Excursions: Lake Forest and Chicago

In April I was invited to visit my alma mater, Lake Forest College, to talk with its Museum Studies students about my various professional experiences so far. While I've visited the campus a handful of times since graduating in 2008, what made this trip meaningful was having the opportunity to give something back to the students. It's assuring to know I have something worth giving back, especially to a school that gave a great deal to me.

Not to brag or anything, but LFC has a beautiful campus, so let me show you some of the buildings:

What you're looking at here is the interior of the Lily Reid Holt Chapel. It's named for Lily Reid Holt, an alumna who unfortunately died of tuberculosis a few years after her graduation. Her parents had this chapel built in her honor, and it's one of the gems on campus. The glass windows are from none other than Louis Comfort Tiffany, and the overall barrel-arch design is just fantastic. It's a popular destination for weddings, and I attended several recitals here during my undergraduate days. I even saw a student performance of Dracula here that wasn't half bad.

This is Lois Hall, which was my home for nearly my entire undergraduate experience. Designed as a women's-only dorm in the late 1800s, it's got a very formal, guarded feel to it, rather different from the more motel-like dorms on south campus. It's also got a bit of an anthropomorphic quality to me: with that spire in the middle it reminds me of an old headmistress wearing a witch's hat.

I always liked living here because it was quiet. Boys were allowed to stay over, so I saw them as regularly as I would have in a co-ed dorm, but what made Lois work for me was that its layout wasn't particularly conducive to partying. Most of the girls would go out to get their groove on, leaving me to study or sleep in peace. Partying was never my scene even as a freshman, so I had no problem with living in an old-fashioned dorm.
The building with the Mansard Roof is Young Hall. Dating to the 1870s, it's the oldest surviving academic building on campus, and a workhorse when it comes to classes, housing courses in history, politics, mathematics, computer science, and other subjects. I took about half of all my classes here, most of them on the fourth floor, so I can't tell you how many times I went up and down those side staircases. There was an elevator, but its slow, creaking ascent was pretty unsettling, so I rarely used it. The other yellow building is North Hall. It's primarily administrative in nature, so I only went there when I needed transcripts.
Now here's a treasure of a building. This is Durand Art Institute, where I took nearly all of my art history classes. It's a great example of Richardsonian Romanesque, and is replete with delightful medieval-cum-late-Victorian details, from the multiple arches in the main entrance, to the fake buttresses running along the parameter of the building. My personal favorite has to be the pair of owls holding their palette and brushes.

Of course the LFC campus isn't the only place boasting beautiful architecture. Lake Forest itself is also home to many notable buildings, including the public library. The building here dates from 1931, and has an impressive art collection including Audobon prints, and murals by Nicolai Remisoff (1887-1975).

Then there's Market Square. Completed in 1916, Market Square is one of the earliest and most important planned shopping centers in the United States, and emblematic of the City Beautiful movement that captivated American urban planning during the early twentieth century. In an effort to attract shoppers, who typically took the train to Chicago, the planners of Market Square channeled 16th-century European designs, particularly from the Brussels area, to create a space that seemed both inviting and timeless, as though it had been there for hundreds of years. It's got wonderful little architectural and sculptural details that enhance the illusion of its centuries-old presence.

Lake Forest is located next to the shores of Lake Michigan. As a student I used to go walking along the lake several times a week, as it was only a few minutes' stroll from campus.

And of course, there's Chicago, which is about an hour away from campus via the Metro train. After giving my talks, I took a day to go to the city, visiting the Art Institute and the CSO. I've always loved the architecture of this city, with its medley of styles and aesthetics, from Egypto-Revival to Gothic to postmodern. There's a building for every taste, and it makes for an impressive skyline.

It was a wonderful trip, but don't think I'm waxing too nostalgic. As much as I enjoyed visiting the school again, I have no yearning to return to my undergraduate years. They were fun, but I'm not that person anymore, and LFC is no longer my campus. It's home for other students now, and my wish for them is that they'll appreciate their time there as much as I did before going on to more exciting things.

Optimistic? Of course, but one can always hope.