Chicago Second Presbyterian Church

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I took a trip to Chicago, my home town, to dedicate a memorial to my mother, who would have been 101 years old this year. The dedication took place at the Second Presbyterian Church of Chicago. Family members were invited to participate in the worship service in the beautiful 175 year old church.

IMG_4015 Me and my son, Steve.

Be careful when climbing steps with a cane. I did a Cinderella by losing my shoe.

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As a child, I never realized the quality of artwork within the architecture of the building. When I was about 4 years old, I was thrilled to be able to be a flower girl at my aunt’s wedding. I did not know what to expect. At the rehearsal, when the organ blared I got scared and ran to my mother, burying my head in her lap. Dr. William Clyde Howard gently took my hand and led me into the choir loft. He let me press the keys to make astounding music. Since then, I served as flower girl for many other aunts. Music also became a part of my life. Two generations later my granddaughter observed the same organ at the church.

Located on Michigan Avenue, in what is now termed the South Loop, construction of the church building began in 1872. The design of the building was based on English Gothic churches of the 15th and 16th centuries. Prominent members included Robert Todd Lincoln, George Pullman, George Armour, and Silas Cobb.

In March 1900, a devastating fire destroyed the interior of the church, but the stone wall survived intact. Architect Howard Van Doren Shaw, a member, was hired to redesign the new sanctuary in the Arts & Crafts style.

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Our family was treated to a tour of the beautiful artwork in the sanctuary. During the worship service, we took part in the dedication of the renewal of the baptismal fount .

 

 

The sanctuary has been virtually unchanged since it was rebuilt in 1901, making it one of the largest and most intact Arts & Crafts interiors in the country.

Significant memorial windows added between 1901 and 1917 included nine by Lewis Tiffany Studios, and two important windows by Edward Burne-Jones. In 1917, the four-manual pipe organ was rebuilt by the Austin Organ Company, increasing it to 50 stops and 2,606 pipes.

Robert Todd Lincoln, son of President Abraham Lincoln, was appointed a trustee of the church in 1879, until he accepted a post as ambassador to the United Kingdom in 1889.

The church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and later designated a Chicago Landmark on September 28, 1977.[2] It was designated a National Historic Landmark in March 2013.[3]

Historical information: Second Presbyterian Church, A Brief History, by William Tyre, June, 2017.

Photographs by Martin Cheung.

 

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St. Louis, MO Part 2

Westminster Place

 

Thomas Wolfe once wrote “You Can’t Go Home Again,” but, you can peek into the past. While I was in St. Louis, Mo., I visited the house on Westminster Place, where my Leong (Song) grandparents and their family once lived. The house is located on a tree lined private street with limited access in St. Louis Historical District.  After taking a few photos, I got up enough nerve to introduce myself to the current owner. I waited while my husband climbed the steps and rang the doorbell. The current owner/resident, Joseph E. Scoggin, Jr. opened the door and welcomed us in.

 

The last time I was inside the house I was three years old, so I only had a child’s vision of the house. I remembered the dual staircase and playing hide-and-seek with my aunties in the many bedrooms—some with adjoining baths. Once inside, the house seemed smaller than my childhood memory. stair

All the houses on the street are large mansion-style structures built in the late 19th and early 20th Century.

 

Joe Scoggin, a psychotherapist by profession is also a history buff. He enthralled us with a wealth of information. The tract of land was purchased and developed by Civil War General Joseph Scott Fullerton in 1882. The two-block street has since been known as Fullerton’s Westminster Place.  Although the 1950’s resulted in deteriorated conditions in some of the houses, zoning laws restricting homes to two-family occupancy saved the neighborhood from obliteration. Today all the houses have been restored to its original authenticity. The neighborhood is now beautiful! flower-pot

In 1974, Westminster Place became St. Louis’ third historic district. The Landmark Association described the neighborhood as an urban mixture of owners, renters, singles, marrieds, blacks, and whites.

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The house across the street was once the home of T.S. Elliott. Author Tennessee Williams lived on that street. Actress Susan Sarandon rented one of the houses on Westminster Place while she was making a movie. As an author, I soaked in all the creative juices from previous residents of Westminster Place.

At the end of the street, the towering steeple of the Second Presbyterian Church of St. Louis overlooks the neighborhood. Hence, the name Westminster Place.

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According to public records, my grandparents purchased the house in the early 1940’s. Since my widowed grandmother lived in her house until the late 1940’s, and Joe’s father purchased the house in the late 1950’s, we do not know who lived there in between the times.

Joe related his experiences growing up in racially segregated St. Louis. According to the Central High School Yearbook of 1933, my father was the only Chinese student to graduate that year. Joe indicated that black students were not allowed to attend Central, but were educated at an all-black school instead.

My grandparents were buried in the Chinese-only Valhalla Cemetery in St. Louis. The White Star Laundry which my grandfather founded was located in what is now the Busch Stadium parking lot – where most of “Hop Alley,” the Chinese section of St. Louis was located.

 

St. Louis, MO

Bill and I traveled to St. Louis for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Big Tent Event. I was keynote speaker for the National Asian Presbyterian Council which preceded the conference, located in the beautiful campus of Washington University. It was strange seeing the campus without crowds of students—but it was summer break.

The campus was too expansive to traverse with my walker. It had been many years since I was a college coed. I forgot how much walking was involved. I was so tired I had to deliver my presentation sitting on my walker. I should have rented a power scooter.  Power scooters are available for rent in most major cities. Vendors will even deliver it to your hotel.

On our way to the airport we were able to visit tourist sites in the city of St. Louis.

Missouri History Museum Library & Research Center

We stopped by the Research Center to look up information on my Leong ancestors. Scanned actual high school yearbooks and archived newspaper articles. Discovered that my father was the only Chinese student who graduated from Central High in 1937, and my grandfather was born in San Diego, CA–not China.

Mannheim, Germany

Our boat arrived in Mannheim, Germany at 9:30 a.m. After a hasty breakfast, we disembarked for a 5 hour leisure excursion of Heidelberg old town. The Viking shuttle bus drove us from Mannheim to Heidelberg, while the ship cast off for Speyer, Germany.

Mannheim to Heidelberg, Germany

I sat on my walker in the shade and visited with other passengers from my tour group, while Bill climbed into the castle tower with the others and shot photos of the town below. Crowds of tourists were everywhere on the site–bumping into each other. Many of the visitors were from the U.S. or China. We walked from the castle to our waiting shuttle.

We boarded the busses and headed for the old town of Heidelburg, where I had to traverse hilly cobblestone paths using my walker. Bill kindly pushed me on my walker where the cobblestones were flatter, or on the paved street. We were escorted on a ten minute walk to the Church of the Holy Spirit.

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In Germany, Protestant churches have a rooster on the steeple, whereas Catholic Churches have a cross.

The Church of the Holy Spirit was located in the old town center, with many stores and restaurants surrounding it—representing every country and culture in the world. I was able to find a pharmacy to buy some things I forgot to pack. I also bought a painting (print) of King Ludwig’s castle. After swatting bees away from my iced tea, we made the 15 minute trek to our shuttle bus. The day was extremely hot and humid, so as tired as I was, I welcomed the air-conditioned bus ride to the docks of Speyer.

We did not eat lunch in Heidelberg, so a buffet of sandwiches and sweets was available at 3:45 p.m. As hot and tired as I was, I made it to the ship’s Aquavit Terrace for refreshment to keep my blood sugar under control. My bowl of cold apple soup was refreshing. By the time I returned to my stateroom, all I could do was drop down on the sofa and fall asleep. Bill attended the daily briefing without me, and brought back a plate from the special Taste of Germany Buffet, consisting of several kinds of meats and sausages. I especially liked the German potato salad, and of course, the large German pretzels.

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Side Trip to Germany

The best thing the River Cruises offer are the side trips, which are arranged by hearty hiking, moderate or easy tour. Of course I elected to go on the easy tours (with my walker).

When the Mani docked at Zons, Germany. We left the ship for a shore excursion of Cologne old town, dominated by the huge Medieval Cologne Cathedral. Each passenger was given a bottle of water and assigned a QUIETVOX with an earpiece so we could hear our guide without him shouting, or without interference from other guides.

I walked with my walker (~100 yards) from the boat to the waiting shuttle bus. We took the leisure tour for older passengers who could not climb steps or walk long distances. After a 15 minute bus ride we stopped in Cologne city center to view the Great St. Martin’s Cathedral, the largest Gothic cathedral in Europe. Since Mass was being held, guides were not allowed to conduct tours. However, we were permitted to stand in the narthex and shoot photos.

judy in Cologne            cologne

 

 

 

I woke up this morning to a rain storm. I wasn’t concerned since I didn’t plan to hike to Marksburg Castle high up on  hill in Koblenz. We stayed on the ship and picked up the hikers in Braubach. After lunch we were treated to the highlight of the trip. On the central Rhine we sailed past ~20 castles built from the 12th to 20th Century. Since castles and monuments were on both sides of the river, I stayed in the cocktail lounge flitting from one side of the room to the other. Currently most of the well-preserved castles are now trendy hotels.

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While in the lounge we watched a demonstration on the preparation of Rudersheim Coffee (coffee, brandy, sugar, whipped cream, dark chocolate) and were give a recipe. The coffee was served with German treats of finger sandwiches, cherry cake, and other sweets. Sugar high!

With so much chocolate brandy, I returned to my stateroom for a nap and almost missed dinner.

Join me next time for a trip to Heidelberg, Germany.

 

Viking River Cruise

River Cruise–Amsterdam to Basel

It has been a while since I updated my blog on Accessible Travel. I spent a year getting my novella Lake Biwa Wishes published. The story is fiction inspired by a ski trip I took while spending two years in Japan. judy-book

My book is available in paperback as well as in e-book from Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, and iBooks. It’s a short read—good for an airplane ride.

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VIKING MANI LONGBOAT

After spending two days touring Amsterdam, We arrived at the Viking docks by noon. Luckily our stateroom was available, even though check-in time was 3:00. The Mani is a new ship (2014), so we were quite satisfied with our quarters. We had a Veranda Suite with one bedroom, a bathroom, a sitting room, and a private balcony with two chairs and a table. There was plenty of storage space due to efficient engineering and design.

 

The Mani had a full restaurant and an informal cafe for quick or small meals. After a three course dinner in the Restaurant we got acquainted with some of the other passengers, most of who were from the USA. We discovered that coffee (with an automatic espresso machine), tea, and pastries were available 24 hours in the lobby.

 

Entertainment in the club-room featured entertainers relative to the country we were in port. pianist

 

 

 

On the first morning we participated in a safety drill. Since the Rhine River is not very deep, if the boat sunk, the two top levels would be above water.

 

I got a workout with my walker since our suite was ~50 yards from the elevator, library and lounge/bar, .IMG_7972

You can follow me on the rest of my trip through Netherlands, Germany, France, and Switzerland in future blogs.

Comments about your experience on river cruises are welcome. Follow my blog and let me know what you think.

Portland, Oregon

I took time out from my volunteer duties at the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) General Assembly (GA) to tour some of the sights in Portland. Over 1,000 people attended the week-long PCUSA GA meeting held at the Portland Convention Center (PCC).

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General Assembly Plenary Session

We reserved a handicap room at the Marriott Courtyard, which had an electric scooter (ETV) waiting for me. The PCC was a short three blocks from out hotel. Portland is ideal for accessible travel. Every street corner has a slope for wheelchairs, and the stoplight timers provide enough time to cross the street.

When we needed to attend dinner meetings or parties downtown—on the other side of the Willamette River, we were able to ride on the MAX Light Rail. Portland’s mass transit system is efficient and accommodating. Upon arrival at the airport, each conference attendee received a free transit pass for the week. The MAX Light Rail has no ticket collectors which speeds the loading and unloading process. Conductors do random checks—if someone does not have a ticket or pass, he/she is fined several hundred dollars (the incentive for purchasing a ticket or pass). The trains have cars dedicated to bicycles and wheelchairs. Finding the right button to push to enable a ramp is tricky the first time (we missed our stop), but other passengers were eager to assist.

 

Portland is famous for its coffee and boutique beers.

If you travel there, be sure to imbibe. We had a celebration dinner at the Departure Restaurant in the Nines Hotel, recommended by an Uber driver (used from the airport). Excellent views from the 15th floor restaurant and excellent food ($$$).

 We also took a MAX Light Rail to the Lan Su Chinese Gardens—a lovely contemplative attraction with a two-story tea house overlooking a tiny lake. Lan Su’s motto is Between Lake and Mountain Lies True Meaning. I was handed a map for wheelchair accessibility. Some of the trails are for walkers only.

 

On another day we rode the Aerial Tram from the Portland Health & Science Center to take in a lovely view of Mt. Hood.