Fort Sheridan and Openlands Lakeshore Preserve

This weekend was a welcome taste of warmer weather to come, and anyone who was wise took advantage of it! We did as well, by doing some hiking and exploring along Chicago’s north shore. I’ve been to Fort Sheridan and the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve before, but it was significantly more pleasant this time around, with nearly 60 degree weather.

I decided to do a bit of research about the history of Fort Sheridan as well. The site was originally established as a French trading post, conveniently connecting Chicago to Wisconsin. But nothing much happened here until Fort Sheridan was established in the 1880s, as a military post to “keep the peace” for the rapidly growing city of Chicago (read “suppressing labor unrest”). It was named after a certain General Sheridan, hence the name.

And so the site was developed into a well-equipped military base, designed by the architectural firm Holabird & Roche (they designed some of Chicago’s first “skyscrapers”, like the Marquette building). The focal point of the complex still seems to be the 200+ foot water tower, seen in the picture here. I look at it and think, is it really just a water tower? I guess so…


The Holabird & Roche designed water tower at Fort Sheridan


I’m always one for a good placard!

The rest of the area were homes for officers and their families, barracks, mess hall and stables, all clustered around a large parade ground. And while Fort Sheridan played a major role in both world wars, and conflicts both before and after, the Fort was officially closed in 1993. There are still military goings-on around here, but the historic neighborhood now seems like a pretty desirable neighborhood for non-military residents. A condo or townhome goes for about half a million or more here.


The Romanesque architecture of nearly all of the Fort Sheridan homes.

The Openlands Lakeshore Preserve is just a small section of lakefront property adjacent to Fort Sheridan that has been under restoration the last few years. The ecosystem is supposedly rare and unique in Illinois, but still in need of ongoing restoration. But, with the trail running along a high bluff over the shoreline, the beauty of getting such an elevated glimpse of Lake Michigan is what really makes it for me. Now, I just have to make it back here during summer…


Openlands Lakeshore Preserve along Lake Michigan, Highland Park, IL

My Chicago Adventures: Pullman and Argus Brewery

Once again, I’ve let life get away from me, and this blog has remained largely forgotten. Or maybe not forgotten, since I’ve often thought “I should write on my blog again”. But, as I’m gearing up for another major adventure, I thought I would write a post to get back in the swing of things. And this is the one that I most wanted to finish.

The Pullman neighborhood is a hidden gem in Chicago; I’ve vaguely known about it for a while now, but the topic is timely because earlier this year President Obama stopped by to celebrate the new designation of the Pullman National Monument, under the National Parks System. Which presumably means even better preservation for the site, and greater recognition of its’ historical significance.

The historic district itself is smaller than the neighborhood of Pullman, between 111th and 115th streets, and Cottage Grove and Langley Avenues. This is considered the far South Side of Chicago, as even the red line trains don’t come this far. Take the red line to the end of the line, and you still have a 15 minute bus ride to get to the Pullman Historic District.

The district includes the Pullman State Historic Site, the Historic Pullman Foundation, and the Pullman National Monument NPS. The Historic Pullman Foundation is housed in a very unassuming looking building, and is a good place to start. While I have yet to visit the museum (the hours were rather limited), I had time enough to ask for the self-guided walking tour brochure, which led me around the neighborhood and gave simple explanations about the buildings and their use and architecture.

The very simple explanation is that Pullman was a company town for employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company. George Pullman wanted to uplift his lower-class employees, and built a town with some of the first worker housing with indoor plumbing, a hotel, market, church, and factory buildings, and attempted to provide for his employees in every forseeable way. However, it was not a true utopia. “The opportunities that Pullman provided went beyond social uplift—they amounted to social control. A Chicago Tribune editorial stated that, “none of the…advantages of the model city will compensate for the restrictions on the freedom of the workmen…” Limitations on freedom sowed the seeds of social unrest”, which resulted in strikes, boycotts, and bloody conflict between labor and employers ( If you are at all interested in the industrial and labor history of America, then you’ll just have to come visit.

What brings me to the Argus Brewery were these “limitations on freedom”. Saloons and drinking establishments were forbidden, so many of these thirsty employees wandered over to the other side of the tracks to find what they were looking for. Argus Brewery is a new enterprise, but it is housed in an old horse stables that was the distribution center for the Joseph Schlitz brewing company – heard of it? You’ve probably at least seen the logo somewhere in Chicago, with the Schlitz banner over a globe. Schlitz was just one of several breweries along the same street, catering to the large population of German, Polish and Eastern European immigrants that worked for Pullman. On a tour of the Argus Brewery today, the guide will share a little bit of this Chicago history, along with the requisite explanation of how beer is made, and how Argus fits into the growing craft beer culture of Chicago.

My Chicago Adventures: Lincoln Square/Ravenswood

I love Lincoln Square! But seriously, the neighborhood of Lincoln Square seems to have a lot going for it. As per usual, my copy of the “Open House Chicago” sites was my guide to exploring the neighborhood, and I’ve made repeat visits back to the DANK-Haus German American Cultural Center. The museum there is free and worth a visit to learn about the German legacy in Chicago. After having just read the book Death in the Haymarket, and the Haymarket Affair and labor struggles in late nineteenth century Chicago, it was strange to see this poster below; the poster called for workers to meet and discuss recent events and labor strikes. Little did they know the firestorm that would start that night (


Inside the DANK Museum at the cultural center; historic political leaflets in English and German.

It’s true that Germans made up one of the largest portions of the immigrant population in Chicago, when they started arriving in the city in the nineteenth century. Imagine then that they arrive in Chicago, set up their trades to be bakers and beer brewers etc., and some teetotaling mayor decides it is illegal to drink on Sundays, their only day off of work! That Joseph Medill… Anyway, I liked the German cultural center so much that I came back for an art exhibit, German cinema night, and now I’m volunteering for their booth at the street festival “Maifest” at the end of the month. This is all in line with my next big adventure, which has yet to be announced. Something to do with German language and culture, that’s all I’ll say for now!

Below are a few more pictures of the place, complete with a view of Lincoln Square from the rooftop terrace of the building.


The club room inside the DANK Haus is full of character!!


International art exhibition and the opening event at the DANK Haus.

Dank Haus Panorama

View over Lincoln Square from the rooftop terrace.

And… I leave you with a few more favorites from the area:

A very German and international type of place :)

A very German and international type of place 🙂

The exterior of the old Krause Music Store on Lincoln Avenue.

The exterior of the old Krause Music Store on Lincoln Avenue.

Architectural Artifacts is a warehouse full of... architectural artifacts for sale.

Architectural Artifacts is a warehouse full of… architectural artifacts for sale.

Rosehill Cemetery, North Side Chicago

I am a fan of cemeteries. This may be strange to some but cemeteries can be peaceful, beautiful, and historic all at the same time. Rosehill Cemetery is supposedly Chicago’s largest cemetery, with many Civil War soldiers, and well-known Chicagoans buried here. I visited on a snowy weekend in February, so I suppose it’s about time I posted these pictures; I’m including just a few of my favorites.


The cemetery entrance was designed by architect William W. Boyington, best remembered for his design of the Chicago Water Tower.


A Civil War monument near the East side entrance, with names and battlesites running around the bottom. A flag is draped over the carving of a cannon.


And more Civil War soldiers. According to another blog, this is the Monument of Battery B. Dates of death were mostly around 1862.


The obelisk monument for Mayor “Long John” Wentworth; he was an Illinois politician, and Mayor of Chicago during the Civil War. According to the monument, he had four children with his wife, all of which died in infancy. 

Below are some links to further info about the cemetery:

Fall Fun and Germany in October

Gosh, I didn’t realize it had been quite that long since I blogged. How did that happen again??

Long story short: I went on vacation, I got a new job, I moved, I went on vacation again, I presented at a conference, I got a promotion, and then I looked at my blog. That’s a lot of stuff happening.

My vacation was with my Mom to Brown County, Indiana and a stop in Indianapolis too. Since Dad was finally returning to work in August, after several months of medical leave, Mom and I went on our own vacation. It was one of those reading, hiking, eating, and shopping kind of vacations.

Imagine this view on a warm sunny day in the State Park!

Imagine this view on a warm sunny day in the State Park!

Upon returning from vacation, I started my new job as Sales Assistant at the Art Institute of Chicago, which essentially means I work in the museum gift shop. It’s a nice place to work, and was made even more exciting when it was announced they’d been voted Tripadvisor’s #1 museum in the world for 2014.  They hosted a fancy breakfast for staff to celebrate, and took a group picture on the Grand Staircase:

It's hard to get so many people in one photo....

It’s hard to get so many people in one photo….

My next vacation had been planned for a while: Germany! I traveled with my brother and sister in law, and we visited loads of places including Berlin, Erfurt, Nuremberg and Rothenburg. There was still more to see, so Brian and Jessica continued their trip, while I had to return home for work. Poor me!

Sharing a meal on an outdoor patio in Nuremberg.

Sharing a meal on an outdoor patio in Nuremberg.

Brian and Jessica at the Brandenburg Gate in the center of Berlin.

Brian and Jessica at the Brandenburg Gate in the center of Berlin.

The amazing German food at the Augustiner Brau in Erfurt.

The amazing German food at the Augustiner Brau in Erfurt.

The week after my vacation, I was set to present at the Illinois Association of Museums Conference in Rockford, IL. I presented to a small group on the topic of Leadership, mentoring, and the next generation of museum professionals. It went as smoothly as can be expected, and the rest of the conference was informative and even entertaining. There are a few museums I want to go back and visit in Rockford, like Midway Village…


Lastly, I’ve moved out of my parent’s house and into an apartment in Chicago, mainly to lessen my commute to work. It’s all going pretty well, so I can’t complain. We shall see what adventures come next.


Al Capone and Gangster History

Chicago in the 1920’s was a city of political corruption and gang warfare, and the embodiment of the failure of Prohibition. Three of its key figures happen to be buried near each other in an old Catholic cemetery outside of Chicago. This cemetery just happens to be right near my house.

I will admit that I find cemeteries interesting, and not creepy (not during the daytime anyway!). They carry a very local history, and allow us some small but tangible connection to the past. It has been on my to-do list for some time now, to walk through the Mount Carmel Catholic cemetery, where the notorious Chicago mobster Al Capone is buried.

The beginning of Prohibition in 1920, which made the manufacture and sale of alcohol illegal, was just the beginning of Chicago’s problems. If Chicago was already known for corruption, then Prohibition was the impetus for an alliance between organized crime and corrupt politicians. “As Prohibition laws were openly violated and men were murdered on crowded streets, notorious criminals made little effort to conceal the weapons they invariably carried”.1

In the early 1920’s, rival gangs battled for their share of the city and the profits. The Irish-American Dean “Dion” O’Banion led the North Side Gang, against his Italian-American rival Al Capone and his Mob. Dion was the first to lose the fight when he was murdered in 1924 by Mob gangsters, in the back room of Schofield’s flower shop. He was initially buried in unconsecrated ground at Mount Carmel, because of his gangster lifestyle, but was later moved to consecrated ground. 2

Dean or 'Dion' O'Banion, the Irish-American mobster.

Dean or ‘Dion’ O’Banion, the Irish-American mobster.

The grave marker for Dion O'Banion, North Side rival of Al Capone/

The grave marker for Dion O’Banion, North Side rival of Al Capone.

O’Banion’s murder ushered in “a period of vicious, almost uninterrupted, gang warfare that lasted until Al Capone’s conviction for tax evasion in October of 1931”. 3

There were to be more startling murders, particularly the St Valentines Day Massacre, and just over a year later, the murder in broad daylight of Chicago Tribune crime reporter Alfred “Jake” Lingle. Any confidence in the Police Dept. to control gang violence seemed to be lost, but the murder of a reporter caused a firestorm in the press. Only later did it become known that Lingle had been playing both sides, and had a questionable income that was well above his Tribune salary.

The grave marker of Jake Lingle's family, a Chicago Tribune reporter during the 1920s.

The grave marker of Jake Lingle’s family, a Chicago Tribune reporter during the 1920s.

The inability of Chicago Police or any political officials to apprehend the gangsters reeked of political corruption, but “the Lingle murder marked a new seriousness in the war on crime”. 4

If Chicagoans could have guessed that it would not be local law enforcement that would eventually arrest Capone, but that the federal government would have that honor, they would have been angrier still. Capone was convicted for tax evasion and sentenced to 11 years in federal prison. He eventually died from syphilis, and several of his family members are also buried in this prominent spot at Mount Carmel Cemetery. 5

The Capone gravesite gets frequent visitors at Mount Carmel Cemetery.

The Capone gravesite gets frequent visitors at Mount Carmel Cemetery.

The gravesite of the Capone family; individual family markers lay in the ground before it.

The gravesite of the Capone family; individual family markers lay in the ground before it.

1. Mcdonough, Daniel. “Chicago Press Treatment of the Gangster, 1924-1931.”Illinois Historical Journal 82.1 (1989): 17-32. JSTOR. Web. 06 July 2014. <;.
3 & 4. Mcdonough, Daniel. “Chicago Press Treatment of the Gangster, 1924-1931.”Illinois Historical Journal 82.1 (1989): 17-32.

Triton Troupers Circus 2014

The last few weeks and months of my life have been full of circus and glitter. And what a life! This has been my 4th year performing at the Triton Troupers Circus at Triton College, but some of my circus friends have been part of the troupe for 15 years or even more. So anyway, here are some of the pictures from show week, and video links are down at the bottom. Enjoy!

The 'Dirty Dancing' signature move.

My double stunts partner and I doing our individual routine!Looking particularly bendy.
Our 1940s themed silks act! Dress rehearsal and practicing on Spanish Web

Missed the show? Watch some videos on Youtube!


Photos courtesy of Steve Hersee, and others.