Which one, you might ask? There are so many of them rattling around in our memories. London, where the soap box orators vent? Upstate New York where memories of FDR are enshrined? The South Side of Chicago where a great university shares a neighborhood with a President’s pre-White House home; gracious 19th Century houses and churches speak of times when space was spent lavishly to accommodate families and worshippers?
I spent the past week in the last of those three Hyde Parks watching my sister benefit from the genius of great doctors at The University of Chicago Medical Center and discovering a hotel with a big brand name and a massively creative take on that name, which manages to achieve both predictable quality and absolutely unpredictable personal touches. For a few days, I had the feeling I had visited Downton Abbey or the Bellamy residence and that the staff had been directed to foresee and respond to everything needed to make a challenging time into a touchingly positive one. The Hyatt Place Chicago-South/University Medical Center Team are to hoteliers what Merlin was to magicians. Or perhaps I should compare them to Mary Poppins’ Uncle Albert who was said to be able to “fix everything but broken hearts.”
Need to get from the hotel to the hospital or vice-versa? From 7AM to 7 PM just ask and in 10 minutes Larry or Dwight will whisk you there in a Mercedes bus they operate as if it were a streamlined sedan. Unfortunately, nothing is needed to shuttle you to the iconic ice cream parlor where tastes are offered any of the scores of original flavors. Local eateries include the cash only cafeteria President Obama is said to visit whenever in his hometown. A cornucopia of options surrounds the hotel and they make it easy to allow guests to order in to their in-house central delivery facility. A lavish breakfast is served daily.
Outside the doors is a world of options for all the necessities and niceties to establish a home away from home, from first run cinema to homewares and shopping options.
The “urban village” of Hyde Park is much like that of my Manhattan 10065. A quick review of the December issue of It’s Happening in Hyde Park showed me a stunning catalogue of cultural and historic icons that dot this Southside neighborhood (above). They range from the singular Museum of Science and Industry to the Du Sable Museum of African American History; the Frank Lloyd Wright Robie House and magnificent Rockefeller Memorial Chapel and U of C’s Court Theater. A full page shows parks to be visited and others amaze with lists of houses of worship, restaurants and ongoing events. Everywhere there is the mosaic of people that power the strength and diversity of this enclave.
“Town and Gown” is a phrase that has its own varied meanings wherever institutions of learning live and further inspire their surrounding neighborhoods. Having seen the Hyde Park neighborhood from a home away from home in its center, I leave with a treasure of hope for what our great nation of villages can achieve.
All photos courtesy of the Hyde Park Herald.