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23 June, 2001

Chicago-The Windy City 6/23/01

Chicago is a very interesting city. It is now the hub of commerce for shipping and train travel across the United States but that is not why it is an interesting city. What I found to be the most interesting is the architecture, the network of canals and rivers within the city proper and the entertainment section.

After arriving at the Windy City, our first stop was to the Museum of Radio & Television Communications. The building that housed this museum was beautiful. It was constructed from marble imported from Italy. The marble was carved into ornate leaf and grape vines. Interwoven into the carvings were small hand cut tiles of semi-precious stones. The stones were a variety of color and were jade, mother of peril, garnet, and onyx. The names of Greek aristocracy and authors were engraved with these precious stones in the marble. The building was impressive unlike the Museum. We were on a guided tour given by a fellow who told jokes over the heads of all the students. Within the first 10 minutes, the students were bored. It was a long tour!!!

Our next tour was a boat cruise through the canal systems of the city. We were able to see the architecture of the city from the water. The buildings are very tall and tower the inner city. These buildings are much different than the type of buildings you find in Boston and New York. Boston and New York are known for their brownstone buildings. The brownstone or arkose, a type of sedimentary rock quarried in Portland Connecticut, was transported to various New England cities by barges floating down the Connecticut River into Long Island Sound. Chicago, on the other hand, is a much younger city founded in the early 1700s by Jean Baptise Pointe DuSable. Many of the buildings were built from brick. The great fire of Chicago in the 1830's burnt many of the buildings and the city had to rebuild. The stone used in the rebuilding of the city has been able to maintain sharp lines where buildings in New England have weather due to the friability of the arkose.

The sculpture on many of these buildings is early Greek revival, Gothic and neo-classic. They use columns and carvings. Scattered within the classic buildings are modern contemporary buildings designed in glass and steel. Frank Lloyd Wright and Ludwig Miles VanderRohe were the main influence behind this change. VanderRohe was involved in the Bauhaus movement. This movement was a school of thought, originally from Germany, which changed the philosophy of building design for VanderRohe. The Bauhaus movement challenged the traditional conventional architecture design of sculptured buildings and developed an aesthetic design that was functional yet artistic and radical. This change in design adds color to the architecture of the city.

Our cruise brought us from the river system of the City into Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan is 35 feet higher than the rivers that feed out of it. In order to stop the Lake from draining into the Gulf of Mexico via the river system, the City of Chicago and surrounding towns have installed a series of lock that control the water levels in the river. There are 7 locks that are installed to control the flow. It was interesting how the lock worked. The mouth of the river is closed off from the river by a gate. The gate stops the flow of the Lake into the river. When a boat travels to the Lake, it stops at the "door" to the lake. After several boats have entered the lock area, the lock is closed then water from the lake is released into the lock. The water in the lock rises to the level of the Lake so the boats in the lock can motor into the Lake. We were fortunate to be able to pass to the Lake via one lock. This lock allowed 6 inches of water to flow from the Lake. After we finished cruising in the Lake, the process was reversed and the excess water was released into the river.

Dinner was interesting at Ed Dbevicks 50's Diner. This is a famous diner in Chicago. The waiters and waitresses all are dressed in 50's regalia. The motif of the diner was the 50's. Food was typical of the 50's-hamburgers, cheeseburgers, French fries, cheesy French fries and for dessert, mini hot fudge Sundays. We could even keep the mini hot fudge Sunday dishes. All the staff were trained to sing and dance. This was a great way to finish a long day.

Our next stop is Springfield Illinois and the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln.

Ciao, Cathi

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