November 22, 2019

Glessner House Courtyard concert on Sept. 25

I recently played a concert in the Glessner House courtyard with bass player Jim Cox. The evening was so lovely that I wanted to let people know about the second show I will be doing with guitarist John Papodolias on Wednesday, September 26 from 6 pm to 8 pm.

Attendees bring their own food, beverages, blankets and lawn chairs. It’s like a mini-Ravinia experience with Italian white lights strung across the Glessner House courtyard giving a soft glow to the atmosphere.

The cover charge is $10 per person and that also includes a tour of the museum after the show if desired. How could you pass up a chance to see Glessner House at night without crowds?

A little about Glessner House which is one of the understated gems in the city. William Tyre, executive director and curator of the museum has worked tirelessly for 12 years to provide a historical and architectural experience like no other.

John Jacob Glessner (an industrialist involved with the beginning of International Harvester) and his wife, Frances hired notable Chicago architect H. H. Richardson to design them a stunning home in the Prairie Avenue district, south of Chicago’s Loop. Completed in 1887, the 17,000 square feet of space looks like a fortress from the exterior, but feels cozily intimate inside. The owners of Victorian homes must have looked a bit askance at this forerunner of more modern Chicago architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan and Mies Van der Rohe.

My outdoor live music event would be a great way to experience the Glessner House, but a visit any time of the year is a must for anyone interested in Chicago history or architecture. Locals and people from all over the world find their way to this architectural masterpiece. Join them!

www.glessnerouse.org

Chicago Architecture Center, new location on Wacker Drive

I finally got to check out the new Chicago Architecture Center (CAC) on Wacker just east of Michigan Avenue.

Architecture buffs will rejoice that Chicago architects get their due in this modern museum between the Hyatt Regency and One Illinois Center, the Mies Van de Rohe office center at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive.

Current exhibits include the stunning “Building Tall” on the second floor which contains models of famous skyscrapers throughout the world. Chicago architects came up with several building techniques that allowed ever higher structures including the Hancock and Sears/Willis
Tower.

Not to be missed is the Chicago City Model Experience in the lower level. A short, but comprehensive film on Chicago architecture informs both the tourists and the locals. The exhibit features 4,000 building models of downtown and environs.

Walking and boat tour tickets can be purchased at the CAC entrance. A gift shop is located in back of the ticket area.

As an added benefit, the CAC boat tours board just below at river level. The Chicago Architecture Center’s address is 111 E. Wacker Drive while the Chicago’s First Lady Cruises Dock is 112 E. Wacker Drive.

http://www.architecture.org/

Robotic lawn mowers: Honda’s Miimo

A friend of mine uses an electronic system to keep her dog in their fenceless yard. Lo and behold, robotic lawnmowers are now combining that concept with that of the Roomba vacuum to keep lawns clipped and mulched.

The number one on-line choice appears to be the Honda Miimo lawn kit which comes with 3 elements: perimeter wire with pegs to mark your property’s boundaries and to mark off flowers, trees and bushes from being mowed, the robotic unit itself and the charging station.

Using a smart phone app, the owner can set the grass cutting height and the mower proceeds to manicure the lawn. The device can be programmed to only run at night with a sound equivalent to an air-conditioning unit. Contrast that with the ultra-loud power mowers of yore.

The machine finely slices the grass into mulch which is left on the lawn as a natural fertilizer. When the mower runs low on juice, it automatically goes to its charging station and powers up.
The Honda Miimo comes in two price models, the HRM 310 for $2,499 or the HRM 520 for $2,799 so only the well-heeled will be buying these mowers, for now.

A couple of my nephews make money mowing sporting fields in the summer. Let’s hope these robotic mowers don’t come down in price and proliferate until these two young guys are out of college!

Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo, Caldwell Lily Pond and Waterfowl Lagoon at Lincoln Park Zoo

Having lived across the street from the Lincoln Park Zoo for ten years, I got in the habit of frequently visiting the country’s oldest free urban zoo, sometimes daily.  New exhibits, refreshed settings and old favorites were the draw.

Kids playing around nature forms and next to a glass barrier with a black bear on the other side

New to me was the Pritzker Family Children’s Zoo, featuring North American animals to the right of you as you enter from Stockton. One is immediately struck by the visual layers in the exhibit. Tree tops with nesting herons are in the foreground. Red wolves can be seen in the next layer, behind a barrier, of course. A service dog-in-training in the people zone was being intently stared at by one wolf as I reconfirmed that there were at least two fences between them. A few steps more and one can see lumbering black bears with one snoozing in a glass observation portal the day we visited. Other creatures featured in the exhibit are the American beaver, the American kestrel, the American toad, Blanding’s and Eastern Box turtles along with the Eastern screech owl and the Hooded merganser. Inventive play structures add still another layer of interest for families. Any child would love this engaging area, but I can attest that adults will be charmed as well.


The Lincoln Park Zoo Waterfowl Lagoon also appears to be newly landscaped with Chilean flamingos matching the orange tiger lilies surrounding their area. A bridge and an overlook allow the viewer to admire the swan geese and a pair of snow white trumpeter swans. In 1868, New York’s Central Park Commissioners sent the Lincoln Park Zoo two swans and those graceful birds continue to be a big draw in the zoo. Native Illinois wildflowers and grasses complete the idyllic scene along with Ruddy ducks, Baikal teals and red-breasted mergansers. 

One of my favorite areas continues to be the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond. While you may exit into the zoo from the pond area, for entrance, you must go to Fullerton, south of the zoo. The Lincoln Park Conservancy is responsible for this serene setting with its Prairie-style rock structures, birds and diverse native plantings. If you meander upon the path that circles the pond, or sit in one of the pavilions to listen to birdsong and gaze at lily pads, you can forget that you are in the middle of a bustling big city. We were lucky enough to hear the big croak of a resident bull frog when exiting, as if he were giving us an exclamation point to our bucolic visit.

I frequent the Zoo less often since I moved out of that neighborhood but the occasional stop to the environs always introduces me to some new view of nature. A big thank you to the Auxillary Board of the Lincoln Park Zoo and the Lincoln Park Zoological Society for keeping this experience free to all!

Montrose Beach and the Magic Hedge

An out-of-town friend recently visited Chicago and I decided to introduce him to Montrose Beach (the city’s largest beach) and the Magic Hedge, a bird sanctuary south of the bath house that some birders call the best bird-viewing spot in Chicago. 320 species of birds have been sighted in the lush cordoned area of trees, bushes and grasses.

Dogs tend to frighten birds, so the Magic Hedge is off-limits to canines. I took my dog elsewhere while my friend went into the interior of the nature preserve. He saw guys in safari vests with cameras, big zoom lenses, binoculars and lots of birds.

Signage indicated that a butterfly sanctuary is being created adjacently north of the preserve to provide a stopping ground for Monarchs, in particular.

East of the preserve, more trees and greenery have taken up residence amid the dunes on the beach. This is also a no-dog-zone. A jetty curves out from the end of the beach affording a stupendous view of the lake and the city skyline.

Just south of the Magic Hedge is a stand of ornamental trees that were planted in honor of famed journalist, Mike Royko in 1998. The dozen or so now lush trees have been dubbed Royko’s Grove.

The Montrose Beach area itself has a bath house that looks like an ocean liner with kayak and volleyball equipment rental and an outdoor cafe that features live music. A sanctioned dog beach is to the north of the Montrose bath house.

There is the harbor itself with slips for 711 boats, both sail and powered, along with the Corinthian Yacht Club and a bait shop.

A day at the Montrose Beach area is like a mini-vacation. My dog thinks so, too.

Montrose Beach and Harbor
4400 N. Lake Shore Drive (at Montrose Avenue)

http://www.cpdbeaches.com/beaches/Montrose-Beach/

Riverwalk Extension Opening May 20, 2017

Whether you are visiting Chicago or are a longtime resident, you will want to find the time to check out the 1.25 mile River Walk that runs from Lake Michigan to Lake Street. The city has found a way to showcase our previously industrial-oriented Chicago River and make it an actual destination with food, leisure activities and delightful infrastructure design.
This hearkens back to architect/planner Daniel Burnham’s vision of riverside promenades along the Wacker Drive viaduct.

Architect Carol Ross Barney

One of the architectural brains behind the 21st century 15 year project is Carol Ross Barney of Ross Barney Architects who along with collaborative partners Sasaki Associates (MA), Alfred Benesch & Company and Jacobs Ryan Associates have created 8 distinct areas between the cross bridges, referred to as Boardwalk, Jetty, Water Plaza, River Theater, Cove, Marina plus two other areas east of Michigan Avenue.

Here is a great photo montage of Riverwalk at the Ross Barney Architects site: http://www.r-barc.com/projects/chicago-riverwalk/

I love the Water Plaza from LaSalle to Wells which features a zero-depth fountain and water jets with colored lights. Children were splashing away the day I visited. Equally impressive was the River Theater (Clark to LaSalle) which will seat hundreds for events or allow people to just hang out.  Imagine a production barge set up in front of the seating for concerts and theatrical events. Count me in!

This whole project gives me newfound architectural pride in the City of Big Shoulders.

Check out the events from 9 am to 9 pm for the Saturday, May 20 opening:

https://www.chicagoriverwalk.us/season-opening

Here is a blog post I did on the previous Riverwalk phase completed in 2015: http://www.elizabethdoylemusic.com/2015/09/chicago-riverwalk-from-lasalle-to-lake-michigan/