Come on and join author Melissa Bradley as she sets off on her latest adventure...


If you are not 18, please exit stage left. While there is normally nothing naughty here, I do write and review erotica so there are links to spicy stuff and the occasional heated excerpt.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Chicago from A to Z...K is for Kenwood...L is for Lincoln Park Zoo

Good afternoon!! I know I'm getting a terribly late start, but things got in my way. I hate real life sometimes. Anyway, for the Big A To Z today I'm taking you to the famous Kenwood neighborhood on the near South Side, then up north to one of my favorite places, the Lincoln Park Zoo.
Blackstone Library Wikimedia

K Is For Kenwood

Located on the near South Side, Kenwood lies just north of Hyde Park and the University of Chicago along the Lakefront to the east and Cottage Grove Avenue to the west. It was settled in the 1850's by wealthy Chicagoans looking to escape the congestion of the ever growing city. The area is named after John A. Kennicott, the first resident who named his home Kenwood after his family's ancestral estate in Scotland. Kenwood is the neighborhood that President Barack Obama calls home and it has indeed had many famous residents including actor Mandy Patinkin, Muhammad Ali, Julius Rosenwald of Sears, Roebuck and Company and Bill Veeck, former owner of the Chicago White Sox. There have also been some infamous residents. Murderers Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb were from Kenwood as well as their unfortunate victim, Bobby Franks.

The neighborhood has many unique features including an area known as the Indian Village. Here all the buildings are named in honor of the local tribes that once populated this area. The Powhatan Apartments have the only 24 hour elevator operator position in the city. Another landmark, the Blackstone Library was opened in 1902, making it one of the oldest branches in the Chicago Public Library system. It is a beautiful neighborhood with some fascinating walks, if you come visit, I'll take you for a stroll, then take you to Medici's for pizza.
Entry to Lincoln Park Zoo Wikimedia (BTW those birds are sculptures)

L Is For Lincoln Park Zoo

Ah the Lincoln Park Zoo...Here is one of my absolute favorite places in the city. It opened in 1868, making it one of the oldest zoos in the United States as well as one of the largest free zoos in the world. The first animals in the zoo were a pair of swans from the Central Park Zoo and a bear from the Philadelphia Zoo. It now houses over 1100 animals, including Keo, the oldest male chimpanzee in North America. There is also a large burr oak tree here that dates from about 1830, seven years before Chicago was incorporated.

Marlin Perkins, of Wild Kingdom fame, served as the zoo's director from 1944 to 1962 and helped create the Lincoln Park Zoological Society, a citizens group that fundraises and supports the zoo's operations. My favorite place inside the zoo are the penguins and polar bears as well as the Nature Walk along the South Pond. It is a stunning place to have fun and enjoy a great summer day. You can also enjoy the place in winter with Zoo Lights and caroling to the animals.

Ready to see Kenwood? Take a stroll at the Lincoln Park Zoo? I hope so. Happy A to Zing and thank you for stopping by. Please visit my fellow challengers by clicking at the top left or here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Chicago from A to Z...I is for Ida B. Wells...J is for the Jewelers Building

Happy Hump Day!! I can't believe it is Wednesday already. Today I'm here with another Daily Double as I attempt to get myself back on track in the Big A To Z. I'm going to delve a bit more into Chicago history as I give you my selections for I and J. Ida B. Wells is one of my favorite women in history and one of Chicago's finest. The Jewelers Building is a terrific place with an intriguing past.
Ida B. Wells Wikimedia

I Is For Ida B. Wells

Ida is one hell of a woman and a true badass to me. She was a journalist, a suffragette, a sociologist and an early leader in the Civil Rights Movement. Born in Holly Springs, MS to enslaved parents, Ida adored her father James, who after the Emancipation Proclamation, worked tirelessly for the advancement of black people. When her parents and youngest brother died during a yellow fever epidemic, 16 year Ida became a teacher so that she could keep her remaining five siblings with her.

Spurred by the inequality in salary between white and black teachers, Ida moved to Memphis, TN where she attended Fisk College during her summer breaks and became more active politically. She co-owned the anti-segregationist paper Free Speech and Headlight where she wrote articles and edited the paper's content. In 1892, three of Ida's friends were lynched. Their murders prompted her to investigate lynchings across the South and she wrote a pamphlet entitled "Southern Horrors: Lynch Laws In All Its Phases." Threatened, Ida bought a pistol and used her journalistic abilities to encourage blacks to leave Memphis.

Ida moved to Chicago and helped to organize a boycott of the World's Fair. She started working for the Chicago Conservator, the oldest black run paper in the city. During this time she met and married the paper's owner, Ferdinand Barnett. Ida became one of the first women to keep her own name in addition to taking her husband's. Her passion for women's issues led her to found the National Association of Colored women as well as the National Afro-American Council. She also helped to found the NAACP. Her work in Chicago for urban reform, suffrage and civil rights continued until her death.
Jewelers Building Wikimedia

J Is For The Jewelers Building

35 East E. Wacker aka The Jewelers Building is a Chicago historic landmark. Featured in the 2005 film Batman Begins and as the scene of a huge battle between Decepticons and Autobots in 2011's Transformers: Dark of the Moon, this building has seen a lot since its construction in 1927. The first 23 floors featured a car lift  and parking so the jewelers could come and go in safety.

There have been many famous tenants, including Mercury Records, which occupied several floors from 1953 to 1973. The most infamous would be Al Capone, who had a speakeasy in the dome at the very top. This same place then served as the showroom for architect Helmut Jahn. There is a current reconfiguration of the interior going on which sadly has removed many of the cool features like the car lift, but progress will out.

I hope you found Ida as cool I did. We can visit her house if you come to Chitown and we'll also take a spin by the Jeweler's Building. Thank you so much for stopping by. Happy A to Z, please visit my fellow challengers by clicking at the top right or here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Chicago from A to Z...The Daily Double G is for Garfield Park, H is for Hull House

I'm so sorry I was gone and not doing my part  for the Big A To Z, but real life got in the way. I even had a new lawn ornament forcibly installed when a woman crashed her car in front of my house. Thankfully the little baby in the other car was completely. The woman was clearly under the influence of something. I am soldiering forward and will try to catch up. Today I'm giving you a daily double of two of my fave spots in Chitown, Garfield Park and Hull House.

The Golden Domed Fieldhouse Wikimedia
G Is For Garfield Park

Garfield Park sits on the West Side and first opened in 1874 as Central Park. It was the centerpiece of the west park system, which includes Humboldt Park and Douglas Park,  and renamed in 1881 after slain President James A Garfield. Designed by William LeBaron Jenney, the park is home to the Garfield Park Conservatory, one of the largest and most impressive conservatories in the Untied States. The conservatory encompasses 4.5 acres of the park's 184 and houses thousands of varieties of plants, some nearly 200 years old. 
Gardens with Conservatory in background Wikimedia

The park is famous for its Golden Dome Fieldhouse, its lagoon system, its band shell and its extensive gardens. It is truly one of the most beautiful spots in all of Chicago and a favorite with locals. Not so much tourists as they are more easily ensnared by Lincoln Park because of its easy access from downtown and the zoo. However, Garfield has its very own stop on the Green Line, so ease of access is plentiful. Garfield Park also contains an Olympic sized gymnasium, tennis courts, pool, soccer fields, baseball diamonds, a boxing ring and a theater. So come with me to this wonderful piece of landscape art, we'll have a great time.

H Is For Hull House
Hull House Wikimedia

Hull House was opened by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates in 1889 as a settlement house for newly arrived immigrants. Here they learned English, job skills, received aid in finding housing, schools for their kids and also received free lectures on current events, concerts and art exhibits. It was also a way for women to start seeking independent means of support as they received a full education here from the volunteers who were university students and teachers, all women like themselves at one time. 

The mansion itself was the starting point for a whole movement that eventually grew to encompass some 13 buildings and a summer camp with the addition of the Bowen Country Club in 1912. It became the standard bearer for some 500 settlement houses founded nation wide. When the Nation Historic Preservation Act went into effect in 1966, Hull House was among the the first to be placed on the list. It was built in 1856 by real estate magnate Charles Hull and his niece Helen Culver donated the building to Jane. Hull House and the surrounding complex were purchased in 1963 for the University of Illinois at Chicago. All the buildings, but Hull House were razed. The Hull House Association continued operations in various other Chicago locations until 2012 when it closed its doors forever. Today there is a museum inside Hull House and due to some "woman in white" stories, it does rate a stop on local ghost tours.  

Thinking about taking a stroll through Garfield Park? Want to see the place responsible for helping millions of immigrants and poor people? Come on to Chicago and I'll also buy the beer. Have fun visiting my fellow incredible challengers by clicking on the top left or here

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Chicago From A To Z...E and F, a Twofer

Sorry about the mini break in posts, I had a busy weekend. But, I'm catching myself up with a twofer today for the Big A To Z.

Ness in Chicago
E Is For Eliot Ness

One of Chitown's most famous is the head honcho Untouchable himself, Eliot Ness. There is a lot known about him, so I'll try and fill in some lesser known details. Ness was born in the Roseland neighborhood here on the South Side to Norwegian immigrants in 1903. After high school he went on to the University of Chicago where he obtained a degree in Economics. He began his career investigating backgrounds for credit checks with the Retail Credit Company of Atlanta known today as Equifax. Spooky how long they've been around.

Eliot's brother-in-law, an FBI agent, got him interested in law enforcement and Ness returned to the U of C to obtain a Masters in criminology. He started with the Department of the Treasury in 1927 as part of the Bureau of Prohibition in Chicago. President Hoover ordered the Department to focus solely on Al Capone and so began Ness' battle with Scarface. During his raids and investigations there were several assassination attempts on Ness resulting in the murder of one of his closest friends. After the events in Chicago, Ness was promoted to Chief Investigator for the Chicago office of the Bureau of Prohibition and later for the Ohio region. Once the Volstead Act was repealed, Ness became part of the ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms). He transferred to Cleveland, where he was hired as the City's Safety Director and promptly went after organized crime. His work led to heavy drinking, two divorces and finally being forced into the private sector as his failures mounted. He did various odd jobs to keep afloat, worked at a security company and finally found footing at Guaranty Paper.  He died young at 54 after collaborating on Oscar Fraley's novel, The Untouchables.

F Is For The Hotel Florence
Hotel Florence in winter

Standing proud on the corner of 111th and Forrestville in the far South Side neighborhood of Pullman is the Florence Hotel. Built by the inventor of the Pullman sleeper car, George Pullman, the Florence was his home away from home. Named after his oldest daughter, Florence, the 50 room hotel opened on November 1, 1881. It offered first class luxurious accommodations for the railroad magnates and other robber barons who came to do business with Pullman. It was the crown jewel of Pullman's industrial town along the shores of Lake Calumet. Pullman's workers were banned from the hotel, as was the consumption of alcohol. The Florence had the only bar in town, of course. Business tycoons needed their whiskey,though.

In 1889 Pullman's little kingdom was annexed by the City of Chicago and ol' Georgie saw his rules and regulations all disappear in favor of City ordinances and taxes. Booze for everybody! Pullman's dreams took a further blow in 1894 with the Railroad Strike led by Eugene Debs. The sleeper car inventor died in 1897 and his successor built on to the Florence, making it a hot destination for visitors to Chicago. With the decline of rail travel, the hotel fell into disrepair, but was purchased in 1975 to save it from demolition. In 1991, the hotel was restored by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and now operates tours and holds a champagne brunch on the weekends. I myself, have been there several times and it is beautiful and the food is top notch, including nearly all the same menu items offered in its heyday.

Fun trivia about the hotel. The 2002 film, Road To Perdition was filmed in part at the Florence, as Daniel Craig's character kept a room there. They were allowed unprecedented access to the hotel for filming.

Care for some champagne and brunch at the Hotel Florence? I'd be more than happy to take you. Were you surprised at all by Ness? Have fun visiting the rest of my fellow amazing challengers by clicking on the link at the top right or here.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Chicago from A to Z... D is for Du Sable

Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable
It's D Day for the big A to Z and I'm introducing you all to a Chicago first. Jean Baptiste Pointe Du Sable, a Haitian born Frenchman is Chicago's very first non Native American resident. Moving from Indiana territory in 1784, Du Sable settled on land at the mouth of the Chicago River on what is today known as Pioneer Court. He left his home in Indiana because he had been imprisoned by British troops there, accused of being an American rebel sympathizer during the Revolution. I'd have moved, too.

Not much is known about DuSable's early life. There are many stories out there, including one that has him being the son of a pirate and a freed slave. Others have him traveling here from Louisiana, some from further east. The only thing agreed upon is that he was of African descent.

There is documented proof that he operated a trading post here and was a successful businessman. Surviving documents such as explorers' journals, bills of lading, etc. all reference dealings with DuSable. He was considered invaluable when dealing with the Pottowattamies here. When he sold his property in 1800 to a man named Jean La Lime, the deed included a house, two barns, a mill, a poultry house, a dairy and smokehouse. He then moved to St. Charles, Missouri where he died in 1818.

For a long time, Chicago's leaders refused to acknowledge DuSable as the first resident, instead preferring to honor white men only like John Kinzie and considered the 1803 Fort Dearborn as the first permanent residency in the city. However, during the 1933-34 Century of Progress World's Fair, a replica of DuSable's homestead was created and acknowledged as "one of the first residents." That same year (1934) DuSable High School opened in the Bronzeville neighborhood. In 1965 Pioneer Court opened on the site of DuSable's homestead and became a National Historic Landmark in 1976. A bronze bust of DuSable was installed in 2009 and the Michigan Avenue Bridge has been renamed the DuSable Bridge. He also has a museum that bears his name as the DuSable Museum of African American History opened in 1968.

What do you think of ol Jean Baptiste? Interesting the number of people in history not often acknowledged because they didn't fit a certain mold or idea.

Happy A To Z and thanks for visiting. Please visit my incredible fellow challengers by clicking the image at the top right or here.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Chicago from A to Z...C is for Columbian Exposition of 1893

Grand Entrance to the White City
We are on the third day of A To Z and things are rolling right along. Today I'm taking a trip back to one of Chicago's defining moments, the great Columbian Exposition of 1893. In order to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus' voyage and to promote Chicago as officially back on track after the Great Fire of 1871, the city vied for the new World's Fair. They had beat out New York, Washington D.C.and St. Louis for this honor.

The fairgrounds were located on 630 acres in Jackson Park, Hyde Park, South Shore and Woodlawn neighborhoods. Famed Central Park designer Frederick Law Olmsted designed the layout of the grounds and the lagoon system while renowned architect Daniel Burnham supervised the overall design of the buildings which were designed to look like a white marble, neo-classical city, hence its nickname, The White City.

Ferris Wheel and Midway
There were many precedents set at this exposition. It was at that time the largest fair event in the world, drawing over 27 million visitors in its 6 month run. An astounding 46 nations sent delegations and cultural exhibits. The Columbian Exposition was the first event of its kind to feature a building designed by a woman and one that was dedicated to women and their accomplishments. The Women's Building was designed by Sophia Hayden, the first female graduate of MIT's architecture program. The fair also featured the very first Ferris Wheel. Located right on the Midway, the ride was some 264 ft. tall and had 36 cars that accommodated 60 riders each. New snacks and candies were also featured. F.W. Reuckheim introduced his popcorn nut confection, Cracker Jack, while Wrigley unveiled its Juicy Fruit gum. Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, a Midwest staple, also made its debut.

The fair also contained many scandalous events. On the Midway,  a popular dancer known as Little Egypt, introduced America to the seductive charms of the belly dance. And serial killer H.H. Holmes began his murder spree. On October 30, 1893 the fair ended its run and many of the beautiful buildings and lagoons were left to ruin. some of the remnants of the White City survive, including the former Liberal Arts Building which is now the Museum of Science and Industry. It's still there in its original location on 57th Street with a reflecting pool and lagoon system behind it that were part of the great exposition. the Japanese garden, a gift from Japan, also remains on the wooded isle that was created for the fair. Statues like the great golden Columbia that greeted guests are found  in various areas throughout the city. Columbia is actually near her original spot on what is now Hayes Drive at the southern edge of Jackson Park.

What do you think? Would like to tour the city to find more cool things from the Columbian Exposition? Surprised by the firsts? Happy A To Z ing and thanks for stopping by. Click on the badge at the top right or here to visit my fellow Challengers.

Museum of Science and Industry frmly Fine Arts Building

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A To Z Chicago...B is for Biograph Theater and IWSG

The Biograph today
Day 2 of the Big A to Z and I'm kicking it old school gangster style with a visit to the infamous Biograph Theater on :Lincoln Avenue. It opened in 1914 and remained a movie house until 2001. Now it houses the Victory Gardens Theater Group and is the site of live performances. In May of 1984 it was added to the National Registry of Historic Places and became an official Chicago landmark on March 28, 2001.

The Biograph attained notoriety in gangland history when on July 22, 1934 Public Enemy Number One, bank robber, John Dillinger, attended a performance of Manhattan Melodrama with the Lady in Red, Anna Sage. He was gunned down outside by FBI agents led by Melvin Purvis. In 2008, while filming the movie Public Enemies, the theater and all the immediate surrounding businesses were redressed to look as they did on that night. I was fortunate enough to be able to see movies in the Biograph before it was closed in 2001 and subsequently renovated for live theater. It was a treat and a thrill sitting right near where Dillinger watched his last film. They say his spirit even checks out some of the current productions as the Biograph is on many a Chicago ghost tour.
The Biograph the night Dillinger was shot

Come on to Chitown and I'll take you here as well as some other infamous gangland sites. Happy A to Z ing with my fellow awesome challengers. Click on the image at the top right or here to visit them.

It's also time for the Insecure Writers Support Group. My insecurity this month is boredom. I struggle in the middle of my stories and get really bored with my characters. It's enough to make me scream and dive into a bottle of wine. I get sick of them and really wish they would hurry up and get out of trouble soon so I can move on to another part of the adventure. But it's all my fault that they are stuck!! I also get very bored with edits and rewrites sometimes. I just want to put the story away and never look at it again. Do you all ever get bored with your writing? I feel like a loser here.