Towards the end of a nice WTTW-Ch. 11 programs called “The Most Beautiful Places in Chicago” “There’s too much beauty in Chicago to fit into one show,” said Geoffrey Baer, host of the show, which first aired in early March and is also available to watch online.
True enough, or so he would have us believe when he hosts “Chicago’s Finest Places 2” on Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. This brings with it his typical curiosity, enthusiasm and enthusiasm; has been using this combination effectively since its inception. His television career took place more than 20 years ago.
He is the writer/presenter/producer of this program that takes us to many places, some familiar, some not at all. He spends precious time at the Chicago Cultural Center, that magnificent building that rose in 1897 as the main branch of the Chicago Public Library and was saved from demolition by the quiet but persuasive efforts of Eleanor “Sis” Daley (Richard J. and her husband). Richard M.’s mother) and became the Cultural Center in 1991.
Baer, alongside architect and restoration expert T. Gunny Harboe, gives us a very comprehensive and illuminating tour of the building. It’s great to see the world’s largest Tiffany stained glass dome there, as well as the restored Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall and Rotunda (though Baer’s comment that people walking through the space “might feel their sacrifice” is a bit of a hopeful exaggeration). those who fought slavery.”)
A lot fits into this watch. We visit the Lake Shore Drive underpass, dazzling with its artistic style and historical significance, featuring the “Native American Land Dance” mosaic by creators Chris Pappan and Debra Yepa-Pappan and Tracy Van Duinen of Chicago Public Art Group. In Pilsen, we meet muralist Mauricio Ramirez; depicts the vibrant art of the region, such as an Aztec eagle warrior adorning a brick wall.
In Far South Side, author and architecture critic Lee Bey is extraordinarily passionate when describing the quiet art deco grandeur of his alma mater, Chicago Vocational School (as well as the late Dick Butkus). It also exists because the twin Prairie-style high schools designed by Dwight Perkins do not have similar status, while Carl Schurz High School on the Northwest Side has been widely admired and honored, while James H. Bowen High School on the South Side has also been widely admired and honored. He also comments on the inequalities that exist. Not school. (Bey’s “Southern Exposure: The Overlooked Architecture of Chicago’s South Side,” from Northwestern University Press, 2019, is an important addition to Chicago bookshelves).
What sets this show apart is the depth and personalities of the people Baer interviews. Fascinating ecologist and conservation biologist Deja Perkins walks in Jackson Park; increasingly prominent historian and tour guide Sherman “Dilla” Thomas shows and explains the Bronzeville building with a striking mural created by William Edouard Scott in 1936.
We meet time-lapse aerial photographer Peter Tsai, who captured the city skyline peeking through the clouds from atop what is now called the Hancock Center. We make a quick visit to Glessner House, the Romanesque mansion on Prairie Avenue. (Now it is a museum, it welcomes visitors and is equipped, especially during holidays). And admire the Edgar Miller-built interior of the Glasner Studio in Old Town and the uniquely round Ruth and Sam Van Sickle Ford House in Aurora, built from highly unusual materials by a self-taught architect named Bruce Goff. as coal.
The show was beautifully filmed and nature was given its due, especially as it benefited from the combined efforts of landscape architects Fredrick Law Olmsted, Calvert Vaux, Jens Jensen and Alfred Caldwell. These men, each capable of a beautiful hour-long show, have created small wonders in Jackson Park, Washington Park, Garfield Park, Humboldt Park and the Caldwell Lily Pool next to the Lincoln Park Zoo.
I was disappointed but not surprised that the program ended with a visit to Millennium Park with its all-too-familiar marching band shell, the Crown Fountain, and Lurie Garden. Visual clichés for me.
However, the show is the winner and, as in the past, this program will be graced by a companion Web site will offer all kinds of extras like photos, facts and video. I have no doubt and hope that there are more beautiful places to be discovered and shown to us.
I think it’s appropriate to end this story the same way I ended the review of the first show: “I know that not all people live near beautiful places, and so for them, watching this show may be a bit like watching a show. About the French Riviera. But perhaps there might be some comfort in knowing that such points are there. Or hope.”