Preston Bradley Center

Another Uptown stop that I made during OHC was to the Preston Bradley Center- also known as The Peoples Church.  This is a place that I have driven by a million times and always wondered what it was like inside due to the neo-classical facade of the building which features 6 large columns extending 5 stories over Lawrence Av.  So when I saw it on the list for OHC, I knew I had to make a stop there.

Note: External photo was taken in the spring of 2013 since it was raining really hard at the time of OHC.  And since I’m such a huge procrastinator, it took me 7 months to muster up the motivation to walk half a block and take some photos of the outside of the building.  I’m not proud of that…

Note: External photo was taken in the spring of 2013 since it was raining really hard at the time of OHC. And since I’m such a huge procrastinator, it took me 7 months to muster up the motivation to walk half a block and take some photos of the outside of the building. I’m not proud of that…

The Preston Bradley Center was built in 1926 at the height of Uptown’s glory days.  It is home to art groups, social services and religious groups.

One of those religious groups is The Peoples Church of Chicago. As it is located in one of the most diverse communities in the US, it is a gathering place for open-minded, liberal Christians, Humanists and all others. Dr. Preston Bradley, who was 24 years old when he took over the congregation in 1912, built the Preston Bradley Center to house the church. The impressive building is composed of six floors with two balconies and a wide stage, where the congregation continues to worship.  Bradley’s ministry included several church services each week, radio broadcasts reaching several million listeners, and an active community relief effort serving hundreds on the north side. Bradley was one of the first pastors to preach to a national radio audience (from this building), leading the longest continuously running religious radio broadcast for 50+ years.




Located on the 4th floor is The Uptown Arts Center. As a new project of the Preston Bradley Center, it opens this versatile building to developing the arts in the Uptown community.  While I was there, it was hosting a collection of work by Immy Mellin, “The Sharpie King.”

Also sharing the 4th floor is the National Pastime Theater. For twenty years, The National Pastime Theater has insured progress by producing dynamic and masterful live theater. In addition to producing live theater, NPT has fostered over one hundred and fifty emerging and staple Chicago theater companies. In an effort to expand our mission, NPT supports those itinerant theaters that present a similar focus to that of NPT’s.

The Preston Bradley Center building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.


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Essanay Studios

Here is the second in a series of photos I took during the Open House Chicago (OHC) event- Essanay Studios. Essanay Studios, located in the 1300 block of West Argyle Street, is in the city’s Uptown neighborhood. Its peculiar name is an amalgam of the initials of the studio’s founding partners: George Spoor and Anderson. It was designated a Chicago Landmark by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks on March 26th, 1996, and acknowledged as the most important structure connected to the city’s role in the history of motion pictures.

Essanay produced silent films and boasted among its contract players with the world’s number one box-office star (Charlie Chaplin), a great matinee idol (Francis X. Bushman), a glamor queen (Gloria Swanson) and the dean of cowboy stars (studio co-founder Gilbert “Bronco Billy” Anderson). Essanay quickly became a dominant force in westerns and comedy. Its success was due in part to the well-matched talents of its partners.


In late 1914 Essanay succeeded in hiring Charlie Chaplin away from Mack Sennett’s Keystone Studios, offering Chaplin a higher salary and his own production unit. Chaplin made 14 short comedies for Essanay in 1915, at both the Chicago and Niles studios, plus a cameo appearance in one of the Broncho Billy westerns. Chaplin’s Essanays are more disciplined than the chaotic roughhouse of Chaplin’s Keystones, with better story values and character development. Chaplin disliked the unpredictable weather of Chicago, and left after only one year for more money and more creative control elsewhere. His departure caused a rift between founders Spoor and Anderson. Chaplin was the studio’s biggest moneymaker, and Essanay resorted to creating “new” Chaplin comedies from file footage and out-takes. Finally, with Chaplin off the Essanay scene for good, Essanay signed French comedian Max Linder, whose clever pantomime was often compared to Chaplin’s. Linder failed to match Chaplin’s popularity in America. In a last-ditch effort to save the studio, Essanay joined in a four-way merger orchestrated by Chicago distributor George Kleine in 1918.

The Essanay building in Chicago was eventually taken over by independent producer Norman Wilding, who made industrial films. Wilding’s tenancy was much longer than Essanay’s. In the early 1970s a portion of the studio was offered to Columbia College (Chicago) for a dollar but the offer lapsed without action. Then it was given to a non-profit television corporation which sold it. One tenant was the midwest office of Technicolor. Today the Essanay lot is the home of St. Augustine’s College, and its main meeting hall has been named the Charlie Chaplin Auditorium.


Today, the plain brick building on Argyle remains as a reminder of a period when Chicago was at the hot center of world moviemaking.


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Bridgeview Bank

Well, I’m sure that you have seen that I had been neglecting my blog a bit due to the fact that my summer was pretty packed with plenty to do.  But now that the weather is cooling off and my photo collection is overflowing, I’ve started to weed out some pics and post some of my favorites.

Here is the first in a series of photos I took during this really cool event hosted by the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) on October 13th and 14th.  The second annual event was called Open House Chicago (OHC) which allowed architecture geeks like myself into locations that are typically off-limits to the public.  It was a free event that offered behind-the-scenes access to over 150 buildings across Chicago.  You could explore the hidden gems and architectural treasures of Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods the whole weekend.

The first location I’d like to feature is one that’s close to home.  It’s the Bridgeview Bank building at the corner of Lawrence and Broadway.  This dramatically curved neo classical building has been an icon in Uptown since the completion of its original 8 stories (designed by Marshall & Fox) in 1924 for Sheridan Trust and Savings Bank- which failed in 1931.At 8 stories, it was the second largest building in Chicago with the Wrigley building surpassing it. An additional 4 stories (Huzagh & Hill) made it soar even higher in 1928. Tribute is still shown to the original tenant with the “S” in the decorative iron entryway of the bank. Uptown National Bank began using the building in 1937, and remained there until the building was purchased by Bridgeview Bank in 2003. On October 8, 2008, the City of Chicago granted the structure Chicago Landmark status.

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The white glazed terra cotta façade is contrasted by olive green terra cotta around the doorways and windows that looks like metalwork from a distance. The banking lobby is an open, two story tall, octagonal space with the second floor grand hall features an elaborate plaster ceiling original to the building that was restored in 1977 and painted in the original Wedgewood inspired color scheme dating back to 1924. The ceiling panels are in seven-foot wide pie shape sections and are reinforced with horsehair. The countertops are original, as are the intricate markings on the teller cages. A student of Tiffany’s designed the lamps and tables- they are the original designs and still used today.

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The basement contains the vault, which was the largest outside of the Loop Financial District. The vault contains more than 10,000 safety deposit boxes and is protected by two huge doors- the larger weighing in at 36 tons and the smaller door weighs 15 tons. The bank interior was showcased in the 2009 movie “Public Enemies,” starring Johnny Depp as John Dillinger. The current building owner, Bridgeview Bank, purchased the building in 2003.

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Skate at Soldier Field

Yesterday I was one of the 2,500 people who got to ice skate at the free public skate on the rink set up in Soldier Field in anticipation of the Hockey City Classic coming up in a few weeks.  Here are some of the shots that I got from the event.







Caught this great shot of the snow falling from the Waldron parking deck as I was leaving the skate event.

Caught this great shot of the snow falling from the Waldron parking deck as I was leaving the skate event.

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I made it through a few more of my photos of the southside warehouse fire. Hope you enjoy them.

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Ice Castle

On Tuesday night of last week, a 5 alarm fire broke out at a nearly 100-year-old abandoned Bridegport warehouse on the Southside of Chicago near Ashland and 37th. Smoke was initially spotted by a fire department battalion chief passing by the former Harris Marcus Group building at 3757 S. Ashland Ave. shortly after 9 p.m. and called it in. 

Extra alarms were quickly called as the fire spread throughout the 4 story warehouse causing the roof and three walls of the 200-foot by 200-foot structure to collapse as crews fought the flames. The fire was particularly difficult to battle in 10-degree temperatures as more than 170 firefighters, one-third of the Chicago Fire Department’s on-duty personnel,  contended with frozen hydrants, icy ladders and gear covered with frost and ice as they worked the scene. The fire was finally brought under control around 12:30 a.m.

After firefighters cleaned up the scene and continued searching for hot spots on Wednesday, the water from the fire hoses and the frigid temperatures created amazing ice formations on the brick walls of the warehouse, utility lines leading up to the building, street lights surrounding the exterior, vehicles abandoned in the parking lot, the bridge in front of the building and virtually anything else that came into contact with the overspray from the multiple lines used to fight the fire creating an “ice castle” appearance for the gutted warehouse and surrounding structures.  

The fire that smoldered for hours into Wednesday afternoon rekindled Thursday morning, almost a day and a half after prompting the largest fire department response in seven years. Firefighters had expected the fire to rekindle in areas where the roof and floors had collapsed.

The Fire Department also deployed a piece of equipment from the 1960s dubbed “Big Mo” that can shoot 2,000 to 3,000 gallons of water a minute from two turrets that can be fed by as many as 10 water lines.  This special deluge unit which doesn’t get much action these days helped the CFD get the fire back under control for the second time.

Due to growing concerns about the warehouse collapsing, demolition of the building in the 3700 block of South Ashland Avenue began Friday morning, though fires continued to burn inside. As the demolition crew removed sections of the outer walls, periodic flareups were seen as oxygen was introduced into the various void spaces where fire is still burning underneath the debris.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to make it out to the building during the fire or before the demolition crew had started to tear it down, but I still managed to make it there on Saturday to catch a few interesting shots of fire crews spraying water on the smoldering hot spots, the cool ice structures they created in the process and the removal of a box truck from the back of the building that was totally encased in ice.

I ended up taking hundreds of photos while I was there and I’m currently in the process of sorting through my favorites.  Since I have so many, I think this will require multiple days to post all the ones I like but here’s a few to get things kicked off.

Ice Castle


Water Tower


Refrigerated Truck

Hot Spot


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Chicago Firefighter/Paramedic Memorial

Sadly, the city of Chicago lost another hero last night. Chicago Fire Department Captain Herbert Johnson passed away Friday night from injuries received in the line of duty while battling a fire on the south side of the city. It’s a sad reminder of how dangerous it is protecting and serving this city.

In memory of all the fallen Chicago firefighters and paramedics, the Gold Badge Society sponsored the installation of the Chicago Firefighter/Paramedic Memorial on Chicago’s lakefront. It’s a very peaceful and scenic park just south of McCormick Place that features bronze sculptures of firefighter’s helmets and boots as well as paver stones inscribed with the names of over 500 of Chicago’s bravest who lost their lives in the line of duty.

I’ve stopped to visit this memorial several times as I’ve ridden my bike up and down the lakefront path. It’s easy to miss if you’re not looking for it so I wanted to post some photos I’ve taken of the sculptures just to showcase this great memorial in one of Chicago’s most beautiful locations. I strongly recommend checking it out one day to pay respect to the fallen.

Posted in A Fallen Hero, Chicago, Fire Department, Firefighters, HDR, Parks