A Squared: City Walks #25 & #26: Northwestern University & Baha'i Temple

Thursday, September 20, 2012

City Walks #25 & #26: Northwestern University & Baha'i Temple

This is probably going to sound so nerdy, but I was really excited for these two recent non-city City Walks.  I love Chicago and the craziness of downtown life, but sometimes I forget what it's like to live in the slower paced suburban world where people drive cars and have backyards.  Alex and I go back and forth a lot about whether we'll start a family in Chicago or in the suburbs, but both agree that we don't know the Chicago suburbs nearly well enough to make that decision without a little research.

The next two City Walks took us just north of Chicago to Evanston (home of Northwestern University) and Wilmette-- a perfect excuse for us to do some suburban exploring.  I was confused at first that they were included in the Chicago City Walks deck (as they are neither in Chicago, nor are they really "cities"), but Evanston and Wilmette are off of the last few stops of Chicago's Purple El train line so they are still accessible via the city's public transportation system.

City Walk #25: Northwestern University

As the name states, this Walk took us all around the Northwestern University campus.  I've been to Evanston a few times before, but never to the actual campus.  We started the official walk right at the main entrance of the campus-- an arch [1] on Chicago Avenue.  The Northwestern campus is really beautiful and reminds me a lot of the one at Syracuse with a mix of breathtaking older academic halls and glassy new modern buildings.  Except that Northwestern is on the beach.  And it's a short train ride away from an amazing city.  So, maybe it is a little different from Syracuse, but what a nice peaceful campus.



The campus doesn't have a rectangular quad like Syracuse and a lot of other schools have and instead, it's a little more rambling.  As we walked along the pathways that wind through the center of the campus, we approached the outdoor Sculpture Garden [2], our next stop.  Among other famous sculptors, the Garden features works by Sir Henry Moore and Joan Miro.






We continued walking to the other side of the campus away from the old ivy covered stone buildings and toward a cluster of more modern ones.  The next stop on the walk was the Block Museum of Art [3].  Unfortunately, it wasn't open for us to go inside and check out, but it is supposed to be a pretty good museum.  Northwestern has pretty reputable communications and drama programs, so it makes sense that this museum is known for its photography and film exhibits.

Following our tour of the sculpture garden, we continued walking and circled all the way around campus-- a few times actually.  We got lost.  Once we finally figured out where we were going, we approached our final stop.  The Deering Library [4] is blocked off for construction at the moment, but even from behind the construction barricades you can still see what a beautiful place it is.  It's a large Gothic style library covered in ivy and with dramatic window and stone detailing.




After our tour of Northwestern concluded we wandered back into downtown Evanston to make our way toward the train stations again.  We had gotten up remarkably early on Sunday (ambitious-- especially considering this was the morning after Nick and Tara's wedding), so we did make a slight detour to Clarke's for a big greasy brunch.  Perfect.



City Walk #26: Baha'i Temple

 After we finished up our omelettes in Evanston we hopped on the purple line and took it all the way to the end-- the Linden stop in Wilmette.  I can safely say that I have never ridden the purple line this far.  Did you know that at Linden it is no longer elevated?  News to me.

Before I get into the Baha'i Temple, let me just say that I am in love with the town of Wilmette.  They have cobblestone streets, a New England-esque harbor, an adorable downtown, big beautiful traditional homes (think Ferris Beuller's house/neighborhood), and it's an affluent suburb that is situated right on the CTA.  Now we just need to save our pennies for the next 20 years to afford to live there.  I'm joking, but not really.  The North Shore neighborhoods are pricy areas to live in and Wilmette is no exception.  But, I digress.

Our first official stop on the Walk (just a few blocks away from the train stop) is one of the coolest and also strangest buildings that I have seen in the Chicago area.  The Baha'i Temple [1] is one of only seven Baha'i temples in the world and it is actually the only one in all of North America.  The place is enormous and has 9 almost identical entrances symbolizing the 9 major religions of the world and the fact that all are welcome to worship together at the temple.  It's really a pretty fascinating place surrounded by sprawling grounds with manicured symmetrical gardens and fountains.  They are also in the process of building a large visitors center on the grounds as well.

Until this Walk I had only just driven by when I was in the North Shore with my boss for work.  He also appreciates architecture and while we were in the area he insisted that I see this temple in the middle of suburbia.  This was the first time that I have also been able to go inside.


My curious architect husband also managed to snap a forbidden photo of the interior of the temple.  Check out that amazing domed ceiling.  Isn't that beautiful?





This City Walk actually only included two stops-- the second of which was just a short walk around Sheridan Road to Gillson Park [2].  Parks like this one are yet another reason that the suburbs start to sound appealing when it comes to settling down.  It's a huge public park with a nice beach (and a dog beach), tennis courts, an ice rink, and the Wallace Bowl-- an outdoor amphitheatre. 






We wandered around the park enjoying the nice weather for a while and on our way out we walked through a lovely little wildflower garden planted on the edge of the park. Adorable.

This Walk was a great way for us to do some exploring of the suburbs and definitely confirmed my theory that if I have to leave the city, the North Shore is (ideally) where I would want to go.  Stay tuned to this blog in the coming years (yes, years) to see where we actually end up....


 
 




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