When I was back in Chicago the other week, staying in Evanston to be nearby relatives, I drove a few times through Glencoe where I grew up. And as I passed the Village of Glencoe sign that welcomes one to town, I noticed that it said -- "Established 1869." Which meant that this year, it's 150 years old. So, I figured that that deserves at least some recognition. It's not a shabby achievement.
I'm not sure of the population, but it's always been around 10,500, so we'll go with that. If you want to see about the town's festivities, you can check it out here. But I'm going to keep this fairly simple and dive in here on my own.
I thought that when a town hits 150 years, especially if you grew up there, it's entitled to fairly good-sized photographic presentation. So here are a dozen or so to help commemorate the occasion. Most of these come from about 40 years back when I wandered around town and took some pictures. To be fair to the town, Glencoe isn't always covered with snow -- it actually can get lush green from the late Spring through the Summer, with brilliant colors in the Fall -- but that's when I chose to walk around and take the photos.
That's the old library on the left, which is probably my favorite building in town, as much for the outside (it just looks like a library is supposed to) as what's inside -- especially the wonderfully magical downstairs shelves that felt like you were in a hidden cloister -- although the train station is a very close second.
Behind the library, this is the town hall, which I always like for its old world, colonial style, though I still think of as one of the more "modern" of the significant buildings since it's only about 60 years old or so.
And this the turn-of-the century train station. A few years ago I rented the movie Flag of Our Fathers, that Clint Eastwood directed, about the six soldiers who raised the flag at Iwo Jima. At one point in the film, the soldiers have returned to the U.S. and go on a cross-country tour to raise money for the war effort and are in Chicago. Eastwood needed a venue that looked out of the 1940s, and when the scene came up I though, "Gee, that looks like the Glencoe station. Afterwards I did some reserach -- and it was..
I've always loved this photo, not so much for the visual imaging of it -- though I do like that -- but almost entirely for the sign with states which is significantly the obvious.
The sign and its helpful notification aside, here's a better look at Lake Michigan, and the lovely shores of the Glencoe public beach. Fun fact: it's more sandy in the Summer.
Okay, just one more, because this is one of my handful of all-time favorite pictures I've taken. Although the beach was closed, you'll note that the gate still has an opening, so I headed down to the shore of Lake Michigan. And some of the ice formations were magnificent. But this one stood out.
In fairness, no, the snow wasn't this high, nor were the drifts. From the plows clearing the streets downtown, this was the result. By the way, Weinecke's was a beloved hardware store, in town for probably half a century. The building is still there and -- as a landmark and to keep the tradition, so is the sign -- but it's now a high-end restaurant.
(This was taken during the early afternoon, but the glare off the snow was SO bright that the camera auto-compensated and made it look darker...)
That was then, this is now. This is Weinecke's today -- now the Guildhall restaurant. And no, this is not one of my photographs.
Here's a much better, full view of my fave, the venerable old Glencoe Public Library. Since the vegetation is lush and green, that's the first hint I didn't take the photo.
I've written often here about the acclaimed Writers Theatre in Glencoe, which began life in the back of the bookstore, Books on Vernon, just down the street from Weinicke's, with about 50 seats -- but still got critics from the Chicago Tribune and the Sun-Times to review of their productions, and even on occasion the New York Times. It then moved to the far-more special Women's Club a few blocks away, which had a theater space designed for about 120 seats. (This is where I saw the Harnick and Bock musical She Loves Me I've written about here often that I set up to attend along with Harnick and my aunt, who was his childhood friend and Northwestern classmate, and which starred Jessie Mueller before she went to Broadway and won a Tony Award as Best Actresses.) A few years back the Wall Street Journal (which has sent critics to review plays here) named it the top regional theater in the country. The company built up such a following that a few years ago, they did a major fundraising project and built a new, major structure on the spot.
Grand as it is, they still kept the theaters intimate. The main stage still only seats around 125 people, and the small stage holds only about 70. It's further designed so that hey can also convert the lobby into a theater if needed. Side note: last year I saw the world premiere of an interesting little play called Witch on the small stage, and in a few months the excellent Geffen Theatre in Los Angeles is presenting the play. When some friends who attend a lot of the Geffen productions asked if I was thinking of going to see the play, I was able to tell them I already had... And said it was quite good.
This is how far it's come from the back of a book store in a little over 25 years. For the record, their photographer makes it look far better than I ever could.
Happily, I do have a few photos that I took during the summertime, so I think I should include at least one that shows how lush the forest is in Glencoe, as opposed to all the snow scenes. This is the Turnbull Woods, part of the Cook County Forest Preserves, which I could reach a very short walk from our house, and where sat the Double Killer Cave my friend and I named and explored as kids.
I've written occasionally of the spectacular Chicago Botanic Garden, which I call the Disneyland of botanic gardens because it's set up into different "lands" and is so expansive that it has trolley tours and a miniature children's train set-up during the Summer. But though it has "Chicago" in its name, it's actually located in Glencoe. No single picture can do its magnificence justice, but here are two that I took that gives at least a hint of an idea.
And what the heck, we'll end on a picture of the homestead where I grew up. That was my brother and my room on the left until we got old enough that he got his own room in the back, and I kept this one.
In many ways, this also served as Elisberg Stadium. My brother and I played what we called "Fastball Tennis Ball in the driveway against the garage (our version of two-man baseball). There was a basketball hoop on the garage rather than a standalone backboard -- this was fine, with one caveat: many of the houses in the neighborhood like ours were designed by the Keck firm, who were disciples of Frank Lloyd Wright (who designed some houses in Glencoe. That meant that the rooftops were flat -- so if a shot went way-wild and landed on the roof, it didn't roll off. You had to get the ladder to climb up. However, this help train you to take as good shots as possible and not just fling the ball up in hopeful prayer. Finally, the front yard served as our football field -- though the tree in the center of the yard made it a wee bit of an obstacle, however if you built it into your strategy it worked well as a high-end blocker.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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