From the desk of Robert Loerzel

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Piecing Together the Green Mill Puzzle

I’ve just posted another installment in The Coolest Spot in Chicago: A History of Green Mill Gardens and the Beginnings of Uptown, my series of blog posts.

This one is Chapter 2: Piecing Together the Green Mill Puzzle. It’s an overview of the whole saga.

Before delving deeper into the various stories about the Green Mill, let’s try piecing together same basic facts about the place: Where exactly was it during its early years? And how did that change as time went on? And who owned it?

So, this chapter is a chronological outline of key moments … supported with cartographic and photographic evidence … and sprinkled with some puzzles and unanswered questions. It’s a tangled and complicated history.

Like the last chapter (Pop Morse’s Roadhouse and the Myth of 1907), this is a long read—some 9,000 words. But I do think it’ll be interesting to a lot of folks. (Looking ahead, I think a lot of my chapters in this saga will be long ones.)

Here are a few pictures from this blog post:
A Sanborn fire insurance map from 1928, showing the layout of the Green Mill building and the Uptown Theatre.
A photo from 1923 or 1924, when the Uptown Theatre was being about to be constructed on this land, where the Green Mill Gardens outdoor area had been located. (Kudos to @mckiesdjlounge for sharing this picture.)
The Chicago American front page from November 8, 1927, when entertainer Joe E. Lewis was attacked shortly after moving from his gig at the Green Mill to another venue.

Well, those beavers finally did it …

If you follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, you may know that I’ve been watching a couple of beavers for more than two years now. They live in the Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course pond next to Montrose Harbor.

I enjoy watching, photographing, and filming these remarkable creatures—but I’ve also been alarmed at how much they chewing up the trees around their habitat. In particular, there was a huge cottonwood tree near the pond, and I’ve noticed how the beavers gnawed out some big chunks all around its trunk.

When I took a walk over there on Thursday morning, I saw that the tree had been taken down. The beavers started the job, but the Chicago Park District or city must have finished off the job. Large pieces of the tree were stacked nearby. Through the fence, you can see the chewed-up and sawed-off stump.

It’s a shame to lose this tree. I’ve noticed that it’s a popular perching spot for black-crowned night herons and other birds. Last summer, a pair of Baltimore orioles stayed in the cottonwood tree and its vicinity for a long stretch of time.

I keep wondering if the park district will remove the beavers, as they’ve reportedly done with beavers in other parks.
And what’s this hole I noticed at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary? It looks like a critter was burrowing here. Someone said it’s a fox. We'll have to be on the lookout for that …
That’s a black-capped chickadee taking flight at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary. I’ve been attempting to get photos of birds in flight, including these little chickadees, for a while. One strategy is to train my camera at them while they’re sitting—and then hope that I can catch the split second when they take off.

I’ve learned that birds are incredibly fast! Most of the time, I end up with a photo of a bird sitting on a branch, followed by a photo of an empty branch. While I was used to shooting photos with a shutter speed around 1/100th of a second, you need a much shorter click to freeze the image of a bird in flight. For the photo above, my shutter speed was 1/3,200th of a second. And it still doesn’t look as sharp as I would like—although that may also be because of the bird’s moving out of the area where my lens was focused.

Below, you’ll see the same bird, photographed 13 seconds after the first picture:
This is a fox sparrow. I saw it on Thursday morning at Montrose Point.
A downy woodpecker
Above: A downy woodpecker watching me at Montrose Point.
A red-winged blackbird at Montrose Point. Watch out for these guys—they will dive-bomb you! I got bonked on the head by one Thursday. Luckily, I had the hood of my winter coat up, so I just felt a thud. No damage done.
That’s a pied-billed grebe in the pond at Graceland Cemetery. These are cool little birds. A couple of years ago, there was one that hung around in the same pond for a good stretch of time.

And here’s a video I posted on Twitter of two mallards looking for a place to nest. It’s nesting season! (Click on this image to open the tweet and watch the video…)

See me talk about what I saw

I’m one of 20 people speaking for two minutes each to answer the question “What did you see?” during 20×2 Chicago, 7 p.m. Sunday, April 2, at Gman Tavern.

From the desk of Robert Loerzel

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