July 14, 2020

Studio Gang Boathouse near Belmont and the Chicago River

My biking brother-in-law frequently touts the trails and parks around the Chicago River. This past weekend, I visited the WMS Boathouse at Clark Park on the north branch of the Chicago River near Belmont.

The Boathouse is actually two spectacular buildings with a dock area for launching non-motorized boats and 22,620-square-feet of training areas and boat storage. The Chicago Rowing Foundation and Chicago Park District partnered to create this space for human-powered boats.

Admiring the architecture, I had the sneaking suspicion this was a Jeanne Gang creation. Bingo. Studio Gang completed this structure in 2013. The striking zinc-and-slate-clad building won an American Institute of Architects award in 2016, citing “a wonderful relationship between building, river and the park where it sits.” I could not agree more.

Some of the Boathouse operations are on hiatus right now, but in normal times you can rent kayaks and canoes for use on the Chicago River.

I was also able to admire the Kerry Wood Cubs Field which is across the street from the Boathouse. A return visit is needed since my brother-in-law noted that I missed the Garden south of the Boathouse which has dirt jumps and trails for bikers. Who ever said there are no nature adventures in big cities?

The WMS Boathouse at Clark Park
Chicago Park District
3400 N. Rockwell Street
Chicago, IL 60618

https://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/parks-facilities/clark-richard-park

Chicago Park Options

Ronan Park from Lawrence to Argyle on the Chicago River North Branch

While the 606 elevated path, Chicago River Walk and Lake Michigan bike trail will open this week with limitations, lakeside beaches and parks are still off limits. Millennium Park is allowing visitors with masks in groups of ten or less. It was noted that people may NOT touch the Bean.

If you need a park fix with a water view, consider the North Shore Channel Trail which runs along the North Branch of the Chicago River from Lawrence and Francisco avenues north to Green Bay Road and McCormick Boulevard in Evanston. Included in this seven-mile stretch is the new Lincoln Village Pedestrian Bridge at Devon.

Parkland around the Lincoln Park Zoo was recently filled with sunbathers, children playing, dog-walkers and outdoor diners. A really buff guy was also doing very vigorous calisthenics. People-watching can be better than a movie.

Evanston and other north shore suburbs have lakeside parks open to those needing a lake and greenery fix.

Never again will I take our Chicago lakefront and parks for granted!

Lake Michigan in more carefree days

Mon Ami Gabi French Restaurant in Lincoln Park and elsewhere

I wanted to do something special on my birthday so having a Lettuce Entertain You gift card from an adult student of mine really came in handy.

Mon Ami Gabi was my restaurant choice since I had a yen for French food. Some people are opting to use the outdoor patio in front of the venerable Belden Stratford apartment building (pictured above), but we chose to order carry-out and dine al fresco in the park next to Lincoln Park Zoo.

I ordered a filet mignon in a pepper and creme fraiche sauce along with side dishes of green pea and Leek mash and sautéed mixed mushrooms. Magnifique! I don’t eat beef that often, but this was a beautiful cut of meat. My husband wanted the hamburger with blue cheese on a brioche bun, paired with crispy frites. We polished off the meal with blueberry crumble à la mode and chocolate mousse with Chantilly cream. Surprisingly, the high quality vanilla ice cream stayed cold until we were ready for dessert. We brought our own silverware and napkins, so make sure you request those if you are not taking carry-out food directly to your home.

Most people do not realize there are five Mon Ami Gabi restaurants: the Chicago original named after beloved chef Gabino Sotelino, OakBrook IL, Reston VA, Bethesda MD and the Las Vegas Strip. The Vegas outpost is a favorite for locals and visitors alike with premium outdoor seating overlooking the fountains at the Bellagio Resort. The bottom photos are from a charming lunch I had at the Mon Ami Gabi in the Paris Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

https://www.monamigabi.com/

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!