A few weeks ago…

…my dear follower in Paris, Theadora Brack (check out her ‘blog fantastique’, ‘People, Places and Bling’ here), mentioned again her love of the Congress Hotel here in Chicago…and how, on her last visit, she had lost her camera card and, consequently, had no photographs…to which I replied:  Quel dommage, Mlle B.!

This evening, I can say: “Alors, Mlle B., bonnes nouvelles!

Postcards to Paris, part deu

“It was a beautiful Autumn day walking to the Congress, Babs, when I looked up at the sky and saw not only our flag, but wonderful light reflections off of Roosevelt University across Congress Parkway.”

“Though the weather was a bit crisp. people still hunched over and walked into the wind barreling down Michigan Avenue.  Thank goodness those canopies are fastened tightly to the hotel!”

“Now, I haven’t been inside the Congress since Feb. 14, 1987, so I thought things may have really changed at the entrance to the lobby…but, no!  I felt as though no time had passed at all!”

“I do think they’ve changed the wall sconces, but other than that, all the lovely, different types of marble and the gorgeous , intricate mosaics looked actually better than they did back then!”

“When I zoomed in, I found that each tile in the mosaics was hand-cut, and laid in the Tiffany style at different angles to sparkle when they catch the light…I hadn’t remembered that, so I took this one to put a little twinkle in your life (or save it for when you really need it!)!”

“See that sparkle effect?  I looked and looked for some info as to just who designed these mosaics to no avail, Babs, because I knew you’d want to know!  I’ll search some more, but for now, I will simply savor the beauty here!”

“Oh…and this I didn’t remember at all…and it’s just so superb!  The Congress was built for the 1893 World Exposition, which makes this floor logo mosaic one hundred and nineteen years old…and people have been walking over it all those years, but it looks fresh and new!  That just blew me away, Babs!”

“I walked out of the lobby, intending to get to the east elevators, but got stopped in my tracks as a twenty-five year old memory popped into my gray matter:  this little restaurant is where my friend Steve Shelley, who was the assistant then to the Lighting Designer, Twyla Tharp (lotsa name dropping here, huh?), introduced me to the another friend of his, the onethe onlyMikhail Baryshnikov!

I took a few more shots, but got so wrapped up in that fond memory, and time was running short…you know how it goes, Babs?…I promise to go back and get more shots of the halls, and the Gold Room, and whatever else tickles my fancy!

Your friend in Chicago,



12 responses to “A few weeks ago…

  1. Fabulous little photo essay! What a beautiful hotel! Love the arches and mosaics! Also, how wonderful of you to create –or re-create– this for Theadora! I’ll bet she is swooning over in Paris to see this. ~ Lily

  2. Oh, gosh. YES, Lily! I am swooning. This postcard is fabulous. What a gift. Thank you. Your shots are beautiful, really. I love this post. I love this grand hotel like no other. It’s very affordable and you can’t beat its location. Time travel just got easier. What time of day did you shoot this? The architecture, reflections and waving flag are spectacular. They play very well together. I feel as though I’m strolling up and down my beloved Michigan Avenue. Wearing my maxi-red wool coat! The top shot is gorgeous. Let’s not forget to mention your interior shots. Yes, hotel is one of my favorite places in the world. You captured its magic and beauty. I’m getting teary! The mosaics are incredible. Thanks for the research. I’ll also throw on my “Nancy Drew” cap and dig around. Maybe the Chicago Architecture Foundation on Michigan has some information. (I love their gift shop, by the way.) I also love the Congress Hotel’s gift shop and creaking floors. Goosebumps Again, thank you for a such a wonderful gift!! I feel very happy and relaxed at the moment, thinking of the Congress and Chicago. For the love of inspiration, this is the perfect way to start off the week. MERCI. Babs (Say, what was it like to meet Mikhail Baryshnikov?! Keep on name dropping. I once spotted Bill Murry outside the hotel, hunting for a lost scarf. What a character!)

    • De riens, Mlle B….de riens! Do not swoon too much! As I said, I shall return, there was so much I missed and, after 25 years away, forgot!

      That first shot was taken on the 12th at 1:19 PM…so happy I caught those reflections! I waited to post so you could begin ‘le semaine’ on an up note, seeing as you were not here in the States for Thanksgiving Day…oh, Mischa, as he preferred, was very charming, very masculine and very thin! But, that was 25 years ago…he is now 64 and STILL dancing, as recently as last month! I had worked in ballet, designing and painting scenery for the likes of (dropping names again!) Oliver Smith (the grandad of Broadway–he designed the original “On the Town”, “Camelot”, “Oklahoma” and also designed for American Ballet Theatre. I painted a marvelous, watercolory “Giselle” for him, he invited me to come work in New York, but I had to turn him down…I was doing too well in Milwaukee) and Jose Varona, for whom I painted a magnificent “Swan Lake”! But, enough of that!

      I am pleased you enjoy these, because you lost your shots which made it so necessary for me to do this for you, Babs!

      Au revoir, a bientot, Mlle B.! Love, Pal!

  3. What an amazing building. I love buildings like this and getting opportunities to go and photograph them. YOu have done it proud, and I love the fond memory at the end, how wonderful for you.

    • Ah…thanks, Leanne…it is a gorgeous landmark and so very well-kept-up. The owners and staff seem really proud of the building…the staff was kind, and not stuffy and overbearing, as at some pricey hotels!

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