Going to see Obama? No photos, please

You just can’t wait for the inauguration to happen. You need your dose of hope, change and belief now. So, you get on a plane for Chicago and navigate your way to Hyde Park. According to the NY Times, you won’t be able to take any pictures of our next president’s Greenwood Avenue home. Fortunately, there’s a bit more to do in Chicago than try to catch a glimpse of the man who will be our 44th president. Skip his place and check out the Robie House, for which Frank Lloyd Wright is responsible. Trek around 10 blocks north, and you can visit another home … belonging to Louis Farrakhan.

While in town, you can live like a future president, spending $21 on a haircut at Hyde Park Hair Salon and picking up breakfast at the Valois Cafeteria (get the scrambled eggs, hash browns and sausage and be just like the future #44!). In fact, drop in on any of these spots starting in February, and you can do what the president can’t: get what you want without crowds creating a scene.

[Via NY Times]

The top 10 U.S. city summer destinations: Chicago

When I read in Steve Stephens’ column “Ticket to Write,” that Chicago made it to the the list of top 10 cities for U.S. summer travel in 2008, I thought, “I second that.” Of the several cities I visited on a cross-country tour, mostly by bus, Chicago was my favorite–except for San Francisco. And, of course, New York, which has been and will remain my number one forever.

If you do head to Chicago, here are my suggestions of what to do. These are not in any particular order. Each is from personal experience. If you have your own suggestions, do tell.

The museums we hit:

The Art Institute of Chicago–I absolutely love this art museum. Although the movie, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off “is not one of my favorites, the scenes shot in this museum were wonderful. Don’t miss Marc Chagall’s stained glass piece, “America Windows.”

The Field Museum-In what must seem like uncanny timing given the latest in natural disasters, the exhibit, “Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disasters” opens May 23. The museum also has Sue, the largest, intact T-rex dinosaur skeleton. Whatever your natural wonder pleasure, you’ll find it here.

Museum of Science and Industry–Here you can tour a coal mine and the U-505, a German submarine that was used during WWII, You can also can learn about the history of glass and the various ways it’s used, as well as, get a refresher on that genetics unit in high school biology through the baby chicken hatchery exhibit.

The attractions:

Head to the Sears Tower Skydeck. At 1,353 feet, this is the best bird’s-eye view around.

For the best view of Chicago’s shoreline, hop on a tour boat that goes out on Lake Michigan. The best part of the tour was traveling through the locks to get to the lake from the Chicago River. The Wendella tour company’s lake and river tour is one you might want to try. There is one you can take at night, but we did ours during the day.

Walkabout note worthiness:

The architecture and the public art make Chicago one of the most visually stunning cities in the United States. In case you don’t want to miss anything that is a must see–like Alexander Calder’s “Flamingo” located outside the Federal Building, consider taking an architecture and art tour. We were staying with a relative who took us around, but going with an expert, would be well worth the time if you don’t have a person who is from Chicago to show you the highlights.


Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. This is where Wright lived and worked from 1889 to 1909. From this place in Oak Park, 20 minutes from downtown, Wright designed 125 structures, including Unity Temple and the Robie House, also not far from downtown Chicago. Both are being considered for World Heritage status as part of a group of ten Frank Lloyd Wright buildings.

What we ate: Pizza at Pizzeria Uno (now called Uno Chicago Grill) This may not seem like the most creative, adventurous food choice, but we made it here before this became the mega national restaurant chain that it is today.

What’s new in Chicago that I wish was there when I visited: Millennium Park. This 24.5 acre downtown mecca for arts and entertainment, encompasses historic Grant Park and more. Here’s a place for bike riding, listening to music, wandering among sculptures, and enjoying flower gardens.

At the park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion, an outdoor amphitheater designed by architect Frank Gehry, the free Grant Park Music Festival takes place from June 11 to August 16.

What I wish we had: Chicago City Pass. With the city pass, you can visit five attractions for $59 which will save you 50%.

WHS new “tentative” list: Places to love — Frank Lloyd Wright buildings (part 2)

For the Gadling series “World Heritage Site new “Tentative List”: Places to Love” we are covering the 14 sites that have been submitted for possible inclusion as an official World Heritage Site in the United States. The sites will not be posted in order of importance or in the order they appear on the list.

Number 4

Name of site: Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings (Part 2- There are ten buildings on this list, each deserving a mention. Therefore, we are presenting the ten buildings in two separate posts. Here are the final five; the first were posted here.)

Location: Various locations in Arizona, California, Illinois, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin

Reason for importance (in a nutshell): Let’s break’em down by building:

The S.C. Johnson and Son, Inc., buildings (1936-39; 1943-50): Soft light, round forms — is it possible the building was meant to convey wax? Likely not, but that’s what came to my mind when reading the description of the structure. The Great Workroom was built for Johnson’s secretaries, and there are no interior walls or cubicles. Natural light is let in through a series of glass tubings.

Price Tower (1953-56): This building is Wright’s only freestanding skyscraper — it uses a central mast for 19 floors. The design mimics a tree’s form; a “trunk” holds four elevator shafts and the floors are tapered much like branches. I read that Wright solved the dilemma of building a skyscraper (he wanted his structures to mimic nature, which is why most are flat and wide) by designing it after a tree. This is his tallest building.

Marin County Civic Center (1960-1969): The Civic Center, in San Rafael, California, was one of Wright’s last works and the only one built for a government entity. Indoor and outdoor elements blend together, as was Wright’s trademark. Parts of the building are built into the hills (see top photo for an example of how the building enjoys a nearly seamless connection with its surroundings).

The Guggenheim Museum (1956-59): On 5th Avenue facing Central Park, the Guggenheim is, like Fallingwater, a quintessential Frank Lloyd Wright. The UNESCO site describes the Guggenheim better than I could: “The three major components are the main spiral Rotunda, which coils five times around to a sky-lit dome or oculus 95 feet above the floor; the smaller, circular “monitor” to the north; and the horizontal cantilevered bridge that connects the two and wraps around three sides of the building at the second-story level. The entire design is based on geometric modules of circles, triangles and lozenges through a series of interlocking forms.”

Taliesin West (1938): This was Wright’s Arizona winter home, as well as his school and studio. Wright used materials from his surroundings — gravel, sand and stone — for basic construction materials, and a redwood and canvas roof lets in mellow winter light. Indoors and outdoors flow into each other.

Catherine’s take: As Jamie wrote, we’re talking about Frank Lloyd Wright, here! What’s not to love?

World Heritage Site new “Tentative List”: Places to Love: Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings (part 1)

For the Gadling series “World Heritage Site new “Tentative List”: Places to Love” we are covering the 14 sites that have been submitted for possible inclusion as an official World Heritage Site in the United States. The sites will not be posted in order of importance or in the order they appear on the list.

Number 4

Name of site: Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings (Part 1- There are ten buildings on this list, each deserving of mention. Therefore, we are presenting the ten buildings in two separate posts. Here are the first five.)

Location: Various locations in Arizona, California, Illinois, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin

Reason for importance (in a nutshell): Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the most prolific, important American architects designed more than 400 buildings over 60 years. His designs embodied the idea that buildings should incorporate nature and form including the spacial elements of the environment they inhabit. Wright’s buildings were created for a wide array of purposes from individual houses to museums to cathedrals. The 10 that were selected for the World Heritage Site Tentative List “represent the fullest and most compelling achievements of Wright as an architect as well as some of the greatest works of the art of architecture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.”

Jamie’s Take: It’s Frank Lloyd Wright! He lived to be 91 and look what he created. Sheer magnificence. Looking at his buildings is like looking through a mega kaleidoscope for adults. See for yourself.

Unity Temple (1905-08) Considering this building was built more than 100 years ago, its cubist-style architecture is astonishing. The geometric lines and patterns and poured concrete walls were unprecedented for the time according to the temple’s Website. Although is still serves as a Unitarian Universalist church in Oak Park, Illinois with regular services on Sunday, there are public tours. For more details of the inside, click here.

Fallingwater: (1936-38) Years ago a friend of mine came back from a trip to Pennsylvania where a tour of Fallingwater was on the itinerary. She described in great detail its magnificence. Ever since, I’ve been interested in heading here. This once private home, now owned by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, is a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece. Built over a waterfall, the house uses materials from the area. The floors are native sandstone. Even the furniture incorporates elements of the surrounding environment. Each detail from the chimney to the glass casement windows are Wright designed.

Robie House (1908-10), Also a once private house, the Robie House on the University of Chicago campus is considered one of the most important buildings of modern architecture. Wright designed the house to contrast to the flat landscape of the prairie on which it was built. Geometrically patterned glass windows are part of Wright’s Prairie style features, as are the tiers of balconies.

This building can be toured daily, although it’s closed in February on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Hollyhock House (1919-21) This once private home was Wright’s first project in Los Angeles. The design elements reflect the southern California location. Stucco and terracotta were used as building materials, and Wright also designed the furniture. Several doors and windows have elaborate, geometric patterned glass, a trademark of Wright’s work. After an extensive renovation, Hollyhock House has reopened for tours.

Taliesin (1911 and later) In Spring Green, Wisconsin, this was Wright’s home and studio. Along with the main house are several others. Wright used local limestone for expanses of the buildings’ exteriors. Today, this 600-acre estate is a tribute to Wright’s sensibilities.

Every detail from the roads to the dam to the pond to the covered passageways that connect the building are according to how Wright saw the interplay between buildings and environment. Tours of the estate start up again in April and continue until November, although more extensive tours happen beginning in May through the summer.

The first picture in this post is one of the windows of Robie House.

New “Tentative List” of sites in the U.S. being considered for World Heritage site distinction

The new “Tentative List” of the 14 cultural, historic and natural landmarks in the United States deserving of UNESCO World Heritage site consideration was officially unveiled in January, but the push to get support is beginning this month. The list was to be submitted to UNESCO World Heritage Centre by February 1, according to the press release we received from the U.S. Department of the Interior.

In the effort to do our part to help Friends of World Heritage get the message out about this list, as posted earlier, we’re highlighting the 14 sites throughout February. The process of becoming an official UNESCO World Heritage Site is a lengthy one, much longer than the month of February, but the month of love seems to be a good time to send some love in the direction of these worthy places. Regardless of which ones make the official list, each deserve recognition.

Stay tuned throughout the month as we highlight these places that tell the story of the United States in a variety of ways. As cliche as it sounds, there’s something for everyone. Perhaps you’ve already been to some of them and you have your own impressions that you can add to ours. At the end of the month, there will be a contest, so keep track.

To warm up, guess which one of the fourteen sites this photograph highlights? Then continue to the next page for the new “Tentative List” for the United States. (We’ll be covering sites from other countries as well, like we’ve done in the past, but this month we’re concentrating on these 14.)

1. Civil Rights Movement Sites, Birmingham and Montgomery, Alabama. This site links three locations of significance to the Civil Rights Movement. They are the three historically African-American churches: Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery and the Bethel Baptist and 16th Street Baptist Churches in Birmingham.

2. Dayton Aviation Sites. Four sites associated with the Wright Brothers’ and flight are included. All are in and around Dayton and were significant in the “pioneering efforts in human flight.”

3. Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks, Ohio. Nine archeological sites containing more than 40 monumental ceremonial earthworks that date back to the Native American Ohio Hopewell culture during the Woodland Period (1,000-2,000 years ago).

4. Jefferson (Thomas) Buildings (Poplar Forest and Virginia State Capitol), Virginia. These two buildings will be added to the Jefferson buildings already part of the World Heritage listing. Monticello and the University of Virginia are on the list.

5. Mount Vernon, Virginia. George Washington’s home and its gardens.

6. Poverty Point National Monument and State Historic Site, Louisiana. Constructed 1700 – 1100 years ago, this may be the “remains of the largest hunter-­gatherer settlement that has ever existed.”

7. San Antonio Franciscan Missions, Texas. Five Spanish Roman Catholic missions that include 80 or more structures built from “1724 to 1782 on “open village” plans within walled compounds.” They highlight the influence of Spanish colonialism.

8. Serpent Mound, Ohio. This is already a state monument in Ohio and is “the largest documented surviving example of a prehistoric effigy mound in the world.”

9. Wright (Frank Lloyd) Buildings, Arizona, California, Illinois, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. This is another multiple places historic site. These are ten properties that best represent the range of Frank Lloyd Wright ‘s work. The architect created 400. Getting the list down to 10 must have been daunting.

10. Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, Hawaii. “1,200-mile-long string of islands and adjacent waters represents the longest, clearest, and oldest example of island formation and atoll evolution in the world.” The islands are also culturally important because 1,000 ago people lived here.

11. Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary, American Samoa. This is refuge houses a coral reef ecosystem in an eroded volcanic crater.

12. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. Consists of the Okefenokee Swamp is “one of the world’s largest naturally driven freshwater ecosystems.” The diversity of habitats and flora and fauna is extensive.

13. Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona. Has large deposits of petrified wood that date back to the Late Triassic Epoch, 205-225 million years ago. There are also imprtant fossils including those of dinosaurs.

14. White Sands National Monument, New Mexico. Acres and acres (176,000 worth) of gypsum sand dunes, the “best protected surface deposit of gypsum sand” in the world.

** The photo is of the Hollyhock House, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s creations. This one is in Los Angeles, California.