Newberry Library, Chicago

I thought I’d bring my Covey friends along on my family research trip to Newberry Library.

Chicago’s subway is called the el, which is short for ‘elevated.’ Most of it is above-ground but, as you approach downtown, it burrows underground. There are several different lines stretching all directions and all named after colors. I took the Brown line and transferred to the Red line, so that’s what my pictures are of. An el ride is $2.25 one-way. Most of us locals use a Ventra card, which is akin to a debit card that links up to your checking account and takes money out $20 at a time. You just flash your card in front of a circle on the front of the entrance gate (which I forgot to take a picture of) and you’re on your way. Visitors buy a ticket at the station. The card works the same way to pay for bus fare.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I live in a neighborhood north of the city about 15 minutes by train from The Loop, which is the central district marked by theaters and a literal loop of the El. I work just a 10-minute walk from where I live, so I don’t leave my neighborhood most days. Every Chicagoan will tell you that the city is made up of dozens of distinct neighborhoods that feel like small towns unto themselves. So even though I live relatively close to skyscrapers, I’m surprised by them when I go into the City proper.

It’s my first visit to the Newberry Library, a private library founded in 1887. A private library does not lend out its assets. Everything stays in house. Its holdings revolve around the humanities— which is what brought me here. I found out in my genealogy research that it held several of my ancestors’ birth, marriage, and death records. And I love digging into old books and microfiche! I’m weird that way. I’ll let this link explain the library’s history, if anyone is interested in learning more. After a very patient librarian showed me where I could find my records, I spent a few hours zipping through microfiche and gathering my documentation. A perfectly nerdy way for me to spend a Saturday afternoon! Stomach growling I left very pleased to find out they offer a tour for genealogists the first Saturday of every month and special classes throughout the year.

The Extremes of Chicago

Chicago in the summer is a masterpiece. As soon as I leave work, a canopy-covered street breathes with the fresh air of the lake. If I hopped on a bus and took it to the end of the route, I would find myself in Lincoln Park where Chicagoans jog, skate, or bike on the sidewalk, or they just chat on plaid blankets laid out on the sides of hills all afternoon. Just near my bus stop is a place that offers boat tours on the water. I took my niece out for an architectural tour one day. The presenter’s speech wasn’t as much fun as the spray we’d receive whenever the boat banked left. After the tour, we walked onto the pier together soaked but absolutely pleased!

Winter is also beautiful, but I have fewer pictures because it’s harder to be patient outside in the cold waiting for the perfect shot! As you can see from the picture, a lot of my neighbors decorate their yards for the holiday season. Big flashy bulbs glimmer above your head. And on the main roads, street vendors sell roasted almonds and stir vats of Mexican hot chocolate to warm up your bones. Occasionally, along the side of every street, you’ll see a lonely little chair sitting in a perfect square of snowless pavement. The chairs are to save the parking spots for the people who took the trouble to shovel their cars out. It’s just an unspoken Chicago law that if a chair is standing guard over a parking spot, you move along to another.