing I know I'm attending the Lincoln Park Chamber's annual luncheon yesterday at the delicious Adobo Grill.

Let me tell you, it was a window to a new world. Clearly, these people operate a big chunk of business on the north side. I just never paid that much attention to them before.

Some of the "scene" I expected: aldermen, hand-shaking, name badges, clapping. Some of it I didn't: police commanders, standing room only attendance, and genuinely-friendly-not-schmoozy people. At least at my table.

I met:

Republicans! Kevin White is running for Congress against incumbent Rahm Emanuel in the 5th Congressional District on the city's north side. He feels Emanuel is never in the district and thus divorced from the realities and needs of the people who live there. He identified the botched communications in the Brown Line renovation as an example of an issue that needs better attention from Emanuel, particularly given that much of the funding comes from DC. He was accompanied by Kent Griffiths, a Republican ward committeeman. He was kind enough, too. (I could not find a website to link to for White.)

Rugya Marshall and Sara Klinzing are store managers for Ethel's Chocolate Lounges on Michigan Ave and Armitage, respectively. The stores, launched by the same company that owns Mars Candies, are a pilot project. If they fly here, they'll soon come to a city near you. Rugya's and Sara's excitement about their jobs was genuine. They said they loved the company and their work and, of course, the chocolate. They said the chocolates were hand-made in Las Vegas and shipped out twice a week. (Think of it -- putting a chocolate factory in the desert!) The company chose Chicago supposedly because of its history with candy-making and love for chocolate. I kind of wonder if our status as one of the nation's fattest cities had something to do with it, too.

Jerry Bransfield lives in my neighborhood and has launched a computer consulting business. His goal is to fill the market need for individuals and small businesses who can't work with giant computer consulting firms but who can't configure or fix their computers themselves either. He said that one benefit of using him is that he would be the guy who comes back again and again, thus allowing clients to avoid the hassle of re-explaining the computer's history.

Finally, I met Allison Beck at the door when we arrived at the same time. She's one of those people that you meet at one of these things and you a) instantly like them and b) are instantly grateful for them. I know you know the type of person I'm talking about. She made a point of making me feel welcome, and it came completely natural to her. She is managing partner of Chicagoland Caregivers. Go give her all your caregiving business.

Coming Soon: Notes on what's up according to Alderman Vi Daley and Alderman Ted Matlak.

A Tree Grows on Burling -- For Now

It's showdown time tomorrow for a tree that was first brought to the public's attention when Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich wrote about it last July. (See here.)

The story, in a nutshell, goes like this:

Multimillion dollar mega-mansions are going up around here quicker than you can say "sold." There is no alley behind the homes on the west side of Burling Street. Therefore, the garages have to go in front.

A man bought a lot on Burling, but there is an old silver maple on the city property that sits between the lot and the street. He's asking for a zoning variance so he can chop it down and build a driveway there.

Dr. Alan Buchman, his next-door neighbor, and others have fought heartily against the destruction of the tree. (Buchman's also fighting a second variance request regarding a property line he and the neighbor share.)

In a separate incident, at least two other trees on the street have been chopped down and a forestry boss pleaded guilty to extortion for taking $5000 per tree from developers to do so.

As Schmich said in her article, the tree is not necessarily spectacular. It's 80 feet tall and thought to date back to the 1800's. But, Schmich quotes Jim DeHorn of Treekeepers as saying, "It's not a great tree. It's old, but it doesn't have much space."

But then he added, "I don't think we're ever going to have big old trees in the city again. We've chiseled away at their domain. So we should honor the ones we have."

A representative from Treekeepers is expected to be at tomorrow's zoning commission hearing, according to Buchman. If my schedule allows, I'll attend in defense of the tree, too. I faxed a letter today to Buchman's lawyer in case I can't make it. Here it is:

To Whom It May Concern:

I live a few blocks away from the tree on Burling Street that is under consideration today. I'm a writer and the mother of two young children. My husband and I have lived in the neighborhood for almost seven years.

We frequently walk in the area with our children and our dog, including along Burling. In October, we trick-or-treated there. The street is an integral part of our neighborhood.

Therefore, I feel compelled to alert you that I am strongly against the zoning variance that will allow a private property owner to destroy an old growth tree. I call on you, as stewards of our public life, to take a stance against the private destruction of our shared trees.

Our city's natural life is not easily replaced. It may seem like it's no big deal, this one tree, but we often lose by increments those things we treasure most.

I hope you'll do the right thing.


Jennifer Roche

Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

One More Note Before I Go: NIPC Wins APA Plan of the Year Award

From the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission's press release:

"With northeastern Illinois expected to grow by 1.9 million people over the next 25 years, a new vision -- one that will accommodate this anticipated growth in an efficient, coordinated and sustainable manner -- is guiding decision making around the region. This vision is a key component of the 2040 Regional Framework Plan, recipient of the 2006 Outstanding Planning Award for a Plan from the American Planning Association (APA)."

This means, by the time I'm a senior citizen, sprawl will be squished, the environment will be preserved and restored, and all the new buildings around these parts won't be ugly, right?

Press release here.
The Winning 2040 Regional Framework Plan here.
American Planning Association here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Peace to All on MLK Day -- See You after the Holiday

"I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him.

I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant."

--From his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize for Peace, 1964.

Image via J's Scratchpad.

The Seers' Tower

From first to last, looking north, south, east, and west on Monday, January 9, 2006.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

"Terra Incognita" or Poking at our Concepts of Lobbies

The Lobby Gallery, tucked away on Sangamon Street, just northeast of the corner of Halsted and Chicago, is just that. A lobby that's a gallery. It's an awkward space with an elevator at the entrance and a staircase that winds clunkily to the second floor. Usually, the space features artists who create works that hang on the walls. But not this month.

This month the gallery features an installation called "Terra Incognita" by artist Jenny Roberts (who is also a friend of mine).

Jenny presses an exploration of the lobby space itself. She created a series of topographical islands out of a indoor/outdoor material that is reminiscent of astroturf and putting greens. You need to navigate her installation physically by stepping on or over it as you move through the small, otherwise sterile space.

I always find I make some delightful discoveries when I consider her work, like the little piece of astroturf that seemingly "flows" out of the gallery and sits on the sidewalk outside. The window makes the flow of the greenery look complete from inside or out. It suggested to me a playful way to reconsider how lobby and street work together in often unintended and overlooked ways.

Of course, the Lobby Gallery talks about her a lot more eloquently than I do. Please read about her here. See another example of Jenny's work online here (be sure to look at the detail). The show runs through this Saturday, January 14.

Another One Bites the Dust: FLW in Gary, IN Goes up in Flames

A Frank Lloyd Wright home in Gary, IN succumbed to fire on Monday night destroying the Wynant House built in 1915.

Here is part of the Post-Tribune's story (of Northwest Indiana):

GARY — A two-alarm fire near downtown Monday night caused extensive damage to a house designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright that had been under repair.

There were no injuries, and the cause of the fire is under investigation. Firefighters did not say what could have caused the fire.

The blaze, reported at 8:38 p.m., gutted the entire two-story structure at 600 Fillmore St., located at the intersection of 6th Avenue. The house is located on the southwest corner of Fillmore across the street from Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Edgewater Systems for Balance Living and the City of Gary Public Safety Building.

About 20 Gary firefighters — three engines, two truck companies and a rescue squad — were called out to the fire.

Joe Eakins, 8th Battalion Chief for the Gary Fire Department, said the house was all but gone by the time firefighters arrived.

“It was completely involved,” Eakins said. “Every window of the house had fire coming through it; plus the fire was through the roof when we arrived.”

The house is a 1916 Wright-designed house and was being restored at the time of the fire. It had fallen into disrepair since it was built during Wright’s “Prairie Period,” but local preservation groups were optimistic the house was on the way back. Another Wright house at 6th Avenue and Van Buren Street has been occupied for several years.
The house that caught fire Monday had been re-stuccoed, but much of that sustained extensive damage in the blaze.

Photo source is the Chicago Tribune.

Further specific notes on the house by a seemingly knowledgable historic preservationist found here.

Pilgrim Church Update

The Trib ran a photo of the Pilgrim MB Church that burnt down earlier this week today. It showed the front archway/entrance and you can see through the gutted interior all the way to the outside in back of the church. The fire seems to have gutted the place.

The Trib quotes architect John Vinci, who led a renovation about a decade ago. The Trib reached him after Vinci had a chance to see the burnt out church. "I was so impressed by how beautiful those stone walls looked," Vinci was quoted as saying."It looked like a building in construction." He sure sounded like a glass-half-full kind of guy.

Eric Zorn, in his blog, blasts the governor for pandering to African-American voters by offering $1 mil to rebuild. Zorn cites a little known clause in the law that says something or other about "separation of church and state." (And we thought just Republicans blew that one off.)

Meanwhile, the Chicago Defender, the city's historic African-American newspaper, filed their story on the fire yesterday. With a congregation of just 300 members, the renaissance of this landmark church and neighborhood backbone has a lot of hurdles in front of it. Even if the glass is half full.

(Please note that the church lost its archives and is seeking any coverage that anyone might have on the building's history. See the Defender article for contact information.)

Photo source is the Chicago Defender.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Ups and Downs of the Project for Public Spaces

I'm still trying to figure out what I think about the Project for Public Spaces.

This article in Preservation Magazine got me looking a bit harder at their philosophy and the criteria behind it. Yet, I found this PPS article on ways to think about photographing public spaces helpful -- like a lot of their articles are.

Image borrowed from The Project for Public Spaces' Image Collection. This is a Chicago "Information Kiosk" dated 2002.

Rem Koolhaas @ IIT, Continued.

A piece I wrote on Rem Koolhaas's McCormick Tribune Campus Center at IIT has been posted over at Galinsky. I have not heard from 2 x 4 about my previous post and inquiry, but I intend to bug them a bit this week as follow up.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Adler & Sullivan Historic Church Destroyed by Fire Today: Interior's Predicted a Total Loss (Well, yeah, See Photo)

A fire ravaged the historic Pilgrim Baptist Church late this afternoon. It was built in 1890 by famed architectural team Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler. The church was located on the city's south side at 3301 South Indiana Avenue. The cause right now is unknown but the roof was being repaired earlier today, according to the Chicago Tribune and other sources. The Trib also says that no injuries have been reported.

The building is a Chicago Landmark.

From the Chicago Landmark website:

"The decorative and planning skills of architect Louis H. Sullivan, along with the engineering abilities of Dankmar Adler, are embodied in the strong masonry forms of this building, which is embellished with terra-cotta panels of intricate foliage designs. The dramatic interior of the church contains similar ornament.

Built as Kehilath Anshe Ma' ariv synagogue, the building has housed the Pilgrim Baptist Church since 1922. During the 1930s, this congregation and its longtime music director, Thomas A. Dorsey, were instrumental in the development of gospel music. Among those who sang here were: Mahalia Jackson, Sallie Martin, James Cleveland, and the Edwin Hawkins Singers."

According to the AIA Guide to Chicago, Adler's father had been rabbi of the congregation who commissioned the synagogue. In 1986, architect John Vinci led a restoration of the interior.

I never saw this church, but I'm sure that a lot of people are hurting right now -- the congregation for sure and probably John Vinci and staff as well. If I didn't stay up all night a few days ago with CNN and the miners' families, I might have gotten upset about this, too.

It does make my stomach ache, though, to see the fire blazing behind those tell-tale Sullivan arches. The AIA Guide called the interior "a thrilling worship space." What a shame.

Chicago Sun-Times coverage here.

Oral history of John Vinci with lots of discussion of restoring Sullivan, but not this project (that I could find) here.

Photo from NBC5 News Website.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Challenge of Cultivating Diversity

The Tribune had a nice article yesterday on the New Urbanist development Prairie Crossing in Grayslake, IL. It seems, despite the developers' best intentions and efforts to make the place economically and racially diverse, it ain't working.

That story correlates to an article I stumbled across on diversity issues earlier this week. The National Institute for Health says that when there is only a little racial diversity, teens tend to form main friendships among those who are similar to them. When the diversity is more pronounced, they form relationships across all racial groups.

So, the trick, it seems is getting a critical mass of diverse people with diverse incomes in physical proximity to one another. It makes sense to me that the housing opportunities need to correlate to foster the proximity, like New Urbanists argue. And, of course, that's much easier said than done.

The article cites the Home Town development in Aurora, IL as doing a better job at achieving economic and racial diversity, but it concedes Aurora had that going for it to begin with unlike Grayslake.

Monday, January 02, 2006

That Sound You Just Heard Was Me Falling Off My Ergodynamic Chair

Thank you to the folks at Gaper's Block for putting The Place Where We Live on their 2005 "Top 10 Chicago Bloggers We Wish We Knew (But Don't)" list. They're a first class outfit and blogs like One Good Thing and Daily Dose of Architecture are among my favorites, so it's a real knock-down honor to me to be on their list. Thanks.

We Have Shopping so You Have Something to Do on Your Visit

I just got the Official Springfield 2006 Visitors (sic) Guide.

Although I long ago accepted that huge factions of America were so enamored with shopping that they considered it the primary raison d'etre and that tourist bureaus would play along like everyone else, I was not prepared for the term "Shopportunities." But there it was tucked in the guide on page 39 right after Off-Track Betting and Skating. (Go figure on their alphabetization.)

No doubt the term will be sprouting up soon at a media outlet near you. Yuck. At least you've been warned.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Globalism, Authenticity, Preservation and Culture: Appiah's Case for "Contamination"

If you read one article this weekend, make it Kwame Anthony Appiah's "The Case for Contamination" in today's New York Times Magazine.

The subtitle is, "No to purity. No to tribalism. No to cultural protectionism. Toward a new cosmopolitanism." I found it provocative and deeply insightful. Here's a sample quote:

"So the time of the successful(Ghanaian) farming family is passing, and those who were settled in that way of life are as sad to see it go as American family farmers are whose lands are accumulated by giant agribusinesses. We can sympathize with them. But we cannot force thier children to stay in the name of protecting their authentic culture, and we cannot afford to subsidize indefinitely thousands of distinct islands of homogeneity that no longer make economic sense.

Nor should we want to. Human variety matters, cosmopolitans think, because people are entitled to options. . . .

Talk of cultural imperialism 'structuring the consciousnesses' of those in the periphery treats people like . . . blanks slates on which global capitalism's moving finger writes its message, leaving behind another cultural automaton as it moves on. It is deeply condescending. And it isn't true."
The entire piece is an excerpt from his forthcoming book Cosmpolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers.

Wish you Were Here: The Curt Teich Postcard Archives

The Curt Teich Postcard Archives
housed at the Lake County Discovery Museum in northern Illinois seems to be one of those happy convergences of documentation, history, place and manufacturing.

Here's a brief history of the Curt Teich company pulled from the museum's website:

The core collection in the Teich Archives, acquired by the Lake County Discovery Museum in 1982, is the industrial archives of the Curt Teich Company of Chicago,which operated from 1898 to 1978 as the world's largest printer of view and advertising postcards. The Company was founded by Curt Otto Teich (1877 - 1974),who immigrated to the United States from Lobenstein, Germany in 1896.

The Teich Company saved examples of every image printed, as well as company records and the original production materials for each card.

The core collection consists of over 360,000 cataloged images, 1898 to 1978, relating to 10,000 towns and cities primarily in the United States and Canada, and more than 87 other foreign countries.

The images range from bucolic countrysides to banal industrial shots to retro-y promotional materials like the one above of the "Admiral Oasis Auto Hotel" in Morton Grove, IL.

The archive's digital site, which features about 16,000 images, is a bit clunky and frustrating to search. It's part of a greater online archive of northern Illinois historical material called Digital Past.

If you're even a little bit of a history buff, it's fun to dig around in.