downtown

WALKING THE STRIP

I recently traveled to Las Vegas for a long weekend of work-related events.  Although I had a detailed shot list for sites I wanted to photograph, reality left me with very little time to actually make images.  After completing my obligations, I headed out down the strip at 11:00 pm on a brisk and windy March night. As I walked around trying to capture the hustle and bustle of the Vegas Strip, I settled on an area with active traffic and a backdrop of hotels including Treasure Island, The Venetian and The Mirage.

Lighting up the Strip

The extended light trails lead the eye straight down the strip populated with gargantuan hotels filled with casinos, high-end retailers and countless five-star celebrity-owned restaurants.  This level of excess and grandeur can only be seen in aplace known appropriately as Sin City.

YOUR GUARDIAN AWAITS

A few weeks back I headed downtown with Thomas Nighswander and some members of Michigan Photo Adventures to ride along the Detroit People Mover in order to search out future photographic opportunities. One of the main stops of the day was the landmark Guardian Building located within the Financial district of downtown Detroit. Built in 1929, the building served as a great example of bold Art Deco Architecture while being designated in 1989 as a National Historic Landmark. 

The lavish interior of the Guardian building is clothed in mosaic, Pewabic and Rookwood tile. It has been nicknamed the Cathedral of Finance due to the building's exterior resemblance to a cathedral as well as the existing interior archway.

The overwhelming Native American Themes are evident both inside and outside the building. The architect Wirt C. Rowland worked closely with the Muralist Ezra Winter to ensure the exterior architecture and interior furnishings presented a consistent theme throughout.

The skyscraper extends 36 stories into the sky  while housing numerous offices for large corporations. In 2007, Wayne County Executive, Robert Ficano signed an agreement with the current owners  to purchase the Guardian building in order to relocate its offices from the Wayne County Building.

THE DRAKE HOTEL CHICAGO - STEP BACK IN TIME

Located in Chicago's Gold Coast, the legendary Drake Hotel has been a timeless property which provides its guests the ultimate access to the city's finest restaurants, shopping and nightlife.

The Drake is one of about 260 hotels and resorts in the country to be admitted into the Historic Hotels of America due to it's ability to preserve and maintain its historic architecture, integrity and ambiance. 

For a hotel to be honored with this distinction, it must be at least 50 years old as well as being designated as a National Historic Landmark. The Drake has been recognized for almost century as the premier destination the high society crowd to assemble. The ability of the hotel staff to ensure each guest receives nothing less than The Drake Standard of Hospitality ensures it's high level of customer loyalty. 

During the 1920's the Palm Court became the desired location for the city's elite to indulge in the ongoing tradition of Afternoon Tea. This room has seen the likes of Bing Crosby, Walt Disney and Charles Lindbergh imbibing on their favorite cocktails. 

The tradition of Afternoon Tea has become a city staple comparable to the Chicago Hot Dog. This quintessential hotspot has been frequented by royalty such as Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana who enjoyed their favorite tea and snacks. 

The tradition of afternoon  tea was created by the Seventh Duchess of Bedford back in 1840. Since there was such a long interval between meals, the duchess began requesting tea and cake be brought to her room to satisfy her hunger pangs. She soon made this a daily ritual and invited some friends to join her. This has now become a highly desired experience at the hotel and reservations are strongly recommended.

The hotel has become synonymous with great customer satisfaction while providing the ultimate guest experience. The attention to detail can be seen throughout the hotel through its ornate decor and ambiance. While visiting Chicago, this hotel should be on everyone's list even just as a walkthrough while providing a unique perspective on the Windy City.  One final note, I must insist you stop at the restaurant Coq D'or and partake in a Lobster Roll - you will never forget it.

TOWER OF THE AMERICAS

Located in the middle of Hemisfair Park in downtown San Antonio is the iconic structure known as the Tower of The Americas. This 750-foot tower houses a cocktail lounge, rotating restaurant as well as an observation deck which provides phenomenal panoramic views of the city. The tower, recognized as the tallest building in San Antonio, was designed by architect O'Neil Ford as the main theme structure for the 1968 World's Fair, Hemisfair '68

Construction of the tower commenced on August 9, 1966 and was completed 18 months later, just prior to the opening ceremonies of the fair on April 6, 1968. Interestingly enough, the top portion of the building was constructed at ground level and hoisted on top of the concrete pillar by cables which actually snapped leaving the top resting rather precariously on the concrete shaft. The job was then completed using oil field pipes to secure the tophouse in position.

The ride to the top takes approximately five and a half minutes and can provide some great photographic opportunities if you can avoid the crowds. 





THE DETROIT OPERA HOUSE

The Detroit Opera House is an ornate building located in downtown Detroit within the Grand Circus Park Historic District. This building serves as home to the Michigan Opera Theatre as well as numerous other events. The theatre was originally designed by C. Howard Crane who also designed the Fox Theatre, The Fillmore Detroit as well as the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Hall. The original construction was completed in 1922 with an extensive renovation completed in 1996 to bring the building up to today's standards.

The building was originally known as the Capital Theater which at the time was the fifth largest of its kind in the entire world. The theater was constructed with outstanding acoustics while assuming the style of the Grand European Opera houses. The Capital theater was decorated in the Italian Renaissance style with lavish crystal chandeliers, frescoes, marble staircases ,and brass fixtures. Rich rose-red Italian damask was used for the mainstage curtain as well as draperies throughout the house. The majority of these features are still present in the renovated version of the Detroit Opera House.

The Capitol Theater was renamed the Paramount Theater in 1934 and went on to host such luminaries as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Will Rogers as well as volumes of rock stars of the 1950's. 

After decaying for several years, the theater was repaired and renamed the Grand Circus Theater in 1960 while transforming itself into a movie house. The theater provided a plethora of musical acts such as Ray Charles and Roy Orbison.  The palace closed in 1985 after a small fire.

After being neglected and abandoned for years, the Detroit Opera House was successfully restored in 1996 while assuming the current name with the oversight of the Michigan Opera Theater. While being home to the Michigan Opera Theater, the Opera House also plays host to  some of the world's greatest dance companies.

A special Thanks goes out to Alanna St. Laurent for arranging the private tour to make this experience possible.

DOWNTOWN GRAND RAPIDS

Last weekend I decided at the last minute to getaway for a night absolving myself from the responsibilities and obligations of everyday life. I jumped in the car and headed to Grand Rapids, Michigan which has quickly become one of the fastest growing cities with it's enticing offering of breweries, restaurants and a vibrant art scene. 

Blue Bridge

Located in the heart of downtown lies the iconic pedestrian bridge simply known as the Blue Bridge. The bridge connects the city center on the East bank to the Grand Rapids Public Museum and Grand Valley State University facilities on the West. This pedestrian bridge provides a convenient connection between the Robert C. Pew Grand Rapids Campus of Grand Valley State University as well as the Grand Rapids Public Museum and other attractions on the east side of the river.

This location has proven quite popular while providing a backdrop for wedding parties, prom pictures with its unmistakeable "Lake Blue" color.

Back to the city

Off to the left, in the two previous photos, is the JW Marriott Hotel where I spent the evening. Excellent service and attention to detail provide the perfect complement to the eye-catching contemporary architectural design.

Waterfront Downtown Grand Rapids

The downtown area is an ideal venue for taking in the all glorious options a large vibrant city has to offer. There are walking paths along the water which allow you to experience big-city excitement without the usual big city hassles. There are multiple dining, shopping, entertainment, and sightseeing opportunities all within a 10-minute stroll.

Pearl Street Bridge

 

Public Museum of Grand Rapids

The Grand Rapids Public Museum happens to be one of the oldest history museums in the United States. The museum contains a cafe, gift shop, as well as a rather unique feature, a 1928 Spilllman Carousel. The museum offers attractions for everyone as well as those interested in Astronomy by way of the Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium. 

Upon completing the museum tour, a simple stroll across the street brings you to the Gerald R. Ford Museum. 

Gerald R Ford Museum

Since September of 1981, the Gerald R.Ford Museum has provided visitors a snapshot into history with exhibits and interactive learning to better understand the highlights of the Ford Administration. The museum offers a gift shop to provide momentos of history while also serving as a host for naturalization ceremonies and the annual fourth of July fireworks,

 

Grand Rapids continue to flourish as one of the fastest growing cities with all its unique offerings and I look forward to returning to visit its newest attractions. 


THE CHURCHES OF SAN ANTONIO

The city of San Antonio, Texas is known for many things - The iconic river walk, Gigantic portions of beef, The San Antonio Spurs as well as the Famous Alamo. Among the less publicized attractions are the numerous churches located throughout the city. On a recent trip to San Antonio, I was fortunate enough to acquire access to three of the more better known churches in the city.

Little Church of LaVillita

The non-denominational Little Church of LaVillita happens to be one of San Antonio's most unique historical sites. Situated just off the river walk in the Historic Art Village of Lavillita, the Church was built in 1879 in Gothic Revival Architecture with a stunning stained glass window greeting all visitors upon entry. The meticulously crafted concrete walls provide an extremely unique experience among the churches of today while actively conducting services every Sunday Morning.

Saint Joseph Church

The Parish of Saint Joseph was the brainchild of a group of German Catholic immigrants searching for a place of worship in the mid 1800's. The church was constructed in a rather spartan fashion with small additions being made as funds allowed by the community. The exterior structure was finally considered completed in 1898 when a steeple was added to the gothic style rooftop. In 1902, the church was granted an immense upgrade as a handful of beautiful stained glass windows were purchased from a glass factory in Bavaria, Germany for the sum of $3000. 

Exterior Saint Joseph Church

The resiliency of the church was tested in 1945 when Joske's department store sought to purchase the church and grounds in order to expand its operation. The parishioners voted unanimously not to sell, exhibiting tremendous faith and resolve. As a result, the church remains a symbol of faith while surrounded by the Rivercenter Mall, hotels and residences. For this reason, the church is known to locals as the "jewel in the heart of San Antonio". The church serves as a respite for many locals and tourists alike every Sunday morning.

Front Section Saint Joseph Parish

This picturesque institution requires a visit by anyone in the vicinity of San Antonio - it is definitely worth the drive.

San Fernando Cathedral

Located in Downtown San Antonio is the world famous San Fernando Cathedral which has been honored to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It serves as the Mother Church of the ArchDiocese of San Antonio. The original church was built between 1738 and 1750 with the original walls forming the sanctuary of the cathedral. This church has the distinction of being the oldest cathedral in the State of Texas. 

The Church gets its name from Ferdinand III of Castile, who was a a 13th century ruler.  The Cathedral was built by settlers from the Canary Islands. Due to this effort, the interior contains a picture of the Virgin of Candelaria, the patroness of the Canary Islands.

The Cathedral was enlarged in the Gothic Style in 1868, with the addition of the existing nave. The striking stained glass windows were added in 1920.

San Fernando Cathedral happens to have the elite status of being the only church in all of Texas ever visited by a  Pope - Pope John Paul II arrived in 1987. The cathedral serves as the foundation for religious citizens of San Antonio.  Each year, countless events are held here including baptism, weddings, funerals, as well as other special activities.