April 21, 2021

Warren Park in Chicago’s West Rogers Park Area

If West Rogers Park residents had not persisted, the 88 acres of Warren Park would have been developed into residential buildings and high rises. Instead, the neighborhood benefits from one of the most active parks in the city.

Besides a fieldhouse, there are outdoor facilities for baseball, basketball and soccer, plus the Robert A. Black 8-hole golf course and putting practice area. (Black was the Park District’s chief engineer for over 30 years.)

A jogging, walking and biking path around the park perimeter accommodates people of all ages, with exercise stations for cross-trainers. Dogs are another common sight on the paved trail.

The Blackhawk Skating Rink operates from Thanksgiving to February. The day I visited, people were socially-distanced in line, waiting to be admitted to the popular rink.

Warren Park also boasts one of the best hills in Chicago for sledding. No snow was present as of yet, but I saw daredevil kids on skateboards and bikes descending the steep hill at breakneck speed. I can’t wait to see sleds and toboggans swoosh down the incline.

We have Laurence C. Warren, an attorney and community leader, to thank for keeping this parcel as park land. The State of Illinois, north side community groups and the Chicago Park District also banded together to keep West Rogers Park green. Every season has its charms at Warren Park.

6601 N. Western Avenue, Chicago, IL 60645

The North River Trail: Foster Avenue

I discovered one of my new favorite parts of the North Branch of the Chicago River. My photos and directions will help you find your way to this bucolic setting which is not clearly marked.

Herewith a guided tour: North of Pulaski on Foster, park at the Irene C. Hernandez Picnic Grove lot (4498 N. Foster Avenue). Head for the bike trail towards the large tree pictured in the photo to the left.

Concrete barriers on either side of the bike path will mark your entrance point. Go to the right of the concrete barriers down a dirt path leading to a graffiti-covered bridge overlooking the North Branch of the Chicago River. You have several trails from which to choose.

A rough stone staircase leads to paths at river level, but there are multiple dirt paths leading to the water on both sides of the river.

We opted to bypass the river paths and went down a straight walkway going east. Two deer, a buck and doe to the left of our path, drew us onto a trail through a wooded glen.(Photo of the buck above.)

Even with fewer leaves now, this was a magical area with sunlight streaming through dense trees and foliage. There were a variety of paths we could have taken, and hope to check out more of these nature trails in the future.

You might encounter families with children and many people walking dogs, so mask-wearing is still advised. For about an hour, we forgot we were in Chicago as we communed with water, trees, foliage and wild life.

This area is part of the 20-mile long North River Trail from Foster Avenue in the city to Glencoe.

We hope to explore several entrance points farther north before the snow falls. Then again, we might just get cross-country skis out!

https://fpdcc.com/places/trails/north-branch-trail-system/

Frank Lloyd Wright Dream Vacation

Since many of us are confined to the locale in which we are currently inhabiting, I have taken to planning dream vacations for the time when travel restrictions are only a bad memory.

For you architecture buffs, I have found five Frank Lloyd Wright structures which are rentable in Wisconsin and Michigan, thanks to a site called “Plans Matter,” which features selected architecturally significant venues.

I would begin in Lancaster, WI, with two nights in the Kinney House, commissioned by Patrick Kinney, a local attorney in the early 1950s. Built of wood and limestone, Wright’s double hexagonal design, which features three bedrooms and three baths, includes a wing addition that was supervised by Taliesin Fellow John H. Howe. Jane Kinney, who grew up in the home, says school children called it a “space ship.” (Daily price $395; 2-night minimum; 5-person limit.)

Next up would be the Seth Peterson Cottage in Mirror Lake, WI, which qualifies as a tiny house at 880-square feet. Situated on a bluff overlooking Mirror Lake, the sandstone structure features floor to ceiling windows that blur the distinction between indoors and outside. (Daily price $250-300; 2-night minimum; 4-person limit.)

Built for a design project sponsored by “Life Magazine” and “The Architectural Forum,” Still Bend in Two Rivers, WI, was fabricated with brick and red tidewater cypress board and batten. The main “recreation” room in this 1940 Usonian home is sixty-five feet long and contains built-in bookcases and a fireplace. (Daily price: $295+; 2-night minimum; 8-person limit.)

In Ann Arbor, MI, is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s finest later private residences, the Palmer House, made of brick and red cedar and ensconced on two, tree-filled acres. There is also a teahouse on the property with a fireplace, kitchen and bathroom. (Daily price: $350+; 2-night minimum; 6-person limit.)

I would wind up our Wright progressive vacation at the Eppstein House in Galesburg, M i. This property has been lovingly restored with new technology, but also has some of the original Wright-designed furniture. Three outdoor terraces allow you to soak up the beauty of The Acres, the 50-acre community designed by Wright in which the Eppstein House is located. (Daily price: $408 through airbnb; 2-night minimum; 6-person limit.)

Let’s honor one of the most famous Chicago architects by spending time in these Wisconsin and Michigan Wright-designed homes. Many of these properties are open now and following Covid protocols. For now, I will dream about staying in these Prairie-style dwellings when all is well with the world.

Click the link “View Architects” for the list of Wright homes available to rent:

https://plansmatter.com

North Pond Path

North Pond is an urban nature treasure north of Fullerton and the Lincoln Park Zoo and south of Diversey. Initially a leisure area of Lincoln Park back in 1884, the Chicago Park District started a renovation of the pond and surrounding land in 1999, with the project ongoing.

The .8-mile path loops around the pond and makes for a relaxing stroll through scenes of native plants and trees, ducks and geese on the water and shore, plus dog-walkers and children playing. Chicago’s sky-scraping skyline is off in the distance making for a pleasant dichotomy between bucolic and urban.

North Pond is on a flyway for migratory birds and contains local mammals, amphibians and insects.
I used to live a block away and watched a beaver industriously build a structure along the banks one winter.

Attractions include North Pond Cafe on the north bank and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum on the southeast.

Parking can usually be found on Cannon Drive, the street east of the pond. Lake Michigan is within short walking distance. North Pond Restaurant is a gem and bears a revisit when the times allow.

Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park

For years, I have made a mental note to check out the Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park. These past few days of balmy fall weather seemed to be the perfect time to head to Skokie. From Dempster Street on the north to Touhy Avenue on the south, the path, completed in 1988, is east of McCormick Boulevard and runs along the west bank of the Chicago River.

I must admit I was a bit disappointed. The traffic noise coming from the busy street was an intrusion and view of the river is obscured by foliage. There was one riverside view, however, with a small amphitheater north of Touhy. (Please look for my duck photo taken on the banks of the Chicago River.) The Skokie Northshore Channel Park would be so much more inviting if the river were visible all along the two-mile stretch and if more trees could be planted to soften the street noise.

I saw joggers, bicyclists, casual walkers and children, however, so the park is well-used. It just could be even better with a little landscaping attention.

One word about the 60 pieces of sculpture. Amusing would be the predominant adjective. As a big fan of public art, I leave it to the eye of the beholder to assess artistic merit. Ultimately, this is yet another cultural and nature attraction within the Chicago area to put on your list.

Nurture Your Nature in Chicago: Bill Jarvis Bird Sanctuary

This week, I had a yen to walk around the Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary just south of the lakeside Waveland Clock Tower and the Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course.

Created in the 1920s, the sanctuary escaped demolition in 1968, and was taken under the wing of the Chicago Park District thanks in no small part to Lake View residents, William Beecher of the Chicago Academy of Science and Bill Jarvis, a bird-watcher and plant-lover for whom the preserve is named.

More than 150 bird species have been spotted at this roughly 10-acre nature jewel on the lake front. There is a walking path around the circumference of the fenced area and a raised viewing station on the east side. Alas, tree damage from wind is visible throughout the nature area with a section of the fence having been destroyed, but this is still a lovely place to catch the autumn colors and avian visitors.

Previous visits have allowed me to see raccoons descend from their tree home to be fed by visitors. Another time, I was gifted by seeing Purple Martins swarming to gain admittance to their lovely white homes facing the lake. On my most current visit, a man with a camera quietly pointed out a regal hawk in a tree above our trail. To my chagrin, I unsuccessfully tried to get my zoom lens to capture this hunter of the sky.

If you need a nature fix and live in the city, look no further than the Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary near the Lake Michigan shoreline. Bring your camera or your binoculars. As a bonus, the recently refurbished Kwagulth Totem Pole just west of the preserve marks your destination.