Randolph St. in December

Randolph Street at night in December
Canon PowerShot S95
2017

A couple weeks before Christmas, Margaret and I had another Chicago getaway weekend. These weekends away are good for our spirits. We stayed in a boutique hotel on Randolph Street, four blocks from the former Marshall Field’s department store and two from the annual Christkindlmarkt. It was a perfect location.

We saw the Nutcracker, put on by the Joffrey Ballet. Walking back to our hotel after the show, when we finally reached Randolph Street and Daley Plaza we were greeted by the trees all lit.

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Photography

single frame: Randolph Street at night in December

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Wabash Ave

On Wabash Avenue
Pentax K10D
28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M
2017

I love the Chicago streets where the El runs overhead. This is Wabash Ave. at Monroe St. looking north. The Carson Pirie Scott building is on the left.

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Photography

single frame: On Wabash Avenue

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Looking up in Chicago

Looking up in Chicago
Pentax K10D
28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M
2017

Margaret and I took a much-needed break and drove up to Chicago for the weekend. We rented a very nice hotel room in the theater district, saw Les Misérables, and drank cocktails all day.

This gray, rainy weekend we got caught in a downpour. Though we wore raincoats, our jeans were soaked. So we walked into Old Navy and bought dry clothes. And then we got caught in another downpour and our new jeans were soaked, too.

Even though my Pentax K10D is water sealed, I was glad I kept it under my raincoat. That was a lot of rain.

 

Photography

single frame: Looking up in Chicago

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Old US 50 in Illinois

Abandoned US 50 in Illinois
Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom
2009

A long section of US 50 stands abandoned to the current US 50 alignment in central Illinois. The state planned at one time to build a four-lane US 50 here, but the plans were scuttled after the new lanes were built. So they just routed the whole road along the new lanes and left the old ones behind.

Photography, Road Trips

Photo: Abandoned US 50 in Illinois

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History, Road Trips

Driving the narrow concrete road

On my Illinois National Road trip this year, I found a nine-foot-wide section of the old road near Martinsville. I estimated that it had been built between 1909 and 1916.

9-foot-wide concrete road

My research found that Illinois built other one-lane concrete highways, but I had no idea where. Another roadfan, a fellow named Rich Dinkela, found one: Old State Route 127 near Greenville. He made an extensive video in which he drives as much of it as he can. The video also shows a few abandoned bridges and a short brick (he calls it cobblestone) section. He begins to drive the narrow concrete at about eight minutes in.

If you’re wondering how this old concrete has survived in such good shape for so long, consider that 10 to 15 years after it was poured, the highway was rebuilt along a less curvy alignment. This old road has gotten only light duty for 90 years.

I’d love to drive the old concrete myself sometime. Greenville is about three hours from my home, making this a potential day trip.

Rich primarily covers Route 66’s old alignments. He shares dozens of videos from the mother road on the rest of his YouTube channel.

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Road Trips

The end of the National Road

The plan was to build the National Road all the way to the Mississippi River at St. Louis. Unfortunately, money ran out about 70 miles to the east at Vandalia, Illinois, and that was that. I don’t know where construction stopped in Vandalia, but for me the National Road experience ends at the old Illinois statehouse. If the National Road didn’t actually pass by here, it would have if it had kept going west.

Illinois Statehouse at Vandalia

Founded in 1819, Vandalia served as the Illinois capital starting in 1820. This building served as statehouse only briefly. None other than Abraham Lincoln, then serving in the state legislature, led a caucus to move the state capital up to Springfield. The existing capitol building wasn’t well loved, so during the legislature’s recess in 1836, it was torn down and this one was built hurriedly on the same spot. It was hoped that the legislature would enjoy the new building so much they wouldn’t relocate the capital. Alas, Springfield became the new capital in 1837.

Fast forward to 1912. An early coast-to-coast auto trail known as the National Old Trails Road was routed mostly along the National Road in its six states. In 1928, the Daughters of the American Revolution placed Madonna of the Trail statues on the route in each of the National Old Trails Road’s 12 states, honoring the pioneer mothers who helped expand the United States westward. Vandalia got the Illinois Madonna, and it stands on a corner of the statehouse grounds.

Madonna of the Trail

The statue looks to have had some restoration since I last visited it, in 2007, as it is much browner now. See some of the other Madonnas of the Trail along the National Road here.

Madonna of the Trail

We were fortunate to have arrived at the old statehouse an hour before tours ended for the day. This is the main east-west hallway on the first floor.

Illinois Statehouse at Vandalia

The legislature and the Supreme Court operated from this building. Here’s the Supreme Court bench, or at least a reasonable stand-in for it, as much of the original furniture was lost.

Illinois Statehouse at Vandalia

My notes are poor, but I’m pretty sure that this is the House chamber and the next photo is the Senate chamber. There’s a chance it could be the other way around, though.

Illinois Statehouse at Vandalia

The light in this room was challenging. I shared a photo of the entire room in this post.

Illinois Statehouse at Vandalia

Vandalians were pretty unhappy with young Mr. Lincoln for his role in moving the capital up to Springfield. But at some point they got over it, because they placed a statue of him across the street. It makes for a good photo, one in which you can almost imagine him pausing for a short rest before going in to do the state’s business.

Young Lincoln before the Illinois statehouse at Vandalia

Thanks for riding along on my Illinois National Road trip. I’ve written about the National Road extensively over the years. See everything I’ve written here.

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