Monday, February 28, 2011

The Chicago Municipal Device, Hidden in Plain View

RIP, Frank W. Buckles, the last doughboy. The nation salutes you, sir, or at least it should.

Woke up to an ice glaze this morning. On all the nearby sidewalks that is, and our deck as well. February's way of giving us a parting finger. It's been resentful for millennia now about being the shortest month. But the gesture was in vain, since the Sun emerged mid-morning and liquefied the ice. Good riddance, February, don't bother us again for 11 months.

I understand why people aspire to be snowbirds. I doubt that I will ever want to maintain two residences, but if I did, I wouldn't just go south for the winter, I'd really go south. Uruguay, maybe, or New South Wales, where it isn't just a mild winter, it's summer. Any fool can go to Arizona or Florida for winter.

For now, I'm looking forward to examining greater Chicago in more detail as the weather warms. Next time I go downtown, for instance, I'm going to look for the city's "Municipal Device," something I didn't know about until very recently. I've seen it, of course; the design is part of the bright lights of the Chicago Theater marquee, for instance. It just never occurred to me that it meant anything.

Essentially, the Municipal Device of Chicago is a Y shape, and it's been incorporated as a design element in a number of structures in the city. The device even has an official status. With certain exceptions, city-owned vehicles must be marked with it. The origin of the symbol is the Chicago River, which forks into North and South branches downtown. More of a T shape, if you asked me -- a T shape bent by blows from a hammer -- but Y works too.

The device's uses are well illustrated at the fine Public Art in Chicago blog as well as equally fascinating Forgotten Chicago. I especially like the way it's been worked into that steel framework of the Division Street bridge. That's about as Chicago as you can get.

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