Chicago is in the middle, in every way. It's not east coast hurried, west coast laid back, not quite midwestern friendly. It's too big to be a really livable city and too American to rival the excitement that makes the east and west coast giants worth the hassle. It has a lot of ethnic diversity, but not really within walking distance of midtown. It has a lake that's practically as big as an ocean, and a river in the middle of the city, but it's certainly not an "outdoorsy" place. It has the Art Institute, whose strength, I think, is in its Impressionist collection, and I love its miniature rooms, intricately made on a 12 to 1 scale, but it doesn't quite rival the Met or the National Gallery.
What is does have is Navy Pier. Most people are impressed by the Ferris wheel, but I'm in love the the Smith Stained Glass Museum. Some of you know that stained glass is one of my hobbies. (For those who care, you can see a few of my works here.) Mine are hardly masterpieces, but they do make me appreciate the Masters, and the Smith has even more great windows than the Met.
The Chicago Cultural Center has some of the best mosaic work in the United States, along with a Tiffany dome. I visited in 2009 with employee Suzy, Kevin Mc Grath and Sameer Sheikh, and put up a photo display that I seem to have saved. Harpo Studios, Oprah's visible dynasty, still lives there, as do a number of buildings and windows by Frank Lloyd Wright.
There are also a great skyline (photo courtesy of Wiki Commons) and bunches of songs.
So what's not to like? I once hypothesized that my favorite cities have natural geographic limits that force all the excitement into a small area. New York, Boston, DC, Philly (which was for a century or two demarked by the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers), San Fran and Seattle all were forced to grow where they grew and noplace else. Chicago's earliest growth was along Lake Michigan, but it has a touch of that urban sprawl of Atlanta, Houston and L.A. that make everything too far to bother getting to.
Northwestern Law School
Northwestern Law School, like Georgetown and several others, is not on the main campus. It's on Lakeshore Drive. In fact, the photo above the map is quite similar to the view out the front door.
The law school is on the lower left. You can see the Drive and the Lake, and that thing jutting out into the water in the background is Navy Pier. If the photo were a bit wider, we'd see the Ferris wheel. The law school is not entirely isolated; the Chicago campus also hosts the Kellogg School of Management and Northwestern Memorial Hospital. This makes both a J.D./M.B.A. and treatment for exhaustion simple and convenient.
I usually think viewbooks don't really capture the feel of a school, but Northwestern's photographers definitely caught my eye, so I'm adding their link here.
Although Northwestern's facilities are modern, light, well-appointed and spacious, one of their bragging points is the Lincoln Law Room.
Lincoln never went here. He was already campaigning for president when the law school was founded, and was a historical legend before the law school became part of the nascent university. The room is intended to be a facsimile of an old classroom of some sort. Nonetheless, everyone, including me, seems to love it.
Most law schools are not for the weak of spirit. Northwestern is not for the short of stature. The wind coming off the lake and the strength needed to open the front door guarantee that all Northwestern grads will be fiercely determined as well as properly educated.
This law school may actually be a block further north, or it may be on the same block, but those half-dozen blocks inland make all the difference. Loyola, like NYU, is a truly urban campus, existing in high-rise buildings that house more than one school within the University. The fact that neither Wiki nor the Law School's main page features a pic says something, I think. Also, like other schools where space is at a premium, the law library is a bit cramped, and the aisles may not be comfortable.
Three of Chicago's six law schools are in that area: DePaul, Chicago-Kent, and John Marshall. I embarrassedly admit to knowing nothing about their facilities that you can't learn on the internet. I visited all three in the 1990s, and I promise that nothing at all will look the same.
But you don't go to these law schools for the view; you go for the education and job opportunities. These are the schools whose evening programs educated generations of immigrants working their way up the socioeconomic ladder, pursuing (and often catching) the American Dream. It's no coincidence that Greek Town, Little Italy, and Chinatown are all a few blocks away. This is the Chicago served by Hull House, the archetype of American assimilation organizations.
Each of these schools has great programs and good job opportunities, and I urge you to visit their web sites. But remember that all of these schools give you more than can be captured in a catalog: America's melting pot.
The University of Chicago
The facilities at U. Chicago are reminiscent of many other "formerly suburban" colleges. The stone buildings from the late 1800s look like my beloved UPenn, and the accessibility of urban conveniences (and crime and dirt) within a few blocks is archetypal of these schools. If it differs from the others in any significant way, it's geographic; U. Chicago is much further from downtown and less convenient to reach than Penn, UW, or Berkeley. If you're on campus, you're there for the day.
No picture I could take would be better than this one in Wiki Commons. The combined wealth of John D. Rockefeller and Marshall Field certainly bought a lot of elegance. Like many majestic old buildings, there has been more restoration than renovation; the innards are still stone and mahogany in a lot of the buildings. I happen to love that look, but many people prefer modern.
I was at a loss as to what to say about the law school, since it had serious problems in architecture and accessibility. Fortunately, I've been saved by the renovators! As this Wall St. Journal article so well articulates, the building has been saved from disastrous problems by a recent makeover.
My only concern is this one:
Where did they put the other books? I want the books back!
Seriously, I'm a book lover. No Kindles, Gutenberg projects, not even Wiki will replace my library. In fact, not even the library will replace my library. I'm shocked to find that our local public library rarely keeps books that are more than a few decades old. What good is Sue Grafton if you can't get "A is for Alibi"? Who starts writing at "D"?!
But so long as the books have been preserved somewhere, I'll celebrate the improved facilities for the ones remaining in the law school.
Schools Outside Chicago
If you read my Intro to this section, you know it was never my goal to know every school. I can claim more than passing knowledge of about 150 law schools, but the three outside Chicago — Northern Illinois, Southern Illinois, and Valparaiso — have never happened to be on my driving route. I didn't intentionally discriminate; if I'm anywhere near a law school I try to visit it. But both times I was in the Chicago to Notre Dame area, snowstorms caused changes in plans, and my itinerary suffered. And don't think it's about "lesser" law schools: it took me four trips in seven years to make it to GW successfully.