Route 66 events reminder:  April 19th public art slideshow and lecture at Chicago Cultural Center

Just a reminder:  my 90-minute lecture and slideshow about public art along Route 66 in metropolitan Chicago is at 1pm next Tuesday over at the Chicago Cultural Center in the first-floor Renaissance Court.  It’s the best way to familiarize yourself with some of the sights along the route, starting right at the eastern terminus and Gateway to Route 66 at Jackson Drive and Michigan Avenue, next to the world famous Art Institute of Chicago.

Just as important, this is one way to let the city know how many people love and maintain an interest in historic Route 66. The city has long undervalued the historic and tourism value of the route, so show your solidarity with the route and show up, right?  Right!

If you come in by the Randolph Street entrance just west of Michigan Avenue, the lecture room is immediately to your right once you’re inside.  Get there early to ensure a seat.  See you there, roadies!

your own Route 66 tour guide,

Fountain of the Great Lakes, South Garden, Art Institute of Chicago  (photo copyright 2012 by M.R. Traska; all rights reserved)

Fountain of the Great Lakes by sculptor Lorado Taft, located in the South Garden of the Art Institute of Chicago (photo copyright 2012 by M.R. Traska; all rights reserved)


Route 66 history:  Open outcry and The Pits vanish at the Chicago Board of Trade

Open outcry is dead, and the Chicago Board of Trade will never be the same.  Long live the CBOT.

Well, that ‘s what you might say, anyway, if you were a fan of that deafening roar that was once the trading floor.  All of that has been silenced by computers, which is where most of the trading has gone now for agricultural and other commodities.  This recent article buried on the New York Times’s Dealbook web page tells the story, which is also part of Chicago history and Route 66 history, as the CBOT has been located on Route 66 for decades before the route existed.

CBOT is also important to the nation’s economic history.  To quote Wikipedia:  “In 1864, the CBOT listed the first ever standardized ‘exchange traded’ forward contracts, which were called futures contracts.  In 1919, the Chicago Butter and Egg Board, a spin-off of the CBOT, was reorganized to enable member traders to allow futures trading, and its name was changed to Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME).”  Ever since its founding, CBOT has been an economic innovator.  To Route 66 fans, however, the end of the open outcry system at CBOT means visitors will never again get to see actual trading being conducted – trading that means billions upon billions of dollars to the world economy.  We, the public, will no longer get to see in action what it is that CBOT does.  And I’ll miss that.

Personal observation:  Once again, I wonder why I have to read the New York Times rather than the local papers if I want to get a thoughtful perspective on a local event or phenomenon.  Reuters weighed in with a story nearly two years ago when someone filed suit to keep open-outcry prices as the benchmark for end-of-day settlement prices instead of capitulating to electronic trading prices.  Modern Farmer ran a well done story three months later, and The Western Producer caught up in February 2015 after CBOT finally decided to close most of the pits; but the constantly shrinking Chicago Tribune merely ran the Reuters piece in 2013, then forgot about how CBOT was changing.  Typical.  And if there was any coverage of it by the Chicago Sun-Times, it didn’t show up in the search results.  Sigh …

Yours truly remembers a very different CBOT, one that reigned for 165 years under open  outcry (a system it developed, just as it did futures contracts) and will never return.  I saw it for myself, every working day for a year.

Trading floor at the Chicago Board of Trade in 1993  (photo courtesy of Jeremy Kemp via Wikimedia Commons)

The trading floor at the Chicago Board of Trade in 1993; note the brokers standing on the steps of the octagonal commodity pits.  (Photo courtesy of Jeremy Kemp via Wikimedia Commons)

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Route 66 update:  Mysterious, odd and historic, Chicago’s tiny Pickwick Stable lives and shines again

Do you know the story of the sweet, overlooked antique just off Jackson Boulevard called Pickwick Stable?  No??  Well!  Do let us acquaint you.  Like many an antique, this little charmer has a questionable provenance with a gap or two in it; but like a rediscovered gem placed in a new setting, it’s been brought to life again and is enjoying a resurgent popularity it hasn’t had in 140 years.

The address is 22 E. Jackson Blvd., not that you could tell.  It’s one of the oldest buildings in the Loop – and one of the hardest to find, or was until recently.  Moreover, it’s a real architectural curiosity, not the dead end it seemed for decades.  If you live or work in Chicago, you’ve probably gone right past it dozens of time, if not hundreds, and never noticed.  The reason is because it’s severely recessed and looks like the end of an alley instead of a building.  But it is a building (honest!), and the rest of the neighborhood grew up around it.

The main reason Pickwick Stable isn’t readily visible is because it’s been encased over time by the much taller buildings that grew up around it.  The Steger Building (1911) stands in front of the Pickwick’s southern side and largely blocks the view.  It’s also blocked on the east by the 228 S. Wabash building (1927), hemmed in on the north by the back end of the 226 S. Wabash Ave. building (1932), and bordered on the west by the alley that runs between the Steger and the Gibbons Building (1912), which sidles up against the former Lytton Store Building (1913) at the NE corner of Jackson and State Street.

Pickwick Stable can be hard to find -- even when you heoretically know where it is.  (Photo copyright 2014 by M.R. Traska; all rights reserved)

The tiny but historic Pickwick Stable can be hard to find, even when you know where it is: in Pickwick Court, 20 E. Jackson Blvd. (Photo copyright 2014 by M.R. Traska; all rights reserved)

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Route 66 TV news bulletin: Old St. Pat’s documentary makes it to WTTW, to be rebroadcast Sept. 3

You never know when a relevant surprise is going to sneak up on you and bite you on the gluteus maximus (no, that’s not the name of a fictional gladiator; guess again).  While working on tonight’s blog post, I have local public television on and as I’m trying to ignore the boring pledge week promos during the breaks, when I get a big surprise.  No, it’s not the news that Pledge Week is over (please God; public television and public radio are well worthwhile investments and important to the community; but the very necessary pitches do tend to go on and on).  And what’s the surprise?  A WTTW special program about Old St. Patrick’s Catholic Church at Adams Street and Desplaines Street in the West Loop area, right on Route 66.  It’s the oldest public building in Chicago, having survived the Great Chicago Fire  That’s all they were showing tonight on channel 11 in the Chicago area from 7pm onward, two showings back to back.  I just caught it by accident while channel surfing!

Old St. Pat's - 1, cropped - blog (MRTraska)

Having missed most of the first showing tonight (this is a brand-new program, and of course the station management saved it for the pledge drive, as they often do), I’ve scheduled it to tape to my DVR at 9pm.  But what’s really cute is that Father Jack Wall, the former pastor who is mostly responsible for the church’s ongoing renovation that began back during the 1980s, is answering the phones and talking to people who pledge money to the station, as is the current pastor, the much younger Father Tom Hurley.  Niiiiiice.  Tonight’s volunteers manning the pledge phones are also folks from Old St. Pat’s.  Way to go.  Meanwhile, the breaks still last too long while the station people make their pitch again and again and again.  Yada, yada, yada.  Which is why I’ll be skipping all that when I play it back on my DVR.  If you wish to donate to Chicago public TV, however, please do call WTTW at 773-588-1111.

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