Category Archives: travel

Chicago Union Station


Union Station in Chicago

Chicago Union Station opened in 1925, and is the second building on the site to carry the name. It is the fourth busiest rail terminal in the U.S., serving 140,000 passengers every weekday on average. Union Station has ten tracks coming into it from the north, and 14 from the south.


The Great Hall

Union Station’s headhouse covers an entire city block, with the Great Hall at its center. The Great Hall’s atrium stands 110 feet high, and is capped by a vaulted skylight. The entire Union Station takes up close to ten Chicago city blocks, the vast majority of it underground.

For some reason, I’ve been finding myself in New York State recently, and an easy way to travel from New York to the Twin Cities has been to hop aboard Amtrak. Once again I joined the Lake Shore Limited passengers in Syracuse, NY and transferred in Chicago, where I boarded the Empire Builder to Saint Paul, MN. That particular Am-trek takes around 23 hours of total travel time.

Unlike all other stations that serve Amtrak, every train either originates, or terminates at Chicago Union Station. There is no thru traffic on Amtrak in Chicago.


Amtrak mural at Chicago Union Station


St. Lawrence State Hospital

Ogdensburg, New York

Originally to be called the Ogdensburg State Asylum for the Insane, the name was officially changed to the St. Lawrence State Hospital before the first patient was admitted in 1890. The 950 acre parcel of land along the Saint Lawrence River was bought by the State of New York for $90,500 in 1887.

By the 1940’s, the hospital had become a “city within a city”. Food for the over 2000 residents came from poultry, dairy and vegetable farms within the grounds. The hospital had its own police & fire departments, post office and telephone system. There was also carpentry, plumbing and paint shops, a tailor shop, theater, community store, and the hospital had its own nursing school.

The St Lawrence Hospital closed in 1983.

When I was in Ogdensburg, my tour guide drove me through the hospital grounds. The massive stone buildings are all in various state of disrepair. I cringed at the sight of open roofs, knowing the damage that is being done internally to these wonderful buildings. As a contractor, I realize the effort and craftsmanship that went into their construction over 130 years ago. It’s just a shame that the city of Ogdensburg could not get the State of New York to do something constructive with the site.


Frederic Remington Art Museum

Ogdensburg, New York


The Frederic Remington Art Museum

When I was in Ogdensburg this past spring, I was lucky enough to get a private, guided tour of the Frederic Remington Art Museum. The main building of the museum was built in 1810 by David Parish. Remington’s wife Eva, lived in the residence after the artist’s death. Eva died in 1918, and the museum was founded in 1923.


The Bronco Buster; 1895

Today, the FRAM houses a large and comprehensive collection of Remington’s work, which includes paintings, sculptures and sketches, as well as many personal belongings.


Frederic Remington

Born in 1861, Remington was 11 when his family moved to Ogdensburg. He briefly attended Yale University’s art school, but left to tend his ailing father, who died a year later. At 19, Remington made his first trip Out West, to Montana. It was from this trip that Harper’s Weekly published Remington’s first work: a sketch the he had made on wrapping paper and sent back East. A career was launched, ever so humbly.

Here is just a very small sampling of Remington’s art on display at the FRAM:


Lasso Cowpuncher

This work just jumps out at me, due to the expression of the horse. Amazing detail here.


The Stampede, 1909

The plaster model of The Stampede had been sent to the Roman Bronze Works just prior to Remington’s untimely death. One of Remington’s final works, he did not live to see it cast into bronze.


The Charge of the Rough Riders; oil on canvas, 1898

Remington became a war correspondent during the Spanish-American War, and was around for the assault on San Juan Hill. What Remington witnessed during that brief war greatly affected him upon his return. His painting The Scream of Shrapnel at San Juan Hill depicts the terror of the unseen during war. It’s quite the visual.

The writer Stephen Crane was also alongside Remington as a correspondent in Cuba. He would return to publish Wounds in the Rain on his war experience. Oddly enough, Crane’s celebrated work The Red Badge of Courage was published in 1895, before he had experienced war first hand.


The Rattlesnake; 1905


The Courrier du Bois and the Savage; oil on canvas, 1891


Coming Through the Rye; 1902


In a Stiff Current; oil on canvas, 1892


The Cheyenne; 1901

In all Remington created 22 bronze sculptures, and over 3000 paintings and drawings. Remington also authored eight books. Frederic Remington died on 26 December 1909 from peritonitis after an emergency appendectomy. He was 48.

The Frederic Remington Art Museum is well worth the time to visit if you are in upstate New York. In all honesty, the area is well worth visiting anyway, so take in a visit to the FRAM as you explore the Saint Lawrence River country.


Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fontana Boathouse

Buffalo, New York


Fontana Boathouse exterior

In 1905, University of Wisconsin oarsman & Wright family friend, Cudworth Bye, asked Frank Lloyd Wright to design a new boathouse for the Badger crew team on the Yahara River. FLW quickly agreed, and the boathouse was designed, but never built. It was briefly given new life in Wright’s Wasmuth Profile, which was a catalog of work FLW considered his best. Unfortunately, the design was filed away once again.

It wasn’t until several decades later, that a Buffalo, NY group came across the design, and purchased the rights. In 2007, the boathouse Frank Lloyd Wright designed a century earlier opened on the bank of the Niagara River.


The Canisius side of the boathouse

The Fontana Boathouse is home to the West Side Rowing Club. Luckily, for the Frozen Foursome, it is also home to Canisius College Crew. We were checking out the boathouse exterior, when we met Kerri Brace, the head coach of the Canisius Rowing program. She was incredibly kind, and offered us a brief tour of the inside of the boathouse.

The boathouse was dedicated as The Charlie and Marie Fontana Boathouse, in honor of the long time rower and coach at the West Side Rowing Club, and his wife.

Post script: The Golden Griffins rowing team finished sixth at the MAAC Championship, in Coach Kerri Brace’s second year at the helm. Junior Co-captain Emma Vicaretti was named to the All-MAAC first team, and senior Bridget Lillis earned All-MAAC second team honors. Eight members of the team were named to the MAAC All-Academic Team.

Go Griffs


Niagara Aerospace Museum

The Niagara Aerospace Museum is located in the old terminal of the Niagara Falls International Airport. Because the Curtiss-Wright and Bell Aircraft corporations played such a huge part in the aviation history of the Buffalo/Niagara area, those two companies are well represented within the museum.


The P39: “Miss Lend-Lease”

Arguably the centerpiece to the museum is this Bell Aircraft P39Q “Airacobra”. The P39 left Niagara Falls on December 26, 1943 bound for Russia due to the Lend Lease program. Talking to the museum volunteers, the P39 went through Ladd Field in Fairbanks before crossing the Bering Sea. The P39 then went missing in action during November of 1944.

In 2004, the P39 was found in Lake Mart-Yavr in northwestern Russia. Bell Aircraft took recovery of the aircraft in 2008, the pilot’s remains were given a military funeral, and the plane’s logbook was recovered and preserved. Over 4500 Bell P39 Airacobras were sent to Russia during lend-lease, along with 2500 Curtiss-Wright P40 Warhawks and 2500 Bell P63 King Cobras. Russia’s top ten aces during WWII flew P39 aircraft.

The plane has been nicknamed “Miss Lend-Lease” by the museum. Two local Niagara women, who worked at Bell Aircraft during the war, wrote hidden messages in the P39 when they worked on its assembly over 70 years ago. They have been discovered, and are now on display next to their P39.


P40 Warhawk mural

More than 16,000 P40 Warhawks were built at the Curtiss-Wright Buffalo plants. On September 11, 1942, a P40 on a test flight, caught fire. The test pilot parachuted safely to the ground, but the P40 mysteriously turned back and traveled two miles before plummeted through the Curtiss-Wright Plant roof, killing six workers at the scene, while eight died of their injuries later. 43 others were wounded, mostly with burns.

The Curtiss plant was torn down in 1999, but a plaque honoring the victims who lost their life due to the P40 crash is still displayed at the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport. The one in the photo above is a copy of that plaque, located at the Niagara Aerospace Museum, within the Curtiss-Wright section.


A replica of a Curtiss “Jenny”

The Curtiss “Jenny” above is a replica, on display showing the wings without their canvas covering. 10,000 Curtiss “Jenny” aircraft were produced in Buffalo between 1914 – 1917.


Apollo EECOM Station

Thanks to Bell’s involvement in the space program, there is quite a display at the museum on the Apollo missions. The EECOM Station above, was used throughout the Apollo Programs, but played a particularly vital role in the Apollo 13 Mission.


The Agena 8081 Rocket Engine

The Agena rocket engine saw 360 mission flights, with a reliability record of 99.7%. It had action in the Ranger Mariner, Gemini and Nimbus Programs. It was used extensively to launch the Lunar Orbiter space probes, which preceded the successful Apollo missions.


Cunningham-Hall GA-36

The Cunningham-Hall Aircraft Company produced aircraft such as the GA-36 in Rochester, NY during the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. This particular GA-36 was found languishing in a field at a small airport in Michigan. It was acquired and restored by volunteers at the Amherst Museum.

Admission to the museum was $8 for adults. Parking is directly in front of the old terminal, where passenger drop off and pick up used to take place. The volunteers were very knowledgeable and eager to talk about their collection.


Pierce-Arrow Museum

Buffalo, New York


Exterior to the Pierce-Arrow showroom

Officially known as the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum, the museum has quite the collection of classic cars, trucks, motorcycles and bicycles, plus one filling station. The museum organized as a non-profit in 1997, and moved into their current location, a former Mack Truck showroom, in 2001.

George Pierce started out making ice chests & birdcages, progressing into bicycles. In 1901, the Pierce Company opened a large factory in Buffalo’s Canalside district. In 1903, the company produced a two-cylinder car called The Arrow. The following year, The Great Arrow came on the market. This car was larger and more luxurious than its predecessor, and it was powered by a four-cylinder engine. In 1905, The Great Arrow won the Glidden Tour, which was an endurance run that determined the most reliable car on the market. By 1909, President Taft had made two Pierce-Arrows the official cars of the White House.

Here are a few of the vehicles I enjoyed checking out at the P-A Museum:


1909 Thomas Flyer 6-40 Flyabout

The Thomas Flyer was also manufactured in Buffalo, NY until 1913. This little Flyabout, was a 5 passenger, powered by a six-cylinder/267 cubic inch engine, coupled to a three speed transmission. The motor put out a whopping 40 HP. In 1908, a Thomas Flyer won the New York to Paris Race.


1932 Duesenberg Model J Town Car

This particular Duesenberg was the most expensive ever produced. Custom built for the Countess Anna Ingraham, the car cost $25,000 in 1932.


The Duesenberg


$2.50 down buys you a Harley?

Automatically, I thought $250.00 down, but no, it was $2.50. I asked for clarification.


1940 Lincoln

Frank Lloyd Wright ordered one of these Lincolns in 1940. He proclaimed it the most beautiful car ever designed. Hard to argue with FLW.


1934 Pierce-Arrow Model 1248A

The 1934 Pierce-Arrow was proclaimed an “All Weather Town Brougham”, with its canvas roll up, and solid leather roof for the chauffeur. This model had an aluminum body, and was powered by a V-12 engine. There was only one of these made. It was owned by opera diva Ms. Mary Garden, whose father had the world’s largest Pierce-Arrow dealership.


Pierce-Arrow’s 1933 Silver Arrow; Designed as a car, that can not be ignored

My favorite car in the collection: the 1933 Silver Arrow. They say this car “caused an absolute sensation” when it was introduced in 1933. Powered by the V-12 engine, the Silver Arrow could hit 115mph. Five of these cars were built, only three remain in existence today.


The ’33 Silver Arrow

What a sharp, futuristic looking car for 1933.


Joseph Seagram & Sons’ Pierce-Arrow delivery truck


The Frank Lloyd Wright designed filling station

In 1927, Frank Lloyd Wright designed a filling station that was to be built in downtown Buffalo, on the corners of Michigan Avenue and Cherry Street. The station was never built.

Fast forward to 2002: The Pierce-Arrow Museum, working off of original drawings, create the copper, work of art within the large showroom. Wright called his station design “an ornament to the pavement”. The station is quite the structure. It contains a second story observation room, complete with a fireplace and restrooms. The observation room was meant as a comfortable place for patrons to wait for their vehicle while it was being serviced. It was also to include an attendants quarters, also equipped with a fireplace. The gas distribution system was gravity fed. The two 45 foot, copper poles holding the station’s marque, were described as “totems” by Wright. It would have been an impressive filling station, if it had been built. As it stands, its an impressive & unique addition to the museum.

The museum has several volunteers with a wealth of information about the items on display. I found them more than willing to share their knowledge. Admission for an adult was $10.


Larkinville


Larkin Center of Commerce building

The Larkin neighborhood of Buffalo, NY came into its own in 1827, with the construction of the Hydraulic Canal. It was Buffalo’s first source of industrial waterpower. By 1832, the area was a booming mill district, with everything powered by “The Hydraulics”.

In 1876, John Larkin set up his soap making business on Seneca Street. JD Larkin & Co. became a pioneer in direct sales from the manufacturer to the consumer. The Larkin Idea became the company’s marketing principle, by 1885.


The Larkin Soap Co.

Today, the old buildings and warehouses are being renovated into businesses and lofts. The area is obviously thriving with the new development. The Frozen Foursome spent an afternoon prior to the championship game, exploring the revitalized Larkinville neighborhood. The trip included a visit to the Flying Bison Brewing Company.