A Chance Meeting with a Treasure…Chicago’s Former Public Library   Leave a comment

Sometimes you just luck out.  Sometimes the Force is with you and the universe aligns along with the path your footsteps are treading at that moment. Such was the case on the last afternoon of my visit to the Windy City, when I “stepped out” on Mr. FreshAir for a quick date with my camera and the spectacular architecture of the city.  Architectural elements hold such an attraction for me, I don’t know why exactly, but they do.  And I tend to get caught up in the looking and examining, which makes me a rather poor partner for a general stroll around the block….while everyone else is 50 paces around the next corner, there I am stopping to check out the intricacies of a delicate wrought iron gate or a particularly lovely carved acanthus leaf on a pilaster.  I suspect I’m somewhat of a pain to the normal walking partner.  But  my camera never complains….which is why he always gets to accompany me on these sorts of forays.  Besides, Mr. FreshAir had already done his share of saving my life several times over the past two days when he correctly assumed that I was looking up at an archway or perhaps a gargoyle, and  grabbed my arm to help project me through traffic before the lights changed.

So off I went, with Mr. FreshAir’s blessing, and with only about an hour to do my deeds before we had to grab some early dinner and then head over to the train to the airport.  My target this time was the Chicago Tribune Building, which I had scoped out on a walk (not my kind of walk, but everyone else’s kind of walk) the previous night when we trekked the mile and a half from our hotel down to Watertower Center.  As I made my way down Michigan Avenue, I spied a multitude of interesting candidates for future photo opportunities and of course I had a to record at least one or two of the beautiful blossoms I found along the way…

Well, OK…yeah, one more!

As I continued along my way, I stopped at an intersection to get my bearings and also to wait for the little white pedestrian guy on the crosswalk sign to light up, thereby signalling safety in crossing….as long as one is actually looking at said crosswalk sign of course. As for me, my attention was grabbed by the building across the street. Perhaps you can see why…

I crossed the street and immediately began to investigate.

A kind woman who was sitting on the steps saw my obvious delight and urged me to go inside, assuring me I would not be accosted by the law.  So I did. I think at that point it would have been worth a brush with the law in order to satisfy my curiosity about what was inside, but then again, I’m no fool.  Here’s what I saw upon making my entrance

Spectacular marble and mosaic work at every turn.  Through research, I have found that this is Carrera marble and the mosaics were executed by Tiffany studios.

Detail of mosaic work on the stairs.  Mother-of-pearl, colored stones, gold leaf and Favrile glass  (“Favrile glass is distinguished by brilliant or deeply toned colors, usually iridescent like the wings of certain American butterflies, the necks of pigeons and peacocks, the wing covers of various beetles.”) are some of the elements used in the mosaics.

I continued up the elaborate staircase to the second floor.  I was in la-la land with all of the decorative detail on the coffered ceilings and the shimmer of the sunlight as it hit the glass and shell in the mosaic work.

Imagine!  This was once the Chicago Public Library!

And then, at the top of the stairs I saw this…..

A chamber orchestra warming up under the largest Tiffany Glass dome I had ever seen, and later found out it is the largest Tiffany dome in the world. I certainly felt as if I were in a sacred area.

When the music of Mozart’s Symphony No. 26 (Eb major) began to lilt throughout the building I thought I was indeed in heaven.  It turns out that I had just happened in when the Chicago Chamber Orchestra was presenting a free concert, part of their Mostly Mozart in May series.  Oh how I wish Mr. FreshAir had been with me to hear it. He loves classical music.

I stayed to listen for as long as time would permit.

Originally built in 1897, can you believe that this magnificent building was almost demolished in the name of progress?  Yes, in the 1970’s when we lost so many architectural gems to the wrecking ball, this too came very close but was saved at the last moment.  With a new library building built elsewhere and dedicated in 1991, the old public library no longer held books but continued in its service to the public by becoming a showcase for the arts.  This concert was just one of the many free cultural activities that take place in this wonderful treasure of a building….now known as the Chicago Cultural Center.

I quietly took a few more shots as I parted ways with this gem….

The new …shot from within the old.

Sunlight streaming through the arch..

The fine detail on a bronze wall sconce. The sconces and chandeliers were made by the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company of New York..

The play of sunlight on the stair landing..

I silently slipped out of the building and hightailed it back to the hotel to tell Mr. FreshAir what I had seen.  The Chicago Tribune building would have to wait until next time.

I hope you will have a chance meeting with something that inspires you this week!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: