September 23, 2008

Cours origin and allure by Henry W. Lawrence and M.F.K. Fisher

The cours, a garden allee style carriage way, was introduced to France from Italy by Queen Marie de Medici in 1616. Henry W. Lawrence, in the article "Origins of the Tree-Lined Boulevard," writes

[Marie de Medici] had a new type of quadruple allee installed along the banks of the Seine below the Tuileries. The new feature, the Cours de la Reine, was especially for carriage riding. The form was apparently inspired by the roadway, known as the Corso, along the Arno River outside Florence....The cours was especially important because it transformed the garden allee into a place for vehicles.
The cours and garden allee, according to Lawrence, are two of ten precursors to the tree-lined boulevards of the nineteenth century, popularized by Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann in Paris. Lawrence's expansion of the "Origins" article is now available in book form - "City Trees: A Historical Geography from the Renaissance through the Nineteenth Century."

Photograph: Wikipedia Commons

Mary Frances Kennedy (M.F.K.) Fisher describes the Cours Mirabeau, above, in her book "Two Towns of Provence." She begins in an "informative vein" but quickly transitions to a prose description of "its ineffable allure" -

It is probable that almost every traveler who has ever passed through Aix has been moved in some positive way by the view from one end of the Cours or the other, by the sounds of its fountains in the early hours, by the melodious play of the pure clear sunlight of Provence through its summer cave of leaves....It is a man-made miracle, perhaps indescribable, compounded of stone and water and trees, and to the fortunate it is one of the world's chosen spots for their own sentient growth.

Fisher states that the Cours Mirabeau was built in 1651 (ten years before the Cours de la Reine) by Marie de Medicis (note Lawrence's spelling of the queen's name). More about the Cours Mirabeau -

The first trees were elms, and they too grew handsomely to shade the rich gentry in their carriages and the people of the upper class who strolled beneanth their shade. They dies in a plague that killed almost every elm in Provence, and beginning in 1830 they were quickly replaced by the plane trees which now thrive along the Cours and help make it what has often been called "the most beautiful Main Street in the world."

M.F.K. Fisher was born 100 years ago this July 3. Learn more about her life and her books.

September 22, 2008

Two iron horse rides, Part 3: Chicago's lakeshore parks

Join me on a photographic procession from downtown Chicago along six miles of lakeshore to Wooded Island.

Approaching downtown via Lakeshore Boulevard

Sears Tower with the Gold Coast on the right

The El or elevated train). I took The El twice; from State/Lake to Howard (Rogers Park) on the red line and from Howard to The Loop on the purple line.

Approaching Millennium Park

Skyline view via the Cloud Gate

Observing users at Cloud Gate

Shang sculpture by di Suervo. Notice the interaction with the piece. According to a description on a park sign, the artist “encourages visitors to walk through, on and around his sculpture.”

Crown Fountain offers different ways to experience water

From the Great Lawn towards Pritzker Pavilion

Another way to experience water at Millennium Park is in Lurie Garden. Chicago is known for its unbearably hot summers. The devastating heat wave of 1995 is chronicled by Eric Klinenberg in "Heat Wave."

Lurie Garden

Going across the bridge to Grant Park

Meadow in Grant Park

Although downtown is separated from the lake by six lanes of traffic, the predominant sounds on the lakeshore path are those of waves, boats, geese, and human voices. There is a berm between the road and the lake planted with, in some sections, at least three rows of trees.

Winter Garden at North Burnham Park planted with juniper, fir, pine, spruce, witchhazel, winterberry, crabapple, dogwood, hackberry, birch, bald cypress, and meadow plants.

A memorial to fire, police, and paramedics, the sculpture reminds of Jens Jensen’s council rings.

The sanctuary sits on top of a parking structure and is visited by songbirds (kinglets, warblers, and thrushers), grassland birds (Grasshopper and Henslow’s sparrows, Eastern Meadowlark, and Dickcissel), monarch butterflies, dragonflies, and bees. The plant palette reflects the area’s former vegetation – dry upland meadow – and is planted with Showy Goldenrod, Ohio Spiderwort, Silky Aster, Grey-headed Coneflower, Bluestem, Sideoats Grama, among others.

There are numerous bird sanctuaries along the shoreline. The McCormick Sanctuary is marked with a red dot.

I observed several large picnics along the lakeshore path. This group was picnicking in North Burnham Park.

More North Burnham Park users; note the snag in the background.

My walk ended at Wooded Island and its surrounds. I was unable to stroll down the Midway Plaisance or enter the Museum of Science and Industry, both of which were built for the World Columbian Exposition of 1893. Nor did I visit Washington Park. More reasons to visit Chicago again. The landscape designs for the exposition were completed by Frederick Law Olmsted.

Rear facade of the Museum of Science and Industry, facing the Wooded Island and lagoons

Wooded Island with the eastern lagoon on the left

Japanese Garden and Ho-o Den Palace on Wooded Island was built in 1893 for the World’s Fair. A tea house was added after the exposition but a fire destroyed the garden at the start of World War II. The garden and pavilion were reconstructed in 1981 along with other features like an arched moon bridge and a waterfall.

Irimoya-style roof

Previous essays in the series: