Loving the history of Chicago’s older buildings as I do, I was thinking about the long history of the Ambassador West and Ambassador East, two proud buildings in Chicago’s famous Gold Coast, (though, truth be told, they were also the playground of Chicago’s Astor Street citizens!
Dennis Rodkin, a great real estate writer over the years who now works for ‘Crain’s Chicago Business’ and is a regular guest on TV and radio, said it well: “The Ambassador East and Ambassador West hotels were regular stops for movie stars, politicians, and society’s elite. Even Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 cross-country classic, North by Northwest, included a stop at the Ambassador East.” Speaking of which, here’s a scene where Cary Grant (his back to us) is about to walk into the Ambassador East!
He perceptively mentions that the Ambassador West was built before all the codes and ordinances set in, and therefore goes sidewalk to sidewalk with no setbacks as shown above. So, from your balcony perch you can see the world go by in all directions!
Besides the history, my love of the Ambassadors ties in with my husband, Lucien Lagrange, and his career in architecture. He designs beautiful new structures, but is often called upon to redesign and modernize the Interiors of famous buildings. He converted the Ambassador West to luxury condos, and made the Carbon and Carbide Building on Michigan Avenue, shown above, into the Hard Rock Hotel!
Now that we are “sorta” having Summer in Chicago, with the cold still hitting us on occasion, let’s move North, past another Lucien building at 2550 Lincoln Park, and focus on two significant statues up by Diversey Avenue. The first is the newly refurbished gold plated statue of Alexander Hamilton, just South of where Cannon Drive and Stockton Drive come together. Alexander was regilded a year ago, just look at the before-and-after difference!
Believe it or not, the Hamilton statue was donated to Chicago by Kate Sturges Buckingham, the same woman who gave us the Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park, in honor of her husband Clarence. Yes, the true name of the spoutingly delightful monument shown above is The Clarence F. Buckingham Memorial Fountain!
But there’s a catch – before being refurbished, Alexander had faced South since 1993. But the workers in the photo were instructed to put him back facing North! Why? Because long ago, when the statue was first placed on a 78 foot tall granite base in 1952, it faced North. So in keeping with Kate’s wishes, the workers faced him North when he was set back in place last year! He has "turned his back" to the majority of the Park. As one disgruntled local resident put it, all you can see from Lincoln Park is “his butt”!
But thanks to the new placement, another long time “resident” of the area now has Alexander Hamilton’s full attention! Yes, the monument to Johann Wolfgan Van Goethe is just across the street from the Hamilton monument. It was placed there and dedicated in 1914, and now once again Goethe enjoys the watchful gaze of Hamilton. Now if Goethe is lucky, Alexander's stare will help keep the seagulls away from making messes on poor Johann’s head!
Get out and enjoy the wonderful sights of Chicago, and have a Great Summer!
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Tags: Alexander Hamilton, Alfred Hitchcock, Ambassador East, Ambassador West, Buckingham Fountain, Carbon and Carbide Building, Cary Grant, Clarence F. Buckingham, Crains Chicago Business, Dennis Rodkin, Hard Rock Hotel, Johann Wolfgan Van Goethe, Kate Sturges Buckingham, Lucien Lagrange, North by Northwest