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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

From Cherub to Chief Justice

There's a statue of a cherub riding a dolphin in the lobby of the Chicago Hilton. The model for that statue grew up to be U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. When Stevens was a little boy he and his brothers were asked to pose for the statues by their father and grandfather who built the hotel. It opened as the Stevens Hotel and later became the Conrad Hilton. The hotel is perhaps most famous for the riot that took place on Michigan Avenue directly in front of it during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

Yet more lakefront oddities:

The term "smoke filled room" was coined across the street from the old Stevens Hotel at the Blackstone Hotel during a different nominating convention. The Republican National Convention of 1920 was deadlocked. So cigar-chomping pols gathering in a room on the ninth floor of the Blackstone and agreed to nominate Warren G. Harding. The Associated Press reported the deal was brokered in a "smoke-filled room." You can still book a stay in that room. We shot a scene there for our documentary and I brought a stogie. But I couldn't light up. These days the room is strictly non-smoking.

Lakeshore Drive originally had cloverleaf interchanges at Montrose, Wilson and Lawrence. But exiting the drive onto city streets at highway speed turned out to be a bad idea and they were dismantled.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Concerning the Boy on the Dolphin sculpture that is presently in the lobby of the Chicago Hilton Hotel, the figure is of James Stevens, not John. The three younger sons of E.J. Stevens posed for two sculpture pieces that were in the fountains on the landings of the two staircases on the sides of the entry to the lobby. John posed for the fountain figure of the boy on the dolphin. William and John (the youngest)posed for the other fountain figures--William is holding a large fish and little John is standing next to him,pointing at the fish. The sculptor was Frederick C. Hibbard, a well-known portrait sculptor whose studio was in Chicago on 60th St. south of the Midway near the Univ. of Chicago. The Stevens family lived on 58th St. near the university. Hibbard had previously made a fountain figure for the LaSalle Hotel for which the oldest son of E.J.Stevens posed.
I've written and mailed info on this to you. The sculptor was my grandfather, the Stevens are cousins, and my father worked at both the LaSalle and Stevens Hotels.
Please try to correct the erroneous statement in the program. Thanks, Fred Smith

December 5, 2008 5:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the comment above, I thought I wrote that the Boy on the Dolphin was James Stevens, not John. It was posed by James (Richard James Stevens).

December 6, 2008 5:02 AM  
Blogger Geoffrey Baer said...

I hate it when this happens! Despite a rigorous fact checking process mistakes sometimes slip through.
Thanks for alterting us to this. The information will be corrected in future broadcasts of the program.
By the way, if you're looking for the biggest mistake I've made in one of my shows, look at my documentary "The Race to Mackinac" about my adventure sailing the Chicago to Mackinac race in 2000. Throughout the show a sort of "pirate map" appears again and again showing the progress of our boat as we race northward on Lake Michigan. If you look at the compass on that map you'll see that east is on the west side and west is on the east side... We fixed the error for subsequent broadcasts but the mistake is still there on thousands of home videos!

December 23, 2008 2:00 PM  

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