Chicago: Great Main Streets, Great Architecture, and Great Food

National Main Street Conference

I’ve been in Chicago since Sunday for the National Main Streets Conference, and it has been a great couple of days.  I love Chicago and I love Main Street.  The conference is sponsored by the National Trust Main Street Center and brings together 1,600 people from around the country who are rehabilitating their downtown commercial districts.  Having lived in three great Main Street communities – Murfreesboro, Tennessee; Americus, Georgia; and Staunton, Virginia – I have a real affinity for these towns.

Getting to Chicago was interesting.  The first of two snowstorms blew into Washington on Sunday morning.  I got a call from the airlines at 4:40 a.m. telling me my morning flight was delayed by an hour.  When I arrived at the airport it turns out that every other passenger on the flight had been moved to a different flight in order to make connections and I had a regional jet all to myself!  I joked that I flew up on the corporate jet…but it was a surreal experience.

The opening session at Main Street is energizing, with the feel of a political convention.  As you can see at the top, the attendees from the states sit together with their signs and it is easy as a speaker to get applause – just mention Michigan, Iowa, or Illinois (three especially large and noisy contingents) and there’s a roar from the crowd.   The meetings are held at the Palmer House, which has great historic rooms for the conference sessions.  FYI:  click on the link above and read stories about the five Great American Main Street Award winners.  These are impressive places to live and work. 

It wouldn’t be Chicago without seeing some Robie House Interiorworld-class architecture, and I was lucky enough this trip to visit the Robie House, which is a National Trust Historic Site.  This Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece is owned by the University of Chicago and is operated for the National Trust by the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust.  We were at an event last evening to introduce supporters to the next phase of the interior restoration, and I’ve included a couple of shots.  The Preservation Trust is doing a great job in bringing this landmark back to life and they have a great vision for the future of the house.

Finally, any visit to Chicago should include some great food.  At the opening party for the conference on Sunday evening, they featured food from Chicago’s many neighborhoods, so you could wander around and have Chinese followed by Italian followed by…just about anything you wanted.  But the really good food I had was last evening, at a restaurant called The Gage Restaurant and Tavern.  The food was casual but very tasty.  It was located just across the street from the Millennium Park, and they have this cool light show set up in the park as well.

Chicago is just one of those special places on earth.  And even though it has been cold enough to bring frostbite to the toes, I’d be back in a heartbeat.Robie House Kitchen Under Restoration

More to come…

DJB

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