Monday, October 6, 2014


Chicago's Iconic Houses of Worship

Chicago is an "architectural town" -- known the world over for its beautiful buildings and breathtaking skyline. Many of the most notable are the City's churches and other houses of worship built for communities established both before, and in the aftermath of, the Chicago Fire in 1871.

These buildings not only are aesthetically pleasing, but they also serve as a connection to the diverse immigrant past of Chicago.

After the Chicago Fire of 1871, much of the city had to be rebuilt, making Chicago the perfect place for both established and emerging architects, such as Daniel Burnham and Frank Lloyd Wright, whose work not only reflected the Victorian Era, but also architectural styles of the "prairie", with its wide open horizontal spaces and integration of structure and nature, as the 20th century unfolded. 

Ranging from resolutely mainstream to the ethnically-rooted and the avant-garde, its houses of worship reflect the unique diversity of Chicago's highly creative architecture, as well as the spiritual diversity of the people who have made their homes in this vibrant City.  

Many of Chicago's iconic houses of worship are centerpieces within the ethnic communities they continue to serve.  They represent a link between the old and the new traditions, and the continuity which transcends both. 

Chicago's faith-based affiliated colleges have also become 
historically significant attractions in the City.  DePaul University, the 
largest Catholic university in the country, first founded by the Vincentians 
in 1898 to serve Roman Catholic children of immigrants, has since 
grown into an acclaimed liberal arts college.  Loyola University of 
Chicago, a Jesuit university founded in 1870, is now the largest 
Jesuit university in the U.S. and home to the Saint Joseph College 
Seminary and the Jesuit First Studies Program, one of only three 
such programs in the country.

In 2014, the Americana HeritageTours division of our heritage and cultural tour planning company, Snobby Tours®, Inc., launched our FAITH-BASED CHICAGO ARCHITECTURE TOUR: HISTORIC HOUSES OF WORSHIP©.

This Tour is guided by various Chicago expert historians affiliated with the 
Chicago Architectural Foundation, the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust, 
the City of Chicago, and the historic houses of worship included on this Tour.

It is also scheduled to coincide with Chicago's Annual Gospel Music Festival 

which showcases the best in local, national and international Gospel Music 
performers. Held over four days in three locations, The Chicago Gospel Music 
Festival includes the weekend at Ellis Park in historic Bronzeville, the birthplace 
of Gospel Music.

Each guide on this unique Tour provides extensive expertise regarding the 
work of Chicago's most prolific architects and knowledge of Chicago's eclectic 
neighborhoods and their history, and the distinctive architectural styles 
which are reflective of the diverse ethnic cultures and religions which have 
become the overall fabric of Chicago.

Leaders of the various houses of worship have one-on-one dialogues 
about their congregations and their history in the Chicago community.  
Faith-based houses of worship on this Tour include Catholic, Episcopal, 
Jewish, PresbyterianMethodist, Unitarian, Baha'i, Baptist and Islamic, inter alia.

Early Bird Reservation Discounts apply to our custom-created,  FAITH-BASED CHICAGO ARCHITECTURE TOUR: HISTORIC HOUSES OF WORSHIP©.  For more information and to book this unique and interesting 
Tour, visit us at:  

Friday, March 7, 2014

"THE WALLIS": L.A.'s Newest Performing Arts Venue Debuts in Beverly Hills, CA

Situated in the heart of the Beverly Hills commercial district, The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts ("The Wallis") officially opened its doors to the public in October 2013 with a dedication and a series of Galas, followed by programming beginning on November 8th with the world-renowned the Martha Graham Dance Company. 

The Wallis, the first performing arts center to be built in Beverly Hills, will be a home for artists from around the world and audiences of every age.

This new venue transforms an entire Beverly Hills city block near the Civic Center into a vibrant new cultural destination with TWO distinct, elegant buildings -- and has been completed in time for its 2013-2014 Inaugural Season to correspond with Beverly Hills' Centennial Celebration marking the 100th birthday of the City's incorporation.  
Artist's Rendering © 2013 Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.  Reprinted with permission.  

The most notable of the two buildings is the much loved historic 1933 Italianate-style Beverly Hills Post Office built as a WPA project during the Franklin Roosevelt administration.  For decades some of Beverly Hills' most recognizable residents from film and television kept post office boxes there, such as Fred Astaire and Jimmy Stewart.

In 2013, the City of Beverly Hills designated the Beverly Hills Post Office as a historical landmark, under the City's new Historic Preservation Ordinance.  The building had previously received designation on the National Register of Historic Places by the US Department of the Interior.

As part of "The Wallis", within the treasured Post Office, existing spaces are re-imagined into the 150-seat Lovelace Studio Theater, a theater school for young people (opening in 2014), a Café and Gift Shop. 

The second building is the 500-seat, state-of-the-art Goldsmith Theater.   

Together, these two structures embrace Beverly Hills' history and future, creating a new cultural landmark.  Executive Director of The Wallis, Lou Moore, and Architect Zoltan Pali convey the overall excitement of this achievement  -- which was years "in the making" -- in the following video from October 2013:

In 2014 The Wallis will begin a year-round program of professional theater classes for young people ages eight to eighteen, with classrooms and administrative areas located in the Post Office. Drawing from the rich talent of Los Angeles’s entertainment industry, a faculty of professionals and theater educators serve as the directors and teachers of the program providing a diverse curriculum of the arts. The school will offer exciting, unique opportunities for students to study with guest artists appearing on the main stage, as well at the Studio Theater, which is located in the original mail sorting room.

"The Wallis" now is included in our "Los Angeles Architecture -- An Eclectic Landscape"© custom-designed itinerary. For more information about this unique and comprehensive heritage and cultural tour covering L.A.'s architectural history from "early settlement to the present", visit us at
Reservations close on February 15th during each year we offer this Tour. 

(Photo and Audiovisual sources :   The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts)

© 2014 Snobby Tours®, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

CRYSTAL BRIDGES MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART: The Largest Art Museum to open in the USA since 1974.

© 2012 Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Reprinted with permission.
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, located in Bentonville, Arkansas, is the largest art museum to open in the USA in over three decades!!

It takes its name from Crystal Spring—a natural spring on the Museum's wooded site that feeds into the Museum ponds—and from the unique bridge construction incorporated into the building design.

Opened in late 2011, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art was founded and endowed thru the generosity of Alice Walton, daughter of Walmart founder, Sam Walton.  The Crystal Bridges art collection offers a superb overview of American art, including American masterworks as well as surprising lesser-known gems from the Colonial era to contemporary work. Sculpture in the collection graces interior galleries and outdoor trails. 

The building was designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie. Safdie is an architect, urban planner, educator, theorist, and author who embraces a comprehensive and humane design philosophy. Safdie is committed to architecture that responds to human needs and aspirations and is informed by the geographic, social, and cultural elements that define a place.
© 2012 Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Reprinted with permission.

The trails and grounds of Crystal Bridges are a must-see part of the Museum experience. More than 3.5 miles of trails wind through the Museum's 120-acre site, providing guests with access to the beautiful Ozark landscape. Highlights include the historic Crystal Spring, for which the Museum is named, and several outdoor sculptures along the Art Trail. Designed to spark the imagination, the trails help guests form connections to the land and its history, as well as learn about art and Arkansas plant life.

Crystal Bridges' permanent collection spans five centuries of American masterworks ranging from the Colonial era to the current day. Included within the collection are iconic images such as Asher B. Durand's Kindred Spirits, Rosie the Riveter by Norman Rockwell, and Andy Warhol's Dolly Parton, each reflecting a distinct moment in American artistic evolution. In addition to historical works, the Museum's collection also showcases major works by modern and contemporary American artists, including Roy Lichtenstein, James Turrell, and Georgia O'Keeffe, providing visitors with a unique opportunity to experience the full scope of American art. Crystal Bridges will continue to grow its collection through the efforts of its professional staff as well as through important gifts from private collectors.

The permanent collection, which is on view year-round, is further enhanced by an array of ongoing temporary exhibitions.

Norman Rockwell
Triple Self-Portrait, (detail), 1959
Oil on canvas, 44 1/2" x 34 1/3"
Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, February 13, 1960
©1960 SEPS: Licensed by Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN
From the permanent collection of Norman Rockwell Museum
Reprinted with permission.
One recent temporary exhibit at Crystal Bridges was "American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell", which was organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Massachusetts. This exhibition had been made possible with the generous support from National Endowment for the Arts, American Masterpieces Program; the Henry Luce Foundation; Curtis Publishing Company; Norman Rockwell Family Agency; and the Stockman Family Foundation.  It was also sponsored at Crystal Bridges by the Bob Bogle Family, Cadillac of Bentonville, the Paul and June Carter Family, ConAgra Foods, Hallmark Cards, Inc.

The Museum's restaurant, Eleven, offers modern American comfort food in a setting as vibrant and exciting as its menu.  Enjoy familiar favorites from the South and Midwest, prepared with an innovative twist. Eleven is open for lunch service daily, and dinner on Wednesdays and Fridays. Picnic lunches are available seasonally to take out onto the Museum grounds.

  © 2012 Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
Reprinted with permission

The Museum Store—designed by Marlon Blackwell—is located across the courtyard from the Museum's main lobby. The Store offers educational and art-centric toys and games, a wide selection of books, gifts, jewelry, apparel inspired by the Museum's permanent collection, and prints of many of the most popular works. Original works by the finest artists and artisans in the region are also available for purchase, along with classic home décor and glassware by notable American designers.

The Crystal Bridges Library offers a large collection of art reference materials that are available to scholars, students, educators, and community members who wish to learn more about American art and cultural heritage. An emphasis is given to resources that reflect the Museum's permanent collection. The Library will be open to the public during all Museum public hours, and will feature changing exhibitions of books and other materials related to current Museum exhibitions.

We are proud to have added Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in 2013 as part of our custom-designed USA heritage tour, PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARIES AND FALL FOLIAGE OF THE MIDWEST©.   We take this Tour by deluxe motorcoach each Fall in mid- to late October/early November, which is optimum Fall Foliage time in the American Midwest.   Reservations close August 15th of each tour year.    Details and pricing are on our Website at:  

(Source materialCrystal Bridges Museum of American Art)

© 2013-2014 Snobby Tours®, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, January 21, 2013

ECLECTIC LOS ANGELES ARCHITECTURE - Part 1 of a series: Early Settlement©

LOS ANGELES.  Its very name conjures up images of palm trees, sandy beaches, film studios and movie premiers, beautiful people who never seem to age, and an extravagant, sometimes "over-the-top", lifestyle.

But in the mid-1800s, that was hardly the case.  

The name "Los Angeles" is Spanish for The Angels. There is much more to this name, however.  In 1769, Father Juan Crespi, a Franciscan priest accompanying the first European land expedition through California, wrote in his journal about a beautiful river they had discovered.  In 1781, a new settlement was established along that same river. That settlement officially came to be known as "El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles", or "The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels".

The oldest house still in existence within the City of Los Angeles is the Avila Adobe, which  is located on Olvera Street, in an area which has preserved Los Angeles' Spanish and Mexican history.

Avila Adobe, late19th century
(Photo source unknown) 
The Avila Adobe was constructed in 1818 by a wealthy land-grant owner, Francisco José Avila, who was mayor of Los Angeles in 1810. Members of the Avila family resided in the Avila Adobe until 1868. From 1868 to the early 1920s, the Adobe went through multiple uses, including being used as a restaurant and as a rooming house.

Historic Olvera Street started out as a short lane called Wine Street.  In 1877 the street was extended and its name changed to Olvera Street in honor of Agustin Olvera, who owned a home at the end of the street across from the Plaza, and who was the first county judge of Los Angeles.

The Olvera Street Plaza, circa 1886
(Photo reprinted courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library Photo Archives)
Several historic buildings line Olvera Street, including the Avila Adobe, the Pelanconi House -- the oldest brick house in the city, dating from 1855 -- and the Sepulveda House, a Victorian structure in the Eastlake style, built in 1887 as both a residence and commercial building.

By 1903 the street had considerably declined, and an electrical substation was built next to the Avila Adobe to provide power for Los Angeles' electric streetcars. The Italian Hall, a center for Italian organizations, was constructed in 1907 at the north end of Olvera Street.  Across the street, the Italian winery expanded its building in 1914.

The condition of Avila Adobe deteriorated over the following years and was finally condemned in 1926 by the City Health Department.  This caught the attention of socialite Christine Sterling, who during a visit to the Plaza and Olvera Street in 1926, was so appalled by the run-down condition of the oldest part of the City, that she began a public campaign to save the Adobe and Olvera Street.   With a vibrant future of the Olvera Street area in mind, Sterling envisioned a colorful Mexican marketplace and cultural focal center. With funding provided by several influential businessmen and publicity from the Los Angeles Times, she established a corporation to revitalize Olvera Street.  

Descendants of the Avila family gave permission to allow Sterling to renovate the Adobe.  In addition, she solicited money, materials and labor to accomplish the repairs. Unusual help received by Mrs. Sterling included engineers from the City Department of Water and Power who drew up plans to grade the street, and the Sheriff's Department who provided prisoners to do the labor.  In 1929, the Los Angeles City Council closed Olvera Street to automobile and bus traffic, creating a lovely pedestrian avenue for people to stroll, shop and dine -- as seen in the attached vintage video produced back in 1937 as a travel promotion, and which is reflective of the 1930s.

Today, both the Avila Adobe and Olvera Street are part of the Los Angeles Plaza Historic District, which is a designated California State Historic Park.  The entire District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and Avila Adobe is a registered California Historical Landmark.  The Avila Adobe is open to the public as a museum -- furnished as it might have appeared in the late 1840s -- and Olvera Street is a favourite of locals as well as tourists seeking a "peek" at what life was like in early Los Angeles.

Avila Adobe and Olvera Street are included in our  "Los Angeles Architecture -- An Eclectic Landscape"© custom-designed itinerary, conducted in the Spring in late April/early May to coincide with the Annual Pasadena Showcase House of Design and with the Annual Concours d'Elegance at Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, CA.  For more information about this unique and comprehensive heritage and cultural tour covering L.A.'s architectural history from "early settlement to the present", visit us at  
Reservations close February 15th of each year during which we offer this Tour. 

(Photo and Audiovisual sources :   City of Los Angeles,, L.A Public Library Photo Archives)

© 2013-2014 Snobby Tours®, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

EISENHOWER PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM: A Glimpse into the Life and Times of the WWII General and Post-WWII US President

While serving in office, President Franklin D. Roosevelt inventoried the vast quantities of papers and other materials he and his staff had accumulated. Up to that time, many Presidential papers and records had either been lost, destroyed, sold for profit, or ruined by poor storage conditions.

President Roosevelt sought a viable solution.  Advised by a number of noted historians and scholars, he established a public repository to preserve the evidence of the Presidency for future generations.

Beginning a tradition that continues to this day, Roosevelt raised funds from private resources for the new facility and then designated its operation by the United States government through the National Archives.  

Official portrait of Eisenhower
(c) NARA.  All Rights Reserved,
One of the Presidential Libraries which are the legacy of FDR's vision, is the Dwight David  Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, located in Abilene, Kansas.  This facility is part of the Presidential Libraries System administered by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

Abilene, Kansas was selected as the site for the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, even though Dwight David Eisenhower was not born in Abilene, Kansas, nor did he die there.  During his lifetime, however, he credited the years he spent in the central Kansas town as among the most important of his life.

The Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum grounds are comprised of several structures.  The two most prominent are the Museum and the Library, which are housed separately.  

Building exteriors consist of Kansas limestone with landscaping using blue stem grass. Marble interior walls are Bookmatched Loreda Chiaro, Italy.   Floors are Roman travertine trimmed with Breche d'Alep & Rouge Fleuri marble from France. 

The Museum was built by the Eisenhower Foundation, with funds raised through public gifts, and is constructed of Kansas limestone. Originally dedicated on Veterans Day in 1954, the Museum was designed to house the materials and objects related to Dwight D. Eisenhower's life. It contains over 30,000-square feet of gallery space, with exhibits showing not only the fine art objects collected by and given to Eisenhower, but also the story of his careers as military leader and President of the United States.

The Library provides a place for scholars to come to work with the historical materials housed there. 

One of the most interesting aspects of the Library is its Oral History Collection.  This Collection  has been built upon two major components: (1) the Eisenhower Presidential Library's own interviews,  and (2) approximately 500 transcripts acquired through a cooperative arrangement with Columbia University's Oral History Project. A third and smaller component consists of a number of oral history interviews donated to the Library by various institutions and individuals.

The list of oral history transcripts gives the names of the persons interviewed, and also the principal positions held by them during the Eisenhower administration or their personal relationship to Dwight D. Eisenhower as documented by their interviews.

The following excerpt is from Eisenhower's speech given at the time of the ground-breaking of the Library on October 13, 1959:  "When this library is filled with documents, and scholars come here to probe into some of the facts of the past half century, I hope that they, as we today, are concerned primarily with the ideals, principles, and trends that provide guides to a free, rich, peaceful future in which all peoples can achieve ever-rising levels of human well-being."

The Dwight David  Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, located in Abilene, Kansas, is one of the five (5) Presidential Libraries located in the US Midwest which we visit on our custom-created USA heritage tour,  "Presidential Libraries and Fall Foliage of the Midwest©" .  This Tour is taken by Motorcoach during optimum Fall Foliage in the American Midwest and the Ozarks -- mid-to late October/early November -- and routes thru Chicago  Reservations close August 15th each year this Tour is offered by us.  Details and pricing are on our Website at:  

(Source materials: NARA. Materials and photos  produced by Federal agencies are in the public domain unless otherwise noted.)

© 2013-2014 Snobby Tours®, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO -- The oldest capital city in North America and the oldest European community west of the Mississippi River.

Settled in the early 17th Century by Franciscan missionaries, as well as Spanish military and governmental officials, life in Early Santa Fe was often filled with conflict.  The indigenous Native Americans, the Pueblos, who lived in the region, had a population at that time of approximately 100,000 people speaking nine different languages and living in an estimated 70 villages.

Although what was to become the town of Santa Fe was inhabited by the Spanish as early as 1607, the conquistador Don Pedro de Peralta is credited with truly settling it around 1610, when Santa Fe was established by the Spanish Governor as the capital of New Mexico.  At the time, Santa Fe was still part of the empire of "New Spain".

Santa Fe's site originally had been occupied by a number of Pueblo villages dating back to between 1050 and 1150 A.D.  Archeologists who have studied the site generally agree that these "pre-Spanish conquest" villages had been abandoned by the 14th Century, at least 200 years before the Spanish arrived, although Pueblos were still living in the region.   

In 1540, the conquistador Don Francisco Vasques de Coronado, first claimed the "Kingdom of New Mexico" for the Spanish Crown, but it was not until 1598 that the first Governor-General of New Mexico, Don Juan de Onate, established New Mexico's capital at San Juan Pueblo located 25-miles north of present-day Santa Fe.
Santa Fe at the base of Sangre de Christo Mountains
©Snobby Tours®, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Upon the retirement of Onate in 1609, Don Pedro de Peralta was appointed Governor-General.  Peralta and his men mapped out the plan for Santa Fe to be located at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, on the site of an ancient Pueblo ruin named "Kaupoge", which translated means "place of shell beads near the water", and in 1610, moved the capital to present-day Santa Fe.

In 1610, the oldest continuously operating "public building" in America, the Palace of the Governors, was built on the plaza, and still stands at that location.

Santa Fe quickly became the "hub of commerce" between New Mexico and the country of Mexico to its south.  However, over the next 70 years, tensions increased between the Pueblos of the region and the Spanish who sought to convert the Pueblos to Christianity.

©Palace of the Governors
Reprinted with permission.

Finally, in 1680, the Pueblos revolted.  At the time, there were around 2,500 Spanish colonists in New Mexico, 400 of which were killed by the Pueblos, and the remaining colonists driven back in Mexico.  The only building in Santa Fe which was not sacked and burned by the Pueblos was the Palace of the Governors.  

For the next 12 years, the Pueblos occupied Santa Fe;  however, in 1692, Don Diego de Vargas re-conquered the region and entered Santa Fe after a bloodless siege.

The Santa Fe "Fiesta", which is celebrated in early September of each year, was established in 1712 to commemorate the Spanish re-conquest of New Mexico in the summer of 1692. This "Fiesta" is now the oldest community celebration in the US. 

Present-day Santa Fe is a vibrant mixture of Native American and Hispanic history, architecture, performing arts, art museums and galleries, cultural events, festivals, and, of course, great cuisine -- and it has become a favourite touring destination of Americana Heritage Tours by Snobby Tours®, Inc.™. Our very popular, custom-designed yet reasonably priced, Tour Package,  "Santa Fe Getaway"©  is generally offered each year with a choice of dates in either the Spring or late Summer.  For details, pricing and to book our Santa Fe Getaway© Tour Package, link to: ttp://

(Resources and Photo credits:  Santa Fe CVB, National Park Service, Palace of the Governors)

© 2012-2014 Snobby Tours®, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

SANTA YNEZ VALLEY, CALIFORNIA -- There's literally something for everyone!

Nestled in picturesque Central California and dotted with numerous vineyards, the SANTA YNEZ VALLEY was featured prominently in the 2004 movie "Sideways" which not only engaged wine-lovers and romantics alike, but which also became synonymous with quintessential California wine touring.

Vineyards and Vistas
reprinted with permission
The beauty of the Santa Ynez Valley lies in its many enchanting wineries -- some of which are housed in replicas of opulent European chateaux and villas -- and in its magnificent countryside which provides views of vistas from the inland valley to the Pacific Ocean. It's the perfect destination for an extended relaxing trip, and also boasts of wonderful restaurants, rustic small towns, and unique shopping opportunities.

Olive Oil Tasting
reprinted with permission
While in the Valley, you can also discover the charm of the town of Los Olivos with its "Old West" main street where you can visit an olive oil maker to sample many varieties of unique olive oils. Our personal favourite is the walnut-flavoured olive oil with its smooth, buttery taste.

There is also the town of Santa Ynez known for its "Old West" architecture.  It is in stark contrast  to the quaint village of Solvang settled just over 100 years ago by Danish educators and pastors.  Solvang is the perfect "base" from which to take day trips to regional wineries, some of which are sustainable vineyards.

Miniature Horse Farm outside Solvang
©Snobby Tours®, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Taking scenic Hwy 154 southeast from Solvang winds through landscapes dotted with both miniature and thoroughbred horse farms and vineyards down to beautiful, sophisticated Santa Barbara known for its red-tiled roofs and Spanish architecture, its world-class art museum, fabulous regional cuisine, gorgeous beach, historic Spanish Mission, and its numerous local artisan shops and galleries. Restaurants offer outstanding dining experiences featuring fresh produce from nearby sustainable growers and often coupled with award-winning varietals from local area wineries, including (but not limited to!) Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Merlot.

With a moderate climate, beautiful scenery and peaceful country living, it’s no wonder the Santa Ynez Valley has become a favourite destination of our travelers over the years.

Each year, in August, we offer a unique, custom-designed, reasonably priced Itinerary to this delectable destination -- "Solvang and Santa Ynez Valley Wineries"© -- and a substantial "Early Bird Reservation Discount" for early booking by February 15th. Reservations close on May 15th.    For further info, pricing and Itinerary details, link to:

© 2012-2014 Snobby Tours®, Inc. All Rights Reserved.