Chicago's Only Castle
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(Nov 08, 2017)
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"Chicago's Only Castle: The History of Givins' Irish Castle and Its Keepers" is a feature-length film that tells the exciting stories of the five keepers of the Castle, which was built by Robert C. Givins in 1886/1887. These stories unfold against the backdrop of Chicago’s rich history, including the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, the cable-car era, the dawn of the automobile, and the Chicago World’s Fair of 1933. The main goals of this production have been to uncover and preserve the history of the iconic Castle and its five keepers and to raise money to help preserve and maintain the building. This project received a major arts grant from Chicago philanthropist Richard H. Driehaus. Filmmaker Errol Magidson was interviewed about this project on WGN-TV and WTTW-TV. This film was directed by Josh Van Tuyl and Errol Magidson. Linda Lamberty served as Associate Producer. The music for this film, including selections by Debussy, Ravel, Purcell, Cesare Negri, and Nat D. Ayer, was played and arranged by harpist Renee Wilson.
Chicago’s Only Castle opens with the filmmaker’s recollection of seeing the medieval-looking castle for the first time in 1977. Noted artist and local historian Jack Simmerling, who has created paintings and prints of the Castle, talks about its architecture. The film explores the building’s importance as an historic icon and explains what makes it look like a medieval castle. Exciting stories are told about each of the five Castle keepers, including the Givins family, the Chicago Female College, the Burdett family, the Siemens family, and Beverly Unitarian Church. Interesting Chicago history is uncovered, and legends about the Castle are addressed. Robert C. Givins, the man who had the Castle built in 1886/1887, was a real estate developer, citizens’ advocate, Chicago booster, world traveler, and popular novelist. The Chicago Female College was a lauded secondary school for girls, and its director, Julia Thayer, an accomplished teacher and poet. The Burdetts were early automobile enthusiasts who won one of the first automobile races ever held in the Chicago area. Miroslaw Siemens was a founder of the Ukrainian National Museum in Chicago and the leader who established the Ukrainian Pavilion at the Chicago’s World’s Fair of 1933. With Chicago area roots dating to 1878, Beverly Unitarian Church has a proud history of being involved in social action activities, such as the collection and environmentally-safe disposal of household hazardous waste. The building’s renovations are discussed. The annex that was completed in 1960 has housed an acclaimed, non-sectarian preschool for about 50 years.
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