Tag Archive | Illinois

The Willis Tower-Past, Present and Future


  1974 – Laurie and family

 My visits to the former Sear’s Tower began the year the skydeck was open for viewing in 1974 when I was 7.  It opened on June 22 and we went that fall. It is on the 103rd floor. I don’t remember a lot, but my grandparents Norm and Barb Braton came along and grandpa filmed some of the view out of the North-facing windows. This is the Lake Point Tower Condominiums building on the right side of the photo. This photo is composed of two frames of the Super 8 film. It was color but it was inconsistent so I changed it to monochrome.  The reason why this  view is significant is because it was where Al’s Mom would be living in the late 70’s-early 80’s. As you see, there are no buildings around it YET.

See the video in its entirety.

Photographer Jack Bradley took this photo from the tower in 1975.

The button was my sovenier from then.


10-17-03       29 years later…

Still the Sears Tower until 2009. This time, Al and I went alone. We got more photos this time.  They also had a very nice brochure on cardstock. For some reason I don’t have a lot of memories from this visit.

Prices that year.

A couple displays on the walls.

The Northwest view.

Revisiting the Lakepoint Condo viewpoint, much more built up now around it.  You can see another building going up nearby.

The clover leaf on the East-facing side.


1-30-18  15 Years later…

It took awhile but we finally made it back.  This time we did a day trip.  We took the Metra commuter train in from Harvard, IL at 5:47 AM. We learned in advance Tuesdays are often the slowest days and be there when they open the doors at 9:30 AM. I recommend monitoring the Skydeck Chicago-Willis Tower page on Tripadvisor. We knew the express elevators were not in use so waits might be longer.

They opened promptly at 10:00. We put our stuff through the security check then went to get our tickets, general admission.  I have no photos on this area since they were prohibited. Prices have really risen in 15 years. Of course, different ownership too.

The brochure as it looks now, no longer on cardstock, just glossy paper.

On your way to the elevator, they take your picture in front of a green screen with the option to buy before your exit or online. This is what it looks like, we didn’t get this one.

We got in line quick, aware of the growing crowd behind us.  You  can also see an informational 9-minute movie about the tower called “Reaching the Sky” before going up.

We were in the first elevator(s) up!  The views were just as incredible as we remembered, and there were more towers built or being built.

We revisit the Northwest view. That tall silver building in the middle is the Trump Tower. Construction began in 2005, completed in 2008.

And back to the Lake Point condo building.  A new skyscraper is going up on the left!

This view of the Chicago river has also built up.

The black building below left of here is the Ogilvie Transportation Center, where we rode the train into town.

The biggest change at the tower since 2003 is the installation of The Ledge™. It’s a reinforced glass “box” that extends outside beyond the other windows.  The view was incredible in there, you either feel like a bird or queasy. Al and I did it and felt fine! This picture was taken by another visitor. You are facing East.

Looking at another ledge from inside.

And down. You can see where we entered the building.

View of the ledge boxes from the ground, how tiny they look!

This is the same side as the clover leaf we saw in 2003. Let’s take a new look.

One of the most interesting buildings we saw was the MCC Jailhouse Skyscraper. Even the jails are tall here and saw a volleyball game played by the inmates on the roof.  It holds 681. This is on the West-facing side. Apparently it’s hard to see from the ground.

Other skyline views. This is the Chicago north side.  The top of the picture is about 7 miles away.

We have been up in the tower for about two hours now, it was nearly 12:30.  It was time to go see more of Chicago since we had to be back on the train at 3:30. We could not resist getting a copy of the picture the staff took on the Ledge™.

Enjoy video of our visit!

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Blackstone? Tower future

The tower had been sold to the Blackstone Group in March of 2015, though you could not tell that yet on the outside. In the near future it will be undergoing some renovations to make it a more welcoming place to visitors. Perhaps in 7 or 8 years, we will be back to see this 3rd incarnation of Chicago’s largest office building.

Groundhog Day 2017 in Woodstock-25th Anniversary


2-2-17

Our last visit to Woodstock was for Groundhog Day in 2015, we looked forward to another great celebration! We arrived the night before, a beautiful clear evening with no snow on the ground. Two years ago we had a big snowstorm on Feb 1.  After an easy ride down, we stopped for dinner at the Tip Top Cafe’, actually Taqueria La Placita Taco house.

taqeuria-la-placita-in-woodstock

The bright light in the window is the actual Tip Top sign in the Groundhog Day movie.

tip-top-cafe-sign

We sat in the same spot where Phil enjoyed that large breakfast in the movie.

Inside Tip Top


Groundhog Day morning we headed to the Square (Gobbler’s Knob) to see the prognostication.  The place was packed!  We were entertained by Corky Siegel and Die Musikmeisters before the prediction.  He predicted 6 more weeks of winter. We also sang Groundhog carols.

Groundhog Day songs in Woodstock

We were armed with a go pro-like camera mounted on a bike helmet to get over people’s heads and I took photos with my new Canon Rebel T6i camera. Watch it below!

Afterwards we headed to the Moose Lodge for the Groundhog Breakfast and entertainment.  It was packed too, a sell-out crowd!  We got treated to choral performances by the Woodstock High School Choir.  Richard Henzel also reprised his clock radio voice from the movie.He also did it at the Prognostication, he does both voices now since his co-star has not returned in a long time.

I made a batch of groundhog cookies to contribute to the celebration and a cd for the Inner Square committee of GH Day 2006 when WGN came to cover the event.  Watch it all below. The Groundhog picture is from the winner of the Woodstock Independent GH day poster contest. Cute!

Groundhog Cookies and Coloring Contest picture

groundhog-poster-winner-sonny-marsalla-2017

After a wonderful breakfast, we joined the crowd for a Bob Hudgin’s-lead Groundhog Day Movie Walking Tour. Joining him was Rick Bellairs, our friend and one of the Inner Square Committee members. This tour was bittersweet as the Bob was going to retire from giving this tour after this year.  Bob was in charge of organizing all of the places where the movie was going to be filmed. He had many anecdotes and told us about a couple of sites not on the guide. That was the tree the boy fell out of and the tunnel seen during the police chase after stealing the groundhog. He had been leading it since 2005 and it was time for someone else to pick up the mantle. Maybe Rick was his understudy too 🙂  I also recorded a video of this historic tour to share with all of you.  Thanks Bob for keeping the movie alive 25 years later!

Bob Hudgins Location Manager of Groundhog Day

Woodstock Groundhog Day Movie Site Walking Tour

That was an incredible tour (and cold!)  We headed to the Public House for lunch and toasted our sodas to World Peace.i-always-drink-to-world-peace-plaque-at-public-house-in-woodstock

Bar in Groundhog Day movie in Woodstock

We got some souvenirs at this delightful bookstore on the square, Read Between the Lynes.  Their helpful staff can help you find the perfect gift or treat for yourself.

Read Beween the Lynes bookstore in Woodstock

iead Between the Lynes staff

Read Between the Lynes Groundhog Day display

Our last stop was the Woodstock Public Library to see artifacts from the movie on display, my cookies were served there to the whole community, sweet!

Woodstock Public Library

Groundhog Display in Woodstock Library sign

Groundhog Garbage can top

tip-top-cafe-in-woodstock

Gobbler's Knob woodstock

 

Richard Henzel was there too, we chatted a bit and took a selfie too. Very nice man and a great conversationalist.

richard-henzel-and-i-20170202_131700

We had a perfect Groundhog Day in Woodstock, one we wish we could repeat.

groundhog-day-2017

Woodstock Illinois – “True To It’s Past, Confident of It’s Future”


Woodstock, IL is in McHenry County in northern Illinois with a population of nearly 25,000 as of 2010.  It was chosen as the county seat in 1843 and was originally called Centerville, due to being in the center of the county. In 1845 the town name was changed to Woodstock after resident Joel Johnson’s hometown of Woodstock, Vermont. It became a city in 1873, and a rail line soon arrived. It is still in use today, Metra trains come through also, taking passengers to Chicago 37 miles away.

Metra Train Station in Woodstock

Prior to 1992, Woodstock was not considered to be a destination for visitors.  The movie Groundhog Day changed all of that. Since the movie’s release in 1993, people have been streaming in from all over the country (and world!) to see the city that the movie made famous. Al and I came into town to celebrate Groundhog Day in 2015 and 2017 and had the time of our lives!  All the sites in the movie are marked with a plaque for a self-guided Walking Tour any time you come to visit.  The city was re-vitalized by the movie and the money spent in town by visitors has allowed for many improvements and beautification projects to make the city a welcoming place for all.  We stay at the Super 8 when we come to visit. Book early if you are coming for Groundhog Day, we reserved our room in early November. Or you can even stay at the Royal Victorian Manor, featured in the Groundhog Day movie as the Cherry Street Inn.

super-8-in-woodstock

Royal Victorian Manor - Cherry Street Inn  in Woodstock

There is more to Woodstock then the groundhog though.  They have preserved their beautiful historic Square and most storefronts are occupied with boutiques and restaurants.  On our most recent visit in 2017, many buildings are now outlined in LED light and the trees in the inner square have white lights on them. Very beautiful!

Woodstock Opera House at night

Woodstock Inner Square at night

Woodstock created a pdf map listing the historic buildings on or near the Square.  Here are some of them. Let’s begin at the Opera House and go counter-clockwise.

Pennsylvania Hotel - Woodstock Opera House

For great Groundhog Day souveniers and other gifts, stop at Read Between the Lynes.  They had everything!

Read Beween the Lynes bookstore in Woodstock

Read Between the Lynes Groundhog Day display

Across the street on our left is  the Phoenix Block.

Phoenix Block on Woodstock Square

At the end of this corner on 113 S. Benton is the majestic Church Block building (1899),  named after Malachi Church, a county sheriff.  In the corner is now a four-face city clock and the business Ethereal Confections Craft Chocolate and Dessert Bar.  Also Material Things.

Church Block building in Woodstock IL

Night view.

Church Block at night

We round the corner to the BMO Harris building, housed in the Primm Block. The tan building is the Murphy Block.

BMO Harris on Primm Block in Woodstock

At the end of  Benton Street (across from Ned’s Corner) are these businesses.

Benton Street on Woodstock Square

Cass Street is next on the square.

Cass Street on Woodstock Square

On this street is the former Tip Top Cafe’ in the Groundhog Day movie. Now Taqueria La Placita, we enjoyed a great dinner there 2-1-17.

Tip Top Cafe in Woodstock

At the top of Cass St. we see the Old Courthouse and Jailhouse buildings, all occupied.The Old Courthouse and Jail in Woodstock

 We enjoyed lunch at the Public House of Woodstock here, site of the Groundhog Day movie bar scene where they drink to world peace.

i-always-drink-to-world-peace-plaque-at-public-house-in-woodstock

Bar in Groundhog Day movie in Woodstock

Across the street is the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and Jaci’s Cookies, where we got a couple scones and a Groundhog cookie! They closed on 9-30-16.

Woodstock Chamber of Commerce and Jaci's Cookies

We are back at the top again where we started. We saw other interesting buildings, these are on Main St. just off the Square. This is the Waverly house building, built in 1900. Next to it is the store Rare Rubbish, with a vintage Elgin Watch neon sign with clock. Cool! We saw the sign at night in 2017, one side still works!

Waverly Building in Woodstock

Ray Wolf Jewelers sign in Woodstock

Elgin Watch neon sign at night

Across the street is the Woodstock Theater, on this site around 100 years.

Alpine Theater - Woodstock Theater frame

Night view.

Woodstock Theatre marquee at night

Behind the square on 227 N. Throop St. is Afterglow Creative Services, a video production and photography agency.

Afterglow Creative Services in Woodstock

Stop by the Woodstock Public Library to learn more about Woodstock and it’s proud history.

Woodstock Public Library

Go bowling at Wayne’s Lanes.

Wayne's Lanes in Woodsstock

On our way out of town, we saw the Purple Heart Memorial.

purple-heart-memorial-in-woodstock

This wraps up our tour of Woodstock. Check these resources for more information about this city and McHenry County.  A great place to visit any time of the year.  We always feel welcome here, as we do when we visit my home state.  We also found this great historical marker just outside of Woodstock at a small wayside.

illinois-marker-location-map

welcome-to-illinois-marker-in-hebron

 

Hot Website Links

Visit McHenry County

McHenry County Historical Society

City of Woodstock, IL

Groundhog Days Website 

Chamber of Commerce

Woodstock Farmers Market

Metra

Tripadvisor – Best of Woodstock