The Tivoli Theatre (1928), Downers Grove, Illinois, 2016. The 1,000+-seat movie theater was designed by Van Gurten and Van Gurten architects and opened on Christmas Day, 1928. The theater was the second in the U.S. fitted for sound movies. The first was the 1200-seat Brooklyn Paramount Theater in New York City that opened in November 1928 and closed as a movie palace in the early 1960’s.
Symphony Center, Chicago, 2014.
Miss Dior, Macy’s, State Street, Chicago, 2018.
Chicago Loop Synagogue (1958), 2015.
The Auditorium Theatre (1889), Chicago, December 2017. The 3900-seat theatre was designed by Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan.
Yeti in My Spaghetti (Hey, Get Out of My Bowl!), April 2020.
The Braddock Road, south-central Pennsylvania, March 20, 2010.
The Braddock Road was a military road built in 1755 in what was then British America and is now the United States. It was the first improved road to cross the barrier of the ridge lines of the Appalachians. It was constructed by about 2,500 troops of the Virginia militia and British regulars commanded by General Edward Braddock (1695-1755), part of the expedition to conquer the Ohio Country from the French at the beginning of the French and Indian War (1756-63). George Washington, who was aide-de-camp to Braddock, had pioneered this route a year earlier when he traveled into the Ohio Country and met Native American leader, Tanacharison (1700-1754). The expedition gave Washington his first field military experience as well as other American military officers whose numbers profited from this military outing later during the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783).
Braddock’s men had to cut a road wide enough to accommodate the wagons and draft animals that accompanied them, as well as the siege artillery that they brought along to use against the new Fort Duquesne established by the French in 1754 at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers. Progress was painstakingly slow until Braddock split the force into a lead column of about 1,500 men and the rest as a support column to drag artillery and supplies. The flying column made rapid progress, and with each day, the distance between it and the support column increased. This marker is on the (later) National Pike (Route 40) between Elk Park and Farmington, Pennsylvania.
Cloaked Cats, April 2020.
flexible mannequins (Memorial Day weekend), May 2018.
Restoration, Grand Theater (1925), Wheaton, Illinois, May 2018.
Poetry (CTA Green Line), Oak Park, Illinois, January 2018.
Near Chicago-Kansas City Expressway (Eisenhower), Forest Park, Illinois. July 2016.
SEA OF FLAGS, 2004, 2500 West Division Street, Chicago (Humboldt Park) by Gamaliel Ramirez (b. 1949) with the assistance of community members.
The mural entitled Sea of Flags depicts Fiesta Boricua (De Bandera a Bandera), an annual 3-day music and cultural event in the Humboldt Park neighborhood in Chicago. Attracting tens of thousands of visitors, the fiesta is held starting in late August or early September. In 2018 the Fiesta Boricua celebrated its 25th anniversary and offered 3 stages booked back to back with scores of musical and cultural performers specializing in the pulsating rhythms of Puerto Rican salsa, reggaeton, bomba, plena, and merengue music, and more.
Some of the famous people depicted in the mural Sea of Flags include Puerto Rican nationalist Lolita Lebrón (1919-2010), Nuyorican (“New York City/Puerto Rico”) poet and playwright Pedro Pietri (1944-2004) and, depicted as a bronze statue on the image’s left side, Don Pedro Albizu Campos (1891-1965), the leading figure in the Puerto Rican independence movement.
An abundance of Puerto Rican flags in the mural is intentional by the artist and his assistants. Since Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States in 1898 following the Spanish-American War — and at the same time that Spain ceded the island of Guam and the Philippines — Puerto Rico and the U.S. have had a complicated political relationship that is yet to be completely mutually resolved today.
Gamaliel Ramirez was born in the Bronx in New York in 1949. He spent most of his career in Chicago teaching and as a working artist. After 35 years in Chicago he retired to Santa Rita, San Juan, Puerto Rico. After Hurricane Maria in September 2017, Mr. Ramirez was hospitalized for many months and passed away on May 21, 2018. The artist of this colorful mural has left behind for us a legacy of paintings, other murals, photography and poetry.
These are some of my photographs featuring the people, places, and things I have met along today’s American Midwest roads.
I have a personal affection for the American Midwest. I grew up in Chicago and its suburbs, and went to grade school, high school and university here.
Growing up In the Midwest I had my family, friends, diverse outings, engaging jobs, and, later on, married here. I continue to enthusiastically explore this vast region that’s rightly called “The Heart of America.”
Memories of the Middle West — its sights, sounds, smells, and tastes — and mostly in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan — are the mother’s milk of my life. Through steamy summers, multi-colored autumns, ice-bitten winters, and flowering springs to traverse Midwest roads spell adventure — both then and now.
The American Midwest is filled with human stories and diverse and awesome natural beauty. There is timeless nostalgia, and, when those things don’t entice for the moment, unexpected curiosities.
For those who love it, the Midwestern terrain possesses what Edgar Lee Masters (1868-1950) spoke about in his last major book, The Sangamon, as “magic in that soil, in the plains, the borders of forest, the oak trees on the hills.” The poet was sure that “if you should drive through (this region)…strange dreams would come to you, and moreover those dreams would tally with mine.”
The region continues to offer the sightseer magical things including impressive remnants of an American Indian mound-building culture and encounters with animals and birds, wild and domestic. Edgar Lee Masters understood that it is the Midwestern people – individualistic, hospitable, industrious, good willed, courageous and independent – who bestow to the central part of the country its greatest distinction. It is this populace that, like the past, builds what is frequently photographed on Midwest roads and in its towns and cities: canals, roads, barns and farms, houses. In the 21st century new things of interest can be seen on a Midwest road trip– such as cellphone towers or wind turbines — while older things, like barns, disappear.
Many famous Americans and international figures have traversed the Midwest roads, some perhaps unknown or unexpected–James Monroe (in 1785), Charles Dickens (1842), John Muir (1849), Henry David Thoreau (1861), Antonín Dvořák (1893), Winston Churchill (1946). Others were born or lived here, such as Carl Sandburg, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Edison, Edgar Lee Masters, Walt Disney, Mark Twain, Jane Addams, Harry S Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Barack and Michelle Obama, Frank Lloyd Wright, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., John Wayne, Wyatt Earp, “Wild Bill” Hickok, Jesse James, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Dinah Washington (“Queen of the Blues”), and many more.
It is Abraham Lincoln whose memory is most famously linked to Midwest Roads. Riding his horse, “Old Bob,” Lincoln loved to travel the Eighth Judicial Circuit as a defense lawyer. It is to the sixteenth U.S. president and the Midwestern spirit he manifested that this photographic essay is dedicated.
Man in his garden, DuPage Co., Illinois, July 2018.
Woman in her garden, DuPage Co., Illinois, July 2018.
Bureau Co., Illinois, June 5, 2017.
Crucifix and horizontal-axis wind turbine. Bureau Co., Illinois, 2017.
Wedding party, Waukesha Co., Wisconsin, 2017.
Walworth Co., WI, 2017.
Kirkland (DeKalb Co.), Illinois, 2017.
Northern Illinois, 2017.
Dixon, Illinois, 2017. The Ronald Reagan Trail is a route in Illinois that follows areas and sites of interest associated with the 40th president of The United States. Reagan grew up in Dixon, Illinois. Route 26 originally ran north-south about 25 miles from Freeport, Illinois to Polo, Illinois. In 1937, IL-26 was extended north about 15 miles from Freeport to the Illinois-Wisconsin state line and south about 15 miles from Polo to Dixon, Illinois. In 1969, IL-26 was extended nearly 100 miles south from Dixon to East Peoria, Illinois.
Honor Guard, Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home, Dixon (Lee Co.), Illinois, June 5, 2017.
Cook/DuPage Cos. (Schaumburg), Illinois, March 29, 2016.
LaSalle/Grundy Cos. (Seneca), Illinois, 2016.
Leaf blowers, 2018.
DuPage Co. (Downers Grove), Illinois, 2018.
DuPage Co. (Wheaton), Illinois, 2018.
At about 3,100 miles long, U.S. Route 20 is the longest road in the country. It stretches east to west from Boston, Massachusetts to Newport, Oregon. Its origins began on the east coast in the early to mid-1920’s. Its designation and routing reached Illinois in 1938 and is since unchanged. In 1955 the Illinois General Assembly designated the entire length of U.S. 20 in Illinois the U.S. Grant Memorial Highway. This sign was produced in late 2006.
Lake Geneva (Walworth Co.), Wisconsin, 2017.
Elevation, Des Plaines, Illinois, 2018.
Grotto shrine, Des Plaines, Illinois, 2018.
Winnebago Co. (Rockford), Illinois, 2017.
The Worker, Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Camp Chicago-Lemont, Company 612, Willow Springs, Illinois. Established June 4, 1933.
The CCC was a major part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. The Federal program provided manual labor jobs related to conservation and the development of natural resources on mostly rural lands owned by government entities. The CCC was specifically designed to give jobs to young men so to relieve their families who had difficulty finding jobs during the Great Depression. The CCC was active from April 1933 to July 1942. In those nine years and 3 months the program employed approximately 3 million young men who, with food, clothing and shelter included, earned $30 a month, of which $25 had to be sent home to their families.
Capt. A. Lincoln, Illinois Volunteer Militia, Black Hawk War, 1832, bronze, 1930. Sculpture by Leonard Crunelle (1872-1944) in Dixon, Illinois.
During the 1832 Black Hawk War, 23-year-old Abe Lincoln was a captain in what is today the Illinois National Guard. Lincoln enlisted in the Volunteers on April 21, 1832 near Richland Creek in Sangamon County, about halfway between New Salem and Springfield, Illinois. He was mustered into State service the next day at Beardstown, Illinois, on the Illinois River almost 40 miles to the west and elected captain, a position Lincoln said he was surprised and proud to receive. Illinois and adjoining states at this time were at the edge of the American frontier. Lincoln was mustered into the U.S. service on May 3, 1832 near Janesville, Wisconsin and mustered out on May 27, 1832 as they camped in Ottawa, Wisconsin, without having fired a shot. On that same day, Lincoln re-enlisted as a private in Captain Iles’ company and when that expired re-enlisted again in Captain Early’s company. Lincoln was finally mustered out of military service on July 10, 1832 at Whitewater, Wisconsin. For a time, young Lincoln was stationed at Fort Dixon on the Rock River in Dixon, Illinois where this statue, unveiled in late September 1930, stands. The sculptor is French-born Leonard Crunelle (1872-1944). His immigrant family came to Illinois in 1889 and settled in Decatur. While Crunelle was working in the local mines, he started making fired clay sculptures. His work was brought to the attention of Lorado Taft (1860-1936) who brought the young Crunelle to Chicago to study at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and begin decorative work at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. The bronze sculpture of Lincoln, who later as a lawyer and politician expressed pride in his brief military service, is one of the first attempts to depict the Great Emancipator in his youth.