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Hello From Chicago - Part 4 - Chinatown And Second City

Chicago, Arlington House, Sunday October 23,2005, 6:30 am

After thoroughly exploring the Pullman Historic District, we decided to check out Chinatown, one of the many ethnic neighbourhoods that Chicago has to offer. The weather had turned from cool and grey with the occasional peek of sunshine to dark, rainy and cold, so rather than walking around we decided to have an early dinner at a Chinatown restaurant called the Lobster King.

Both my friend Linda and I had ordered...

Chicago, Second City, Second City comedy, Chinatown, Pullman Historic District

Chicago, Arlington House, Sunday October 23,2005, 6:30 am

After thoroughly exploring the Pullman Historic District, we decided to check out Chinatown, one of the many ethnic neighbourhoods that Chicago has to offer. The weather had turned from cool and grey with the occasional peek of sunshine to dark, rainy and cold, so rather than walking around we decided to have an early dinner at a Chinatown restaurant called the Lobster King.

Both my friend Linda and I had ordered vegetarian dishes, but after taking our order the waiter returned and informed us that he was going to charge us $2 extra for each dish since vegetables are much more expensive during the winter months. I decided to have a look at their takeout menu and saw that the same low price was listed on the takeout menu as on the main menu. As a result I put forward an argument that if both the dine-in and the take-out menu are stating the same low price for both dishes, I would not agree with being charged an extra $2 for each dish based on a verbal announcement. Either change the menu to include the higher price or charge the prices that are shown on both menus. I am not usually a difficult, picky guest in any hospitality establishment, but to try to charge $2 more for a dish that is listed at a lower price on both menus did not seem a proper business practice to me.

The waiter / manager finally agreed to charge us the prices listed on the menu, and the food was indeed delicious. After exploring the Chicago Cultural Center and the Historic Pullman District we had gotten quite hungry and we really enjoyed our early dinner.

After reviving ourselves we hopped on the subway because we wanted to check out Little Italy. So we got on the Blue Line and were told to exit at the UIC (University of Illinois) Campus and walk southwards. By that time it was raining and it was a rather inhospitable clammy day. We actually never ended up finding Little Italy, but walked around for about 40 minutes in the rain and after this exercise of futility we decided to pursue our evening plans: to attend a live performance at Second City, Chicago's famous comedy venue.

So we took the subway back downtown to Jackson and we waited for the Purple Line until we realized that this line only runs during rush hour on weekdays. So we inquired which line we had to take and we found out that the Brown Line (to Kimball) would take us to Second City. At that point we realized that we had also been waiting on the wrong side of the platform. I guess in the Loop el-trains only run in one direction and we had already been wondering why we had seen 3 brown line trains go by on the other side of the platform, but none of them had arrived on our side.

I'd say we spent a good 45 minutes waiting on the wrong side of the platform until we finally had enough and went downstairs to ask a CTA employee who directed us onto the correct platform. In the rainy clammy weather this wasn't the most exciting part of our trip, but we managed to entertain ourselves with lots of insider jokes in our original Austrian dialects.

Finally we caught a brown line train and made our way up to North Wells Street, into the Old Town Neighbourhood, home of the Second City Comedy Club. Since 1959 Second City has established itself as a Chicago landmark and a national treasure. This theatre has launched the careers of such comic geniuses as John Belushi, Mike Myers, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, and others more. It offers nightly comedy shows, as well as a variety of other programs and services.

The theatre has two main stages, both of which were sold out yesterday, so we headed up onto the 4th floor of the building which houses Donny's Skybox Studio Theatre which is affiliated with Second City. This theatre features an eclectic mix of student productions as well as other alternative shows and at $10.00 per person, the tickets were a steal.

The Outreach & Diversity Program produces two to three original shows each year that are performed at Second City’s studio theatre, Donny’s Skybox, on the fourth floor of Piper’s Alley. At least one of these productions is an original revue written and performed by the Outreach & Diversity ensemble, a group of African American, Latino or Asian actors cast through annual auditions.

We bought tickets for the 9 pm show: "Six Degrees of Reparation", a hip comedy revue featuring improv, original material and Second City classic scenes with an urban multicultural twist which was put on by 6 young comedians which included 5 black and 1 oriental performers.

The show offered a lot of physical comedy and a variety of different sketches. One of the funniest ones was a sketch entitled "Osama bin Laden could be anywhere", where one of the female comedians donned a big black beard and kept popping up in different everyday situations. The "superior Asian girl" sketch played with A, B, C (Asian, Black, Caucasian) stereotypes and demonstrated how we all have pre-conceived notions of one another. In the "Black Black Awards" sketch the troupe made fun of famous celebrities such as Whitney Houston, Maya Angelou and even Martha Stewart.

One of the most poignant sketches was set in an imaginary Office Depot store, where the black and Asian store employees were giving very shoddy and unfriendly service to a variety of customers. At the end, the young black shopkeeper explained that with a wage of $6.50 an hour, after all her costs (food, rent, bus passes, doing her nails, etc.), she was $189 in the hole, and at that price a smile would not be included in the service.

We both enjoyed the live performance of these gifted comedians immensely as we both love live theatre and comedy performances. As far as culture is concerned, Chicago has something to offer to everyone.

Well, today is our last day here in Chicago, and the weather is forecast to be quite cold with a 60% chance of rain. Fortunately Chicago has many indoor venues to choose from so I am sure we won't get bored.

 

Hello From Chicago - Part 5 - A Visit To The Pullman Historic District

Chicago, Arlington House, Sunday, October 23, 2005, 6:25 am

After being appropriately prepped as a result of our visit to the Chicago Cultural Center we decided to head off yesterday to visit the Pullman Historic District, a planned industrial and residential community dating back to the 1880s, on Chicago's South Side.

In order to get there we took the red line all the way to the end and then connected onto the 111 bus. What was very interesting to note was that the pop...

Travel, Chicago, Pullman Historic District,

Chicago, Arlington House, Sunday, October 23, 2005, 6:25 am

After being appropriately prepped as a result of our visit to the Chicago Cultural Center we decided to head off yesterday to visit the Pullman Historic District, a planned industrial and residential community dating back to the 1880s, on Chicago's South Side.

In order to get there we took the red line all the way to the end and then connected onto the 111 bus. What was very interesting to note was that the population on Chicago's south side is predominantly black, as much of the black population from the US South had migrated northwards after the 2nd World War. Actually Chicago was known as one of the most racially segregated cities, and today, with the demolition of many of the bleak urban housing projects, the city is attempting to create more integration between its black and white population.

The Pullman Historic District is the manifestation of a very interesting social experiment: It was built between 1880 and 1884 as a planned model industrial town by George M. Pullman for the Pullman Palace Car Company. George Pullman (1831 to 1897) arrived on the scene with a design for the Pullman sleeping carriage which he originally developed to carry the dead body of Abraham Lincoln to his funeral. As a result the Pullman Sleeping Car Company was established and a whole town was built around the business and named after its originator.

We went to the Visitor Center and saw an 18-minute movie that described George Pullman and his ambitious plans for his development of a model community, a total environment, that he intended to be superior to that available to the working class elsewhere. By so doing, he hoped to avoid strikes, attract the most skilled workers and attain greater productivity as a result of the better health and spirit of his employees.

To achieve his vision, George Pullman hired Solon S. Beaman, landscape architect Nathan F. Barrett and civil engineer, Benzette Williams. The town was constructed by Pullman employees, using local red clay from Lake Calumet and component parts that were produced in the Pullman factory. This project is one of the first examples of industrial technology and mass production in large-scale housing. The town was a complete planned community and included schools, a library and hotel all run by the company.

Pullman's large Arcade building (now demolished and the present location of the Visitor Center) featured a restaurant, a bank, a library, a post office, a theater, and numerous shops. It was a forerunner of the modern shopping center. The town was completely self-contained. Pullman residents enjoyed the manmade Lake Vista and plenty of parks and promenades, features typically missing from Chicago's working-class neighbourhoods.

The town of Pullman was a model of financial efficiency. Pullman demanded that the company return an 8-percent profit and the town return a 6-percent profit. A huge engine pumped sewage from the town to a nearby Pullman-owned farm, where it was used as fertilizer for produce that would be sold back in the town.

George Pullman maintained ultimate control over the town, even restricting workers' access to alcohol, as the Hotel Florence only sold alcohol to out-of-town visitors. Resentment towards this paternalistic despot started to build. Misfortune struck with the decline of the Pullman car's success which forced George to slash wages. Workers responded with a strike, fuelled by Pullman's failure to reduce grocery costs and rent, but George simply fired them. The situation deteriorated as railway workers refused to handle Pullman cars and President Cleveland had to intervene, sending federal troops to the scene. The workers were forced to sign documentation declaring that they wouldn't join a union.

Although the strike collapsed, George Pullman's model for handling the "labour problem" had failed. Pullman had prided himself on his paternalistic approach with his workers, and he could not see how his heavy-handed methods had resulted in this worker rebellion. Criticized and scorned, Pullman died a bitter man in 1897.

In 1898, the Illinois Supreme Court ordered the Pullman Company to sell the non-industrial land in the neighborhood to its inhabitants, determining that the Pullman Palace Car Company did not have the proper authority to provide nonmanufacturing services such as renting property. Finally, residents could buy their homes.

Robert T. Lincoln, the son of President Lincoln, became head of the company after Pullman's death and simplified its name to the Pullman Company. The Pullman Company continued to produce its famous cars at 111th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue. But with the explosion of automobile ownership, rail passenger traffic went into rapid decline. In 1957, Pullman Incorporated closed its plant in the neighborhood.

Only three years later, the city of Chicago included Pullman on a list of "blighted and deteriorating areas" that required clearance and redevelopment. Residents responded by forming the Pullman Civic Organization and began working to gain landmark status. The Historic Pullman Foundation, which formed in 1973, helps ensure the area's preservation and restoration by sponsoring various events such as neighborhood walking tours, annual house tours, Sunday brunch at the Florence Hotel, and presentations at the Pullman Visitor Center.

In many ways the housing development was ahead of its time. Each building, most of them townhouses, had gas and water, complete sanitary facilities and abundant quantities of sunlight and fresh air, which was a rarity at that time, when the working class was mostly housed in squalid tenements. Originally the town of Pullman housed about 12,000 people while today it still has a population of about 2,000, with an ethnically and economically mixed background.

Other famous buildings on the Pullman grounds include the Hotel Florence, named after Pullman's favourite daughter. It opened in 1881 as a hospitality showcase for visitors to George Pullman's perfect town and originally had 50 rooms, a dining room, a billiard room, a parlor and the only bar in Pullman. The Historic Pullman Foundation managed to save the hotel from demolition and today the hotel is closed to the public while it is undergoing a capital improvement program to restore it for use with the State Historic Site.

The Pullman Clock Tower and Administration Building was built in 1880 for the executive offices of the Pullman Palace Car Company, at the time one of the most beautiful industrial complexes in the United States. In 1998 the Clock Tower and Administration Building were seriously damaged by a fire set by an arsonist. Since then the building has been stabilized and the restored Clock Tower was put back on just a few days before our visit. Future use of the site is currently being debated by a task force institute by Chicago Mayor Daley and Illinois Governor Ryan.

Another interesting building located on the Pullman Historic District is the Queen Anne-style Market Hall which was built in 1881. The Market provided a venue for fresh fruits, meats and other goods. The original market was destroyed by fire in 1892 and a new market was built on the existing foundation. The market is surrounded by four colonnaded circular apartment buildings that were built with the new Market Hall in 1893. Unfortunately the Market Hall Building was destroyed by fire in 1973 and today it awaits restoration.

The Greenstone Church, located centrally in the Pullman Historic District, has an exterior facade of serpentine stone quarried in Pennsylvania. The sanctuary is unchanged with the exception of the chancel arrangements. All of the cherry wood is original. Today the church is still occupied by a Methodist congregation.

The visit to the Pullman Historic District was very interesting. It taught us about a different time of ultimate laissez-faire capitalism, industrial growth and immigration, labour unrest, urban planning, architecture and the ultimate failure of a rather unique social experiment.

 

Discovering The Hotels In Downtown Chicago, Illinois

"I give you Chicago," the journalist H.L Mencken had once written. "It is not London and Harvard. It is not Paris and buttermilk. It is American in every chitling and sparerib. It is alive from snout to tail."

Chicago is a city much romanticized in novels and movies. But who could blame writers and playwrights for paying homage to this great and bustling city? Chicago gushes with elan and vitality. One of the largest cities in the state of Illinois, Chicago is both a major...

hotels in downtown Chicago Illinois

"I give you Chicago," the journalist H.L Mencken had once written. "It is not London and Harvard. It is not Paris and buttermilk. It is American in every chitling and sparerib. It is alive from snout to tail."

Chicago is a city much romanticized in novels and movies. But who could blame writers and playwrights for paying homage to this great and bustling city? Chicago gushes with elan and vitality. One of the largest cities in the state of Illinois, Chicago is both a major business district and an important seat of culture.

Downtown Chicago
Downtown Chicago is the most hip and popular part of the city. The Loop area, in particular, is known for its very tall buildings. In the Loop tower massive skyscrapers like the Sears Tower, the Aon Center, and the John Hancock Center. Downtown Chicago is also the industrial area of the city, and there, major tourist attractions are found alongside offices and big financial institutions.

Because of the area's popularity, there are numerous luxury hotels in downtown Chicago, Illinois. These hotels provide a slew of lodging choices to visitors from far and wide. The hotels in downtown Chicago, Illinois are known for their opulent interiors and incomparable customer service. Almost all boast of lavish furnishings and world-class pampering. It is, thus, no wonder that living in any of the hotels in downtown Chicago, Illinois is living in style. You will be made to feel like royalty during your stay.

High-end Hotels in Downtown Chicago
If you intend to stay in this part of the city, be sure to check out some of the major hotels in downtown Chicago, Illinois. These include the Fairmont Hotel, Hotel 71, Amalfi Hotel, Allegro Hotel, Monaco Hotel, Renaissance Hotel, the Congress Plaza Hotel, and many others. On top of ensuring that your stay is as memorable and enjoyable as possible, these hotels in downtown Chicago, Illinois offer a wide range of services that include dry cleaning, banquet facilities, 24-hour room service, medical assistance, and even secretarial and translation services.

Low-end Hotels in Downtown Chicago
If, on the other hand, you are staying in Chicago on a shoestring budget, there are also a number of hotels that offer room rooms at very affordable rates. In some of these hotels, you can book a room for as low as $44 a night.

A common misconception among travelers is that cheap hotel equates poor service and accommodations. Such is not the case. The low-budget hotels in downtown Chicago, Illinois offer wonderful amenities and services. All have free parking facilities; valet, secretarial, and laundry services; televisions, hair dryers, telephones, and clock radios inside rooms; and continental breakfasts sure to please even the most discriminating of palates.

Budget-friendly hotels in downtown Chicago, Illinois include The Seneca Hotel & Suites, where rooms go for as low as $54. The Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers and The Hilton Garden Inn Addison also offer rooms for $60 and $62 respectively.

The price of a night's stay naturally varies according to a hotel's rating. Five-star hotels will always be more expensive than three-star or four-star ones. Bookings for any of the hotels in downtown Chicago, Illinois may be made online, through sites such as http://holiday4you.com. Be sure to read reviews from fellow travelers, so you will have an idea of what to expect.




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