On May 8, 1985, the National Register of Historic Places anointed the famous Starved Rock Lodge and its nearby cabins. Once known as a vacation hotspot with a hotel and dance pavilion, Starved Rock opened as a state park in 1912 when officials bought the land from a developer/entrepreneur.
The New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps did much of the work to make Starved Rock the easily accessible hiking area we enjoy today. CCC workers–including African Americans, an unusual detail for a CCC troupe–broke the trails, placed the three camp sites, and began work on the now-iconic Lodge. Designed by Urbana native Joseph F. Buten (or Booton), the Lodge featured the so-called Great Room and the giant two-sided limestone fireplace that many consider synonymous with the park itself. The lodge now offers an indoor pool and after expansion began billing itself as a conference center.
On May 5, 2001, the village of Fulton officially opened the majestic De Immigrant, the 100-foot tall Dutch windmill overlooking the Mississippi River. Built in the Netherlands and reconstructed piece-by-piece by native craftspersons, De Immigrant marked its grand opening by grinding wheat, corn, and other grains. In other words, in a sort of practical and hardworking manner that many people associate with the Dutch.
An oft-overlooked immigrant group, the Dutch nonetheless settled large areas of Illinois, with large numbers in south Chicago suburbs like South Holland and Lansing, and in the Chadwick-Fulton-Morrison-Albany corridor near or along the Mississippi. Fulton celebrates its Dutch Days Festival every spring—the 2017 edition starts today, in fact—and if you’re feeling benout, you should attend. There’s all the Klompen dancing you could want, in addition to Hindeloopen painting, costumes, tulips galore, and a chance to pick up that pair of wooden shoes you’ve had your eye on. The windmill is a centerpiece of the festivities.
Morganella pyriformis (Schaeffer) Kreisel & D. Kruger
The habitat on wood and the abundant white rhizomorphs make this puffball easy to identify.
Morganella versus Lycoperdon. It’s the mycologist’s version of pepperoni or sausage, Godzilla or Mechagodzilla, Tastes Great or Less Filling. A 2003 publication placed the mushroom among the Morganellas. Yet five years later two scientists used genetic sequencing to argue that it remain in its old genus under the name Lycoperdon pyriforme.
We don’t take sides on this blog. It’s bad for business. But since Mushrooms of the Midwest coauthor Michael Kuo prefers Morganella pyriformis, we’ll stick with that until the scientific community reaches consensus.
On May 4, 1927, balloonist Hawthorne C. Gray, a captain in the Army Air Corps, reached new heights in human endeavor. Literally. Taking off from Scott Field near Belleville, Gray ascended to 42,270 feet in a silk, rubberized, aluminum-coated balloon. Gray’s derring-do took humanity higher than ever before.
But the feat went unrecognized in official circles. During the too-fast descent, Gray bailed out of his balloon at around 8,000 feet, a violation of rules that stated the record holder must descend with his or her craft. His climb into the stratosphere nonetheless lifted humanity to the next rung in a quest that, one day, landed Neil Armstrong on the moon.
Named after the first American enlisted man to die in an air crash, Scott Field saw its first service in 1917 as a training ground for World War I fighter pilots. Sold off postwar, the field became a station for lighter-than-air (LTA) vehicles, first airships and then balloons, with the latter particularly involved in meteorological and other scientific study. The 1st Balloon Company claimed Scott Field as home in 1929. It would revert to airplane use in 1937 and become a base for training radio operator-mechanics in World War II. In 1948, it became Scott Air Force Base.
Hawthorne C. Gray did not see the Scott Field’s later iterations, however. Undaunted, he attempted another record-setting ascent exactly six months after his May 4 feat. Somewhere between 42,000 and 43,000 feet, Gray either became disoriented or lost consciousness altogether. On November 5, 1927, searchers found his body—still in the balloon basket—near Sparta, Tennessee. The Air Corps awarded him the Distinguished Flying Cross posthumously and the government granted a request by Gray’s family to bury him in Arlington National Cemetery.
It’s spring, and the insects have returned in force. Though, unless you live in Antarctica, it’s doubtful you go a day without seeing an arthropod even in winter. These creatures are everywhere and have been for tens of millions of years. Here’s an irony: without arthropods, nature would go awry. Yet whenever nature goes awry, the result always seems to be giant moths, enormous atomic ants, or venomous super-spiders that do not fear John Goodman.
In this classic of natural history, Berenbaum weaves a web of spellbinding portraits that acquaints readers with the multitudes sharing our world and, alas, our kitchen. Go small or go home as Berenbaum reveals:
Why the “Jesus bug” can walk on water
How the katydid’s nighttime noise inspired romantic poetry
The trapping prowess of the hungry antlion
That disgusting thing chiggers do to eat your skin
A witty guide that’s as accessible as the container of flour you should have closed more tightly, Ninety-nine Gnats, Nits, and Nibblers is the fascinating story of our million closest neighbors.
Ninety-nine More Maggots, Mites, and Munchers
What lives in a reindeer’s nose? Glad you asked. In this sequel to Ninety-nine Gnats, Nits, and Nibblers, Berenbaum offers another classic compendium of creepy-crawly cameos. Read up on our myriad arthropodan indignities and allies as Berenbaum reveals:
Why the rove beetle gives mind-altering drugs to ants
How the snail-killing fly enjoys its escargot
Why Piophila casei doesn’t care when you eat its larvae
What strange fate awaits a honey ant worker engorged with nectar
As lively as a fly in the buttermilk, Ninety-nine More Maggots, Mites, and Munchers is a who’s who and what’s THAT? guide to Lilliputian life-forms both familiar and obscure.
On May 1, 1893, the World’s Columbian Exposition opened in Chicago and soon took its place among the magnificent public entertainments of the modern age. The following is an excerpt from Chicago’s Grand Midway, by Norman Bolotin with Christine Laing, a walking tour and history of one of the Exposition’s most celebrated attraction.
On February 25, 1890, Congress shocked New York by selecting Chicago to host the greatest fair the country had ever seen, and arguably one to challenge the Paris spectacle that had just closed.
Chicago faced an arduous landscape and construction task, not to mention securing foreign and domestic public and private participants with just thirty months to go until the original congressional goal of opening on Columbus Day 1892.
Although many observers cited what they believed to be Chicago’s failure to meet the deadline, any idea of reaching that goal had already been abandoned by the time the city was selected. Instead, the buildings and grounds would be dedicated in October 1892, and the actual opening of the fair would be six months later.
Today marks the birthday of famed sculptor Lorado Taft, born in 1860 in Elmwood, Illinois.
A graduate of the Illinois Industrial University—forerunner of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign—Taft studied in France before returning to Chicago to make his reputation and fortune. Today, Taft works dot the nation. He also remains one of the great figures in the history of the Art Institute, where he taught for over thirty years.
In the 1920s, Taft was at the height of his fame and undiminished in his powers. A bequest from Urbana resident J.O. Cunningham paid Taft $10,000—less than half his fee—to create a bronze statue of Abraham Lincoln. Cunningham and her husband had befriended the Railsplitter back in his circuit lawyering days. As Allen Stuart Weller relates in his UIP book Lorado Taft: The Chicago Years (edited by Robert G. La France and Henry Adams with Stephen P. Thomas):
In 1925 Taft signed a contract to make a statue of Lincoln for his college town of Urbana. He had long admired the Saint-Gaudens standing Lincoln in Lincoln Park, Chicago. Subsequently, it seemed impossible for him to think of the great president in any other guise or attitude. But this was followed by a hopeful thought; Taft would not depict the martyred president, but the youthful Lincoln as he appeared when he practiced law in the Illinois federal courts soon after he had been admitted to the bar.
Taft modeled him leaning slightly backward, supported by both hands on a desk, which takes the place of the thronelike chair in Saint-Gaudens statue. The modeling of Taft’s Lincoln is broad and specific. Every detail is powerfully indicated but does not detract from the keenness of the serious facial expression, which was based on the famous life mask by Leonard Volk. The statue was dedicated in 1927 and now stands proudly at the east entrance of Carle Park.