I normally don't have trouble with the cold when it is 24F out, but the 60F degree spells that Chicago has experienced this winter make 24F feel brutal. Nevertheless, I have been cooped up the last week working on condo board business and dealing with annoying people--the two are very much related--so with nice winter light today, nothing was keeping me indoors. I had planned to photograph the lighthouse off Navy Pier, but as often happens, I got distracted. On my way back to swap out cameras, I found myself looking at the Allerton Hotel on Michigan Avenue's Magnificent Mile. I said to myself, "I can do this today." My first attempt was with a 600mm lens, but that was a little too close. So I dropped down to a 210mm lens.
The hotel, which is a 25-story high rise in the Northern Italian Renaissance style, was originally a men's club with hotel facilities when it opened in 1924. It is noted for its set backs, which served as inspiration for many of the other taller buildings subsequently erected throughout the Chicago downtown area. The building's original price tag came in at $4 million. It underwent a $40 million renovation beginning in 1998, which may explain why it sold for $70 million in 2006.
Many have wondered about the Tip-Top-Tap club: "There must be some spectacular views, with a bar that once served Chicago's gangsters.," or so the thinking goes. The club/ballroom closed in 1961, but reopened as an events space/ballroom in 2014. It was not a gangster hangout. There was a bar, where Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, and Lucille Ball were just some of the stars who performed there over the years. It was also one of the Chicago locations for Don McNeil's Breakfast Club , which was a radio show that was syndicated in hundreds of markets around the country. The current owners are just plain dumb in dedicating the space for private events, although those events do draw hotel guests, so maybe they are not so dumb. Nevertheless, the space would undoubtedly become a popular hangout if it were used as a bar and music club. Chicago has so many great jazz singers. It could become the Green Mill south.
In 2014, I had the opportunity to venture up to what was the Tip-Top-Tap room during daylight hours (the Architectural Foundation's annual Open House Chicago). It was somewhat drab, but I think the city lights would make it a magical place once the sun goes down.
The Allerton Hotel poses challenges to photographers. For me, it required a lot of thinking and three attempts this afternoon. I moved my tripod closer on each successive shot. On the first two, the sensor/lens plane was perpendicular to the ground. For my last attempt, when I was standing closest to the building, I did not have sufficient rise and fall movements to capture the top of the building with the poof of steam rising upwards, so I had to tilt the camera. There is a lot of flotsam on Michigan Avenue, including traffic lights and trees, so there are only a few positions on the ground that permit an unobstructed shot.
After I finished my session, I headed over to Big Bowl for some sesame noodles and hot black tea. I needed that tea. Before heading back, I took a quick look at St. James Cathedral, which will probably be my next shoot. I would have tried today, but at this time of year, I think 9AM or 10AM will be the right time to capture a well-lit structure with nice shadows.