Ted and I saw a movie tonight in Logan Square, an old Chicago neighborhood, and while driving down Kimball we spotted a really neat early 20th-century building.
I didn't have our camera with, and besides, it was pretty dark, anyway, so the above image comes from Flickr, and below you can find it on Google maps (you can click the map image to move it around and get a closer view; hit refresh a few times if you need to, as the map sometimes gets stuck loading).
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I was rather surprised to see it. I had heard that, prior to WWII, when the Nazis perverted this ancient symbol, a number of buildings in the City had swastikas in the decorative brickwork. Many had been destroyed or covered up. In any case, I don't recall encountering one before.
I often have trouble trying to convince people that, prior to the 20th century, the symbol actually had a rather positive history. It's thousands of years old, and can be found as a decorative or religious symbol in cultures spanning the globe.There's an interesting history of the swastika at Lucky Mojo, a fun site with an extensive online archive of folk magic traditions. (The postcard below, dated 1907, is from their collection. I have the same one kicking around my office somewhere, but I'm too lazy to find it and scan it.)
I have a few other swastika-as-good-luck items that I've picked up in my travels, including a yak bell I got in Nepal with black-and-white swastikas woven into the collar, a puppet from Thailand who has them embroidered all over his tunic, a hundred-year-old stoneware pitcher I found at an estate sale, and a small Buddha figurine with a swastika carved into its base.
And the Baha'i temple up the road from us has some carved into the facade, amongst other religious symbols:
So now I wonder, does anyone know of other buildings in the Chicago area that still sport good-luck swastikas?
(Image of Logan Theatre courtesy of nonnyV on Flickr; image of swastika building courtesy of JonathanMathias on Flickr.)