Friday, July 25, 2003

Rockefeller blog.

Ann is teething, and had a runny nose last night, so I was up for the sunrise this morning, noticing that it's later than a few weeks ago. Sunset is a little earlier too. Daylight is being chipped away from either end now. Only a little, and we still have the red burning days of August ahead, but still we're at the top of the slide that takes us into the pit of winter.

You know the old Chinese proverb. Even a journey of 1,000 leagues begins by backing out of the driveway.

Used my summer Friday hours today to spend a little time in Hyde Park. Unlike Oak Park (see the July 21 blog), which is a municipality independent of Chicago, Hyde Park is a neighborhood on the South Side of the city, and has been since a vote in the summer of 1889 by residents of 125 square miles ringing the south, west and north of the city of Chicago as it existed then. At that time, a bare majority within that zone voted to join the city, quadrupling its size and almost giving it its modern borders.

Hyde Park was part of that annexation. It's the home of the University of Chicago, established by old John D. Rockefeller himself in 1890. It's also adjacent to the site of the Columbian Exposition in 1893, which is now Jackson Park. Hyde Park is a storied place.

I hadn't been there in some years. In the normal course of my life, it isn't on the way anywhere, and I don't know anyone who lives there. Back in the late '80s, I used to go more often, particularly to one of my favorite bookstores anywhere, the Seminary Co-op. It's in a basement, and the book shelves are floor to ceiling. Then you notice that passageways branch off from the main room; and passageways branch off from there. All books everywhere. Every subject imaginable, and then some.

Didn't go there today. Can't be buying books two weeks ahead of The Move. I went to the Smart Museum; more on that some other time, but you have to like that name. I walked by the Robie House, a creation of Frank Lloyd Wright. Him again. One of these days, I will take the tour, but not today.

What I marveled at today was the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. Amazingly, I'd never been inside, and I almost didn't make it today, arriving about 15 minutes before closing. You read the word chapel and you think Little Chapel in the Woods, a wedding chapel, that sort of thing. Smallish.

John Rockefeller thought big. The structure is huge. A big Gothic thing. I knew that, of course, having passed by it a number of times over the years, but it hit home when I wandered inside. I was the only one there. The glass is mostly clear, so the angled summer sun lighted the place. Several doors were open, so there was a breeze -- unusual in such a large church. For large it was, as large as many cathedrals I've seen.

From the chapel's Web site: "Rockefeller Memorial Chapel is the chapel for the University of Chicago. Built between 1925 and 1928, this Gothic structure is named for the University's Baptist founder, John D. Rockefeller. The Chapel was designed, at Rockefeller's request, to be the 'central and dominant feature' of the campus, in accordance with his confidence in the integration of faith and learning."

Or the integration of himself and that eye of the needle. He was quoted as saying that "God gave me my money." Maybe he was trying to show some appreciation in paying for this building.


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