Russell's Silverbar

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I love this 1943 postcard for Russell's Silverbar ("Where the Crowds Meet") at State and Van Buren in Chicago. (The building is long gone; the Harold Washington Public Library now stands on that entire block.) The graphics are wonderful, of course, but what I really like is how all of the great old State Street department stores - Marshall Field, Carson Pirie Scott, Goldblatt's, The Hub, The Boston Store, The Fair - are labeled, as if to say "When you're finally all shopped out, stop by Russell's for a stiff drink before you head home."

July 21, 2015 in Chicago Observations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fascinating

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From a 1937 Chicago Tribune article, here is an 1880s bird's-eye view of Chicago's downtown lakefront, superimposed with the grid of streets that were added later through landfill reclamation. The new streets are now some of the most valuable real estate in the city, but before reclamation the sandy shoreline north of the river was mostly an outlaw wasteland known as "The Sands." I have a book of the same name (by Francesca Falk Miller) that I picked up at the Newberry Library sale a few years ago but still haven't gotten around to reading yet. Soon.

July 16, 2015 in Chicago Observations | Permalink | Comments (0)

"It was a constant nagging problem that nobody owned up to."

The lost (and gradually rediscovered) county cemetery at Dunning is in the news once again.

May 18, 2015 in Chicago Observations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Boy's gotta have it.

Restored print of an 1898 bird's-eye view map of downtown Chicago. Fantastic detail.

May 8, 2015 in Chicago Observations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mirabell

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Sad: Chicago's Mirabell restaurant is closing, after 38 years in business.
Owner Jeff Heil planned one last weekend of food and drink last weekend, but some well-wishers had to be turned away, because more than 1,500 people showed up.

"Probably more than we had all year," Heil said, a trace of bitterness in his voice.

Chicago has not been kind to its German restaurants over the last 30 or so years; one by one, once-storied names such as Zum Deutschen Eck, Heidelberger Fass and Golden Ox have succumbed to business pressures, retiring owners, or both. Mirabell was one of the last old holdouts.
I've been to most of the places mentioned, but Mirabell was my favorite - though I'm chagrined to admit that I haven't been there in twenty years, so I'm as much to blame for its demise as anyone. I first went there with my high school German Club, then on a business lunch after college when I was auditing a company in the area, and then a few times after I moved to the city, including once with my parents. Good memories.

May 7, 2015 in Chicago Observations | Permalink | Comments (0)

You can't stop eating 'em

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South Side Weekly has a nice remembrance of Jays Foods, longtime Chicago purveyor of potato chips. The Jays jumbo box (with two chip bags inside) was a staple of my family home - the box was so big that it didn't fit on any of the pantry shelves, but instead sat in the vertical space to the side, on top of the box that held the extra leaf for our kitchen table. And until I read this article, I had forgotten about the Jays pencil that was included in every box in the fall, when school started again. I'd love to find some of those at a garage sale sometime.

Interesting thing about the company's slogan, "You can't stop eating 'em": during the late 1990s, after discovering a Jays faded ad in the city, I contacted the company and traded some emails with the office manager. Curious about the slogan and its similarity to the "Can't eat just one" used by their rival Lay's, I asked her which came first. She replied almost immediately, saying she asked Leonard Japp - sitting right at the next desk, still at work in his nineties - and he testily answered that the Jays slogan was first. She said he had always resented a giant company like Frito-Lay for essentially stealing the idea.

The Jays brand still exists, but it is now owned by Snyder's of Hanover, and Jays products are no longer manufactured here.

April 3, 2015 in Chicago Observations | Permalink | Comments (2)

A Cash Fortress for Brink's

Diocese

This photograph shows the Bernadin archives building of the Chicago Archdiocese, at 711 W. Monroe St. If the diocese was looking for a fortress of a building to secure its archives, they couldn't have found a more appropriate structure. Here is an artist rendering from 1937, just prior to the building's construction.

Brinks


It was originally built as the new headquarters of the Brink's armored car company. According to this Tribune article, the building (built from reinforced concrete, and fireproof) housed the corporate offices as well as the armored car and money transfer operations, and included an indoor rifle range, centrally-operated doors, concealed machine gun nest and a "modern gas apparatus so that the entire structure can be gassed from a concealed location by one operator." I take this to mean that if burglars tried to pull off a heist inside the building, they could be gassed into unconsciousness and then arrested.

Business must have been even better than expected for Brink's, because while the rendering depicts two stories, the building was ultimately built with a third. Also interesting to note that the building contractor was the Avery Brundage Company; besides being a successful businessman, Brundage was the longtime president of the International Olympic Committee and a former Olympic athlete.

March 8, 2015 in Chicago Observations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ramsin Canon on Rahm Emanuel

At Gapers Block, Ramsin Canon writes about Rahm Emanuel and why political strategies that are effective nationally often don't work on a smaller local scale.
What he reaped for this sin of hubris was a whirlwind of deep and abiding loathing after a series of bad decisions--firing library staff, cutting mental health centers, shutting down schools in black and brown communities, raising regressive fees, installing nickel-and-diming red light and speed cameras, and provoking a teachers' strike.

It is notable that his campaign flacks, from David Axelrod on down, characterize these as "tough" decisions. These are not tough decisions; they are decisions that disproportionately harm poor and black and brown people. Ending mental health services for the poor and working class people is a sad decision. Making the rich and powerful pay to keep those mental health services going is a tough decision.
I've read and admired Ramsin's writing for a long time now, and this is some of his best.

February 28, 2015 in Chicago Observations | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sketch

His eyes are watery, his face drawn and sagging, cheeks stubbled with two days of growth. Maybe he is growing a beard, he's just started and it's still scraggly and far from full. Or maybe his looks don't matter to him, he cares more about comfort, or he's given up. But he gives no further sign of giving up; his skin is florid and lively, not pale, and he talks easily, with quiet energy, to his two companions. Two women, middle-aged or later like him, and the three talk with the warmth of those who have known each other for years, riding the train every day, knowing each other so well, though perhaps nowhere other than here, nowhere outside of the confines of this train car.

February 17, 2015 in Chicago Observations | Permalink | Comments (2)

"Whatever the circumstances, whatever his condition, he has dug into all subjects and followed only one law, his own: Never be boring."

The Daily Beast reprints John Schulian's great 1985 profile of Chicago columnist Mike Royko, a long read that is very much worth your time. If the piece intrigues you, I can recommend several of Royko's books to you. To me, Royko's daily columns are still among the finest literature that Chicago has ever produced.

(Via Marie Carnes.)

January 19, 2015 in Chicago Observations | Permalink | Comments (0)

"How To Ease That Hangover"

This timeless Mike Royko advice is undoubtedly arriving too late to help you with your evening drinking and socializing decisions, but at least it might ease your morning (and afternoon) regrets.

December 31, 2014 in Chicago Observations | Permalink | Comments (0)

McKinley Park

Mckinleypark

I love this 1906 image of the McKinley Park swimming pool in Chicago, and particularly the fact that something as mundane as a public pool could have had such grandeur (and white-uniformed attendants). The park still has a pool, but the neo-classical structures are long gone.

(Actually, the building on the left still stands, though in sadly degraded form. The other structures and pool are gone.)

July 11, 2014 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Clark and Madison

Clarkmadison

Lively image of the bustling (northeast) corner of Clark and Madison, in 1948. Ah, to be able to take in a show at the Clark Theater, followed by some liquid refreshment at the Bamboo Inn or Kozer's Tap, and then an afternoon nap in an air-conditioned room at the Planters. None of which, sadly, is possible at that same corner today.

June 27, 2014 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Haskell, Barker, Sullivan

Sullivan

Detail of Louis Sullivan's gorgeous cast-iron facades on the Haskell and Barker Buildings, at 18-22 S. Wabash. The facades were rediscovered during a 2009 renovation, under twenty coats of paint. Alas, the exposure meter on my iPhone wasn't quite up to task; capturing the black detail resulted in the white detail being partly washed out.

June 19, 2014 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wabash & Delaware

Wabash

I love this 1963 image by Vivian Maier. It almost looks like there's another world below the sidewalk, barely visible through a jagged fissure.

June 18, 2014 in Chicago Observations, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: Dexter Folder Company

Dexter

Fading ad for Dexter Folder Company, on Harrison Street in the South Loop. At first I assumed that Dexter once made folders of the manila file variety, but I subsequently learned that its folders were actually automatic folding machines that were used to assemble newspapers, books and magazines. Which makes perfect sense: this building is immediately adjacent to Printer's Row, the city's old publishing district.

June 10, 2014 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Vienna Sausage

Vienna

A true Chicago icon: the Vienna Sausage Company (now "Vienna Beef") at its grand opening in 1894. The building was at Halsted Street and 12th Street (now Roosevelt Road) near the legendary Maxwell Street open market, but no longer exists after the entire neighborhood was redeveloped as University Village during the early 2000s. Although the sign claims the company's products as "celebrated" and thus indicates the company was already in existence at this time, this may have been its first permanent location. The company first rose to fame during the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

June 6, 2014 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

"And the lull of the Stevenson, beckoning you to stilted dreams at night."

I really like this poem by Susan Hogan, "The Ballroom Artists' Commune", published at Anthology of Chicago. Further digging reveals that this place, the Archer Ballroom, actually exists in the Bridgeport neighborhood, as a residential artists' colony (I resist the loaded term "commune") and performance space. The "Stevenson" referenced above is the expressway that runs directly behind the building, undoubtedly making the building much more affordable for artists and resistant to yuppie gentrification.

I'm intrigued by the concept of a colony like this; just the idea of all of that creative energy bouncing around, along with the colorful but inevitably hardscrabble existence. But I'm fully aware that such a place would never have worked for me, even during my younger days. (I'm a loner, and didn't even have a roommate when I went back to grad school during my mid-twenties.) I would gladly settle for merely writing fiction set in a place like Archer Ballroom, rather than actually living it.

June 5, 2014 in Books, Chicago Observations | Permalink | Comments (0)

E.J. Brach

Brach_old

Brach

The photo at the top is an early home of E.J. Brach & Sons, on the northeast corner of LaSalle and Illinois, circa 1909. After seeing this online and, on a whim, doing a Google Street View of the address, I was delighted to see that the building is still standing. I took the lower photo today during my afternoon walk. Most of Chicago's once-thriving candy industry is now gone, so sadly this building now only houses nothing more unique than yet another Jimmy John's outpost, plus whatever happens to be upstairs.

May 15, 2014 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (1)

19 S. Peoria Street, then and now

Waller

19 south peoria

Sure, that parking lot is convenient and the employee picnic table looks inviting, but, still, I'm sure things were a lot more lively at Waller's Public Bath.

April 23, 2014 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: People's Gas Company

Peoplesgas1

Peoplesgas2

Here's another fading ad, one that's hiding and seems somewhat shy. I saw this from atop the same parking garage where I photographed the A.C. McClurg ad; it's the old Peoples Gas Company building at 122 S. Michigan. The ad is on the back on the building, facing west, and is mostly obscured by the taller, modern tower at the left side of the photo. Due to its height and the closeness of that modern tower, I doubt that this ad is fully visible from anywhere other than inside the tower.

March 24, 2014 in Chicago Observations, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: A.C. McClurg & Co.

Mcclurg

I was quite pleased to suddenly discover this fading ad during my afternoon walk last Friday. I was strolling west on Adams, approaching Wabash, and happened to glance up, above the El tracks, where I saw the ad high up on a building at 218 S. Wabash. Because of where the ad is situated (facing a narrow gap over a small four-story building, next to which was a tall parking garage) the exact spot where I happened to be at that moment is essentially the only point where the ad can be seen from the street. I rode the elevator to the top level of the garage, walked past the cars and to the edge, where I was able to take this shot.

The ad is for A.C. McClurg & Company (you can see all but the "A.C." and the "Mc"), once one of the most prominent publishers in Chicago; McClurg most notably published Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan books as well as The Dial, one of the most prominent literary journals of its day. McClurg also operated a major book store which eventually morphed into the legendary Kroch's & Brentano's. In an interesting twist, this photo actually includes a second ad: in the upper left corner you can see an ad for Lyon & Healy, which I have previously documented.

Parking garages are a great place to photograph from, or just to take in unique views. Most of what we see downtown is either from street level or from high up in tall buildings. But garages provide an interesting middle ground: five to ten stories high, with the uncovered top level providing an open, panoramic view. Especially on the streets along the El tracks (Wabash, Van Buren, Wells, Lake) where redevelopment has come slower than the more marquee streets of the Loop, garages provide a rare glimpse of scruffier and (to me) more charming older buildings. And since they're open to the public, garages are easily accessible without having to navigate through security.

March 24, 2014 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (1)

Fading Ad: Brunswick

Brunswick

This building at 623 S. Wabash Avenue in Chicago was the headquarters of Brunswick Corporation (previously the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company) from 1913 to 1964. That distinctive logo should be familiar to anyone who's ever shot pool on a Brunswick table or bowled in a Brunswick alley. Brunswick is still in business, though it moved to the suburbs years ago. Interestingly enough, before Brunswick this building housed a showroom of the Studebaker automobile company, and the opposite (north) side of the building also has a Studebaker ad which must be over a hundred years old. Unfortunately I had to shoot that ad facing south, toward the bright sun, and the lettering of the ad was totally washed out. (You can just make out the ad in this shot from Google Street View.) It's rare for one building here in Chicago to have two fading ads, let alone ads for two iconic companies.

March 17, 2014 in Chicago Observations, Photography | Permalink | Comments (1)

Fading Ad: Hollywood Tuxedo Rental

Tuxedo-saska

I just love this fantastic faded ad from the Chicago Lawn neighborhood, photographed by Marian Saska. But the photo was taken in 1972 and, unforunately, the ad is now long gone. Still, nice to see it preserved for posterity. As for the ad content itself, I know they were trying to emphasize the tuxedo, but it's kind of unsettling to see the woman rendered so faintly, only in outline.

March 14, 2014 in Chicago Observations, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cartier-Bresson in Chicago

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Excellent: I didn't know that the great Henri Cartier-Bresson was ever in Chicago, let alone that he photographed memorable images here, like this one. I'm heartened to see he was as enamored with the abstract geometry of the El tracks as countless other, lesser photographers (myself included) have been since the system's inception. And I admire the juxtaposition between the hard rigidity of the tracks and the soft and slightly pained humanity of the boy's face.

March 2, 2014 in Chicago Observations, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reading in Public: Chicago, 1964

Reading

It's been a long time since I updated my "Reading in Public" series (almost a year and a half now) so when this wonderful photograph came up on Calumet 421, I just had to add it. The photo was taken by Jay King on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, in 1964. Not only is this gentleman reading in public, but he's so engrossed by the book that not even walking can distract him; based on the posture of the couple behind him, it appears that he's standing on a corner, probably waiting for the walk light. I certainly hope he looked both ways before returning to his reading. And I wish I could tell which book this was.

February 24, 2014 in Books, Chicago Observations, Reading in Public | Permalink | Comments (0)

Henrici's at the Merchandise Mart

Henrici-Mural

Now, that was a bar: the lounge of the Henrici's in the Merchandise Mart, which opened in 1948. (Not to be confused, however, with the Henrici's flagship location on Randolph Street.) The Merchandise Mart location was designed by James Eppenstein (the subject of this long feature at Forgotten Chicago, where I got the photo; scroll way down in the article for much more on this Henrici's), and that fantastic mural was by Frank Ruvolo. It almost makes me feel like I could slide onto a stool at that glorious curving bar and order an Old Fashioned. Sadly, all tangible vestiges of Henrici's are now long gone.

February 20, 2014 in Chicago Observations, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Merchandise Mart, 1934

Merchmart

Love this gorgeous 1934 photograph looking east along the main branch of the Chicago River, with the Merchandise Mart on the left. The river was so placid at that moment that it almost looks like a reflecting pool, and not the open sewer it was back then.

February 10, 2014 in Chicago Observations, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lake Chicago

Lakechicago

Wow, this is so cool: this map depicts the Chicago area at the end of the last ice age, around 14,000 years ago. (I knew about Lake Chicago - the predecessor of Lake Michigan - and was aware of its general environs, but had never seen an actual map.) The shaded portions are the land areas that existed back then, while the dotted lines show the modern-day Chicago River and shoreline of Lake Michigan. What is now the city of Blue Island was indeed an island back then, and even today with the waters having receded, it's an unusually elevated area in an otherwise flat landscape. Same thing for Mount Forest Island, which is between Lemont and Willow Springs; I ride right past there every day on my train.

What's really interesting to me about Mount Forest Island is the two outlets that are shown: the Sag Outlet, the low-lying ground where the Cal-Sag Channel was dug during the early 1900s; and the Desplaines Outlet, which is the current course of the Des Plaines River. As Lake Chicago receded, the Des Plaines formed into a river, bending to the north near McCook Station and roughly following the course of the old shoreline shown in the map.

January 24, 2014 in Chicago Observations, History | Permalink | Comments (1)

Fitzpatrick on Shay

At Newcity, Tony Fitzpatrick writes a fine tribute to the great photographer Art Shay, who's still alive and kicking at 91, and currently has an exhibition at Ann Nathan Gallery.

His images of Wicker Park and Algren have no cheap sentiment in them. This was a neighborhood of immigrants, of the poor, of working people, of junkies and hustlers and whores—and Shay romanticizes none of it. For as unsparing as Algren’s prose was regarding this place, Shay matches him note for note. There was despair. There was grinding poverty. And there were transcendent moments of grace. None of it escaped Shay’s lens.

I really need to buy Shay's collection Chicago's Nelson Algren. ("Read Algren and you'll see Shay's pictures; look at Shay's photos and you'll hear Nelson's words.") One of my favorite photographers, and my favorite writer.

January 22, 2014 in Art, Chicago Observations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: Boston Store redux

Bostonstore

My good friend Frank Jump was kind enough to repost this photo that I put up last week on Facebook, where I've been running an album called "Photo a Day", of photographs that I've taken each day this year. One afternoon last week, I was walking down Washington Street and looking for a subject, and happened to look across the street at the Block 37 office building, and was very pleased to see the old Boston Store fading ad reflected in the glass. (I had previously photographed the ad - posted here - and inevitably look for it every time I'm walking nearby.) In his post Frank provides more background on the Boston Store, including a great old newspaper ad. I really like the photo, particularly its juxtaposition of modern and aged.

January 22, 2014 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Merry Christmas!

Photo-30

Merry Christmas! I hope Santa Claus brought you elegant slippers, or fine boots or shoes, or whatever your stylish heart desired this year.

Isn't it strange that during this visit from Santa, presumably during the middle of the night and after he just came down the chimney, there's a roaring fire going in the fireplace? What, does Santa not just drop off the presents, but also makes himself at home, starts a new fire, and maybe pours himself a nightcap and settles into an easy chair?

December 25, 2013 in Chicago Observations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ice Ice Baby

Ice_ice


I love this photo. If my writing was at all comic - which it isn't - I'd want to have this as a book cover some day.

December 22, 2013 in Chicago Observations, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Two views of 1950s Chicago

Rushstreet1954

Rush Street, looking south from Delaware Street, in 1954. Love that tawdry, gaudy neon. The area is now informally known as the Viagra Triangle (for the middle-aged divorced guys haunting the steakhouses and trying to get lucky), but there's no way it has the hustle and throb it enjoyed well into the 1970s.

Doorwaycallahan1955

Doorway by Harry Callahan, 1955. Probably far from the glare of Rush Street, and likely in a working class neighborhood. Just in this tight frame, I see advertisements for three beers (Sieben's - painted directly onto the window at the upper right - Schlitz and Budweiser) and two whiskeys (Hiram Walker Imperial and Echo Springs). I like a place that gives you a hint of what's inside before you even step off the street.

November 22, 2013 in Chicago Observations, Photography | Permalink | Comments (2)

Exit

Exit

I love the rusted decay of this door on the Harrison Street side of the old Chicago Main Post Office, which has been abandoned since 1997. Sixty hulking, empty acres of floorspace - 2.5 million square feet - just a short walk from downtown. The place still amazes me, in both its gargantuan size and its emptiness.

November 19, 2013 in Chicago Observations, Photography | Permalink | Comments (2)

"...beside that damn foul-smelling lamp, reading and planning and shivering in his long sag-butt underwear..."

I love this wonderful, remarkable paragraph from the early chapters of Kent Haruf's The Tie That Binds. The narrator is imagining the early life of his longtime neighbor Roy Goodnough, who at the time of the scene is newly married and living with his parents in Iowa, but dreaming of a homestead of his own in eastern Colorado.

On those cold wet Iowa nights then in that first winter of their marriage, with his brothers and sisters sleeping in their bedrooms next door and his folks snoring from another room down the hall, I picture him standing by a kerosene lamp. I picture him reading those flyers and notices and government brochures till he had them by heart, while in the room with him Ada would have been lying thin and straight in their bed under some thick homemade quilts, lying there waiting for him with her hair already combed out and braided, trying to stay awake for him because she no doubt believed a new wife would do that or should at least try to. And still - because I know that's the way he was - he must have gone on night after night the same. Gone on standing there beside that damn foul-smelling lamp, reading and planning and shivering in his long sag-butt underwear, with his red feet itching from the cold and his stringy arms and legs all gone to goose bumps and pig's bristle by the time he finally blew out the lamp and crawled into bed beside Ada - not to sleep yet, you understand, or even to raise Ada's flannel nightgown so he could rub his calloused hands over her thin hips and little breasts - but just to wake her again, wake her so he could tell her one more time how, by God, he had it all figured.
I can totally see that scene in my mind - Roy fretting over brochures in the frigid bedroom, Ada waiting nervously in bed, Roy finally crawling under the covers not for sex but to again tell Ada (possibly to her relief) of his grand homesteading plan. Obviously, I'm already enjoying this book quite a bit. Haruf is the best.

November 13, 2013 in Chicago Observations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: Casey's Liquors

Caseys

This fading ad for Casey's Liquors (1444 W. Chicago Avenue) is one of the more difficult ad photos I've taken. It was in a narrow, fenced alley that made it impossible to photograph in any manner other than from this extreme angle. I really like the now-defunct store's slogan: "Chances are we got it."

November 7, 2013 in Chicago Observations, Photography | Permalink | Comments (1)

The end of two baseball eras

Cubs leaving WGN-TV and Astrodome headed for likely demolition.

The Cubs have been on WGN since 1948, and their afternoon game broadcasts have been a daily staple for generations of Chicagoans, myself included. The Astrodome news is somewhat bittersweet for me. I always hated when the Cubs played there, because given Wrigley Field's small confines, Cub teams have almost always been built around slow-moving sluggers, and thus they lost most of their games in the spacious expanse of the 'Dome. Small-ball was always the name of the game there, and of course the Cubs have never been able to draw walks, steal bases or bunt to save their lives. Still, it will be sad to see such a revolutionary structure meet its demise.

November 6, 2013 in Chicago Observations, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Stearns Quarry

Stearns

It's pretty astounding that this 400-foot-deep hole once existed in the middle of a busy city neighborhood on the Southwest Side. If you look at the lower edge of the quarry in this photo, you can see there were houses right across the street. The quarry still exists (though, I assume, at much shallower depths) and has been redeveloped into Palmisano Park.

October 24, 2013 in Chicago Observations, History | Permalink | Comments (1)

Smoothest

Henderson

Love this 1907 ad, which apparently appeared in Chicago theater programs. (I wonder how many people waited until the show was over, and how many snuck out for a quick nip during intermission.) Wonderful graphics, but oh, such shoddy punctuation: the incorrect usage of "it's", and the accent mark placed above the S instead of the E in "cafés."

October 11, 2013 in Chicago Observations, Ephemera, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: A. Sulka & Company

Sulka

Here's a different kind of fading ad. At the former Chicago branch of luxury clothier A. Sulka & Company at Madison Street and Michigan Avenue, the company name was affixed onto the building with some sort of raised script lettering. The signage must have been there for quite some time, because after it was removed, the years of weather left an outline of the lettering on the building. Nice little relic.

October 8, 2013 in Chicago Observations, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Step high, stoop low, leave your dignity outside."

DilPickle-600

Aimee Leavitt has a terrific piece, "The migration of the hipster", in the Chicago Reader which surveys the city's primary artist/bohemian/hipster neighborhoods since the end of the 19th Century. This quote, from an unidentified University of Chicago student, is nearly perfect:
"This is no place for a beatnik, and the weather is the principal reason. If you want to lie around like a beachcomber in Chicago, contemplating your navel and grumbling about the uselessness of it all, you're out of luck. It gets cold here in the winter time, and you might have to go to work. And that would spoil everything."
And I admire Leavitt's observation that Nelson Algren, while admittedly a Wicker Park hipster of the 1940s, probably would have beat the crap out of the wimpy Wicker Park hipster/musicians of the 1990s.

October 3, 2013 in Chicago Observations, History | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monadnock Building

Monadnock

Monadnock Building, west-facing wall, taken during the late afternoon from the tight confines of Federal Street. One of my favorite buildings in the city. Somewhere in the back of my mind is a novel about the office denizens of just such a building.

October 2, 2013 in Chicago Observations, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Joel Daly, actor?

Longtime WLS-TV anchorman Joel Daly, who retired in 2005, apparently is also a pretty good stage actor. He once played Atticus Finch in a stage version of To Kill a Mockingbird, and now he's been cast as Howard Beale for a new adaptation of Network.
"I think Paddy Cheyevsky was a wonderful commentator of his time," Daly says. Yet Network "says more about what television is today than it did in 1976. With all the reality TV and all the other things that didn't exist in 1976--TV's worse."
Fitzgerald was wrong: there are indeed second acts in American lives. I'm glad to see Daly is still doing well. He was always a favorite of mine.

October 1, 2013 in Chicago Observations, Television | Permalink | Comments (0)

Neighborhood

Backporch

Sometimes accidental photographic subjects are more interesting than what you intended to photograph. I was trying to snap a long-distance photo of the Santa Fe Grain Elevator from my fast-moving train, but although I did catch part of the elevator in this photo (at the center-right, beyond the telephone pole), far more interesting to me are the brick houses, garage and oddly-parked van in the foreground, plus the blurred rush of the trees. This is in McKinley Park on the near Southwest Side, at 33rd and Damen.

September 27, 2013 in Chicago Observations, Photography | Permalink | Comments (2)

Fading Ad: Chicago Paper Company

Cpc

On an instant whim, I photographed this image from my train this morning, of the old Chicago Paper Company building at Wells and Polk in the South Loop. I'm not sure which I love more: the fading ad bearing the company name, or that marvelous vast wall of small windows. (The blank spots are windows reflecting the morning sun.) I converted the photo to black and white to eliminate the sickening greenish tinge of the train window; I also found that doing so, combined with higher contrast and reduced brightness, really helps bring out the lettering.

I previously photographed this building last year, specifically for another ad along the roofline. But I like this current image much better.

August 30, 2013 in Chicago Observations, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

A tale of two buildings

Waterman1

The photo above shows the top floors of the Waterman Building at 127 S. State Street, right next door to the Palmer House Hilton. Designed by Holabird & Roche and built in 1920, the building originally housed the Chicago branch of the Waterman fountain pen company, with a luxurious street-level retail showroom and assembly/warehousing operations upstairs. The building is now considerably worn and showing its age, but still retains a sort of muscular elegance.

Waterman2

Meanwhile, this photo shows the Beef & Brandy Restaurant, also on State, which dates from the 1960s and is also showing its age. The ugly maroon awning, atrium-like front windows (which always remind me of a 1980s-vintage Wendy's) and pseudo-Colonial upper windows add little to the aesthetics of State Street, which itself has been aesthetically challenged for decades.

The strange thing is that both of these photos are of the same building. Here's the full view:

Waterman3

This might be the Loop's most comically incongruous building. Designslinger has much more about the building. As that site notes, the blank white area in the middle floors was once an enamel background for a two-story-high sign; for some reason when the sign was removed the enamel panels were left behind, and are still pockmarked by holes from the sign's former mountings. I'd love to see the latter-day embellishments of the bottom four floors totally stripped away, and the building restored to some semblance of its former luster. Perhaps for a high-end jeweler, condominiums or a boutique hotel. But I'm probably just dreaming.

August 21, 2013 in Chicago Observations, History | Permalink | Comments (4)

Cocktails at Henrici's

Henrici

I'd love to have a framed original of this cocktail menu from Chicago's legendary Henrici's, circa 1945. Having it would probably inspire me to finally find a vintage cocktail cabinet for our living room, which it would hang directly above. Until I saw this, I didn't realize that a Cuba Libre is basically the same as a rum and coke, but with a much better name. I'd guess it became known as the more generic "rum and coke" during the Cold War, when making any sort of tribute to Cuba would have been a major no-no.

Incidentally, if you've ever been to Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, you may remember Yesterday's Main Street, a re-creation of a Chicago street, circa 1910. For many years, one storefront was made up to look like Henrici's. But with that restaurant now long gone, presumably along with any potential benefactors to the museum, that space now depicts the still-thriving Berghoff, whose family owners undoubtedly made a generous donation to the museum to make this happen. I preferred the Henrici's.

August 18, 2013 in Chicago Observations, History | Permalink | Comments (1)

Fading Ad: W.W. Kimball

Kimball

This fading ad is pretty tough to read. Running vertically down the right side of this building, you can just barely see the name "Kimball", with the "K" being even more faded than the rest. This was the former home of W.W. Kimball and Company, the famous manufacturer of pianos and organs, at the corner of Jackson and Wabash. (And, incidentally, right across the street is the old Lyon-Healy building; Wabash was once Chicago's Music Row.) Both the Kimball and Lyon-Healy buildings are now owned by DePaul University as part of its downtown campus.

August 16, 2013 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Federal Street

Federal

This charming medieval couple has clearly been keeping diligent watch over the fire alarm at 314-316 S. Federal for decades. The building was originally St. Hubert's English Chophouse (which was quite the destination in its day) but is now used only for storage by the adjacent Union League Club.

August 15, 2013 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (2)