Timing. Timing is everything. I had been saving the following blog for when the weather got colder since it describes an inside tour. I thought it would be a good thing for people to do when it was just too bitter to be out in the wind. And then Maggie Daley died. I knew immediately what I was going to submit this weekend.
As it has been spoken and written about this weekend, Maggie Daley was a "Champion of Culture". She gracefully pushed to have the city infused with it. The building that will host her visitation was high on her list of beautiful importance that deserved to be preserved, renovated, and put to use for the people of Chicago and visitors. I am happy to give you a visitor's view...
Culture: Free for the Taking
Free things are usually classified as "And it was worth every penny." or "Wow! That was free!". I stumbled upon this free tour while I was in the Chicago Cultural Center the other day. I actually was there to take the Chicago InstaGreeter walking tour and another tourist recommended this one. It is a guided 1 hour tour of the Cultural Center building itself.
The building was built for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. It is a building you might pass on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Randolph when you are at Millennium Park without even really noticing it. But if you look closely enough, it is a real gem of a building that was just days from being bulldozed when it was renovated in 1974. The building was first built as a library to show the rest of the world that Chicago had class and that they were educated and cultured and not the "aggies" that everyone in New York thought they were. There is so much marble in the building it will make your head spin. It reminds me of a lot Rome with the marble and detail in the cathedrals there. But the real surprise is the incredible amount of the Tiffany glass that is inlaid in the marble on the walls.
In the photo below is a sample of just how much. If you stand in this particular spot, you can see all 5 floors....of white marble.
The building was days away from destruction, electricity cut off and bulldozers ready, when the first Mayor Daley stopped it and decided then and there to start preserving old historic and beautiful buildings. (History says that his wife, Eleanor "Sis" Daley, and other ladies were behind this...happy wife, happy life.) I cannot imagine what they were thinking when contemplating bulldozing this place. It is literally full of marble.
The tour is approximately one hour and is full of historical nuggets of information regarding this time in our history, not too long after the end of the Civil War and after the Great Chicago Fire.
Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and kept the group interested by asking questions. I am the proud owner of much useless information inside this coconut of mine, so I answered some questions. (You know in school when you are saying under your breath..."When am I EVER going to need to know this stuff?"... on a day like today, that's when. If you were wondering what this useless, but prize winning info was... I will brag...What is the the origin of the t-shirt? and What is the pineapple a symbol of?... Rhodes Scholar, I know....and no, I will not give you the answers. Just like your teachers used to say..."Do I look like an encyclopedia? Go look it up.")
I would advise that this tour is not for real little ones. They might want to poke their eyes out if you bring them along. Actually, they might want to poke your eyes out if you bring them along.
The domes, yes plural, are amazing.
The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) Rotunda, a tribute to the Civil War, has doors that are this big and overhead are etchings of the battles won.
Since this building originally was the 1st Chicago Public Library, the Preston Bradley Hall has many references to literature and books,
And here is another stained glass Tiffany dome from the Preston Bradley Hall. This is the hall where the books were delivered to patrons. A downloaded book could never give you the goosebumps this room can give. The day I was there a pianist was giving a free concert playing the most gorgeous music and it really did bring tears to my eyes.
This is the amazing view of Millennium Park from the upstairs window.
The views inside and out are well worth seeing. (This one falls under the category of "Wow! And it's free!") What a bargain! No reservations are needed, but the tours are only on certain days of the week. Best to check the website. There are free events planned in this building daily. It is a great inside tour if the weather is snarky outside. And you just never know when you are going to stumble upon some culture...
like a free concert,
a soft chair,
or a good bowl of Cajun Corn Chowder.
Go see the Chicago Cultural Center and tip your hat to the Daley women. The one who saved it and the one who brought it to life. Thanks, Maggie. Your legacy will definitively live on.
Photo Credit: William DeShazer, Chicago Tribune / May 6, 2010 http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-maggie050610toast20100506095210,0,5366786.photo