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The City Of Green Shoulders April 1, 2008

Posted by glabwrites in 1968 Democratic National Convention, Ben Joravsky, Big Mike, Chicago Reader, Chicago Sun-Times, City of Chicago, Earth Hour, Green Roofs, Michael G. Glab, Richard J. Daley, Richard M. Daley, The Bright One, Vanity Fair.
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~ Richard J. Daley of Chicago (above); the chip off the old block (below, right) expressing himself at the 1968 Democratic National Convention

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How about a round of applause for my home town, Chicago? The Windy City skyline went noticeably dark Saturday evening during Earth Hour. Neither New York nor Los Angeles could say the same.

Thumb through the photo gallery on the Earth Hour link for terrific pix of the lights going out in the spectacular skyline .

Say what you will about the sins of Mayor Richard M. Daley (and my good pal Ben Joravsky will oblige each week in the Chicago Reader,) he has been a champion for environmentalism. The Windy City has more green roofs than any other metropolis in the nation. Daley insisted that City Hall (the actual structure) lead the way in that effort.

Little Richie even had his portrait taken for Vanity Fair‘s inaugural green issue (May 2006) along with several other like-minded metro chief executives. It was implied that Daley leads the way among big-city mayors in terms of the environment.

During my years in the tourism industry in Chicago, the most common comment visitors would make was that the city was the cleanest they’d ever seen.

Richie Daley has made it a top priority to clean Chicago’s streets and sidewalks of litter as well as ensuring its air and water are something less than toxic.

As a teenager making my first forays into the Loop, I’d stroll down the LaSalle Street canyon, craning my neck and gawking at all the skyscrapers like a rube from Lebanon, Kentucky. The venerable Northern Trust Bank building always caught my eye because it was clad in black stone.

I’d wonder why its designers chose black stone. I also tried to guess what that stone might be. Slate? Some exotic mineral I’d never heard of?

One day, workers began to erect scaffolding around the building. A few days later, I read in The Bright One that the Northern Trust was preparing to scrub some eight decades of soot and grime off the facade of its then-headquarters. The job took a long time. To the best of my recollection, it lasted throughout the spring and summer.

When the scrubbing was finished, I was amazed. The stone on the Northern Trust building wasn’t black at all. In fact, its external cladding was pink-flecked granite.

Since the place had been built in 1905 until the last couple of decades of the 20th Century, the Northern Trust’s facade had been turned ebony by the smoke from thousands of soft-coal burning downtown furnaces as well as the belching exhaust of countless lead-gas burning cars.

That revelation was key in the development of my environmental awareness.

I wonder if Richie Daley noticed the same thing when he passed the old Northern Trust Building back in the 1980s.

Next time,

Big Mike

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