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Saturday, September 5, 2020: After waiting over five months, we were finally headed up to Chicago for a watered-down version of the trip we were expecting to take in early April 2020, but then Covid-19 hit and everything stalled. Back when we all thought this would blow over by the end of the summer, we had postponed one of our reservations to this week. Rather than postpone again, we decided to go ahead with our trip this time. Debbie always takes a picture of the Subaru plant every time we drive toward Chicago.
At a rest area, we saw Debbie's perfect vacation vehicle this mini-RV. So pretty.
We passed the dome-topped buildings in Gary, ...
... and went over the red bridge where Chicago is visible in the distance, ...
... and flashed our i-Pass on the Chicago Skyway Toll Bridge.
By 10:00 AM, we were in Chicago traffic. Yay.
We loved this RBG sticker on the back of this car. How heartbreaking that we would lose RBG 13 days later.
We flew on past Chicago ...
... and past these cool-looking buildings at Rush University Medical Center, ...
... to head to Oak Park and West Suburban Medical Center.
Here is the building originally known as West Suburban Hospital. Debbie's father was born here nearly 80 years ago.
It's a fun coincidence that he was born on a street that matches his granddaughter's and great-grandchildren's last names.
We headed to Serrelli's Finer Foods. It's always fun to load up on foods in an Italian grocery.
We walked out with three Chico bags filled with pasta, sauces, soups, bruschetta, breadsticks, wafer cookies, and three jars of Tom's favorite Italian item, giardiniera.
Check out this unusual building! Designed by Errol Kirsch, it's just standing there on the corner of Fair Oaks and Greenfield in Oak Park.
We drove past Trinity Lutheran Church, which is where Debbie's father was baptised as a baby.
Street signs were now including an additional sign noting that we were in the Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District.
But this coyote doesn't care. He just crossed the street in front of us and ran across this yard as we drove by.
Here's another gorgeous home in a suburb filled with gorgeous homes.
But this is the main home to visit in Oak Park: ...
... the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio.
We had tour tickets for noon, but arrived at 10:45, so we were able to get moved up to the 11:00 tour. Good thing for the random couple who walked up at noon and took the two openings left on that tour. You're welcome, lucky couple.
Our tour guide was a retired librarian named Irene, so she shared the same name and occupation as Debbie's mom.
Our tour started outdoors, ...
... then moved inside. This little entryway had Greek figures along the tops of the walls.
The three couples on the tour kept their distance from each other and from our volunteer tour guide. Red mouse pads on the floor indicated where pairs of people could stand.
This little alcove featured a fireplace with clear glass chimney, upholstered green benches, and matching green curtains to close it off (not shown). The text over the fireplace reads: "Truth is Life. Good friend, around these hearth stones, speak no evil word of any creature..."
Here's the original dining room ...
... with a bookshelf/cupboard on the opposite wall.
Tree branches grew through a hole in the side of this room, and had been replaced when they had died. The current branches are dead but still cool to see.
We passed through the pantry ...
... and the kitchen ...
... to the new dining room, added on during an expansion to the home.
The ceiling featured a carved wooden grate ...
... and a child-sized version of the dining chairs.
The windows are lovely stained glass ...
... and the floors are a mixture of original and reproduction tiles.
We headed upstairs ...
... and saw the children's rooms. Here is the boys' side ...
... and here is the girls' side. Note that only a standard wall separates the two, and that both sides share a large, vaulted ceiling.
Here's Frank and Catherine's bedroom, ...
... with artwork painted on one end of the room, ...
... and the other.
Here's a closer look at the long chains on one of the light fixtures.
Here's the adjacent bathroom.
Here is the day room, with a sewing machine and a tiny crib.
And now, the star attraction of the tour: the playroom.
Check out that arched ceiling and those incredible skylights.
Here's a closer look at the mural at the end of the room.
Oh, these windows! A beautiful bay of stained-glass windows flanks each side.
On either side of the domed ceiling are gorgeous light fixtures and even more stained glass windows.
A multi-tiered balcony is tucked over the entrance to the room, along with bookshelves, a player piano, and a grand piano. But if that's a grand piano, where is the rest of it?
Well, let's head down the stairs just outside the playroom to the left.
Be sure to watch your head, because there's the back part of a grand piano sticking out into the stairwell.
Next up: the Studio portion of the Home and Studio tour. The is the view looking from the side entrance to the back of the studio, ...
... and here's the view looking from the back of the studio toward the front.
Let's look up ...
... and then move forward to be able to really look up.
A series of chains helps to connect everything.
Here's a built-in shelving unit for holding architectural drawings.
Here's another view looking up as we left the room.
On our way out, we passed a model of the Robie House, which we'd be touring the very next day.
Here is the office ...
... and the exquisite stained glass ceiling, ...
... which matches the one in the adjacent reception hall, which is the entry where clients were received.
Next, we passed through a small hallway lined with built-in cupboards to ...
... the beautiful octagon library.
Here is the skylight at the top.
We stepped outdoors to see the front of the building.
Look at the stork detail on the columns.
Here's a sculpture of a naked guy who seems sad ...
... and there's the exterior of the library.
FLW even designed the concrete planters that line the wall along the street.
Here's a plaque letting visitors know whose studio they were visiting: Frank Lloyd Wright, Architect.
Our tour finished at noon in front of the giant ginkgo tree in the courtyard.
With leaves and branches this pretty, is it any surprise that Wright used these as a design in his work?
Next, we picked up our map and listening devices for our neighborhood walking tour, which took us just a couple of blocks south on a perfect day for walking.
Here's the Arthur B. Heurtley House.
This is the Charles A. Purcell House. Its tenuous link to FLW is that is was remodeled by an architect who worked in his studio.
On a quiet side street is the Laura Gale House.
Here's the Peter and Emma Beachy House.
It appears to have a matching garage or out building way in the back of its huge yard.
This beauty is the Frank Thomas House and it was the southern-most point of the walk.
Here's the entry to the front door. Look at the beautiful detail on the windows too.
RIght across the street is the entrance to Austin Gardens, with a bust of Frank Lloyd Wright standing guard outside.
This home wasn't a Frank Lloyd Wright design but it was one of many we passed that were stunning in their own right.
This is the entrance to the Hills-DeCaro House. It had cool light fixtures ...
... and a plaque on the wall outside.
Here it is, ...
... and here is its little outbuilding, which the walking tour narrator told us used to be a ticket booth at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.
At the next lot north ...
... stands the impressive Nathan Moore House.
A small circular inset in the brick wall allows passersby to get a look at this plaque which discusses the house's history.
Look at that chimney. We both want it in our home.
Here's the front of the home. It is currently undergoing restoration.
Such amazing detail on this glass and wood structure.
This isn't a FLW home either, but it is included here because of its adorable signs and decorations obviously welcoming a new foreign exchange student to the USA. Imagine being an exchange student and living in this mansion on this street across from the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. We were surprised to see graduation signs indicating that many high school students lived in these huge, priceless houses in the neighborhood.
The walking tour took just over a half hour and we returned our devices to the gift shop. We spent some time looking at these pretty outlet covers, ...
... but left with a wooden napkin holder instead.
Because of the pandemic, Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Unity Temple was not open for tours, so we drove past it instead.
Here's another view of it.
We went to Poor Phil's for lunch.
It was our first visit to a restaurant in nearly six months. We invoked a variation of the Bundlings Helsinki Rule that says when you have a chance to have a beer outside on vacation, you take it.
This is the reason we came: a lobster roll. It was a little heavy on mayo but any lobster roll is better than no lobster roll, and it was tasty.
Tom opted for fish and chips, where the chips were actually tater tots.
We kept our masks on when we weren't eating and when our server approached, and she thanked us for doing that.
After lunch, we drove through Oak Park a little more. These signs indicated that we were in the Hemingway district.
Buh-bye, Oak Park!
Loretto Hospital had a cool mural on the side.
Tom loved the idea of a building called the Nerdery.
The Willis Tower is an imposing structure. Our original April plans involved having breakfast on the observation level, but we will wait for a future visit to go there.
We drove under the United States Post Office, which Debbie remembers from staying in Chicago in 1977. Her family's hotel was across the street from this building and the rooftop pool area provided a great view.
We also drove under the Chicago Stock Exchange.
What on earth is that green stuff up ahead?
It's the coolest building decorations ever ...
... on the Harold Washington Library. These decorations, call acroteria, were added in 1993.
We pulled up to the Hotel Essex at 3:00 PM.
We checked into our Skyline King room which had a great view of Grant Park.
The bathroom had a great view as well.
Here's the pretty shower.
Tom waited patiently in the entryway for Debbie to finish the room photography.
We had a parking spot booked two blocks away.
It turned out to be very handy to have a guaranteed spot all weekend.
Back in the room, we checked out the view some more. Here's the view from the bed looking straight out.
From the window, we could look to the north ...
... and to the south.
Off in the distance, we could see Shedd Aquarium. This is where the 4D Summit's evening party was going to be held in April before everything shut down and the conference and our April trip was cancelled. We'll get there someday.
Our goal of this trip was to stay in our excellent hotel room and relax instead, and we definitely did that.
We had brought snacks for dinner and spent the evening enjoying the lights of Chicago ...
... and having the first of four days of Scrabble tournaments, where we would start two games at a time, one on each phone, and pass them back and forth. Here, Tom got a lucky break, obviously.

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