Preservation

Old as history, heritage, asset and source of pride.  Restore, reuse, remember.  Champion of preserving what makes a place or time special.

Details and patterns

Details make patterns.  Choices make habits.  Imagining makes art.  Believing makes seeing.

It’s been a while since I went out to wander and photograph just for the sake of wandering and photographing.  It felt good:  stretching my legs, stretching my imagination and shaking off this long strange summer.  This was the weekend at Open House Chicago 2016.

Sandstone held to a bell tower with metal band-aids and hair nets.  The bell tower survived the Great Fire in 1871, and still wears the blackened crown to prove it.  Saint James Episcopal Cathedral.

Six red galeros, hats of dead bishops, streaming from the ceiling of Holy Name Cathedral.  Hanging high behind the crucifix carved from one large piece of balsam wood, they wait for the day they collapse to dust and nothingness and return to the ground.

Ornate chandeliers are turned down low to let the stained glass windows tell their bible stories  in the 2nd floor chapel of Saint James Chapel at Archbishop Quigley Center.

Ivy climbs and clings to the detail on the Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue, in the morning shadow of the Hancock.  And in this church, at long last we get to go upstairs to the balcony…and there’s a pipe organ, gentle at first and then lighting up the guests with a loud pounce.

The 5th place was an art house in an old mansion.  Giant windows, rimmed in dark wood.  Pocket doors and white marble fireplaces in every room.  Studios for rent and live models seven days a week.  An open studio on the 3rd floor smelled of oil paint as I rounded the final set of stairs up.  The old floors were for dancing when this was a home and this level housed a ballroom. Now the wood floors showed wear from drops of paint as artists made their art.  At this moment, they were sans model, but they worked as if she were still there.  An imaginary model.  Cross breezes fluffed papers from the transom windows along the floor where the band used to sit.

The Monroe Building, with Rookwood tiles, and tiles, and tiles, and a working mail chute for the 14-story building.  This building and the one across the street, on the north side of Monroe at Michigan stand like sentinels, equal sized gate posts, greeting traffic entering Chicago on what used to be the main thoroughfare.

The chapel in the sky at the Chicago Temple.  The highest place of worship above street level.  Twenty two floors via elevator, then A through E floors via a cozy elevator, then 31 steps up to this tiny little Sky Chapel.  Stained glass windows line the room and limit views of the sky and the surrounding city.  The wood is ash, preserved forever from the Emerald Ash Borers that have killed so many trees in the Midwest.

Bell Tower details St. James Episcopal Cathedral
Sandstone held to a bell tower with metal band-aids and hair nets. The bell tower survived the Great Fire in 1871, and still wears the blackened crown to prove it. Saint James Episcopal Cathedral.
Holy Name Cathedral galeros
Six red galeros, hats of dead bishops, streaming from the ceiling of Holy Name Cathedral. Hanging high behind the crucifix carved from one large piece of balsam wood, they wait for the day they collapse to dust and nothingness and return to the ground.
Saint James Chapel at Archbishop Quigley Center stained glass windows
Ornate chandeliers are turned down low to let the stained glass windows tell their bible stories in the 2nd floor chapel of Saint James Chapel at Archbishop Quigley Center.

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Fourth Presbyterian Church ivy
Ivy climbs and clings to the detail on the Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue
Fourth Presbyterian Church Michigan Avenue
The pipe organ rings out at the Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue
Marble fireplace detail Palette & Chisel
Marble fireplace mantel detail from Palette & Chisel.

 

palette & chisel live model art studio
Palette & Chisel artists taking a break in the 3rd floor ballroom studio
palette and chisel chicago model art studio
Palette & Chisel: Imagination.
Monroe Building Chicago rook wood tiles
The Monroe Building, with Rookwood tiles, and tiles, and tiles. Muted earth tones in the foyer, just waiting to wow you when you go through those doors.
The Monroe Building Rookwood details make patterns
The Monroe Building, with Rookwood tiles, and tiles, and tiles.
The Chapel in the Sky Chicago Temple
The chapel in the sky at the Chicago Temple. The wood is ash, preserved forever from the Emerald Ash Borers that have killed so many trees in the Midwest.
Stenciling on ceiling of Chicago Temple
Chicago Temple ceiling stenciling.
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Now and Then – Ravenswood Gardens, Chicago

 

Fifteen brick structures mark the entrance to the streets of this 100+ year-old neighborhood near the river. These sentinels stand in pairs, trios or quartets along Rockwell between Montrose and the el tracks at Rockwell. Some have planters on top, others a concrete ball resembling a bed knob. They mark the streets of Ravenswood Gardens, a community planned in 1909 by William Harmon. Photographed on film with a Seagull and a Rolleicord.   Now and Then – Ravenswood Gardens, Chicago

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Details…They don’t make them like they used to!

At this year’s Open House Chicago, sponsored by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, I went to see the interiors of buildings not normally open to the public.  And what struck me most were the rich details…the ornate little extras, little treats for the eyes built in to the old spaces.

Whatever happened to those days of craftsmanship?  When those little flourishes mattered?   Now it seems that buildings are mundane.  Character has disappeared in favor of efficiency, productivity, mass production and bottom lines.

Nope.  They don’t make ’em like they used to!

Staircase spiral steps chicago motor club
In the Chicago Motor Club building (now a Hampton Inn), there is the muraled map of the old U.S. highways and parks, some exquisite– picture grandma’s-silver –detail around the elevators, and a wavy curve to the staircase in that same smooth silver.
Union Carbide hard rock virgin old dearborn bank building
A view of the Union Carbide Building (built in 1929, now the Hard Rock Hotel), supposedly built to resemble a champagne bottle with gold foil at the top…as seen from the Old Dearborn Bank Building (built in 1928, now the Virgin Hotel).
oriental palace theater chicago
Built in 1926, this place is lusciously FULL of ornaments…Isis, seahorses, cats, jesters, plush red seats and elaborate lanterns and chandeliers.
Chicago model miniature
An accurately scaled model of Chicago made in plastic…right down to the Bean.
Elevator floor indicator santa fe building chicago
Elevator floor indicator in the building that houses the Chicago Architecture Foundation.
Fine arts building elevator chicago
The Fine Arts Building elevator…still manually operated, with a grated door and up/down bulbs, these elevators make the smoothest sound.
stairwell fine arts building chicago
Practicing violins, pianos and voices echo through the stairwell of this old building, still an artists community, just as the Chicago’s Fine Arts Building was meant to be.
lyre banister knob stairwell fine arts building chicago
Well worn and appropriately detailed banister knobs in the stairwell of the Fine Arts Building in Chicago.
File Gumbo fiddle violin maker
At the William Harris Lee & Company stringed instrument shop in the Fine Arts Building Chicago. Seeing these workstations where violins, violas, cellos, and stand-up basses are lovingly carved and brought to life was a highlight of the day! And who knew that a little File Gumbo spice is built-in?
violins cellos whlee stringed instrument makers
At W.H. Lee & Company, Violins, Violas and Cellos wait. Fine Arts Building in Chicago.
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Dormant and Waiting

Have you ever been to an amusement park in winter…when it’s closed, quiet and waiting, and kind of creepy (but in that exhilarating, surreal kind of way)?

Except for missing out on the rides and the neon lights, I think this may have been the best way for me to first see Coney Island back in 2012.  I liked the emptiness of it…like I had it all to myself.  My friend Jill and I took our time walking through the park that day.  Soaked up all the carnival colors.  Studied the signs.  Played with the angles.

I thought of Coney Island as hibernating…dreaming about the coming summer’s smiling crowds, but also regrouping, getting fresh paint, tightening the bolts.  As I stay close to my Chicago radiators this winter, I’m passing through old photos, old memories and looking to the future.  I want to see Coney Island again when it’s awake, when it’s spring.  I want to ride the rides, shoot the neon, bump elbows with the crowds, and to see how the park survived Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

So, rest up Coney Island.  I’m putting you on the list, again.  Coney Island, and also the Redwoods, and Cuba, and Ireland, and the Badlands, and New Orleans, and Nova Scotia, and Australia, and, and, and…

Arcade, ferris wheel, coney island, new york
The Wonder Wheel waits for summer at the Coney Island arcade
Coney Island, arcade, game, NY
Lauren’s seat at the Kentucky Derby, Coney Island arcade, NY
dime, toss, sign, game, Coney Island, NY
Dime Toss game sign at Coney Island, New York
toss, dime, sign
Toss a Dime, game signage at Coney Island, NY
Coney Island, roller coaster, lights, Cyclone
Detail of the Cyclone Roller coaster sign and lights.
roller coaster, cyclone, Coney Island, Amusement park
The Cyclone roller coaster at Coney Island, New York.
Hamburger boy
Hey Get It Get It! I’m supposed to want it more, once I see the sign…
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Home

Home 

It’s been a hard year.  We’ve lost a number of family members and dear friends.  Had job changes.  Experienced new aches and pains.  Dealt with little annoyances like losing an iPad and a coat (how does that happen??  Are our minds slipping?!)  And we’ve suffered through continuing bouts of ennui and this great restlessness.  A combination of things that leaves our hearts hurting, our thoughts scattered and worried, our confidence tested, and our energy exhausted.

We wonder, how many more Christmases will we have?  How many more summers?  How many more times will I get to hug this person–or hear that story again–or ask those questions?  How many more times can I say “next time, we’ll do that” –before there is no “next time”?  So, this Christmas, when I went home to Nashville to see my Mom and Dad, I also made plans to see some extended family–people I love, and used to spend more time with, but who I don’t have a lot of chances to see on quick visits home from Chicago.  It was good.  We shared laughter, stories, meals.  I need more of this.  And I have made a promise to myself to do more of it in 2015, and make it count.

I also spent a little time driving around Nashville…visiting some places I love…places that are scratched into my memory.  Former homes, old neighborhoods, favorite streets and parks.  Maybe I only spent a little time there–or maybe a lot.  But these places remain in my heart.  And while I can see them –any day– when I close my eyes, I wanted to touch them again.  It was good.  This too, I need more of.

Things change.  Buildings get knocked down.  Trees get cut down.  We change.  People move in and out of our lives.  It hurts sometimes.  And while we can’t always see them anymore, they live on in our memories.  And there is this magical kind of peace and grace in remembering those memories, and visiting those old places.

So, here’s to peace, and to a new year spent making good memories.  Happy New Year!

sledding hill
This is my old street and the neighborhood’s best sledding hill. When Nashville got snow, this hill was covered with kids and sleds. If you had good slick snow and a strong push off at the top of the hill, you could make it all the way to Valleywood.
Home
This place will always keep a few pieces of my heart.  My precious grandmother passed away there.  Three dogs are buried in the backyard, along with two pet turtles, three goldfish, and a few wild birds.  Those two strong maples were plucked from the woods by my father and grandfather–planted in the little front yard of our other house and then moved to this yard as saplings.
Shelby Avenue old tree and old house
Roots and foundations on Shelby Avenue.
Pond by the Parthenon
Gone are the paddle boats and swans:  The Parthenon’s pond in Centennial Park
Centennial Park Swing
Centennial Park Swings:  These are the best swings in the world. It’s all in the footboard…
Elliston Place Restaurant Diner
Neon sign from the old fashioned soda shop on Elliston Place. Milkshakes and grilled cheese…yum.
Exit/In wild posting by Krispy Kreme
Exit/In brought the music to the locals. And in a town like Nashville–“special guests” could mean a Rolling Stone, a Beatle or Johnny Cash.
Train tracks over the Cumberland
My grandparents had tomato plants…lots of tomato plants in their tiny backyard. One summer, they came to this spot in Shelby Park every day to dig dirt–buckets of good dark river dirt.  We’d go home each day with 4-5 big buckets of Shelby Park dirt for those tomato plants in the trunk of their car.
Long Avenue dead ends into Shelby Park
I once flew in a red wagon down Long Avenue’s alley hill into Shelby Park–zooming with more speed than control–with my laughing and elderly Aunt Tiller.  “Don’t you take that baby down that hill Tiller!”, my grandmother yelled from the kitchen window.  “Wave at her,” my Aunt Tiller whispered in my ear as she kicked the wagon into motion.
Spring Hill Cemetery
One of the most peaceful places I know. The tree in Spring Hill beneath which my grandparents rest.
Fletcher's Shoes
Daddy’s shoe shop, closing early on a rainy Christmas Eve’s Eve:  No matter where I am, I think of him whenever I smell shoe leather—or wear my Converse with no arch support.
Sage dressing
“More sage!”:  says my step-dad Marvin every time we test Mama’s homemade dressing.
Christmas Eve
Bill Monroe sings, “Christmastime’s a comin’, and I know I’m going home”:  There is a special comfort in being at Mama’s house on Christmas Eve. The smell of dressing and vegetables cooking, the lights on the tree twinkling on the bows & ribbons below, and you know that after eating, you’ll sit in that room chattering for a few welcome hours.
Awaiting the holiday meal
Anticipation:  Setting the table with the holiday china and Mama’s place cards for the Christmas Eve feast.
kitchen bar with christmas tree and microwave
Later at Daddy’s house:  We sit at the kitchen bar and talk about old family photos, health, and those little Christmas trees Aunt Robbie made all those years ago.

 

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