You can't shake your fist too much at the philistines who demolished it, not remembering the struggle to figure out what to do with the Granada. A building needs a use, or most buildings do. There are only so many empty shells we can keep in tribute to years gone by. It's always a judgment call. Some people think Prentice hospital should have been kept forever—to me it was an eyesore, and thus expendable. As was the Granada, ultimately, a ruin torn down in 1990.
Sometimes a building can survive and find a use. In the early 1980s, the Chicago Theatre was seen as a similar white elephant to the Granada or Prentice. Pretty, yes, but what to do with the thing? After a long battle, it was saved in 1985, to civic rejoicing, and soon was hosting concerts from Frank Sinatra to Tom Waits. If you haven't been there, you're really missing something. It's worth the price of admission just to walk through the lobby; the fact that somebody also puts on a show is an added bonus.
To me, the marque of the Chicago Theatre, like the Bean, like the Picasso, is one of the images that define life in the city. Catching sight of it is like glimpsing the face of an old friend, made all the more precious by the knowledge of how close we came to losing it forever. Almost a miracle.
A rare midweek column, thumbing my nose at the IOC.