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According to Ms. Dechter, at the end of last year, Whispers Café's contract with the Chicago Park District expired. For 13 years, Whispers provided Mariano Park with tables, chairs and benches, washed the park daily, and steam-cleaned it bi-weekly. The Café won awards for its maintenance and gardens.
Well, we don't need those kind of people, do we? Dechter says the Park District is looking to ramp up the monetizing of Mariano Park, with previous rumored suitors including Gibson's Steak House and Connies Pizza, with indications a new deal might include demolishing the park's pavilion for a much larger, more lucrative building. The Chicago Park District has issued a "Concession Opportunity Notice of Availability", with bids due by February 20th, and will be holding a Prebid meeting for potential new vendors this Wednesday at 1:00 p.m.
|Connors Park - before
|Connors Park - after
Proving that the gratuitous use of all-caps didn't start with email, the Tribune wrote at the time that "The idea of utilizing as sites for statues, fountains, and other monuments the small, triangular spaces which abound in Chicago at the intersections of diagonal streets was suggested in THE SUNDAY TRIBUNE fully two years ago." The paper reported that three prizes had been awarded, but by general consensus, the best design was one eliminated from consideration because the judges determined it couldn't be built for the $1,000 at hand.
Birch Burdette Long. Born in Columbia City Indiana, Long is almost completely forgotten today, but he was one of Frank Lloyd Wright's original employees. Along with Marion Mahony - Wright's first hire - they are said to have largely created the Japanese-influenced style of architectural delineation that would help make Wright famous through the world.
Long became highly respected for the quality of his renderings, which included a handsome competition concept for a new crossing for the Illinois Central tracks at the Midway Plaisance. Eventually, he moved east, spending many years working for the Architectural League of New York. In 1922, he established the Birch Burdette Long Sketch Competition. It became Long's memorial after he died of pneumonia while mounting an exhibition for the Architectural League in 1927. The juried prize was awarded annually until 1972, when it was discontinued "for lack of interest in architectural illustration."
. . . even more outre than Wright's work: the columns were striped red and white, like candy poles; the roof was a combination of Japanese and "Chicagoese" architecture, and when it was finally built in a rather prominent location, nobody knew what to to make of it - in consequence nobody liked it much. The papers had letters about it, even editorials regarding the disfigurement of public property, and yet from the photographs of the structure which the writer has seen, it seems to have been a very charming and appropriate little building, not easily to be classified under one of the architectural schools, perhaps, but filled with a playful charm and gaiety of composition which may be singularly appropriate to its position and its purpose.An unnamed spokesperson for the Women's Club said Long's concept was selected "because it seemed best suited to the conditions, and was distinctly original and not merely a conventionalizing of some old-world model" While a fountain was included in Long's design, the one at the park now dates only from 1998.
Yes, the city needs revenue. Yes, the people need more high-end tea, and coffee, and gelato. (They seem to have become a lingua franca of urban revival.) Just not so much as we still need continuity and connections to Chicago's history. Just not so much as we need, more than ever, places where human scale still endures amidst the booming and often depersonalized hyper-density rising around them. Places like the small oasis of open urban space that is Mariano Park, centered in time and scale by Birch Burdette Long's quirky, gracious pavilion.
Destroying a Park to Save It: The Tea House that Ate Connors Park
Privatizing Chicago's Orphan Public Spaces