Lower Y —
Sunday, September 3, 2017 —
07:36 Good morning —
Every other Sunday we will be park-hopping around the city documenting its myriad examples of green spaces. We will explore everything from tiny playlots and pocket beaches to urban farms and the crown jewels of the district and on to the far future pavilions for viewing the Andromeda-Milky Way galactic collision.
As carless Chicagoans, we will also use this opportunity to check out the city’s non-vehicular transit infrastructure. We will pedal down bike lanes and trails, hop on buses and trains, definitely use our own two feet, and perhaps flag down a canoe or convince strangers to give us piggyback rides.
En route to our starting point —
09:39 START —
We’re starting our broad—cast here on the Kinzie Street Bridge over the North Branch of the Chicago River. A short distance away due south is where this section of the river meets with the Main and South Branches. At this confluence, the three branches form the letter “Y”.
This riparian meeting point provided the inspiration for one of the city’s official symbols: a Y-shape inscribed in a circle. You’ll find it everywhere, though often hidden in plain sight, in libraries, bridges, traffic control boxes and even sewer covers.
We chose this place as the starting point, because our focus area today will be its doppelgänger. In a do-over of a previous iteration of this fortnightly series, we will be exploring the counter-Y.
09:55 (In Which The River Plays Itself #1) —
Where the North, South and Main Branches of the Chicago River meet, scenes of riparian life play non-stop on the tympanum of River Point.
10:07 Let’s go —
From here it’s just a few steps to Canal Street. We’ll head south until we reach 18th Street where we’ll scoot over one block west to take Canalport Avenue and go diagonal towards Halsted Street. A brief escape from the rectilinearity of the grid.
Since Canal Street is a northbound one-way until Harrison Street, we’ll be walking our bikes until then. We could take the southbound one-way Clinton Street, which is one block over and actually has a bike lane. But it doesn’t rhyme with today’s leitmotif.
10:09 (In Which The River Plays Itself #2) —
10:26 Route Marker: Canal Street —
Past Harrison Street and finally about to set off on our bikes.
Canal Street’s buffered bike lane will take us through an off-center landscape of major transportation and communication hubs, big-box stores, self-storages and electrical substations. Where the Chicago Fire Department’s Training Facility, standing at the origin of the Great Chicago Fire, play out their simulated urban conflagrations. Where every city block is a parking lot. And where tour buses and school buses come to wait after unloading their cargo at the Museum Campus and downtown cultural centers.
11:26 Offshoot: Below Dan Ryan Expressway on Canalport Avenue —
Under the aerosoled raging river of concrete and metal, a forest extending into infinity.
11:39 Offshoot: Emerald Triangle Garden —
WITH COMMUNITY GARDENS FOR ALL
Near the concrete forest of Dan Ryan, not below though still within its shadows, is a community open space under the stewardship of NeighborSpace called the Emerald Triangle Garden.
Now at Palmisano Park. Whirligig thread incoming —
16:09 WHIRLIGIG #1: Palmisano Park —
16:35 WHIRLIGIG #2: McGuane Park —
[Insert McGuane Park thread here.]
[Postscript: We have a thread but will instead incorporate McGuane Park in a future broad—cast. In the meantime, below is a photo of the park’s spray pool before it and all the other water features across the Chicago Park District closed for the season. While a seal frolics about, Olmsted One looks longingly in the background.]
En route to next park —
16:44 Route Marker: Halsted Street —
Going south on Halsted Street (bike lane, partly buffered) and then north on Morgan Street (no bikeways) we’ll boomerang through the community area of Bridgeport to our next whirligig.
17:13 Offshoot: UrbanLab —
A miniature Palmisano at UrbanLab work-home studio on Morgan Street. The half-hidden grassy mound was formed out of a dilapidated building that had stood at the site, was demolished and recycled on-site.
17:18 (In Which A Wayfinding System Is Plotted Out Of Cryptoparks) —
17:23 WHIRLIGIG #3: Park #571
En route to our next park —
17:50 (In Which Getting There Is A Park) —
Now at Canal Origins Park. Whirligig thread incoming —
21:43 WHIRLIGIG #4: Canal Origins Park —
One last park —
[Postscript: Before this entry we wrapped up the day and CTA’d to the nearest Whole Foods, where we resumed broad—cast.]
22:42 Offshoot: Ashland Avenue Bridge —
Recall from earlier this morning when we mentioned briefly one of the city’s official symbols. Called the Municipal Device, it’s a Y-shape inscribed in a circle. It’s found on public buildings and infrastucture, such as here on the Ashland Avenue Bridge, north of Canal Origins Park.
The Municipal Device actually comes in another form, in which the “Y” is upside down. In this variant, it looks like a peace symbol. Whereas the right-side up “Y” symbolizes the three branches of the Chicago River at their confluence at Wolf Point in downtown, the upside down “Y” commemorates the reversal of the river, one of the country’s momumental feat of engineering. And one of the instruments of that reversal, the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, begins near this bridge.
In fact, here, the canal, the South Branch of the Chicago River and the South Fork of the South Branch (a.k.a. Bubbly Creek) meet and form their own “Y”, a counter-Y.
23:57 WHIRLIGIG #5: Canalport River Park —
23:59 And that’s a wrap —
Stay tuned in a fortnight’s time for more whirligigs and loop-de-loops through the Chicago Park District.
[Postscript: Below is a map of our stops and general route.]