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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To Travel is to Possess the World

“To Travel is to Possess the World”

It’s a Burton Holmes quote, said about his Travelogues over 100 years ago.  How I ache to go when I look through his book of hand-tinted slides from another time, another place…his many Grand Tours of the world followed by “magic lantern” tours of tales.  It was a different world back then.

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