Chicago Architecture Blog for Curious People
Approaches to Studying Chicago History
October 30, 2014 by Amanda
As a student at North Central College I have had class with some excellent professors over the last two years. Being a history major I felt it would be appropriate to sit down with one of my professors and mentor, Dr. Ann Durkin Keating, to discuss the study and presentation of Chicago’s history. How do we learn about history and tell the story? What is missing, and what is for the future of studying Chicago history? Below you will see several of the questions and answers we discussed in our conversation.
Dr. Ann Durkin Keating has been lauded for her scholarship of urban history. She teaches classes in the Urban & Suburban Studies Program at North Central University. She is also co-editor of The Encyclopedia of Chicago, which is like the Bible of Chicago history. Her books include Chicago Neighborhoods and Suburbs: A Historical Guide, Building Chicago: Suburban Developers and the Creation of a Divided Metropolis, and Chicagoland: City and Suburbs in the Railroad Age.
Q: Have there been any recent discoveries in Chicago history that have changed how Chicago history is viewed? Is the history of Chicago told differently than it was in the past?
Keating: A couple years ago the Chicago History Museum did an exhibit, Out in Chicago, about the LGBT community. This was a great exhibition as it interviewed people in the community, brought together artifacts and stories to paint the picture of their life. This exhibit was very popular.
Books such as Dominic Pacyga’s Chicago: A Biography is very popular because it is a one volume history of Chicago. His work shows where the holes are in historical research and provides a complete understanding of Chicago’s history. There is a real disconnect between academic and popular historians and between them there are specific topics that are always covered. Academic historians have generally focused on race and suburbanization while popular historians have written about crime sports and politics.
Q: What are some of the valuable resources available to researchers, historians and students studying Chicago history? How have research methods changed?
Keating: Historians have really benefited from the digitization of sources into electronic databases. The Historical Chicago Tribune, Chicago Foreign Language Press and Chicago Defender newspapers have been digitized and put in searchable databases. Historians and students have also benefited greatly from the release of the Encyclopedia of Chicago. And other interactive resources from the Chicago History Museum, such as their interactive map of the Chicago fire. Those doing historic research still use the same sources, but in different ways. Primary sources are the main way in which research is done, but now it is possible to go both to the archive and access them from the computer.
While there have been many pluses for researchers, there have also been minuses. Although the amount of resources online has increased we have seen a decrease in the amount of hours archives are open to the public. The Chicago History Museum has been lowering their hours and now have extremely limited hours for their research center. On the other hand the public libraries, like Harold Washington have kept their newspaper and special collections open a fair amount to the public despite the decreased amount of funding. They have really worked to maintain their availability to the public.
Q: When looking at what is available about Chicago, are there events that you wish were covered or research that has been done that should be revisited or expanded on?
Keating: I would really like to see a second edition of the Encyclopedia of Chicago because it is a very valuable source. I would also like to see Rima Schultz’s book Women Building Chicago become digitized at some point in time. There is an infinite list of topics, but I would really like to see more work done on the twentieth century as there is a wealth of information yet to be written about. I would even like to see more written about the nineteenth century and making connections between what has occurred in both of the last centuries.
~Brian Failing: Research & Collections Intern
Logan Square Special Event Wrap-Up
October 28, 2014 by Amanda
This past Sunday we had our third “Detour” one-off special event of 2014 in Logan Square in partnership with Maurene of Azimuth Projects.
Art Walk Stop #1: Autotelic Studios
We started with some delicious spicy hot chocolate at Autotelic Studios and some background on this interesting space. Inside a home on a residential block, the multiple rooms house open studio spaces. Artist Alice Feldt explained the synergy that results from working in this kind of space, explaining how seeing other artists working prompts discussion, and sparks mutual influence.
We also got to get our pictures taken in the photo booth window installation entitled “Observable Methods,” conceived by Kailyn Perry and Traci Fowler. Props such as the headphones and glasses were provided. (And all the photos here are photo credit to Maurene Cooper.)
Art Walk Stop #2: Trunk Show
Then we headed up to Palmer Square, where we met Trunk Show for the unveiling of their next limited-edition bumper sticker. Trunk Show is a mobile exhibition space, housed in the back of a 1999 forest green Ford Taurus owned by Raven Falquez Munsell and Jesse Malmed. They sell the stickers by annual subscription and a la carte.
Hearing artist Kelly Lloyd speak about digging through old books to uncover the quote really opened up a cool dimension of understanding the work. She discovered the quote scrawled in a page margin: “Perhaps God is more concerned with my availability than my ability?” Lloyd said she wants to “use this opportunity to introduce a deeply private thought into a very public form.”
Art Walk Stop #3: It’s Not a Stop – the Walk and Visual Scavenger Hunt
Then the Visual Scavenger Hunt part of the afternoon began! Everyone was given a sheet of paper with 10 photos. As we walked, they had to really look at the landscape around to match the photo with an object we pass by. The first to say “I got it!” received the prize of a work of art from the studios and galleries we visited. Some of the photos were of things we weren’t actually going to pass, just to make things a little more tricky.
After the prize was given, I then talked a little bit about the cultural and historic background of these everyday things, such as alleys or the shapes of our houses. Even lawn ornaments have a story to tell.
Artwalk Stop #4: Comfort Station
We walked up Milwaukee Avenue, past the big strip of the Mega Mall, to the Comfort Station. Artist Matt Woodward talked about his incredible weathering process with his large format pieces. The one pictured here, for example, endured a year of the elements on his roof. Curator Jessie Devereaux provided great insight as well into the ways that these works use the space of the historic Comfort Station, and also react to the changes in light throughout the day.
The group raptly listened to his background on his collaboration with J.R. Robinson’s Wrekmeister Harmonies for the exhibition. Over a year ago Matt was inspired by one of J.R.’s songs to create a drawing. For this show, the collaboration was reversed, with J.R. composing music based on Matt’s architecturally inspired works. Using tracings of mass-produced architectural decorations, which today people often romantically and erroneously admire as unique, these heavily wrought drawings disguise the commodified origins of their designs.
Art Walk Stop #5: Azimuth Projects
Then we walked on over to Azimuth Projects. After a break for wine, African rice, and butter cookies, we experienced the multimedia installation work of Sarah Beth Woods.
Sarah Beth befriended African braider Fatimata Traore, and has worked with her in her South Side salon, adding additional touches like ribbons and colored extensions. She explained her love for the tactile nature of her work, which you are encouraged to touch. She also addressed the tension between high art and craft. I admired that she spoke of the racial dynamics of her work, which so often people try to skirt around.
We had an excellent group of people, mostly from the Logan Square neighborhood, for our special event. And also one guy from San Francisco who had just hopped off a 20-hour train ride. The event was sold-out, and many people heard about it through DNA Chicago, the Daily Herald, TimeOut Chicago, and the Red Eye.
Our next one-off “Detour” special event will be in January, it will take place mostly indoors, and we will announce it soon!
Thanks for reading!
– Amanda Scotese, Chicago Detours Executive Director
We went on a little hiatus from our weekly events posts as we have been incredibly busy here at Chicago Detours this fall. We rolled out our brand new private tour catalog, so we’ve been having lost of fun with private tours of historic bars, jazz and blues, Chicago neighborhoods and more. We’ve also been busy working on our fall “Detour”, Visual Scavenger Hunt and Art Walk, which took place this past Sunday in Logan Square for Chicago Artists Month 2014 and was a huge success!
And now we’re back with more events to put on your social calendar. In honor of the spooky holiday this Friday, we thought we’d bring you some spooky events in Chicago architecture and History. This week we feature a Day of the Dead exhibit, and two very spooky walking tours.
1. Rito y Recuerdo: Day of the Dead – EXHIBIT
1852 W. 19th St. – during regular museum hours through December 14th
All Hallows Eve isn’t the only holiday this weekend. Head on down to one of our favorite Chicago neighborhoods, Pilsen, for the Day of the Dead exhibit at the National Museum of Mexican Art. This ancestral tradition in Mexico honors those who have passed away and is celebrated annually on November 1st and 2nd. The exhibit honors those who have left this year with altars, installations, popular art, and works by more than sixty artists from both the US and Mexico.
2. Death, Disease and Bones: The Lincoln Park Walking Tour – NEIGHBORHOOD TOUR
1752 N. Stockton Drive – Wednesday, October 29th, 4:00pm and Saturday, November 1st, 10:00am
$22 members/$30 non-members – reservations required
From the beach to the zoo to the gardens, Lincoln Park is known as an outdoor retreat from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Yet its past is a little less cheery and often still being uncovered since the site was one of the city’s original burial grounds. Over the last 100 years, construction projects in and around the park have revealed some of these leftover remains. So what better time than Halloween to explore this spooky history? Historian Sally Sexton Kalmbach leads the excursion hosted by the Driehaus Museum.
3. Shadows on the Street: Haunted Tours of Historic Prairie Avenue – HAUNTED TOUR
1800 S. Prairie Ave. – Friday, October 31st, 7:00pm and 8:15pm
$8 members/$10 non-members – reservations recommended 312.326.1480
Once home to Chicago’s historic elite, Prairie Avenue also has some pretty spooky history. Explore tales of strange sounds, unexplained sightings, and untimely endings after dark with the Glessner House this Friday. Your guide will share the mysterious circumstances of Marshall Field Jr.’s death and the tragic events that plagued the Philander Handford house. Plus the story behind the rattling windows in the William Kimball mansion, and more spooky tales from Prairie Ave.
Chicago Artist’s Month Logan Square Art Walk
October 21, 2014 by Amanda
We are very excited to again partner with Azimuth Projects for a fun interpretation of a Logan Square art walk as an official event for Chicago Artists Month 2014. A few spots are left for the event, this Sunday, October 26, 11am-1pm. It’s a reinterpretation of our Saturated Landscape special event this past February. This walking tour of the everyday landscape in Logan Square combines an art walk to neighborhood artists’ studios and galleries with a game that includes original art prizes!
We start at Autotelic Studio close to Humboldt Park for “Observable Methods,” an exhibit of a collaboration between artists Kailyn Perry and Traci Fowler. Guests can step into a photo booth installation piece. You will be surrounded by their fragmented pieces of landscapes, which fit with the landscape exploration for the walking tour portion of this special event.
Then we will visit four different art studios where the artists will talk briefly about their work. And in between each studio stop we will play a sort of visual scavenger hunt. It’s not exactly a scavenger hunt but that’s the best word I found for it! Each guest will have a printout with several abstracted and close-up images of features of the landscape. As we walk together through Logan Square, the first to notice the object will win an awesome prize of a small, original artwork from one of the artists at the walk’s featured art galleries.
And then I will share some ideas, writings or stories connected to the everyday object, which could be a something more architectural, like an alley or gate, to something more natural like a tree stump. Keeping with the Chicago Artists Month theme of “Crossing Borders,” we will explore how the everyday landscape distinctly creates both physical and more metaphorical borders between spaces and people.
First stop after Autotelic is to saunter up Sacramento Boulevard to Palmer Square for a grand arrival of Trunk Show, an exhibition on wheels. The 1999 forest green Ford Taurus filled with limited edition artist stickers curated by Kelly Lloyd will roll up to us. Radio jams may be included.
Then our art-walk-meets-walking-tour of Logan Square will head up Milwaukee Avenue to the Comfort Station’s exhibit, “It Ended with my Putting it On.” Matt Woodward created heavily wrought, large-scale drawings of decorative architectural detail and then Wrekmeister Harmonies composed a sonic piece in response to it.
Our last stop is just around the corner at Azimuth Projects’ apartment gallery. We will view “Bricoleur,” a fiber installation and hair braiding experience with Sarah Beth Woods and Fatimata Traore. After the artists discuss how decorating and adornment have been ways for women to assert their autonomy and individuality, guests can choose to get their hair braided for a donation. Woods opened her exhibition “Bricoleur” with an event she described as a “collaborative, interactive fiber installation and hair braiding experience” at Azimuth Projects, an apartment gallery in Logan Square with hair braider Fatimata Traore. Visitors took turns having their hair braided and then accented with shiny door-knocker earrings and colorful tassels.
This Logan Square art walk and tour is two hours long. The $25 ticket includes special presentations by the artists, original art prizes, landscape tour commentary, refreshments, tasting of African rice, and special gifts. Tour starts at Autotelic at 1856 N. Richmond, and ends at Azimuth Projects, 1924 N. Whipple. Reservations are required here to secure your spot. These special events always sell out.
This one will be a lot of fun! Not to be missed.
Chicago Marathon: History of Dedication
October 8, 2014 by Jenn Harrman
The 37th annual Chicago Marathon is coming up this Sunday, October 12th and a good friend of mine, Rebecca Rosenberg, is taking the challenge to run in memory of her good friend Angie who died this past year of cancer. She is supporting a fantastic charity called Imerman Anglels, a non-profit whose mission is to provide cancer fighters with one-on-one support from those who have gone through the same so that no one has to fight cancer alone. It’s a pretty great cause so in addition to donating, I thought I’d share the research I did on the history of the Chicago Marathon.
Although known now as the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, back when it started in 1977, the original name for the race was the Mayor Daley Marathon. On September 25th of that year, 4,200 runners came out to participate. Now the race has up to 45,000 runners! That’s a lot of people in downtown Chicago, not to mention all the spectators that come out to support the runners. It reminds me of the video we share on our Loop Interior Architecture Walking Tour of Chicago in 1897. Busy, congested, absolutely chaotic, and completely alive.
The Chicago Marathon as we know it today may have began in 1977, but this was not the first marathon in Chicago. The first was actually all the way back in September of 1905. The course began in Evanston and ended in Washington Park and drew world athletes and plenty of spectators, some of which paid for seats at the finish line. The difficulty of the late 1920s brought the race to an end and it wasn’t until the 1960s that interest in the sport bubbled back up. The windy city established the Chicago Marathon as the second big city run, next to the New York City Marathon, which was established only a few years earlier in 1976. By the 1980s, Chicago was one of the big four city marathons bringing worldwide interest back to the event.
In looking into why people would want to participate in such a grueling activity, I found that the Chicago Marathon draws so many runners for some of the same reasons Chicago drew so many people after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The pursuit of personal records and world records. After the fire we had architects from all over the world come to re-imagine this great city and Chicago is now known as the home for records in architecture such as the first skyscraper or at one point the tallest building in the world. And just as the destroyed city created a new canvas for great architecture, the flatness of the Chicago Marathon course facilitated record breaking achievements. Chicago has been home to four world record runs and the record for the 26.2 mile Chicago course is a mere 2 hours, 3 minutes and 45 seconds. This was set in 2013 by Dennis Kimetto, a runner from Kenya who also holds the world record for a marathon run set in 2014 in Berlin. So that means Kimetto’s average time per mile for Chicago was only 4.7 minutes!
In addition to setting records for those that have won the marathon over the years, the race draws many more than those who have a chance at winning. The Chicago Marathon is known as “the World’s Marathon” because you do not have to a qualifying time to participate. It’s open to anyone. That first race back in 1977 drew people of all ages from a 12-year-old kid to a 74-year-old man. Although Ben Mostow, 74, did not intend to win the race that year, he did hope to be in the Guinness Book of World Records for the fastest marathon time for a 74-year-old man. He had already been a long time walker having walked all the way from Skokie, IL to Racine, WI, (about a 60-mile hike) and he had simply always been a walker. He had no doubts that he would finish the race as his own slogan was “rain, shine, snow or sleet, Mostow’s always on his feet.”
In fact, it seems to me that Chicago Marathon is less about winning and more about the pride of finishing. Whether 12 or 74, a marathon runner will spend an enormous amount of time training, running at least four times a week and around 300 miles a month, just to build up the endurance to finish the race. It has made me realize that although I think marathon runners are a little crazy, they are possibly the most dedicated and determined individuals in the world. So few can say they have run a marathon and reading the stories of those who have pushed themselves to this achievement, I have so much more pride and admiration for my friend.
Here’s to you, Chicago Marathon runners!
–Jenn Harrman, Tour Guide
Chase Tower Architecture: Foto Friday
October 3, 2014 by Amanda
On our Loop Interior Architecture Tour, we marvel at the architecture of Chase Tower, originally built for First National Bank of Chicago. On a rainy day the architecture of this skyscraper, and its postmodern sister tower across the street, makes for an other-worldly view of the Chicago skyline.
It’s probably hard to believe, but this photo of the architecture of Chase Tower has no filters on it. It’s a color photo! While we are saying goodbye to sunny summer days, it can also be beautiful to see the monochromatic world of cloudy days (though maybe not everyday hopefully). I suppose it does look a little post-apocalyptic…
A beautiful thing that people often say at the end of our walking tours is to remember to “look up” at the architecture and enjoy the beauty of the city that we often just rush through. Hopefully images like this can be an inspiration to appreciate the landscapes around us, even when they seem mundane or gloomy.
– Amanda Scotese, Executive Director
A History of Chicago Distilleries
October 1, 2014 by Elizabeth Tieri
With the recent popularity of craft distilleries, it’s difficult to know who is worth noticing and who is just a flash in the pan of Chicago’s drinking scene. So when I heard that Koval Distillery was the oldest distillery in Chicago, I naturally had to check it out.
On a tour of their distillery, I learned that Koval is not only the oldest distillery currently operating in Chicago, but it was also the first distillery opened since the repeal of Prohibition. And get this–Koval Distillery is merely six years old. Koval opened in 2008, which means that Chicago went 75 years without a single distillery! When I asked our guide why, she responded that there simply was no demand. I couldn’t believe such a dry spell, especially when you consider that there is no shortage of breweries in Chicago, some of which have been around for ages.
Koval was started by a husband and wife duo who dedicated their craft to an organic grain to bottle approach. All of their spirits are single barrel and can be traced back to the farmers who grew the great things inside them. My favorite that we tasted on the tour was their Four Grain Whiskey, made from oat, malted barely, rye, and wheat. I also realized on the tour that I had been enjoying their liqueurs in craft cocktails all around town. In addition to distillation, Koval offers classes and guidance to amateurs and professionals alike, even setting standards in the technology of the process.
The tour was a lot of fun for a novice like me, who barely passed basic chemistry. And yet, I needed to know more about the history of distilleries in Chicago and why that 75 year dry spell happened. There is no question that Chicago is a town who loves her whiskey.
With the resources of Midwestern grain and the manufacturing and transportation industries rampant, Chicago was a logical location for distillation. In 1860, Chicago had 8 distilleries, including the Shufeldt Distillery pictured below. The number of Chicago distilleries would dwindle instead of grow, however, due to the Great Fire of 1871 and then the bullying of the Whiskey Trust in the 1880s and 90s. At this point Peoria, which is about 160 miles southwest of Chicago, was the whiskey capital of the country. Hard to believe, I know, but it wasn’t in Kentucky. The city of Peoria had 73 distilleries and was the largest corn-consuming market in the world.
Then Prohibition happened, which we discuss on our Historic Chicago Walking Bar Tour, and many distilleries are closed or altered to manufacture other things. After Prohibition is repealed in 1933, mostly big name companies dominated the distillery scene and Bourbon County, Kentucky took the crown as the nation’s lead distiller. Smaller distillers had lost their steam and never could quite bounce back. And in the past, liquor laws in Illinois prevented manufacturers of liquor to sell to anyone but a distributor, let alone let people come for tastings. Also in 2013 the amount of booze that a craft distillery could produce and store was doubled, allowing distilling to be a more profitable venture, especially since it has such huge upfront costs.
With the locavore movement, craft distilleries in Chicago are popping up left and right and expanding at breakneck speed. In some ways Chicago is returning to its historically boozy roots, and brings with it the creativity and technology of today.
– Elizabeth Tieri, Tour Guide
October Events in Chicago: Architecture and History
September 30, 2014 by Jenn Harrman
Celebrate architecture and history with some spectacular October events in Chicago. Each week we feature our favorite happenings in the windy city and this week includes a look at the historic Palmers during the Great Chicago Fire, an evening at a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece, and a spectacle on the Chicago River.
1. Love Under Fire: The Story of Bertha and Potter Palmer - FILM SHOWING
Chicago Cultural Center, Claudia Cassidy Theater, 78 E. Washington St. - Tuesday, September 30th, 6:30pm-8:00pm
The story of the Great Chicago Fire cannot be told without the stories of the people that lived through it and this week the city shares that history during the Great Chicago Fire Festival. To kick things off this Tuesday, the story of Chicago’s fire of 1871 comes to life in film following the story of Bertha Honoré and Potter Palmer, one of Chicago’s early great families, and their passion for the city. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with Executive Producer Lori McGunn, Director Amelia Dellos and notable Chicago historians.
2. After Hours at Robie House – EVENING EVENT
5757 S. Woodlawn Ave. – Fridays, starting October 3rd, 5:00pm-8:00pm
$30 members/$35 non-members
Fall is the perfect time of year for a house party and what better setting than Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House. This month the famed south side Chicago residence will open every Friday after hours for an evening of light music, appetizers, drinks and exploration in the atmosphere of the Wright masterpiece. After Hours includes access to the Robie House balcony, which opened last spring, and is a unique opportunity to see the house in a new perspective… as a party guest.
3. Great Chicago Fire Festival – FIRST ANNUAL CELEBRATION
Chicago River between State and Columbus – Saturday, October 4, 8:00pm (activities begin 3:00pm)
This Saturday experience a spectacle of fire on the Chicago River. The first ever Great Chicago Fire Festival celebrates Chicago’s epic resurgence and strength after the Great Fire of 1871 and the people that toiled at pushing forward. Fiery cauldrons will be lowered from the bridges, hundreds of kayakers will pull flaming buoys and prairie gardens, and three floating sculptures resembling pre-1871 homes will be set ablaze. Each of the homes are also staged to reveal a dramatic and symbolic interior core. Naturally the event will include a fireworks display, which will be set to music that pays homage to our diverse Chicago neighborhoods.
Fall Events in Chicago Architecture and History
September 23, 2014 by Jenn Harrman
Each week we try to bring you three events for your social calendar that are all about Chicago architecture and history. This week we feature fall events in Chicago including an exhibition talk, an exclusive tour of Frank Lloyd Wright, and a day of free museums.
1. Exhibition Overview of “Chicagoisms” – EXPRESS TALK
Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave. – Wednesday, September 24th, 12:00-12:30pm
FREE – with museum admission
This brief guided tour gives you a closer look to learn more about the Chicagoisms exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. Being known throughout history for its architectural innovations, Chicago is still a place of inspiration for architects, urbanists, and enthusiasts alike. As said best by the museum, “the exhibition surveys Chicago’s rich urban history and explores contemporary approaches to five Chicagoisms–key historical principles that have powered the city’s distinctive evolution.” The tour is free and meets in Griffith Court.
2. Wright Around Oak Park – EXCLUSIVE IN-DEPTH TOUR
Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Gift Shop, 951 Chicago Ave., Oak Park – Wednesday, September 24th, 9:30am or 12:00pm
$65 members/$70 public – reservations recommended
For all of you Frank Lloyd Wright fans, this tour is a great opportunity for a comprehensive look at the iconic architect’s work in Oak Park. The tours are limited to only ten people, so guests get a personal experience with the architecture and the history while exploring expanded versions of both the Home and Studio tour and the neighborhood tour, and an interior and exterior look at Unity Temple. The tour offers a look at the development of the architect, the evolution of his architectural ideas, and a comparison look at Wright versus other grand Oak Park homes from the period.
3. Museum Day Live – FREE MUSEUM DAY
Locations vary - Saturday, September 27th
Take part in the Smithsonian Magazine’s Museum Day Live with a whole day of free admission to select museums, including one of our favorites, the Farnsworth House. There are over 20 museums across the greater Chicagoland area that are taking part in the event, which means there are over 20 museums to choose from. From the DuSable Museum of African American History to the Smart Museum to the International Museum of Surgical Sciences, there is a museum for just about everything and everyone and its all free this Saturday.
Day Trip to Chicago Botanic Garden
September 22, 2014 by Elizabeth Tieri
When you need to shake the city off your big shoulders, I recommend a day trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden. I had never been until recently, when a girlfriend and I hopped on our bikes and headed north. The Chicago Botanic Garden, located in Glencoe about 25 miles north of downtown, is easily accessed by car and public transportation as well. We chose to ride the North Branch Trail through the Forest Preserve District of Cook County to be fully immersed in the nature of our city in a garden.
In order to navigate the 385-acre garden, we got a personalized itinerary from my friend Phil, who works at the visitor’s center. At the top of his must-see list is the Japanese Garden, and I fully agree. The Sansho-En is a garden of three islands, two of which mere mortals may stroll. The islands were designed by Dr. Koichi Kawana, who designed Japanese gardens in St. Louis and Devner as well. In my research of his work, Chicago Botanic Garden executives discuss how Kawana didn’t draw plans for the placement of plants and rocks; instead he studied them individually and placed each stone based on which side or texture he thought should face the point of view of visitors to the garden. These composed views are so masterful, one must be reminded that they are intentional. This is the philosophy of a Japanese garden, to interpret nature in a stylized presentation, as opposed to letting nature run wild. The effect is contemplative and ideal.
Leave the worries of the working world behind as you cross the Arched Bridge to Kaiunto, the Island of the Auspicious Cloud. The same theory goes back to 17th century Sansho-en, intended as a retreat for feudal lords. More specifically, the Shoin House was an escape for samurai to focus on meditation and poetry. This was by far my favorite aspect of the garden, and I hope to have one of my own someday. The 23-tatami-mat house, which is how you talk size in Japanese construction, was first built in Japan, as were all the wooden structures in the Japanese Garden here. Then it was dismantled and sent to Chicago. This was facilitated by the fact that no nails were used to construct the house, true to its Middle Age origins. The house’s walls are open to allow views of the surrounding nature, and the samurai’s desk–my favorite aspect of the house–is built into one of these walls looking directly onto the moss garden for inspiration.
Continue to Seifuto, the Island of Clear, Pure Breezes, across the Zigzag Bridge, reminiscent of our Chicago Detours logo. The zigzag design is intended to force the flaneur to slow down and consider new views of the garden. On Seifuto, you get a closer look of Horaijima, the Island of Everlasting Happiness. This smallest of the three islands is intended to represent paradise and is reserved for the gods and the nature they have given us. Considering the beauty evident on the first two islands, I can only marvel at what must be reserved on Horaijima.
So as not to discuss the garden without mention of the flowers, pictured above is the Victoria Regia waterlily, a flower rarely in bloom. Its life cycle is just two days; the pink color seen here denotes this flower is in day two, the male stage, of its life. These lilies are found in the Heritage Garden. Other highlights of the Chicago Botanic Garden include the Waterfall Garden from which the above view of the Japanese Garden is taken, and the deck of the Garden View Cafe, where you can sit beneath the willows and enjoy not just the view but also sustainably produced and seasonal items.
– Elizabeth Tieri, Tour Guide