Friday, September 29, 2006

Ecology of Absence on Cooperative Temperance Cafe

Michael Allen tracks the history and loss of the Cooperative Temperance Cafe at 3206 N. Wilton here.

Photo courtesy of Ecology of Absence.

Have you Zillowed Your Home Yet?

If not, you will soon. Zillow is the most compelling website I've seen yet for valuing and comparing real estate. They have more than 67 million homes in their database, and you don't have to register to use it. You can find out what your home (or any home) is valued at on the market, you can see an aerial view of its location, and track its value over time. If you own a home or if you're considering buying one, you must check them out on Zillow.

(Sounds like I own stock, doesn't it? Wish I did. Maybe I should. . . )

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Breaking News: Sears Tower to Relocate to Howe Street

Experts predicted today that the trend toward enormous houses on Howe, Orchard, and Burling streets will soon force a buyer to purchase the financially downgraded Sears Tower and relocate it to Lincoln Park.

Real estate analysts with Coldwell Banker Real Estate Group point to significant economic pressures on the cost of building new homes and the seemingly insatiable appetite of high-end buyers for "bigger digs."

Coldwell Banker revealed the results of their study of 215 single family homes currently on the market in Lincoln Park.

According to the study, the most expensive home is $12 million and the least expensive is $479K. The $12 million dollar home (to be built on Howe Street) will be have 7800 square feet, which is $1538 per square foot. While the $479K home on Diversey has about 1250 square feet, which is $383 per square foot.

By contrast, industry experts note, the Sears Tower was purchased after 9/11 for $835 million dollars. Its 3.8 million square feet sold for $219 each, a bargain over current residential home prices.

Several high-placed real estate executives speculated that it's only a matter of time until a savvy, high-end home buyer does the math and buys the tower.

The tower's bonds, backed by the building's mortgage loan, were downgraded earlier today, heightening speculation that the deal could go through any time now.

Industry experts familiar with the Chicago market admit privately that the the buyer would probably need to figure an additional 20%, or $167 mil, on top of the purchase price to cover the tower's conversion to a single family home with 2,856 bedrooms, 1,438 and a half baths, a three-car garage, and a swing set out back.

Jill St. Jermaine, a spokesperson for The Bowen Group, the leading real estate company behind the initiative to bring the Sears Tower to Lincoln Park, downplayed the need for re-modeling. She emphasized that the tower is very close to "move-in condition" right now.

"In fact, Lazy-Boy recliners and a flatscreen t.v. are being added to the Skydeck as I speak."

The TPWWL Award for Excellence in Logo Design Goes To . . .


Before it's too late. This store recently closed and is sporting a "for rent" sign in its window. You can find it on North Avenue, just east of Elston, across from the Home Depot.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Cupolas Complete (Finally)

Long-time listeners at this blog know I've been following the creation and erection (so to speak) of the cupolas at Holy Trinity church near Noble and Division. The scaffolding finally came down, and they were looking their absolute best two weeks ago for a visit from the Vice President of Poland.

When I asked a friend of mine, who immigrated from Poland more than twenty years ago, whether she went to see the Vice President, she made that "pffft" sound and shook her head. "The Vice President and the President -- twins!"

That's right, they're twin brothers. The President, she said, chose his twin brother as his Vice President. And, she added, "The President has done nothing for anybody in Poland."

"Nut-ting," she emphasized.

Well, at least the cupolas seemed happily ready to see him.

[The cupolas were crafted in the parking lot next to the church, and then were hoisted to the top by cranes just before Christmas last year. Follow their progression via previous posts below:

October 2005
November 2005
December 2005
April 2006]

Well, it worked for Meigs Field. . .

So, I came home tonight about a half an hour ago - at 11:30 p.m. That's p.m. as in, well come to think of it, I don't know what p.m. stands for. But, you know what I mean -- afternoon and nighttime. (Sidetrack to Google: it stands for post meridian.)

Anyway, I come home and two guys in reflective vests are writing parking tickets all up and down my street. And, it's a residential street -- no meters. The car directly outside my house (not mine fortunately) had two tickets on its windshield, and my street does not require permits, so they must have been digging deep for things like missing city stickers and outdated plates.

(More about Meigs reference here.)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

"We Answer Historical Questions for People and Institutions"

The Newberry Library's Fall 2006 public program brochure arrived in the mail recently. And, like all the public program brochures that arrive from around the city, I've dog-earred the pages of seminars I might take if I had the time.

One recurring, dog-earred class is "A Short Course in House History," by Grace Dumelle. She is president of a historical research firm called Heartland Historical Research Service. (Find it here.)

Her site posts some of the questions her firm has answered:

My grandfather was murdered in 1917, can you get more information?
What national magazine featured the plans for my home?
Did a wealthy person build my home?
Was my garage used as a residence?
Who are these other people buried in my family’s plot?

Any body else smell a PBS reality show here?

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Place of Spinach

Well, as you know, don't eat your spinach this week. (More here.)

My husband went to Whole Foods this past weekend and came back with a 16-page booklet titled "Locally Grown" about the local farmers who grow Whole Foods' food. Maybe it was displayed a little more prominently to remind us of the faces behind our spinach and vegetables.

The brochure is quite beautiful. It's printed on recycled paper and features the rich colors of farmland and lovely photos of the earthy people who grow our food. Each team of farmers is highlighted and situated in the place where they live. (You can click through to their profiles and photos here.)

Richard de Wilde on Harmony Valley Farm in Viroqua, WI

James Welch and Joel Kelhma on Avalanche Organics in Viola, WI

Steve Pincus and Beth Kazmer on Tipi Produce farm in Evansville, WI

Jack Hedin and Rhys Williams on Featherstone Farm in Rushmore, MN

Martin and Atina Diffley on Gardens of Eagan in Eagan, MN

The Organic Valley Co-op in Viola, WI featuring the Shepard Family

Herb and Elizabeth Teichman on Tree-Mendus Fruit Farm in Eau Claire, MI

Chris Eckert in Eckert Orchards in Belleville, IL

Don and Anthony Cinzori on Cinzori Farms in Ceresco, MI

Lee and Laurie Arboreal on Eater's Guild in Bangor, MI

Bill Donahue on Donahue's Sunshine Farm in Collinsville, IL
These two events -- the spinach scare and happening upon the brochure -- coincided with my discovering the writer, Wendell Barry, who said:

Wherever they live, if they eat, people have agricultural responsibilities just as they have cultural repsonsibilities. Eating without knowledge is the same as eating without gratitude. What's the use in thanking God for food that has come at an unbearable expense to the world and other people? Every eater has a responsibility to find out where food comes from and what its real costs are, and then to do something to reduce the costs. All of us are now dependent on lots of products, the origin of which we don't know and can't learn.
Food for thought, indeed.

2006 International Coastal Clean-up Tally at North Avenue Beach

Well, the great clean-up has ended and here are the low down, dirty numbers to prove it.

Shoreline & Recreational Activity Items
262 bags
112 balloons
139 plastic beverage bottles
434 glass beverage bottles
59 beverage cans
1021 caps, lids
23 clothing, shoes
110 cups, plates, forks, knives, spoons
748 food wrappers
23 pull tabs1 six-pack holders
20 shotgun shells
405 straws, stirrers
37 toys

Lake/Waterway Activities
2 fish trapping items
3 fishing lines3 fishing lures/light sticks
3 fishing nets
1 lightbulb/tube
71 plastic sheeting/tarps17 rope268 strapping bands

Smoking-Related Activities
5654 cigarette/cigarette filters
5 lighters
92 cigar tips
24 tobacco wrappers

Medical/Personal Hygiene
3 condoms1 diaper
3 syringes
4 tampons, applicators

Dumping Activities
7 batteries
99 building materials
2 Cars/Car parts
1 Tire
Also: 1 sign post, 1 volleyball net, 117 bits of glass, 162 bits of plastic, 12 pieces of “Portafloor,” 8 rubberbands, 2 toothbrushes, 11 Hair Accessories, 8 Bandages, 1 comb, 4 sports tags, 10 pieces of wire

These totals will be culled and added to everyone else's tallies from around the world and aggregated for a grand total through the managing organization, The Ocean Conservancy. (For example, in 2004, volunteers picked up 1,292,154 cigarette butts worldwide and 7,102,030 pieces of garbage total worldwide.)

Please watch for more information about the worldwide totals. Also, please visit to help your great lake even more.

Photos coming soon. Thanks one and all - and a big thanks to the weather gods. They especially rocked on Saturday.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Chicago Moving Companies, Photo #1

Last week, I saw this truck parked in the lot at the Salvation Army on Clybourn, and I knew the time had come to launch a photo thread on Chicago moving companies.

[Have a photo of your favorite moving company? I will send four Illinois quarters to the first three people who e-mail me jpegs on the topic at Please include where and when you snapped the photo(s).]

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

National Building Museum Pushes National Curriculum for Design

The National Building Museum is launching a curriculum today that will help relate good design to math, science, and engineering. More here.

Speaking of Clean Water: News from Debra Shore

An update from Debra Shore's campaign arrived in my in-box recently. She writes:

A colleague suggested this thought experiment: what if we replaced “stormwater management” in every civil engineering text with “drinking water management?”

Brilliant. A perfect Lakoff study in framing if I ever heard one. And, I'd welcome more than just civil engineering texts referring to it that way. I hope all environmentalists will begin incorporating this inspired (and, frankly, more accurate) term into their vocabulary. Me included.

Shore also invites everyone concerned about clean water to make a comment now to the Water Reclamation District. Perhaps even suggest the notion of "drinking water management?"
Comments are due by September 29 and should be sent to
Mr. Joseph Sobanski,
Chief Engineer
100 E. Erie Street, Chicago, IL 60611

Mary Schmich on The Trashy Beach Experience

About a month ago, I invited Mary Schmich, the columnist from the Chicago Tribune, to come to the beach clean-up on Saturday (see previous post about the clean-up here). And, to my enormous surprise, she in turn invited me to do a mini-beach clean up with her yesterday at North Avenue.

Our morning together turned into her column this morning. You can find it on the Trib's site here. And, damn, if she wasn't right that the lake looked like an Impressionist painting yesterday. It was beautiful in a kind of "pewter" way, to borrow her adjective.

Needless to say, I'm very pleased with the piece and am grateful that she gave coverage to this topic. She's got a long reach, and I'm hopeful the article will raise greater awareness for the two deserving organizations behind the event, the Alliance for the Great Lakes and the Ocean Conservancy.

See you on Saturday.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Park Yourself (but not Myself) Underway

Jenny Roberts' great parking spot extravaganza is underway. (See previous posts on Jenny's work here and here.) Check out all the wonderful ways we could be using parking spaces better. Among my personal favorites is Burleigh Kronquist's piece - People Cheerleader.

"Burleigh will have a megaphone and a pompom. He will use
the space as a cheering section, encouraging and praising passersby for their
excellent pedestrianship and all-round human effort. "
Look for him on North Avenue near Wells Street on Saturday, September 16 from 4 to 6 p.m.

See the full agenda here. (And, please note, careful readers, I regretfully canceled my participation. Too much too soon right after returning from vacation and getting my school shoes properly shined. My apologies to all, but most of all, to Jenny for any mucking up I've cauused.)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Vacation is Good. Coming Home is Good.

Well, it' s good to be back. Got my fill of wildlife (viewing not eating) and lots of quality time w/ my family.

(Damn, can my kid play Monopoly. Only in this case it was Canadian Monopoly where our choice of objects to move around the board included a pontoon plane, a moose, a hiking boot, a grizzly bear, and a hockey player. Apparantly the sixth object was lost long before we showed up. Maybe it was a little itty bitty beer.)

Also enjoyed lots of quality time with our good friends the MacArthurs, who are just the loveliest people you could ever imagine and they also happen to build damn fine go-carts.

Now, just as soon as I figure out how to get the images from the new camera to the blog, you will see said go-carts, Monopoly game, and wildlife. And, if you're really lucky, maybe even the MacArthurs.

So, back to work and blogging. Plus, a special thanks to Alderman Vi Daley's office for sending out information about the North Avenue Beach Clean-up next Saturday from 9 to noon. See previous post here for more information. I understand that Vi and members of her staff will be there, which I find really exciting because our beach is an amazing, beautiful resource, and it will be good to share our clean-up information with her.

(Also, to be fair, I want to mention that Vi's opponent in this fall's re-election campaign, Tim Egan (see his website here), e-mailed in early August wanting to announce the clean up and bring a team, too.)

Just love love that all these folks are coming together to help protect this wonderful natural resource. And, if you have yet to sign up for the clean up, please e-mail me at or visit Alliance for the Great Lakes.