#765: Graves of Michigan Avenue

March 17th, 2017

I don’t think the Fine Arts Building intended to house a company that hosts corporate team-building retreats where you escape from a room full of zombies.

But it does.

I don’t think the Chicago Musical College intended to become the home of a college bookstore with windows stacked with alumni hoodies, Harry Potter play scripts and zen-themed coloring books for adults.

But it has.

The stone facades of Michigan Avenue seem like tombstones on a wet, gray morning. A mile of granite slabs declare “I was here!” “I mattered!” “I was!” as car tires squeal on wet pavement and a man with glassy eyes shakes a paper coffee cup of change.

To the other side, a park. Mud and brown, dead grass still flocked with the remains of a late winter snow. A Metra stop cleverly decked like a Parisian Metro station. A statue of a Native American warrior in a flowing feathered headdress, meant at the time as a tribute, but looking pretty racist in 2017.

The grim, gray scene warmed me. I trod smiling to the 1920s luxury hotel where I’m attending a conference on cloud-based technological solutions for 21st-century legal practices.

I smiled because we’re dancing among graves.

The hotel in 1927 never intended for technology conferences, nor did Florenz Ziegfield Sr. in 1908 intend his musical college to become a spare Columbia building. The Studebaker corporation never meant its Michigan Avenue offices to become lofts, offices and a zombie escape back in 1885.

But all these buildings did become those things and a hundred things before and a thousand things after. This buildings are graves of the past, of the dreams of Follies founder Flo’s father and of defunct wagonmakers turned defunct maker of roadsters and sedans.

We filled these buildings with life, with people, with excited college kids getting their first education-appropriate hoodie and work associates collaborating on puzzles faster and faster because — holy crap the undead!

We could have torn down these buildings. We could have discarded this history. We could have build gleaming glass towers on Michigan Ave. and, yeah, a few have started to peek in.

For the moment, at least, past and present collude on snowmelt wet streets. It seems natural and right that the modern world looks so much like the old one.

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You are currently reading #765: Graves of Michigan Avenue by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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