Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Chicago's Grocery Store in the Sky

There are a lot of rumors about special places in Chicago that most people don't get to see.   Today I thought I'd demystify one of them.

A lot of what people assume about the residents and residences in the John Hancock Center (875 North Michigan Avenue) is not true.  But some of it is.  For example -- there is an urban legend that the Hancock residents have their own grocery store.  This is true.

It's officially called "Potash Gourmet 44," and is not surprisingly located on the 44th floor of the building.  To access it, you must be a resident of the Hancock Center, or an accompanied guest.  You have to go past the security checkpoint on the ground floor lobby, and then the receptionist on the 44th floor sky lobby.

Down the hallway, past the mail room is the grocery store.  It's larger and better stocked than a convenience store, so it earns its "grocery" title.  The space was entirely gutted and rebuilt in 2008, and has a produce section, a small selection of housewares, health and beauty aides, the usual aisles of canned and boxed goods, a self-service coffee area, and seating so one can admire the view while having a quick nosh.

The most active portion of the grocery store is the deli.  Hancock Center office workers can access the deli via a freight elevator and the back door.  The deli offers the usual selection of sliced meats and cheeses, as well as a choice of hot entrees and sides that change daily.  At one time there was made-to-order pizza, but it wasn't very good and has since been discontinued.

Unfortunately, the grocery store doesn't photograph very well.  In the daylight, you can't see what's in the aisles.  And at night, you can't see out the windows to prove that the store is in the sky.  But I did what I could with these couple of pictures.

Potash Gourmet 44 is undoubtedly the city's highest grocery store.  But is it the world's highest?  It's hard to say.  It is traditional for people in the Chicago area to declare things the "first" (as in mall), "biggest" (as in block party), or some other superlative without it actually being true.  So in the interest of localism, I formally declare Potash Gourmet 44 is the world's highest grocery store.  Challenges are welcome.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Chicago Architecture History Hidden In Plain Sight

There are lots of reasons people avoid hospitals.  Superstition. Fear of illness. Feeling guilty about one's own state of health.  But it should be stated that Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Lakeshore campus is among the most inviting medical facilities I've ever been to.

Even if you're feeling fine, there are still two good reasons to stop by Northwestern's Feinberg Pavilion at 251 East Huron Street.  First, it's because that is the location of the only 24-hour Starbucks in Chicago where you are actually likely to be able to get a seat.  And second, because it contains a hidden museum.

On the third floor of the Feinberg Pavilion is the Florence and Ike Sewell Museum. Or at least that's what a plaque in the lobby claims.  I haven't been up there yet, though it is supposed to be open to the general public.

If, like me, you don't make it past the Starbucks stand, you can still soak in some of Chicago's architectural history while enjoying your iced venti tuxedo.  The panels on the walls of the Starbucks seating area aren't just decorations -- they're artifacts.

The limestone panels are part of the museum's collection, and are all that remains of Passavant Memorial Hospital, named for the Lutheran saint William Passavant who founded a number of hospitals and orphanages across middle-America in the 1800's.

Passavant's Chicago hospital was the one of the predecessors of the medical monster that is now Northwestern.  Passavant Memorial merged with Chicago Wesley Memorial to form Northwestern in 1972.

The 325-bed neo-gothic building was designed by legendary Chicago architecture firm Holabird & Root in 1929 to compliment the design of Northwestern University next door.  It was built at 303 East Superior Street, which is now the location of Northwestern Universtiy's Robert Lurie Medical Research Center.

While the hospital is long gone, the panels remain.  They depict the leaves of the acanthus plant, which is often used in stylized forms for architectural details.  In this case, the panels are installed on the walls of the new hospital where they exist in plain sight, but most people don't realize they're there, or their significance.

Monday, June 28, 2010

TweetEcho: June 28, 2010

For those of you who don't subscribe to our Twitter feed, here are the tweets we posted over the last week or so:

  1. Great article explaining why it's so hard for the historic Inland Steel Building in #Chicago to go #green:
  2. Chicago building of the day: Kingsbury Plaza : 520 North Kingsbury
  3. Hey, @MarriottIntl - Can you make Great Street Restaurant Chicago stop spamming me? I've followed unsubscribe instructions for three months!
  4. Chicago building of the day: The Parkhomes : East Benton Boulevard and North Westshore Drive
  5. Chicago building of the day: The Parkhomes : East Benton Boulevard and North Westshore Drive
  6. Lakeshore Drive goes as far as the eye can see from this angle (via @aThousandFeetUp)
  7. A sneak peek at Helmut Jahn's domed library at the University of #Chicago
  8. Chicago building of the day: Chicago Police Marine Unit Headquarters : 108 North Streeter Drive
  9. Fantastic photo of lightning plowing into the Willis Tower and Trump tower in #Chicago #nature#lightning #skyscraper
  10. Chicago building of the day: 850 North Dewitt
  11. Coronado Performing Arts Center in @GoRockford is up for Top Architectural Wonder in the U.S. (via @enjoyillinois)
  12. Chicago building of the day: 100 East Walton Condominiums : 100 East Walton Place
  13. Chicago building of the day: Shedd Aquarium : 1200 South Lakeshore Drive
  14. Chicago building of the day: Rowe Building : 714 South Dearborn Street
  15. Chicago building of the day: The Schatz Building : 610 North Fairbanks Court
  16. Chicago building of the day: Navy Pier: Ferris Wheel : 600 East Grand Avenue
  17. Chicago building of the day: 300 Southwest Adams Street
  18. Chicago building of the day: 229 East Lake Shore Drive
  19. Chicago building of the day: Harris Theater : 205 East Randolph
  20. Chicago building of the day: 550 West Adams Street