Whan that Aprille

Another blistering blitz of bleary activity for the ever weary never teary preservation professional during the last week. Thursday we had a followup with our Burnham Centennial Bold Plans partner communities as they prepare for their practice tours this month. You can go on one or two of the tours during Chicago’s Great Places and Spaces May 16 – Pilsen, Albany Park, Quad Communities/Bronzeville, Auburn-Gresham, South Chicago and the Indo-American Heritage Museum of West Ridge.
Ahh, Winneconna Parkway – I first learned of this hidden Chicago treasure back when I was on Chicago Ed’s late night radio show with the Chicago History panel in the 90s. Ed died this year and I occasionally see Vic Giustino, but I wonder about Ken Little, Father John McNallis, Bob Heinlein and some of the other regulars.
Back to 2009. Friday we had a morning meeting on High Speed rail, which is a long-standing (and therefore shovel-ready) plan to institute faster trains between Detroit, Chicago and St. Louis. Our concern at the Gaylord Building in Lockport (where I am Chair of the Site Council) is that the trains run right by the building, subjecting it to vibrations but more importantly, cutting through the National Register district that connects the Gaylord Building (1838) to the Will County Historical Society (1837) and the downtown district on State Street (1830s-1930s) and of course the Norton Building (1855) across the Public Landing. This is of especial concern now that the Public Landing has become the Lincoln Landing (see February post) and resembles its historic character.
This is NOT a matter of supporting High Speed Rail – it is simply a matter of using an alternate existing track that doesn’t carve through the historic district. Unlike almost every other site in the State of Illinois – these buildings PREDATED the railroads.
By the way, the high-speed rail is a bit of a misnomer. Due to the surfeit of grade crossings through this historic corridor, the trains won’t be able to exceed 80 mph or so – all of the “high speed” will be below Joliet. We won’t be competing with the Europeans or Japanese on this project, although knocking the trip to St. Louis to 4 hours from 5 will make the crucial difference in terms of competing with air travel.
Later Friday, I picked up our great friend Professor Jianhua Fan of Yunnan, a key supporter of our Weishan Heritage Valley project. Yunxia “Jingjing” Gao and I will be bringing a bunch of students there this summer and Fan will be lecturing this FRIDAY APRIL 10 at NOON on the Architectural Treasures of Weishan in the ballroom of our 112 S. Michigan Building. Please come.
Fan is mad about photography and I took him on a chilly but sunny walk through Chicago Saturday morning as he ran through 4 rolls of 2 1/4 and god knows how many digital shots.
We need people to visit our city so we see those parts we don’t always see, just like the Olympic committee that has been visiting this week. There is an anti-Olympic sentiment out there which I don’t share, although I do share doubts about the money side of things. I suppose I could look to financial experts to sort that out. If there were any. Anywhere.
For the preservation world, the Olympic issues deal with the venue sites, notably the Olympic Village, which could – but likely won’t – reuse the Gropius buildings at the Michael Reese Hospital site.
And of course the temporary 80,000 seat track and field stadium in Washington Park, our greatest Frederick Law Olmsted landscape. Again, there is a way to do it right. And a dozen ways to do it wrong.
Irony alert: As I blogged a couple of years ago, Chicago built an 80,000 seat track and field stadium in an attempt to win the Olympics. In the 1920s. It was called Soldier Field and a few years ago we converted it into a football stadium seating 2/3 its original capacity. Oops.

19 hour update: Check out the excellent op-ed piece by Dick Moe in the New York Times today: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/06/opinion/06moe.html



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