Winter Break In Chicago

Over winter break I visited Chicago, where my mother grew up and her mother still lives. We stayed in her house in Hyde Park, on the South Side, near the Museum of Science and Industry. While there we visited downtown, the lake shore, and the surrounding neighborhood. While I got over my cold, I took pictures of several locations; here are my favorites (or the only ones good enough to actually show).


1) this is the average Hyde Park apartment building, viewed from the rear, on a quiet morning near the local grocery store. These are a relatively recent addition to the neighborhood, but are recognizable nonetheless.


2) the Christmas tree in the plaza of a small shopping center, lined by toy stores, bakeries, and a small French restaurant. The buildings from which the picture was taken were also covered with decorations.


3) these three houses are situated farther back from the street than the rest, creating a lawn in between them that is used in the summer for parties. In the December cold it’s quiet and tranquil.


4) the Museum of Science and Industry was first built for the Chicago World’s Fair exhibition held in 1893. It is a massive and ornate building, similar to others like it from the Gilded Age. In its basement it houses a World War II German submarine, captured and rescued from sinking by the US Navy. The Museum also has a massive model train display, which includes downtown Chicago and Seattle, as well as suburbs, farmland, and mountains.


5) one of the main halls of the Museum houses a deep sea submersible, an early Boeing jetliner, two different World War II planes, and two World War I era biplanes, all suspended above the aforementioned model train landscape. There is also a steam locomotive on ground level.


6) this shows the L-train or elevated train track common in downtown Chicago, portrayed in the model train landscape. A real miniature train will run along this track regularly, and around the rest of the model city and the surrounding farmland.


7) model of nighttime Seattle, in the back of the model train hall. It’s much smaller than the rest of the display, but the trains still run through it, and the loading docks on the harbor actually move as if they were loading real moving cargo ships.


8) the shore of Lake Michigan was rocky and uninviting, especially covered with several inches of ice. However, viewed from the snowy area above, it was a beautiful view, albeit austere and unwelcoming. Most of Chicago, except for downtown, was like this; quiet and subdued in the weeks leading up to Christmas…and incredibly cold.


9) another view of the lake. Visible on the horizon is a cargo ship, common on the Great Lakes.


10) the centerpiece of a dining table at the Driehaus Museum downtown. Decorated for Christmas dinner, this dining area was spectacular. It was difficult to imagine that someone lived here regularly. Most of the rest of the house was like this room, so maybe one gets used to such grandeur eventually.


11) this is the ground floor and main stairwell of the Driehaus Museum. On either side of this wide hallway are dining rooms, bathrooms, living rooms, studies, and beyond are coatrooms and kitchens. This floor plan is repeated throughout the upper floors of the house. This picture is a view into the late 1800s, the Gilded Age of American cities.



Words and pictures by William Sweek