Street Smart Chicago

A Lot You Got to Holler, Episode 2: Cabrini-Green Dreams and Nightmares

Architecture, Chicago History, City Life, Gold Coast/Near North, News etc. 1 Comment »

Cabrini-Green in Demolition

Episode 2: Cabrini-Green Dreams and Nightmares

Depending on who’s telling the tale, the Cabrini-Green housing projects on Chicago’s Near North Side are either patient-zero for urban dysfunction and decay, or a humble high-rise utopia, Corbusier’s Radiant City with soul. But at the end of the day it was home to 15,000 people. Cabrini-Green was mostly demolished by 2011, but its legacy both haunts, or enriches, the city, depending on who you ask. Read the rest of this entry »

Miss Rose: The Life and Times of the Gold Coast Madam

Chicago History, Gold Coast/Near North, Love & Sex 1 Comment »

Rose Laws with friends.

By Harrison Smith

Rose Laws stands five-feet four-inches, with red hair, glasses and a strong Southern accent she’s retained from a childhood in Tennessee. She once had thirty-six-triple-D breasts, which she lost purposely because they were too big, and a tiny waist, which she lost with age because that’s how things go. She looks and talks like a grandmother, is gracious and warm like the best grandmothers, and at age seventy-seven is, not surprisingly, a grandmother.

Tonight she is without her grandchildren, though two of her sons are with her at the Everleigh Social Club on West Randolph. The club is pretty empty this early in the evening, and most of the people who are there—just about all of whom are friends or family of Rose—are sipping the night’s signature drink, a “Gold Coast Madam” cocktail mixed specially for the occasion. Read the rest of this entry »

Hospital Emergency: The Save Prentice movement goes national

Chicago History, Gold Coast/Near North No Comments »

Architecture advocacy groups Landmarks Illinois and Preservation Chicago have spent more than a year trying to save the old Prentice Women’s Hospital in Streeterville. On Wednesday, they made it a national issue.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation named the now nearly vacant building to its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places during a press conference and rally held just outside the building.

Both groups continue to fight for granting the building landmark status. In April, Northwestern University, the building’s longtime owner, agreed to table its demolition plans for sixty days while Chicago considers its possible status. But the Landmarks Commission deferred its vote on June 2, and now the advocates remain uncertain as to whether it will be even on the agenda for the July 7 meeting. In what he feels is a closing window of opportunity, Preservation Chicago director Jonathan Fine says the city needs to recognize the need to preserve its cultural legacy that extends inward from its most visible areas.

“Chicago, as great of a city as it is, sometimes can’t look beyond its own navel when it comes to architecture,” he says. “Two years ago we lost eight of the nine Gropius Buildings on the Michael Reese Hospital campus, and in exchange we now have a sea of taxpayer-funded mud down there. We are on the verge of making the same mistake twice. Read the rest of this entry »

Bertrand Goldberg’s legacy at risk

Architecture, Chicago History, Gold Coast/Near North No Comments »

The fight to save Prentice Hospital continues. Preservation Chicago has circulated this video, which covers the story. Newcity made Prentice the centerpiece of a cover story about the threat to Chicago’s mid-century modern architecture this summer.

Save Prentice! from Aaron Cahan on Vimeo.

411: The Surgical Museum Gets a Facelift

Gold Coast/Near North, Museums, News etc. No Comments »

When the International Museum of Surgical Sciences rolls out its newest exhibit this week, “Our Body: The Universe Within, ” regular visitors will notice changes to the exhibition space, which has been newly renovated.

Max Downham, executive director of the International College of Surgeons, says that the museum “took the opportunity (of preparing the new exhibition) to renovate.” Downham mentions a cleaner, all-white color scheme, refurbished hardwood and marble floors, restored lavatories, better AC and ventilation and the replacement of fluorescents with track lighting.

Downham specifically highlights this last upgrade, since the track lights will allow for a greater degree of fidelity when viewing the exhibits, a particular advantage given that the “Our Body” displays constitute more than 200 human specimens prepared via polymer impregnation. The relatively new preservative technique, which replaces fat and water in bodies with a polymer plastic, allows for specimens to be posed in ways that best delineate anatomical systems.

Downham adds that all remodeling was done in keeping with landmark standards, an important consideration given the museum prides itself on its facility, a preserved lakefront turn-of-the-century mansion which is on national, state and municipal landmark registers. (David Wicik)

Who You Gonna Call? Bill Murray, in the sky, that’s who

City Life, Events, Gold Coast/Near North No Comments »

“Bill Murray is circling in the air,” a female announcer says, somewhat nonchalantly for such a one-of-a-kind statement. Murray is so high that no one can spot him, but he can see all of us. He’s sort of like God.

Chicago sure knows how to start its annual Air and Water Show: with gratuitous celebrity cameos, like Wilmette-born actor Murray dropping from the sky alongside the Army’s Golden Knights paratroopers and Gary Sinise’s Lt. Dan Band playing the smooth classics. Murray is in a complete 120 mph freefall, his bright yellow jumpsuit slowly coming into focus as his lanky body is strapped to an expert skydiver. The announcer, speaking in front of the background music of Darude’s “Sandstorm,” takes the opportunity to remind us that Murray—one malfunction away from his body hurtling towards the precipice of death—was in “Ghostbusters.”

But alas, his black and yellow parachute fires correctly, and ol’ Bill is smoothly flying over the crowd, flailing his arms and legs about in triumph. As Murray comes in for soft landing, waving politely to the masses and feigning limpness in his leg, the announcer advises us to look up at the “traffic jam in the sky.” People gasp as the sky is suddenly filled with 10 or so more paratroopers, somersaulting, twisting aimlessly, spraying pink smoke into the air. The crowd seems taken by surprise. Everyone was so fixated on watching the possible untimely death of Peter Venkman that anything short of a nuclear explosion in the middle of the lake would have gone unnoticed. (Andy Seifert)

Dim the Lights: An evening with astrophysicist Rocky Kolb

Education/Training, Essays & Commentary, Gold Coast/Near North No Comments »

Walking into the Newberry Library is like walking into some secret society. The Newberry Library offers a lecture every first Wednesday of the month, this day being “The Dark Side of the Universe, ” with astrophysicist Rocky Kolb. The free alcohol helps.

Opera plays softly through the speakers, and a mixed crowd of college students, artists, freelance writers and graying professionals all linger by the alcohol and snacks tables. A sea of people with beers or small plastic cups of wine in hand all passionately engage in conversation over topics that range from politics to their personal theory of the universe. The lights eventually dim and Kolb takes his place at the podium.
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