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

2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 23 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

My Chicago Adventures: Pilsen

My second neighborhood to visit was Pilsen. Now, I’m not claiming that I’ve thoroughly explored these neighborhoods; not even close! I just like getting out on a Saturday, with a short list of things to see. I get the feeling there is a lot in Pilsen that I still haven’t seen or don’t know about. My visit centered around the National Museum of Mexican Art, and a few points of interest from the “Open House Chicago” list.

A mural in the Pilsen neighborhood

A mural in the Pilsen neighborhood

Hector Duarte's studio and the Gulliver in Wonderland Mural

Hector Duarte’s studio and the Gulliver in Wonderland Mural (apparently represents the stuggling Mexican immigrant as Gulliver). 

The National Museum of Mexican Art is an interesting place, not too big but nice enough. I was sad that I’d missed the Day of the Dead exhibit. The current exhibit, “Nuestras Historias: Stories of Mexican Identity from the Permanent Collection” was neat, highlighting periods of strong nationalism vs. loss of culture, and place specific identities, like Mexicans in Chicago and the Midwest. Cool.

At the National Museum of Mexican Art

At the National Museum of Mexican Art

Make tacos, not war.

My Chicago Adventures: Edgewater/Andersonville

Since moving to Chicago I’ve started a few habits: there’s the independent coffee shops on Fridays, visiting a different museum most weekends, and walking around new neighborhoods. And does Chicago have the neighborhoods! I usually plan out my walks to include some historic spots, and interesting places, and take pictures along the way.

My first neighborhood visit to share is Edgewater and Andersonville. Edgewater is long on history and has many buildings and “apartment hotels” dating from the 1920’s. The most striking and recognizable is the pink stucco Edgewater Beach Apartments, once a celebrated hotel and celebrity hotspot. Of course, once the completion of Lakeshore Drive cut off easy access to the lakefront, the hotel became a little less popular. Today the place gives off a feeling of tarnished glamour. I visited the Edgewater Historical Society for an hour to learn a bit more about the Edgewater Beach Hotel, and about the development of the neighborhood.

Edgewater Beach Apartments

Edgewater Beach Apartments

Edgewater Historical Society

Edgewater Historical Society

A walk around the neighborhood also finds many historic homes and churches; the Lakewood-Balmoral Historic District is worth a look, but none of my pictures could really capture the cute and quaint single family homes around here. To end the day, I actually ended up in the historically Swedish neighborhood of Andersonville, walking along busy Clark St. That’s where you’ll find the Swedish-American Museum, which I have yet to visit! More neighborhoods coming in the future.

The frozen Chicago lakefront in January

The frozen Chicago lakefront in January

My Christmas Letter

Around this time of year it’s customary to send out a Christmas card and letter to your friends and family; I can’t manage to mail out Christmas cards this year, so I’m opting for the digital version. Not as personal but I hope it does the job!

And every year is another adventure. Early in the year, I made the decision (which seemed momentous at the time) to not return for the season at the travel agency, but to give the “museum thing” one more solid effort. I thought, ‘I’ll give it another year, and if it doesn’t pan out, then I give up!’ Since then I’ve volunteered at the Glen Ellyn Historical Society, worked with the Curator of the Elmhurst Art Museum, attended the American Alliance of Museums conference in Seattle, started working in the gift shop of the Art Institute of Chicago, and even presented a short session at the Illinois Association of Museums conference in Rockford. Wow! I wonder what 2015 will bring.

This year has also had it’s ups and downs. Dad’s near heart attack and subsequent quadruple bypass surgery made the summer seem to fly by. The first few weeks were full of hospital visits, and then came the long road to recovery. My part time work schedule was well suited to helping out. And while we never want to repeat those months, it made us count our blessings and remember to pray.

There have also been exciting and happy moments this year, of course! I participated in the Triton Troupers Circus again, performing in silks, web, and double stunts, and having a record number of people come see the show (my parents brought their whole bible study group!). I took a contortion class too, and learned many new things. And travel is always a part of my life; in October I went on vacation to Germany with Brian and Jessica. While I wished the trip were longer, we had fun seeing friends and visiting new places, and enjoying the beer and sausage!

All in all, 2014 has been a rather difficult but rewarding year. I learned a lot, and stretched myself in ways I didn’t think possible. I paid off my student loan, and traded it for rent. The biggest change has been working downtown, and moving into an apartment in Chicago. It all sounds very adult, but don’t worry: I still eat loads of macaroni and cheese.

Anyways, have a very Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and may God shower blessings on you.


Open House Chicago 2013

October marked a second successful Open House Chicago event by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, where historic sites and businesses opened their doors to the public for one grand weekend. I mentioned it in a post last year, at their inaugural event (

My personal affinity to Tribune Tower led me to visit there again. Instead of the penthouse office they opened up last year, this time they displayed one of the old refurbished press rooms in the basement. The sight was rather underwhelming, but I enjoyed seeing the track lines for carts that at one time carried enormous rolls of newsprint for the paper. If you have 20 minutes to kill, watch this 1937 educational video on the process, entitled “Trees to Tribune”(

The track lines for carts carrying newsprint

The track lines for carts carrying newsprint


Imagining those giant paper rolls running down the underground tracks

This next picture is actually my favorite, because I was so proud of myself to have spotted this significant cornerstone in the Tribune building. I can’t recommend people to go see it, as its in a spot not technically on public property. But the cornerstone is located below street level on Wacker, by the employee parking lot. I’ve juxtaposed it with a historic photo of Robert McCormick at an outdoor ceremony in the same location in 1920. So much history is here.


An unseen corner of this building, when it was first dedicated!

After leaving Tribune Tower with my friends, my zig-zagged our way down and around Michigan Ave, visiting historic interiors like the Monroe Building and Fine Arts Building, and the swanky office of a modern architectural firm. Some Open House Chicago (OHC) locations are always open to the public, but the event gives you the excuse to walk around and explore. Below is a picture of the Empire Room at the Palmer House Hotel, where a set of Bertha Palmer’s extravagant gold-rimmed dinner service was on display.


Inside the publicly accessible Palmer House Hotel

Wanting to also visit something that was not normally accessible, we checked out the Cliff Dwellers private club dedicated to the arts, on the penthouse of the Symphony Center. As far as private clubs go, the interior was rather sparse and reserved, but illustrious members have included Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Carl Sandburg, Lorado Taft and many others. The most impressive part was the view from the terrace, with all of the lakefront laid out before your eyes!


Dining room of the private club, the “Cliff Dwellers”, dedicated to the arts


View from the terrace of the Cliff Dwellers private club

These are just a few highlights, but I hope to be back next year to explore a new neighborhood. Afterall, its so fun to act like a tourist in your own city!