Some Comings and Goings of Fall Break in Chicago

We got home from a great trip to Chicago last night. Every night we stayed up until 1. We rolled out of bed between 8 and 8:30, ate lunch at 3, dinner between 8 and 9, etc. I've decided that's a pretty sweet schedule. When we got into town on Friday evening, we got the parking spot right in-front of Matt and Lisa's apartment, which is no small feat. (We didn't move our car (I've decided her name is Olive) until we left Tuesday morning.) We ate dinner at Medici, our favorite restaurant in Hyde Park, and were delighted to see they now have dairy-free cheese. We had a Margherita pizza, and while nothing will ever top the spinach goat cheese pizza, it was completely satisfying. So were the fries. I love Medici fries with the house bbq dressing as much as I love the pizza, maybe more.

On Saturday we headed downtown to take part in Open House Chicago festivities. Last year was the first year for OHC, and it is awesome. Dozens of buildings open up to the public. It floats my explorer boat. We decided to see the big performance spaces that were open, and made our way into other buildings along the way to each one. And while the buildings and views are definitely the best part, a major perk is that it's all free.

We saw the Civic Opera House first. The most impressive part, to me, was the set for Elektra, the opera that was going to show that night. I liked the lobby better than the house, but my mind is still trying to grasp the six-story fly space above the stage.
Next was Oriental Theatre. There was so much detail. While in the house taking it all in, I wondered/worried what would happen if one of the ornate plaster figures decided it didn't want to be stuck on the ceiling anymore. The theatre itself was putting on a show.
 My favorite theatre space was the Auditorium Theatre that is now part of Roosevelt University. The Auditorium Building was finished in 1889, and was the tallest building in Chicago and the largest in the country. The building was comprised of the theatre, office space, and a hotel. Roosevelt University now occupies the entire building, plus a new highrise addition. And let it be known that Roosevelt is one of my favorite places in the city. The building is amazing, and the views of Lake Michigan are perfect, plus there are inspiring quotes by the namesakes of the university (Franklin [and Eleanor] Roosevelt) throughout. Eleanor Roosevelt dedicated the school "to the enlightenment of the human spirit." I feel something like that when I am there. 

More about the building: The ground underneath is 100 feet of soft blue clay. Because of the weight of building, they needed to come up with something to keep it from sinking into the clay. The architects/builders ultimately came up with a wooden foundation that would stay wet and essentially float above the clay to prevent settling. The foundation is continually kept moist by the original aqueducts that carry water from Lake Michigan. The foundation has settled. A lot! The tour guide said it is typical for foundations such as the Auditorium's to settle 10 feet. The Auditorium Building has settled 20-25 feet. The floors in the lobby are wavy, it's amazing. And some parts, especially in the balcony, which is six levels above the house, don't seem like they could still be sound with how much they lean. 

Not only is the building an architectural feat that amazes me, the technology that was originally infused still seems revolutionary. The stage has a false proscenium that they can fly out to expand the opening of the stage from 47 feet to 75 feet. There are also hinged ceiling panels that were operated by huge cranks that could block off the upper two balconies to make the space appear more intimate. The crank system no longer works, but it should! I want to see those babies in action. Go here for more detail about the building and all of it's super awesomeness. 
Roosevelt Auditorium Theatre House

Roosevelt Auditorium Theatre Stage
Cross-section of the house. 
Can you see the curved ceiling panel above the upper balcony? And the hydraulic lifts under the stage? One must walk across one of three catwalks to access the upper balcony. I was holding onto something the whole time I was up there. If authentic can describe a space, that's what this one was, especially when compared to the other two theatres we saw, which were amazing, but I feel like I could spend days (probably weeks) exploring every little corner of this place.

PS: All of the light bulbs in the Auditorium Theatre are replicas of Thomas Edison's carbon filament bulb. The glow is stunning.


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