Chicago: Public Enemies Movie Set

29 05 2008

This May, Hollywood once again descended on the city of Chicago with the filming of Public Enemies. Directed by Michael Mann, this feature film is about the FBI’s take down of notorious American gangsters John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, and and Pretty Boy Floyd during the 1930s. Johnny Depp is playing John Dillinger while Christian Bale is playing Melvin Purvis, the FBI agent on his case as Public Enemy #1.

Above: Photo of John Dillinger
Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation

It’s always exciting when Chicago is featured in Hollywood movies, but this movie takes the cake in terms of using the Windy City as a backdrop. As you may know, John Dillinger was shot to death by the FBI in the alley by the Biograph Theater in Chicago. The FBI’s website has a fantastic summary of what happened with John Dillinger, which you can access here. The movie is being filmed at this actual location. Talk about an authentic reenactment!

Above: Biograph Theater circa 1930s
Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation

The Biograph Theater is located in the heart of Lincoln Park on Lincoln Avenue just north of Fullerton. What the director has done is transform the entire block into 1930s Chicago. The movie crew has laid cobblestones in the middle of the street and recreated storefronts from that era.

Well, enough talk – below are the movie set pictures!

The moviemakers have recreated every detail, including what movie was playing the very night Dillinger was shot on July 22, 1934. Ironically, Manhattan Melodrama was a movie about a gangster.

Through the magic of Google Maps Street View, we can see what the Biograph Theater and the surrounding street usually look like. The theater was recently restored, so there actually weren’t any major changes. Click on the little man when the map pops up for the Street View.

Click Here to View Map

Here are closeups of some of the storefronts. I love all the details.

The picture below is a view from the other side of the Biograph Theater.

This is the liquor store right next to the theater.

In today’s time, this supermarket is a Qdoba Mexican Grill.

And here is the infamous alley where John Dillinger was shot by the FBI. Notice the modern condo building behind it.

On the other side of the alley is a Chinese takeout place and a jeweler.

Across the street is the Red Lion, which funny enough they didn’t need to change very much for the movie set.

Below is a picture of The Red Lion in modern times.

Photo by Chris A from Yelp

Here are some more stores across the street from the Biograph.

A. Zito Bakery

What a fantastic transformation of this street – it was like going back in time. I just love that the director decided to film that scene at the actual location of the historical event, and I love seeing this recreation of 1930s Chicago. The great thing is that many of these buildings only required small changes. I suppose there are little bits of history everywhere if you only know where to look!


Chicago River by Boat, Part 2

27 05 2008

In this post, we continue our journey down the Chicago River by boat on a lovely Spring day.  To see Part 1, click here.  As the boat continued down the south fork of the Chicago river away from downtown, we were rewarded with this view from the South.  The Sears Tower is visible for several miles outside of Chicago.  Between the Sears Tower and the Lake (and the well organized streets), directions are easy to follow in Chicago.  The Lake, of course, is always East of you so directions are often given as North, South, East and West.

One of the interesting parts of the Chicago River are the iron bridges dotting the length of the river.

Imagine our surprise when we saw this steam locomotive pulled up beside the river.  Apparently, the Milwaukee Road 261 runs seasonal train excursions, usually between Milwaukee, Chicago, and other Midwest cities. 

For lunch, we went to Lawrence’s, a fish fry place in an industrial corridor near Chinatown.  They have a pier where you can just pull up with your boat.  I don’t have a photo of it for some reason.

We also stopped by Chinatown park so that we could grab some bubble teas from Joy Yee’s.  It was a perfect treat for a day on the river.

With our bubble teas in hand, we turned the boat around and headed back towards downtown.  At this time, the clouds moved into the area and the temperature dropped noticeably.

Here we are back at the fork of the river in the middle of downtown.  This time, we took the eastern fork of the river, which leads to Lake Michigan.  Below is the massive 4,000,000 square foot Merchandise Mart.

On the right we passed the RR Donnelly Building, one of many office buildings on Wacker Drive.

On the left, we see the iconic Marina City towers aka the corn cob towers, which are comprised of condominiums on top of a parking lot, on top of restaurants, a bowling alley, and a boat dock.  Located in the same complex are the House of Blues and the Sax Hotel.   

There are beautiful riverside promenades on Wacker Drive.

The soon to be gigantic Trump Tower.

The Wrigley Building needs no introduction.  The gothic structure to the right of the Wrigley Building is the Tribune Tower.

Michigan Avenue runs right in front of the Wrigley Building.  The glamorous Magnificent Mile, Chicago’s premier shopping street, is just north of this intersection.  The very posh Oak Street boutiques are at the northern end of the Mag Mile.

The Trump Tower already dwarfs the Wrigley Building.  Blech.

As we approach the locks, the gateway to Lake Michigan, we leave behind the skyscrapers.

Finally we are cruising free on Lake Michigan.

Chicago River by Boat, Part 1

23 05 2008

Last weekend, a friend of ours invited us onto his boat. He and his boat partner wanted to take their boat out of dry dock and put it into their space at Belmont Harbor for the summer. In order to do that, they had to navigate the boat down the Chicago River from the north side of Chicago south through downtown and out to Lake Michigan. We came along for the ride, and it was a perfect warm Spring day. Charles and I had a fantastic time, and we are grateful to J and P for letting us come along the ride!

Around the first bend, we got a nice view of the River North area where we saw this delightful park. River North is a nice area of downtown where strangely enough a lot of Chicago Bulls and Cubs players live.

A few minutes later we passed by the venerable East Bank Club, a gym where a bunch of celebrities and professional athletes have memberships. I’ve heard that the Chicago Bulls work out here, in addition to Oprah. Oprah’s studio and the United Center are just a little west of this area. Now that I think about it, this club is probably one of the reasons so many pro athletes live near here.

After passing the East Bank Club, we came upon the fork in the river and this wonderful skyline view. You can see the Sears Tower right in the middle of the photograph.

Right at the fork of the river is the magnificently curved 333 Wacker Drive. This photogenic office building has been featured in numerous movies and commercials. In “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” Ferris’ dad worked in this building.

We decided to take the right fork of the river (southward) so we could pick up lunch. The bridge below is for cars on the lower level and has El tracks on top. The green and pink line trains use this bridge – I know because I take it every day.

Views along the southern branch of the river include many office buildings, which come right up to the water.

It is customary to wave at other boats you pass, like this police boat. Also you want to be nice to the Chicago Police in general.

After passing under the wooden Washington Boulevard bridge, you will see the Lyric Opera‘s building on the left.

Across from the Civic Opera Building is 2 North Riverside Plaza. This building is connected to the Ogilvie Metra station through a glass pedestrian bridge.

Back on the River, we see the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on the left.

All along the river are beautiful maroon painted bridges that are flanked by these small stone structures. All the bridges are able to raise themselves for large boats, and the stone structures contain the controls for these operations.

We see glimpses of the Sears Tower as we continue down the river.

Here we have an unencumbered view of the Sears Tower, the tallest building in North America.

After clearing the Sears Tower, we see the old Chicago Post Office building. No longer in use, this building was most recently used as the location for Gotham Bank and the Gotham Police Headquarters in the soon to be released new Batman movie.

Continuing down the Chicago River on the left is River City, which was designed by the same architect who was responsible for Marina City, the famous corn cob towers situated on the other branch of the river. This building complex was designed to be a self sustained city within a city.

To be continued…

Springtime in Chicago

21 05 2008

In Chicago, springtime is uncertain until the month of May.  You may get warm weather in April, but there is an equal likelihood of snow.  I went to a garden nursery in April afraid that I was too late to begin planting (this is my first year attempting to do a garden).  One of the salespeople there assured me that most people don’t even start planting flowers until after the last frost.  The safe date she quoted was May 15! 

Once warm weather arrives, however, Chicago literally blooms.  On one of the first beautiful days of May, my parents and I went for a walk around the Chicago Botanic Garden

The Chicago Botanic Garden is a 385 acre garden and museum owned by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County.  It is located in the northern Chicago suburb of Glencoe and managed by the Chicago Horticultural Society.  The Chicago Botanic Garden features a series of 23 display gardens set upon islands surrounded by a lake.  The Garden also hosts classes and other educational features.  There is a $12 per car parking fee, but is otherwise free to the public.

As evidenced below, early May is prime season for tulips in the Chicago area, as it is in the 5-6 plant hardiness zone.

The fruit and vegetable garden was very educational and unique.  As a first time gardener, I was interested to see what kinds of vegetables and plants do well in Chicago.

Below are some lettuce of all types in the early stages of growth (baby greens).

Broccoli anyone?

Now this was a novel idea – why don’t you plant your whole salad bowl in a hanging basket? This would be great for city dwellers like myself.

The CBG also had an amazing display of bonzai plants. There were so many exquisite examples that they filled two courtyards.

This one looks like a mini tree.

How about a miniature forest scene?

The walled English garden is a delight, although it’s even more beautiful in the summer.

Dr. Seuss called and wants his trees back.

My favorite display garden is the exquisite Japanese garden.

There was a lovely terraced tulip garden overlooking the lake that was surrounded by willow trees.

This group of flowers would look lovely in a window box by my window.

Here’s my attempt at bringing Spring into my condo. This is my first ever foray into gardening – I don’t even know if I have a green or black thumb.  Since we don’t have a lawn, I am setting up a container garden in my back deck. 


Review: The Barclay New York (Intercontinental)

19 05 2008

I stayed at the Barclay Hotel in NYC for one night in May 2008 on a business trip. Overall, I found it be a very nice hotel, both for business and for pleasure. The hotel is located right in midtown Manhattan on the East Side right off Park Avenue, near Rockefeller Center.

Check-in was quick and professional, although not particularly friendly. The lobby of this vintage Federal period hotel was elegant and beautiful.

(Sorry for the grainy pictures, I didn’t know that my camera was set to a high ISO.)

The room itself was pretty sizable for a NYC hotel room but smaller than most normal hotel rooms in the US. Everything was immaculately clean and tasteful, as one would expect for this class of hotel.

There’s no flatscreen TV, but the room had everything you need. The desk had high speed internet (for a fee I believe), a mini-bar, and the usual assortment of coffee maker, ice bucket, and cups.

The bathroom was pretty small, but nicely appointed. Good shower pressure.

All in all, this was a very nice stay. The corporate rate was pretty expensive, but according to some Tripadvisor reviews, some guests have successfully acquired a room at this hotel for $160 on priceline (last minute) and for $219 on Hotwire. Those prices must be an urban myth because they are just plain fantastic deals for this hotel. The average price on Tripadvisor for this hotel is much higher.  I would stay here again if I could score a room around $200 (or for business), although I’m sure that’s pretty much impossible.

New York City: A Small Bite of the Big Apple

16 05 2008

Since NYC is so well known, no introduction is needed. I’ve been to the Big Apple several times but believe it’s still nice to visit (although I would never want to live here because of the astronomical real estate prices). I was only in town for 24 hours for work, but still managed to snap some quintessential NYC pictures. You can click on the photos for a larger view.

Our aircraft approached Manhattan from the south and we were rewarded with this view.

NYC Skyline

As we neared LaGuardia, this manhattan skyline pulled into view. I love that you can see the Empire State Building.

NYC Skyline

On my way to my meeting, we passed by Times Square. Here’s a view from my cab window.

Times Square

I took a short stroll around midtown before heading to the airport. Here’s Grand Central Terminal.

Grand Central

I did manage to squeeze in some food in Flushing (Taiwan/Koreatown in Queens) before leaving. I sampled Lu’s Seafood House (66) for some Taiwanese fare and Joe’s Shanghai for some Xiaolongbao. Both were delicious! Be aware that NYC’s Chinatowns only accept cash.

On my flight home, I managed to snap this photo of the beautiful shoreline of Chicago. It is a great contrast to NYC.

Chicago Skyline

Google Translate – It’s Magic!

7 05 2008

I was looking at my blog stats the other day when I noticed something very strange. One of my referrers was a Chinese translation of my blog! Apparently, one of my readers had found my page through Google Taiwan and then used the Google Translate function to transform the entire website automatically into Traditional Chinese. You can read more about the background in this Wikipedia entry on Google Translate.

To see my blog in Traditional Chinese, type in “Travels with Sandy” at and when the first hit comes up, press the linke titled [翻譯此頁] next to it. You can view any page in Simplified Chinese by going to and doing the same thing.

The Chinese to English translation is still in the BETA stage, but seems to have promise. My skills at reading Chinese are not very good so I am not a very good judge, but from what I can read, the translator actually reverses word order when appropriate and translates simple sentences fairly well. However, like any automatic translator, more complex sentences and words with more than one meaning are easily garbled.

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