In honor of our nation's birthday, let's consider monuments and buildings of Chicago that pay tribute to those who have helped protect the democracy of the United States of America.
Going back to early Chicago history, the Chicago Cultural Center was originally meant to house the Grand Army of the Republic, an association of Civil War veterans (though more of the building was for the Chicago Public Library). On the north side of the building, go up to the third floor to see the Grand Hall, which lists all the significant battles of the Civil War, and to admire the dramatic ornamentation of this spacious room. Let's remember on the celebration of our nation's birth that the Civil War resulted in the idea that freedom should be granted to all people.
The Elks National Veterans Memorial is just at the northwest corner of Lincoln Park, where Lakeview and Diversey meet. It's a curious building for its round shape, and even more curious for its incredible mix of valuable stone, including marble from around the world and Indiana limestone. The Elks is a fraternal club, and they have their headquarters within the structure. Architect Egerton Swartgout designed the building in the 1920s, and then later became a character in a Harry Potter's book (just kidding). Over the years, with the additional wars, they have rededicated this to serve as a memorial for all veterans. It has been described as one of the grandest war memorials that exists, especially according to the Elks.
In another direction, two sculptures express the tension of the fight for workers rights. The Haymarket Riot ultimately contributed to the federal legislation for the eight-hour workday. Back in 1886, despite people living in the "land of freedom," many were working 12- to 14-hour days and barely making ends meet. A gathering of socialists, anarchists, and union organizers came together to discuss this issue in what is now the West Loop. Someone threw a bomb. Seven policeman and at least four bystanders died. It is still debated to this day what exactly happened.
The Haymarket Riot resulted in what is now celebrated throughout the world as "May Day," but was long ago abandoned in America during the Cold War because of the day's connections with communism. You have two options in Chicago for paying homage to this event. You can go to 175 N. Desplaines, near the site of the incident. This is where you will find the Haymarket Memorial, a sculpture of twisting figures in frozen in action. The other option is called the "Haymarket Riot Monument," and it's at the police academy in Bronzeville. It's probably the most violently and accidentally damaged work of public art in Chicago history.
Lastly, another kind of patriotic architecture would be the building of your hot dog at your barbecue party on Fridy. But perhaps that's a stretch.
Photos Courtesy of: Elks National Veterans Memorial via Wikipedia (Creative Commons); Haymarket Memorial by Seth Anderson via flickr (Creative Commons)