Tag Archives: travel

The Complexity of Connections

CBR_Logo2Terminal Town:
An Illustrated Guide to Chicago’s Airports,
Bus Depots, Train Stations, and
Steamship
Landings
1939–Present
by Joseph P. Schwieterman

Back in the day, State Street and Madison Street marked “the world’s busiest corner,” with nearly 70,000 people passing through the lively intersection every day. Many of these were travelers, coming to or passing through Chicago via planes, trains, or automobiles, making their way through the various terminuses that dotted the city.

Joseph Schwieterman, professor at the School of Public Service and director of the Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University, examines the many terminuses that have marked Chicago in Terminal Town, an illustrated history of nearly fifty train stations, bus depots, steamship landings, and airports. The guide looks at the city’s constantly changing web of passenger transportation over the past seven decades.

terminal-townTerminal Town takes the reader on a well-researched journey through Chicago’s iconic and little-remembered transportation hubs, from Union Station and O’Hare Airport to Grand Central Station, which stood at 201 W. Harrison Street and ceased operations in 1969, and Chicagoland Airport in Lincolnshire, which closed in 1978. Schwieterman looks at the “Big Six” train stations that handled passengers for more than forty years, the evolution of a half dozen bus terminals, a couple steamship landings, and more than a dozen airports and air-taxi terminuses, as well as electric interurban railway systems (e.g., Randolph Street Station). More than two hundred photographs and two dozen maps illustrate the guide. (Sadly, the book’s design is marred by the microscopic type in which the captions have been set.)

In these pages, readers will find a unique take on Chicago’s history. Looking at the ebb and flow of transportation during the past seven decades provides an unusual lens through which to examine a city. Terminuses are erected, moved, closed, abandoned, and torn down as population centers shift and change and as modes of transportation fall in and out of favor. Transportation companies battle for superiority among their customers over the competition, only to capitulate to changing tastes and disappear. City engineers draw up plans for intermodal hubs, schemes that go nowhere and hubs that eventually serve no one. It’s a fascinating look at Chicago and how it has changed over the years.

Transportation buffs, particularly railfans, will find the book of most interest, tracing as it does the ebb and flow of various train stations, bus stops, airports, and so on. Architecture enthusiasts also will find Terminal Town of interest, as Schwieterman chronicles the comings and goings of various structures that housed terminuses of all kinds. Many of the buildings were either torn down or abandoned, taking with them pieces of Chicago’s history. Among those lost are Central Station, which stood at Michigan Avenue and 11th Place; Grand Central, noted above; the National Trailways bus station, which stood at 20 E. Randolph Street; the Wells Street Terminal at 314 S. Wells Street; and the 63rd Street–Woodlawn Station, which until the 1950s was situated in what was a bustling transportation hub. Schwieterman explains that preservationists have lost many a hard-fought battle to save some of these buildings, but he also notes that the notion of historic preservation was too late in coming to save many of them.

Terminal Town is packed with details, and it is clear that Schwieterman has done his research. Not only will readers learn about terminuses they likely have never even heard of, but in perusing these pages, they also will find strange and interesting facts that pique interest, such as, for example, that Chicago Rockford International Airport was originally created to “support a U.S. Cavalry detachment in 1917.” The book is full of such details. Unfortunately, however, at times it seems potentially interesting information has been left out, such as when the author writes that “visitors can still find evidence of [the] profound physical presence” of Central and Grand Central stations but doesn’t note exactly where in the city that evidence can be found or what that evidence consists of.

Too, some of the information seems a little “inside baseball,” as it were, geared specifically for those transportation enthusiasts who clearly will make up the bulk of the book’s audience. Readers who are new to the subject likely will not look at Terminal Town as a primer on the subject of metropolitan development and transportation—but that doesn’t mean it won’t be of interest to them. There’s plenty here for Chicagophiles, history buffs, and architecture enthusiasts to take a trip through these pages.

Three-Star Review

September 2014, Lake Forest College Press
History
$27.95, paperback, 296 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9823156-9-9

—Reviewed by Kelli Christiansen

Learn more about the book.
Listen to the author discuss the book on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight” with Phil Ponce.

 

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Chicago by Camera

CBR_Logo2Chicagoscapes
by Larry Kanfer and Alaina Kanfer

Award-winning photographic artist Larry Kanfer’s colorful photographs glow in nearly three-dimensional relief in his new book, Chicagoscapes, a collection of images of our fair city.

Kanfer, who earned a degree in architecture from University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, has teamed up with Alaina Kanfer to assemble a fine collection here, images that capture slices of the city from north to south. Readers will find images of iconic Chicago attractions, from Navy Pier to North Avenue Beach, from the Art Institute of Chicago to the Field Museum, from The Berghoff to The Wiener’s Circle. (Unfortunately, many readers won’t know what they’re looking at because there is a dearth of caption information. A list of illustrations at the back of the book provides some details, but many of the descriptions are merely catchy phrases rather than helpful information.)

chicagoscapes 9780252034992More than a hundred photographs are in these pages, a slim volume fit for giftgiving or the coffee table. Some of the images show the expanse of the city in impactful two-page spreads, some encourage the reader to look more closely, diving in to an array of smaller images assembled on a single page.

Kanfer has captured the city in a unique way, focusing his lens on familiar sites but revealing them in a new light. Although the images are lovely, it’s the colors and post-production techniques in them that captivate. Kanfer often uses soft focus to draw the reader’s eye to particular details: a column of balconies on one of the city’s residential high-rises, a bunch of skaters on the ice at Millennium Park. Many of the images focus tightly on details, rendering a common site abstract. Bridges, “L” staircases, and the Marina City parking levels become a collection of color and light and shadow and lines and angles. As such, Chicagoscapes is atmospheric and moody—quiet somehow despite the fact that Kanfer has photographed one of the busiest cities in the world.

Indeed there’s something almost anathema about this collection when one contrasts this subtle quietness with the verve that is Chicago. In his short introduction to the book, “Our Chicago,” Kanfer writes about the “big city, with all its noise, hustle, and bustle,” and, yet, many of the images were clearly taken at odd hours, rendering Chicago something of a ghost town devoid of people and traffic. For instance, an image of Devon Avenue appears to have been taken very early in the morning: Only one car prowls the street—a street usually so packed with cars and pedestrians that it can take forever to drive just a few blocks in either direction. An “L” stop reveals no one waiting for a train. A lone little boy playing at the Crown Fountain in Millennium Park belies the fact that the area is usually jam-packed with children and adults all summer long. Plenty of images do, though, capture areas of the city full of people—beaches, parks, the lakefront trail. Even so, the Chicago in these pages feels quiet. Sleepy. Dreamy.

While some readers will find these images moody and magical, photography purists might well rankle at the post-production techniques used here. Some of the images are rendered in such a way as to appear as illustrations or paintings. One image in these pages has been pointillated à la Georges Seurat; it’s a beautiful, interesting look at the city, but it’s also a bit jarring as it is the only such doctored image in the collection.

Kanfer’s approach isn’t so much photojournalism as it is art photography. Most of the images here capture the beauty of the city, the pretty parts. Even a photograph of a graffiti-covered wall is colorful and artsy rather than gritty and edgy. A handful of black-and-white photographs grace these pages, but those that do are innocuous and safe. Readers will find no images here of the gritty South or West sides, no images of street upon street of foreclosed houses, no photographic insight into run-down CHA projects.

But that’s not what this book is about. Chicagoscapes is a love letter to what is magical and romantic about the Windy City. Kanfer has in these pages captured this beautiful city through atmospheric lighting, interesting angles, intriguing composition, and great timing. Although some readers might find some of the images a little snapshot-y or postcard-y, Chicagoscapes is full of great moments in a great city.

Three-Star Review

October 2014, University of Illinois Press
Photography/Local Interest
$34.95, hardcover, 128 pages
ISBN: 978-0-252-03499-2

—Reviewed by Kelli Christiansen

Learn more about the photographer.
Read more about the book.

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A Handy Guide That Hits the Highlights

CBR_Logo2Wisconsin’s Door County:
Moon Handbooks
by Thomas Huhti

Door County, Wisconsin, is sometimes called the Cape Cod of the Midwest, but it is smaller, less crowded, and less expensive. The Door is a popular vacation destination, with some two million visitors annually (compared to a permanent population of about 28,000) who mostly come during summer and early fall. Many of those vacationers travel from Chicagoland, which is just a four-hour drive away along the western shore of Lake Michigan.

cover_wisconsinsdoorcounty1eThe Moon travel guide to Door County is highly recommended. First-time visitors will get all the vital information they need to make the most of their time. For returning vacationers, the guide will remind them of all the sights and places they missed during past visits that they’ll want to catch next time.

Similar to a Frommer’s or a Fodor’s—neither of which offers a guide to Door County—Moon’s travel guide provides good, standard coverage of Door County and hits all the highlights of the area. The reader will get reliable, basic advice on sights, activities and recreation, food, lodging, getting around, and entertainment. The book is on target in emphasizing the county and state parks, which are truly outstanding, as well as the area’s iconic fish boils. The guide also gives a good serving of relevant history and culture.

IMG_9222

Door County at sunrise. (Photo by Patrick Ryan)

The glossy opening section provides a great overview of what to do and where to go. The closing part in back covers history, culture, climate, and geography. The back section also has the essentials of travel, information and services, and practical resources. The crescent moon logos for recommended sights, activities, dining, and lodging are very helpful. This handy guide, written by Wisconsin native Thomas Huhti, also includes maps and photographs.

Door County is charming and certainly merits a travel guide, but the Moon Door County travel guide is padded with extra sections on Milwaukee and the stretch north of Milwaukee to the Bottom of the Door and Green Bay. While the including the Bottom of the Door is worthwhile, the rest is mostly not useful unless visitors from Chicago want to stop off for a day in Milwaukee for a little sightseeing. It would have been nice if the guide covered a bit more of the (admittedly small) interior of Door County, along with a bit more on fruit picking, arts, and wineries. But these are minor quibbles in an overall truly handy guidebook.

Four-Star Review

February 2014, Avalon Travel
Travel
$14.99, paperback, 200 pages
ISBN: 9781612387536

—Reviewed by Stephen Isaacs

Learn more about the book and the author.

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