Sunday, October 29, 2017

A Photographic Exploration of Chicago's Elks National Memorial

For a weekend each fall, Open House Chicago offers the public the opportunity to visit historic, beautiful and/or otherwise intriguing interiors of places either not commonly available for touring or--as in this case--perhaps just beyond ready thought.

In visiting the website for the the 2017 edition of Open House Chicago, which was held October 14-15, on the home page I was instantly beguiled by photos of the Elks National Memorial, whose striking rotunda reminded of a capitol building.

I had long been aware of the round, colonnaded structure on Lakeview at Diversey; it's across the street from where an aunt long lived and close to where a couple of friends still do.

But much as I like to explore and photograph nifty places in Chicago, and far beyond, I had never considered what the inside of the memorial might look like.

Yet while the Open House would seem an ideal opportunity, it was on my birthday weekend and pre-existing plans precluded an Elks excursion.

But via the Elks Memorial website, I was able to ascertain that it is open Noon-4pm from April 15-November 15, with no admission charge.

So on a recent afternoon, I convinced my mom to join me and we went to take a look. This worked out well, as we had the place to ourselves, and learned that 3,000 had visited on Open House weekend (perhaps even each day of it).

A friendly tour guide helped show us around and told us about the building--designed by architect Egerton Swarthout to honor World War I veterans and victims with Elks ties--and a bit about the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.

The Memorial, whose adjoining structures serve as the national headquarters of the Elks, was constructed between 1924-26 and features sculptures by Adolph A. Weinman, Laura Gardin Fraser, and James Earle Fraser, and murals by Eugene Savage and Edwin Blashfield.

Along with the U.S. and state capitols, it reminded of the Pantheon in Rome, and the tour guide confirmed that to be an inspiration.

Although my photos below include some of rooms & exhibits representing the Elks organization, local lodges, charitable causes, etc.--as well as a couple nearby but unrelated sculptures--I do not feel inclined to broach much upon the fraternal order itself.

I simply don't know enough about it to offer a perspective--positive, negative or neutral--and my focus here is on the beauty of the memorial building.

As one of Chicago's most sumptuous interiors, I think you'll agree it well-worth a visit, but those unable to get there might value this Virtual Tour in addition to my photographs below.


1 comment:

Ken said...

Thanks for sharing Seth. This was interesting. Someplace exotic in our own backyard.