Secret graveyards in Lincoln Park? Stephanie Izard at the Olive Garden? It’s the best of Dynamic Range in 2012

December 22, 2012

As the world moves into 2013, Dynamic Range heads into its third year. (And if the world has ended by Saturday then nice knowing you, I guess!)

We started Dynamic Range as a way to showcase audio gems that sometimes get lost in our online archive of public events. Lectures, panel discussions, roundtables . . . that sounds kind of boring, right? But I find myself geeking out over some new tidbit just about every week.

This year I learned that Chicago did cable cars way before San Francisco; mah jongg made its American debut at the World’s Columbian Exhibition; tuna was once as unpopular as brussels sprouts; and Al Capone’s brother was Public Enemy #3. I have Chicago Amplified and our partners to thank for that.

Here are my favorite stories of the year. I’m as excited to share them with you now as I was then.

Before the ‘L’ Chicago ran on cable cars

Before Chicago inaugurated its famed elevated train system in 1892, the second city was home to the world’s largest and most profitable network of cable cars. That's right, San Francisco. How you like us now?

Stephanie Izard: I was an Olive Garden hostess

Between her adorable proto-foodie childhood and her later accolades and success, superstar chef Stephanie Izard had some years in the food biz that were about as unglamorous as it gets.

How mah jongg became American (and Jewish)

It’s not an obvious mix, this complicated Chinese game played with intricate domino-like tiles, and bubbe. So how’d we get here?

Bayard Rustin: The Civil Rights Movement’s invisible man

Why did Rustin, a man who by all accounts was one of the most gifted organizers and public intellectuals of his time, not rise to the same level of prominence and regard as the powerful and influential people he advised? The wrinkle in Rustin’s story, and one reason you may not have heard of him, was that Rustin was also openly gay.

Surviving the sex trade: Patricia’s story

Abandoned at age 12 and left without choices or protection, Patricia turned to what activists call “survival sex.” That led to nearly two decades of sex work, sometimes by choice but often against her will.

The path not taken led to Frank Lloyd Wright

Y.C. Wong came to the U.S. from China in 1947, having received a scholarship to study with Frank Lloyd Wright at his Taliesin studio in Spring Green, Wis. But Y.C. never made it to Spring Green. Instead, he was waylaid in Chicago by another architect who persuaded him to stay in town: Mies van der Rohe.

The demise of building 521

Building 521 was the site of gunnery training at Naval Station Great Lakes. The enormous glass box also happened to be architecturally significant, a fact that emerged when the Navy tried to tear it down.

The secret history of Lincoln Park’s cemetery

Chicago’s toniest green space, Lincoln Park, was once the final resting place for more than 35,000 Chicagoans. And it may still serve as the graveyard for as many as 12,000 people buried during the mid-1800s.

Dynamic Range showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified’s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. We’ll be back in 2013!