Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Can You Help Save A Chicago Landmark?

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has included the Michigan Avenue Streetwall on this year's 11 Most Endangered list as a way of adding a national voice to the listing of the Streetwall on Landmarks Illinois' Ten Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois, announced in April, 2008.

A lasting image of the Chicago skyline, Michigan Avenue stands as one of the world's most-recognized streets. With it’s 12-block stretch of historic buildings, dating back to the 1880s it is a virtual encyclopedia of the work of the city's best architects including Daniel Burnham and Louis Sullivan. This 12 block stretch was designated a Chicago Landmark in 2002, and now its historic character is now being threatened by the inappropriate addition of large-scale towers that retain only small portions of the original buildings or their facades. Should these development projects gain approval, they will render the local landmark ordinance ineffective as a tool for preservation of the district.

The 1893 Chicago Athletic Association, designed by Henry Ives Cobb is slated for a rooftop addition. Proposed plans are to demolish a significant portion of the vacant building's structure and several elaborate interior spaces to accommodate a multi-story, stepped, glass hotel tower. Even thought the building is protected by landmark designation and a preservation ordinance, the project has been justified on the basis that the new construction will not be visible from across the street. Nevertheless, because of the one-sided nature of the street, the mass of the tower would significantly disrupt the historic skyline as viewed from Grant Park, Millennium Park, and the lakefront.

Growing up in Chicago with found memories of my father taking us to the Chicago Athletic Associates this issue is close to my heart and if approved, preservation advocates fear that this project will set a precedent for similar proposals within the historic district, creating a domino effect of high-rise development on a street where landmark designation was established to prevent such a situation.

"The threat to the Chicago Athletic Club particularly and the Michigan Avenue Streetwall more broadly represents the problems such intense development pressures pose on our architectural heritage," says Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "If approved, this project, and others like it, will destroy the very National Trust for Historic Preservation is working with Landmarks Illinois and other groups to encourage strict adherence to, and enforcement of, Chicago's historic preservation ordinance.

Please help the campaign to persuade the city to issue appropriate design guidelines for this unique district, requiring all development projects to be held to the same standards.

What you can do

1. Send a letter to Mayor Daley encouraging him to support preservation of the street wall.

2. If you live in Chicago, contact Ben Weese, Chair of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, and encourage him to uphold the current ordinances that would protect the street wall.

3. Help save the Michigan Avenue Streetwall and other endangered places – donate to the 11 for the 11 Most Challenge.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Why Plant a Rose Garden?

Every Mother's Day my father had a continuing tradition of taking us to a beautiful nursery and buying my Mother a new rose bush.

A rose garden is a much more powerful statement of enduring love, than a single rose or a bouquet. Whether it's a memory of mother doting on her bushes as if they were part of her children or the happy coincidence that roses are at the peak of their spring glory in May, there is something about Mother's Day and roses.

A rose plant is an enduring species, it can overcome adversity without much nurturing and yet produce such beauty. A rose bush lives season after season, so in May add a rose bush to your garden for Mothers' Day. Years from now you can go outside in the garden just to remember her.

Roses are nurturing, like all those things mothers are. Mothers are constantly overcoming adversity and not getting a lot of nurturing and always giving something wonderful.

Rose gardens I have planted along my life:
-State Parkway, Chicago home -featured every year for it's beauty on the Dearborn Garden Walk,
-Estate home of an Annapolis Vineyard in Maryland;
-Ocean front court yard and cliffs at Bird Rock in LaJolla, California
-Malibu Lakes, California.

As my mother told me, each time I moved on. "A rose garden is the display of beauty and it's the continuous weaving of life, and what we leave behind."