Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Two Worlds: Green City Market & Blackstone Branch Library

Originally this post was going to be solely about the Green City Market. I started writing it Saturday morning, on the Clark 22 bus as I rode towards Lincoln Park. But then my phone rang. My friend Rebecca wanted to know if I was busy that afternoon because she and her husband and mother were going to be traveling to Hyde Park to see some recently restored murals in a library there. I thought it sounded interesting, so I said yes. And then I went back to writing.

Green City Market
This seemed like a good place to begin my forays into my new life here. I mean, a girl needs to eat and all.

The Green City Market is, as the website says, Chicago's only year-round farmers' market. It's held every Saturday (7am -1pm in summer, 8am-1pm in winter) in Lincoln Park. In the summertime, the market is outdoors near the South Pond between N. Clark & Stockton Drive. In the winter, it's held in the South Gallery of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

This market is one of the top ten farmers' markets in the country, so you can imagine how excited I was about going. I was expecting to be impressed. Turns out it's not that different from Moscow's farmers' market, which surprised me. There's certainly more food available than in Moscow, and you can get elk, lamb, beef and pork there, as well as milk. I had some wonderful apple cider donuts fresh out of the fryer, but other than that, the diversity of the clientele and the lack of social awareness booths, it was pretty much like Moscow's market, right down to the live music. Just bigger.

The bus trip took an hour, and I had to carry back anything I bought, so I was fairly circumspect with the purchasing. I got an eggplant, some green bell peppers, some garlic and some onions. The soup I made yesterday and the spaghetti sauce I made this evening both have the Green City Market to thank for their existence.

In fact, I would have to say that the bus trip was the best part of the entire morning. I opted to go by bus rather than by train because I wanted to see more of the city. I need know how Chicago is put together, and the bus gave me a really great sense of what goes where, simply by traveling down Clark St. from Rogers Park to Lincoln Park and back again.

I do plan to visit the Green City Market again this Saturday, and I'm going to be better prepared. There were lots of berries that I couldn't buy because I had no way to transport them safely, but thanks to a suggestion from my mom, I'll be stuffing my backpack with tupperware wannabees to haul all those berries home. There are crisps to be made and fruits to be frozen for winter smoothies.

The Blackstone Murals
Chicago's first branch library, the Blackstone Memorial Branch Library in Hyde Park, opened in 1904. Its fortunes have fluctuated over the century plus since then. When it was built, the marble foyer, mahogany furniture and the Oliver Dennett Grover murals all attested to its importance to the culture. The original cost of the building was $250,000. Renovations and updates within the last 10-15 years have cost around $800,000. But there are some things that require that kind of monetary care, and a library this beautiful is one of them.

Don't you think every library should be lit this way?

That's my friend Rebecca and her husband, by the way. I don't know who the guy in red is.

You can already tell from the exterior, I think, that this library is going to be something special. And you know that for sure when you walk into the entry dome and look up.

The murals were restored just recently. In fact, there was a presentation on the process last night at the library. If I hadn't had stupid technical issues getting these images off my phone, you would have had advance notice about it. Sorry. Next time I'm taking a real camera. Anyway, bear in mind that these are indeed phone pictures while looking at them. And consider heading to the library to look at the murals in person. They're well worth it.





Everyone we spoke with on staff was very helpful. The head librarian even let us look at a scrapbook of the library's history. It's a beautiful place, a once upon a time temple to the importance of reading. Thank goodness someone thought it was worth preserving. And judging from how busy it was while we were there, half an hour before closing on a Saturday, the neighborhood thinks it's worth using.

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