Friday, April 15, 2011

The Palmer House

The Palmer House is truly amazing for a whole lot of reasons.  It's very old and has walls that could tell you quite the hair-raising tale;  it is also recently renovated (2009) with great respect for it's original splendour, detail  & glory.  Above is a sketch of the original building before the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 reduced it to rubble. That monstrous fire consumed almost 4 square miles of real estate on the Lake Michigan shoreline - claimed hundreds of lives and left about 90,000 people homeless.
It is considered to be the largest U.S disaster of the 19th century.  
From Wikipedia:
Another example of Chicago's rebirth from the Great Fire ashes is the now famed Palmer House hotel. The original building burned to the ground in the fire just 13 days after its grand opening. Without hesitating, Potter Palmer secured a loan and rebuilt the hotel in a lot across the street from the original, proclaiming it to be "The World's First Fireproof Building".
Hence my shot of the incredible maze of iron foldaway staircases in every alley downtown! 
Of 1639 rooms, we just happen to have the room FARTHEST removed from the elevators on the 17th floor.
This would not be so problematic if my hubby's left knee had not suddenly exploded with a very disagreeable & ill-timed arthritic flare-up and at which the notion of crutch or cane was quite frankly, dismissed. 
Since I cannot carry him - our walkabout Chicago is somewhat curtailed - neglected runners sitting accusingly in closet.  Now that he has bravely endured two days of major limpage thru McCormick Place without much improvement, we will have to make what remains of our city tour, a largely cab assisted survey.

Just have to say that 'hailing a cab' is somewhat exhilarating.  I absolutely reveled in that experience and look forward to several repeats of it in the next few days.  
We had to return early one evening from the conference so hubby could rest up and get some relief 
and some quiet supper that wasn't exactly cafeteria style :) 
I left him sitting in this eye-popping 'lounge' (pictured below) which is constantly abuzz with socialites while I waltzed about with camera in hand to secure my digital immortalization of the moment.
I went to this second level balcony to get a clear view of the lounge below...

The ceiling of this happening 'lounge' was painted by none other than the dude who also painted the ceiling in the Vatican.  Or something like that.  My source of that trivia is sleeping at the moment and Google is coming up dry on that particular detail - *sigh* you understand don't you?
Never mind that - Google Chrome uncovered something for us:

To understand why the Palmer House is so special, you need only enter the lobby. Its ceiling, resplendent with 21 panels of Greek mythological scenes that spring to life in rich paints and raised plaster, could rival that of the Sistine Chapel.
In fact, when the ceiling was restored a decade ago, it was at the hands of Liddo Lippe, the same master craftsman who repaired Michelangelo’s Vatican City masterpiece. Lippe worked flat on his back, raised on scaffolding, throughout the night so as not to disturb the guests. “We kind of made a show of him,” says Ken Price, the Palmer House’s director of public relations. “We’d roll out the scaffolding every evening around 9 and play Mozart while he worked on the ceiling."
Then there’s the Empire Room, reached via a prominent staircase in the lobby and through a set of black French doors. Open them, and you’re transported to another era, one where performers like Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, and Liberace entertained diners on a stage so close you could touch it. Frank Sinatra’s career kicked off here when he appeared onstage with Tommy Dorsey, so unknown at the time that he wasn’t even on the bill. This room, with its dramatic gold-tinged Ionic columns and gilded friezes, also has been meticulously restored. “The room was completely regilded,” says Price. “Teams of artisans and craftsmen—a virtual army of people—worked on it for nearly half a year to bring back its original grandeur, guided by original drawings and vintage photos."

Alas - a lonely but locked grand piano crying to be played above the din of socialites below.
Where is Mozart now she muses with a twinge of regret?
... only the slightest of twinges mind you.  T'would be a far grander evil to be less than smitten for all the wonderful things my senses and soul have taken in --- not the least of which would be the music ministry of the Getty Band.
I know precisely where I am headed with the nourishment of the past three days.

Tomorrow?  Millenium Park (by cab?  hmmm....),  the Observatory and maybe
the shoreline boat cruise for the history tour.  Stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Barry & Jo....looks like you are having a fabulous time in Chicago. The architecture and attention to detail in your shots is most amazing. I imagine the conference is over but enjoy your last days & "take care of that knee Larry boy!!!" If I was closer I'd offer you some "guaranteed to work meds"
    Take care & safe travels home!!


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