"...a surgeon operating on the fluid body of time."

In 1931, Walker Evans and his friend Lincoln Kirstein set out to document in photographs the Victorian architecture of Kirstein's native Boston. As related in James Mellow's Walker Evans, Kirstein admitted their process was complicated...

"...even aside from the actual sighting, clicking etc. of the camera itself. The sun had to be just right and more often than not we would have to come back to the same place two or even three times for the light to be hard and bright. I felt like a surgeon's assistant to Walker. Cleaning up neatly after him, and he a surgeon operating on the fluid body of time. Some satisfaction in exhausting a given locale of its definite formal atmosphere - so rich, exuberant, gracious and redolent of a distinguished past..."

That meticulous nature - returning several times to get the lighting just right - is one of the things that sets Evans' photographs apart, into the realm of greatness.

February 20, 2020 in Art, Books, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

“Girl sitting alone in the Sea Grill waiting for a pickup.”


Photograph by Esther Bubley, 1943, for the Office of War Information. So lonely, so forlorn. I would write a story about her, but I suspect her story has already been written many times before. (Algren’s “Is Your Name Joe?” comes to mind.)

February 5, 2020 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: M.J. Meagher & Co.


This is actually two ads for the same store: the newer one reads M.J. Meagher & Co. Family Shoe Store, and the older one reads M.J. Meagher Hats & Shoes. (In the older ad, “Meagher” slants upward, from left to right.) Found on Main Street, Frankfort, Kentucky. 

July 23, 2019 in History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: Laundry


This ad was revealed after a recent demolition in Champaign, IL. I can’t read the name of the company at the top, but I like the command: “SEND YOUR LAUNDRY / SEND YOUR CLEANING.” (There’s also another “SEND...” just below, but it was obscured by electrical equipment.) 712 S. Sixth Street, Champaign. 

June 14, 2019 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (3)

Fading Ad: J.S. Patterson Body Shop


J.S. Patterson Body Shop, formerly located at 3611 S. Archer Avenue in Chicago. The building is still car-related, but now houses Monte-Jalisco Auto Repair, which gives an indication of McKinley Park’s changing demographics. The age of the ad is suggested by the phone number lacking an area code - until 1989, the entire Chicago area had the area code 312, so the area code was rarely referenced. 

January 13, 2019 in Chicago Observations, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Archer Avenue Tour

Last week I had a bachelor weekend (Julie and Maddie were away, at our city place), and my big thing to do for fun was to...drive the entire length of Archer Avenue, from Lockport to Chicago. (Yes, I’m quite the wild one.) My daily train runs generally parallel to Archer, so I've seen bits and pieces of the street here and there, but never the entire distance. So I hopped in the car on Saturday afternoon, with a bottle of water, an Epic bar and a couple of old CDs (Chris Mars, Treat Her Right) and set out.

Archer is one of the major southwestern arteries of the Chicago area, which starts just north of downtown Lockport, winds through the towns of Lockport, Lemont, Willow Springs, Justice and Summit (just edging Bedford Park) and the Southwest Side of Chicago, where it ends at 19th and State, in the South Loop. Archer follows the path of an ancient Native American trail (which paralleled the Chicago and Des Plaines Rivers), and was originally built as a supply road for the building of the Illinois & Michigan Canal, which was headquartered in Lockport.

Naturally, I stopped and took photos along the way.



St. James at Sag Bridge Catholic Church, in Lemont. St. James was built in 1833 to serve Irish diggers of the canal, many of whom are buried in the quaint churchyard. The church stands on a bluff above the canal and the Des Plaines River, on a highland that in prehistoric times was an island - in fact, the area is formally called Mount Forest Island. Driving up the short road between Archer and the church feels like stepping back in time.



Pleasanty creepy, Addams-esque (or Munster-esque, if you prefer) Victorian house in Willow Springs. I've seen online mentions of this house being haunted. Ghosts might be the only thing living there - it looks abandoned. The house isn't actually on Archer, but is visible from the street, on the bluff just a block up Charleton Street.



The main gate of Resurrection Cemetery, in Justice. Resurrection is one of the largest cemeteries in North America, with 540 acres and over 152,000 graves. The cemetery is infamous for being the purported resting place of Resurrection Mary, whose ghost supposedly haunts Archer Avenue.



Administration building of the former Argo corn starch factory, in Summit. These relief sculptures depict the history of corn, from its first planting and harvesting by Native Americans to the laboratory explorations of scientists. The factory is one of the largest corn processing plants in the world, and is so prominent that the town is often known as Summit-Argo in its honor. This building is now occupied by the U.S Food and Drug Administration. 



36th and Archer, McKinley Park, Chicago. This house, the setting of my story "Valentino’s Return" in Where the Marshland Came to Flower, is incongruously wedged between an auto repair shop and a CTA bus lot, on a very commercial stretch of Archer. I see the house from my daily train to the city, and am always struck by how out of place it looks. Thinking of the sort of people who would live in a house like this eventually lead me to my story.



Huck Finn Donuts, 3414 S. Archer, McKinley Park, Chicago. I've always been curious about the name - I don't remember any specific references to doughnuts in Huckleberry Finn, or from Mark Twain in general. Yes, I stopped for a doughnut, to fortify myself for the long drive home - tasty, good but not spectacular.



R.V. Kunka Pharmacy, 2899 S. Archer, Bridgeport, Chicago. Sadly, it's no longer in business - I would have loved to stop in for a chocolate malt. I hope that wonderful storefront is retained by the next owner.



Hilliard Towers Apartments (formerly Raymond Hilliard Homes), seen from Cullerton Street near Archer. Designed by the incomparable Bertrand Goldberg (best known for Marina City) and built in 1966 as a CHA public housing project, the complex was redeveloped in the early 2000s as a mixed-income development - middle-class, low-income and seniors. Hilliard is bounded by Cermak Road, Clark Street, Archer, Cullerton and State Street, and even though it is only briefly bordered by Archer, it bears a commanding presence over the street. Archer ends just two blocks east, at State, where I turned around and headed for home.

January 13, 2019 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (2)

Fading Ad: Gibbons Box Co.


H.R. Gibbons Box Company, 1210 W. Lake Street, Chicago. I took a longer-than-usual walk yesterday afternoon through an area I visit only rarely, and was very pleased to find this ad. Though I’ve walked this block before, I must have been on the other side of the street, where the ad is obscured by the L tracks. The company is long defunct, and doesn’t even appear in the State of Illinois corporations database.

This 1921 obituary for Harry Gibbons (from an industry trade journal, with a typically laudatory tone) seems to suggest that the company made boxes for Marshall Field & Company, where Gibbons worked before leaving to start his own firm. Great customer to have, especially back then. 


October 25, 2018 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Welcome back


I’m very happy to see the recent return of Calumet 412 (“A pictorial love letter to the city and people of Chicago”) after its year-plus hiatus. This wonderful 1967 image of Marina City (by Yale Joel) is quite timely - Julie and I are buying a lakefront condo in Chicago as a weekend getaway, so soon we’ll become occasional high-rise people, too. Though maybe not as stylish as these folks.

August 14, 2018 in Chicago Observations, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: Del’s Cafe


The former Del’s Cafe, on Ocean Front Walk in Santa Monica, California. Love that typography. The ad was uncovered during renovations which will convert the building into...not a diner, but...wait for it...a Starbucks. Sigh. 

June 7, 2018 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

1000 W. Monroe Street








I'm glad I photographed these two charming rowhouses (now very rare in the West Loop) while I had the chance, because they were recently demolished, for yet another new development. As if the West Loop doesn't already have enough generic luxury apartment buildings. 

August 16, 2017 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)


"I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking. Recording the man shaving at the window opposite and the woman in the kimono washing her hair. Some day, all this will have to be developed, carefully printed, fixed." - Christopher Isherwood

June 25, 2017 in Books, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Will County Tour

I've lived in Joliet for seventeen years, but have visited only about half of the towns in Will County. So yesterday, near the end of my four-week sabbatical from work, I tried to rectify this, by visiting every town in the county, along with various unincorporated areas that are significant enough to have formal names. I targeted thirty-five communities, and Maddie rode along for most of the trip.

Long story short, I didn't even get close to my goal.  I only made it to twenty-two, for several reasons. First off, Will County is pretty damned big in terms of acreage. There is also only a meandering route for visiting every town, often on slower two-lane roads, plus I focused on the eastern end of the county (I live at the western end), where I had never been before. Lastly, Maddie and were pretty worn out by the end, and didn't want to keep Julie waiting for us until dark. We completely missed the southwest corner of the county, where there's a relative cluster of old coal mining towns, unlike the spread-out farm towns in the center and eastern end - so maybe, some Saturday, Maddie and I can do the remaining towns. 

The entire excursion lasted from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with only two bathroom breaks and one stop for coffee. Maddie and I had a great trip. We still got home in time to enjoy a hearty dinner, at roughly our usual time.

Below is a photo from every town and hamlet we visited.



Memorial garden for Lidice, Czechoslovakia, Crest Hill.



Former schoolhouse, Romeoville.



Defunct bingo parlor, Bolingbrook.



Shelter built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, Lockport. 



Messenger Marsh, Homer Glen.



Marley Community Church, Marley.



Former grain elevator, Mokena.



Water tower, Frankfort.



 Governors State University, University Park.



Bandshell, Steger.



Al's Barber Shop, Crete. 



St. Paul's Church, Monee. 



Former livery stable, Beecher. 



Peotone Bowl, Peotone. 



Storage shed, Andres. 



Farm, Wilton. 



Abandoned store, Wilton Center. 



Creamery ice cream store, Manhattan. 



Fire station, New Lenox. 



Lily pond, Elwood.



Defunct laundromat, Rockdale. 



Barber shop (and former camera store), Joliet. 

June 24, 2017 in Photography, Travel | Permalink | Comments (1)

Fading Ad: Ruettiger's Tire Service


Ruettiger's Tire Service - Vulcanizing - Road Service Dial 4153. Cass and Herkimer Streets, Joliet. (Yes, that Ruettiger family.) I've known about this ad for a while now, but just recently the newer canvas ads that covered most of it were removed. 

June 8, 2017 in History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: Shields Farr Printing & Engraving


Shields Farr Printing & Engraving, Rosa Parks Boulevard, Nashville, Tennessee. I couldn't find any historical info on this company online, but from my Google results I was pleased to see that my good friend Frank Jump already found this ad, seven years ago

June 7, 2017 in History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ads: Chattanooga, Tennessee

Without much effort, a short stroll after dinner around the Warehouse Row neighborhood in Chattanooga yielded several good ads. 


Graham Wholesale, Market Street. 


Grand Hotel, Market Street. 


Grand Hotel and Coca-Cola (which Julie thinks has been repainted), Market Street. 


Clyde's Auto Glass, Main Street. 


Spaghetti House, Market Street. A faded ad of sorts - an inlaid stone doorstep. 

June 3, 2017 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: Sen-Sen


Sen-Sen, "For Hoarseness." Gorgeous, massive ad - six stories tall. 158 N. Broadway, Third Ward, Milwaukee. I actually visited, about ten years ago, the Chicago factory where Sen-Sen was last manufactured. I brought home a sample, but don't remember trying it - the owners warned me that it had a strange taste. According to Wikipedia (which noted its "frequent use in covering up the odoriferous evidence of perceived vices such as drinking and cigarette smoking") the product was discontinued in 2013.

April 30, 2017 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (3)

Grand and humble



I love this undated photograph of the Stratford Hotel, on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, but only partly for the hotel's 19th Century grandeur. What really strikes me is the tiny white storefront at the far left, which is dwarfed by the surrounding structures. I can't tell what the building was, but I'd guess it was a cigar shop or newsstand, even though the hotel would surely have had both of those amenities within its own building.

The photo is taken from Chicago at the Turn of the Century in Photographs: 122 Historic Views from the Collections of the Chicago Historical Society, edited by Larry Viskochil.

February 5, 2017 in Chicago Observations, History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Lois Bielefeld


Fantastic: Lois Bielefeld's photographic series, Weeknight Dinners. So many stories there, just lightly hinted at. Gorgeous photography aside, I'm impressed by her ability to talk her way into so many peoples' homes. That's something I could never do.

(Via Coudal.)

January 22, 2017 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: Graham Bros. Soap Co.


Graham Bros. Soap Co., makers of toilet soaps, shampoo, talcum powder and laundry soaps. 1423 W. Lake Street, Chicago. The name is mostly gone, but I was able to find it by searching on the street address. Below is a fine example of one of the company's talcum tins. 


January 18, 2017 in History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Boy's gotta have it.


Kodak Baby Brownie, circa 1934-41. Actually, I saw one of these yesterday at the Kane County Flea Market, but couldn't pull the trigger on the $25 asking price - maybe next time. I already own a later Brownie, from the 1950s, but I like the diminutive size and minimalist design of the Baby even more.

September 5, 2016 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (2)

Fading Ad: Ginza Restaurant


Somewhat recent, but definitely fading, ad for Ginza Restaurant, at State and Ohio in River North, Chicago. Ginza operated here from 1987 to 2013. It appears that Ginza was gentrified out of the neighborhood, which is ironic given that its food was well-regarded, and the area is now booming with restaurants and hotels. If the food was good, you'd think the gentrification and influx of people would have benefitted the place, and not lead to its demise. Apparently the new landlord had other, more expensive plans.

This was a difficult photo to take - I only had my iPhone, the ad was up high (about eight or ten stories) and I was shooting toward the west and the setting sun, which inevitably caused it to be overexposed. I edited as well as I could, but ended up with sharpness that was much less than ideal. Then, again, this almost has a watercolor feel to it, which I like.

August 7, 2016 in Chicago Observations, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: Foamcraft


I can't believe I didn't discover this fading ad earlier. I've been walking around the West Loop every day for almost a year and a half, but only just now did I finally spot this sign. Yes, it's tucked into an alley (947 W. Van Buren) but it's huge - almost half a block long, and impossible to fully capture in a single photo. Foamcraft is a manufacturer of foam packaging fabrication equipment which seems to have been originally located here, although they're now in Brighton Park on the Southwest Side. The Van Buren building is now a self-storage facility. Because when a manufacturer leaves the West Loop, it seems as if its old building can only become one of two things: condominiums or self-storage.

July 7, 2016 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: Uneeda Biscuit


Fading ads for Uneeda Biscuit are far from uncommon (or within the small realm of fading ads, anyway; here's one I photographed in 2012), but the location of this ad is somewhat unique. I found it in the Penn Quarter area of downtown Washington, D.C. (specifically, at 7th and Indiana), which was probably once filled with ads but has now been all gussied up to such an extent that they have all but disappeared. Even this ad was a hard find; I happened to spot it from a block away, and the closest I could get to it was across the street, and could only photograph it from a narrow vantage point and at an awkward angle. I apologize for the lack of sharpness; with the sweltering D.C. heat, I was eager to get back into the shade, and didn't take as much time for composition as I could have.

June 25, 2016 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Farm Land

We just got home from a week's vacation in Washington, D.C. As much as I like the photographs I took there of all of the familiar sights (Lincoln Memorial, Smithsonian Institution, etc.), just as much I like these that I took of the passing countryside, through the car window.


New Baltimore, Pennsylvania



Schellsburg, Pennsylvania



Breezewood, Pennsylvania



Juniata Township, Pennsylvania



Edon, Ohio


Long vistas and high skies - characteristics that I associate more commonly with my native Midwest, but are also prevalent in the East. Though for obvious reasons (the Mail Pouch sign and weathered barn) I really like the Juniata Township photo, I think the New Baltimore one is my favorite. The lighting worked out really well there, I think.

June 24, 2016 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

South Side

This week I found myself taking photographs through my train window while passing through the far South Side of Chicago. These were originally posted to my Facebook and Instagram pages but I thought it would be nice to collect them all here.



92nd Place and Vincennes Avenue, Brainerd



91st Street and Vincennes Avenue, Brainerd



78th Street and Fielding Avenue, Auburn Gresham



76th Street and Normal Avenue, Auburn Gresham



76th Street and Normal Avenue, Auburn Gresham



75th Street and Eggleston Avenue, Auburn Gresham



72nd Street and Stewart Avenue, Englewood



Marquette Road and Yale Avenue, Englewood


These neighborhoods have special meaning for me, since my mom grew up in Auburn Park (now part of Auburn Gresham) and my grandmother in Englewood. Though the neighborhoods have changed significantly since my family lived there, both economically and racially, it touches me to see (albeit from the distance of a train viaduct) the streets and many of the same buildings that they moved amongst every day, up until the mid 1940s.

My method was fairly basic. Since there was no way to carefully compose photographs from a moving train, I simply had to take a flurry of shots in promising areas, and then sift through them afterward for the best images, which I cropped significantly to cut out the extraneous, and adjusted for brightness and contrast. Some were taken facing east toward the sun, which resulted in darker images after editing, while others were taken facing west (especially the Brainerd photos, which were the only ones taken under a completely clear sky) and were marked by more natural, vivid light. Any blurring was the inevitable result of the train moving at twenty or thirty miles per hour - instead of marring the photos, I think the blurring helps create a sense of motion.

June 11, 2016 in Chicago Observations, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: Evergreen Plaza

image from http://www.boogaj.com/.a/6a00d83451ce9f69e201b8d1a81024970c-pi

I took a later train this morning, a local which runs through the Beverly sub-district on the South Side. When I've taken this train in the past, I've always sat on the right side, looking east. But today I sat on the left (west) side for the first time, and was pleased to discover this sign for Evergreen Plaza, which was located at 95th and Western in Evergreen Park and is generally considered to be "the first modern American mall" when it opened in 1952; the Plaza was enclosed in 1966, becoming an indoor mall which was also among the first of its kind. This appears to be a later ad for the Plaza, after it had fallen on hard times and most of its big department stores (other than Carson Pirie Scott) had closed. Left to right, it advertises Goldirox Fine Jewelry, Fiddle Stix (children's clothing), Carson's, Chain Reaction (jewelry), and Gantos (women's clothing).

Evergreen Plaza closed in 2013 and was demolished in late 2015. A new shopping center is being built in its place. Presumably without a Gantos.

March 4, 2016 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: Hild Floor Machine Company


Here is the most humble type of fading ad: the alley parking sign. This one (at 1217 W. Washington) isn't much aesthetically, though the history of the company, the Hild Floor Machine Company, is somewhat interesting. Hild - a manufacturer of commercial floor scrubbers and buffers - started business in 1927 at 1313 W. Randolph, just one block away from this sign. Then, according to this 1948 article in the Tribune, the company was to build a new headquarters and manufacturing facility a few blocks east, on the northeast corner of Halsted and Washington.

Although the article references only a 150 sq. ft. parcel, the accompanying photo suggests a sprawling structure that seems to take up the entire southern half of the block that was bounded by Halsted, Washington, Randolph and Union. The larger structure depicted in the article was apparently never built - there are pre-1948 buildings still standing on what would have been the eastern portion of the facility. My guess is that the two-story structure shown right at the corner was indeed built (there is a 1990s-vintage bank branch there now) but not the rest. Regardless, the larger structure wouldn't have survived for long anyway - the eastern half of the block, including Union Avenue, was demolished for construction of the Kennedy Expressway in the early 1960s.

The company was acquired by California-based Mytee Products in 2000, and Hild equipment is no longer manufactured in Chicago. The sign appears to be from the sixties or seventies - I assume that the company operated at 1217 W. Washington after downsizing from the Halsted & Washington facility, though I can't find any confirmation of this.

January 10, 2016 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: Amazon Hose & Rubber Company


Construction of the new building at the left appears to have prompted the partial removal of the canvas banner on the building at the center, at 140 N. Jefferson Street. When I saw the vaguely retro typeface and the orange background, my first thought was that this might have been an early logo for amazon.com. But an image search for old Amazon logos brought up nothing that looked anything like this, and so I kept looking, and a search on the address finally revealed that this was once the home of Amazon Hose & Rubber Company, a wholesaler of industrial hoses. The company was established in Chicago in 1945 but, oddly enough, now operates only from three locations in Florida - Miami, Tampa and Orlando. A corporate snowbird, I guess.

November 22, 2015 in Chicago Observations, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)


image from http://www.boogaj.com/.a/6a00d83451ce9f69e201b7c7ee5955970b-pi

It's been gray and drizzly here lately - in other words, a typical Chicago November. This photograph captures the mood fairly well. My eye was first drawn to the "Open" sign, barely cutting through the gloom, but as I framed the image I liked how the illuminated droplets of rain on the train window distorted the sign. I shifted my position until the sign was directly behind one of the droplets. The effect seems somewhat surreal - the pink spots almost look painted on.

This is the EggCetera Cafe, in downtown Mokena.

November 18, 2015 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)


image from http://www.boogaj.com/.a/6a00d83451ce9f69e201bb088bb758970d-pi

"Whether he is an artist or not, the photographer is a joyous sensualist, for the simple reason that the eye traffics in feelings, not in thoughts." - Walker Evans

Happy belated birthday (Tuesday) to Evans, one of my heroes.

November 5, 2015 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: Quality Food Products


A soon-to-be fading ad: Quality Food Products, a food wholesaler ("We sell produce, canned goods, dairy, frozen. No fresh meats.") at 172 N. Peoria St.; this ad is actually right around the corner, on another building in the company's complex, at 918 W. Randolph St. I really like the little chef face inside the Q. The company is still in business, but may soon be moving - the Tribune ran an interesting piece (source of that quotation above) on one of the co-owners earlier this year, in which he voices his regret of how much the neighborhood has changed, even though that change would make him very wealthy when the property is finally sold.

October 20, 2015 in Chicago Observations, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)



A random alley doorway in the West Loop neighborhood of Chicago. During my afternoon walks I often like to stroll down the alleys, behind the storefronts and old factories. While the street side of buildings may have been cleaned up and polished, the alley doors are often an afterthought, left untouched and weather-worn. I'm slowly collecting photographs like this, and might someday run a series here.

October 11, 2015 in Chicago Observations, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)


image from http://www.boogaj.com/.a/6a00d83451ce9f69e201b8d1600cc1970c-pi

September 30, 2015 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: Midwest Barrel Company



This ad for Midwest Barrel Company (412 N. Peoria St., Chicago) is actually two ads for the same company. In the second photo, you can see the older ad across the top of the green rectangle ("Midwest", then a picture of a barrel, then "Barrel"). Then, superimposed on the older ad, there is a newer ad, with another barrel picture at the left, and "Midwest Barrel Company" to the right in an oh-so-1970s typeface, with the last two words stacked. The "412" at the bottom of the rectangle appears to belong to the older ad; in the first photo you can see a later "412" which was added to the right of the overhead door. I love the unusual green color of this, and also the delicate brickwork near the roofline - I'm always amazed that builders used to include this sort of detail on what was an ordinary building and for a very mundane, unglamorous business.

Midwest Barrel was in business from 1963 to 2006.

August 16, 2015 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: H.C. Evans & Company

image from http://www.boogaj.com/.a/6a00d83451ce9f69e201bb085e6f99970d-pi

H.C. Evans & Company (at 1528 W. Adams Street, Chicago) was once a major manufacturer of slot machines, jukeboxes, pinball machines and...crooked casino equipment. Below is a nice image of the factory from the company's 1929 catalogue (source), looking much the same as it does today.

image from http://www.boogaj.com/.a/6a00d83451ce9f69e201bb085e6fab970d-pi

August 5, 2015 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (2)

Fading Ad: Clinton Supply Company

image from http://www.boogaj.com/.a/6a00d83451ce9f69e201b8d14181d8970c-pi

One of the joys of fading ads is finally being able decipher a less-than-pristine ad. This ad for the Clinton Supply Company (at 1025 W. Jackson Boulevard in Chicago) is a case in point. At first I could make out the Dual-O-Matic product name (and even the trademark registration number, just below it), but wasn't clear on the company name. That unusual script (starting with "CL") didn't help - with more standard lettering, you can often figure out what the partially-visible letters are. But the script makes it more difficult. After deciding that I did have the partial name "CL_N_ON", I finally took a guess on "CLINTON", and a Google search using both that name and Dual-O-Matic brought up a listing for the trademark registration for the logo.

Clinton was founded in 1910 (originally located on Clinton Street and later here on Jackson Blvd.) and is now part of Benjamin Power Group, based in Northbrook. The Dual-O-Matic was apparently some sort of power supply unit for electroplating and anodizing applications.

Interestingly, there is currently another industrial supply company in that building, which I assume is the source of the bold, newer text at the bottom of the ad.

July 31, 2015 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: Oil Coal Gas Furnaces


Unusual find, on River Street in downtown Batavia, Illinois, where my mom lives. Other than ads I've seen on barns, this is the first one that I can remember seeing that was painted on wood instead of brick. And I don't even know what the name of the company was. And Google didn't clarify much, either. Nice little mystery.

July 26, 2015 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (1)

Fading Ad: New Packing Company



New Packing Company, purveyors of sausages, other meats, cheeses and salads (including the "Country Maid" salad brand). Lake Street and Elizabeth Street, in Chicago's West Loop. This is the first fading ad I've seen that includes website URLs - both of which are now defunct, along with the company. If there's any consolation for the owners, it's that with the rapid redevelopment of the neighborhood, the building is now worth a small fortune.

July 3, 2015 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (1)

Photographs from Hilton Head Island

We vacation in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, nearly every year. While there, we just take it easy - sleeping in, walking the beach, swimming in the pool, enjoying good dinners and cocktails. All of that down time means plenty of opportunities for photography. Here are some of my favorites from the past week.

Sunset (small)

Sunsets are so beautiful there, it's almost impossible to not take great images in the evening. It almost feels like cheating.


Channel (small)

When the tide recedes, it often leaves behind a channel of water which sometimes flows back into the ocean, and sometimes remains stranded in a pool that lingers until the next high tide. This is the former; walking the ridged sand often leaves you at the end of a peninsula, at which point you either have to turn back or walk through water that can be two or even three feet deep.


Jellyfish (small)

Most of the jellyfish we found were washed up on the sand, and dead, but this one survived (momentarily?) in a tidal pool, where it was propelling itself around in its gentle manner. So gently, in fact, that it could be easy to forget how painful its sting would be. I wish I could say I'm such a brilliant photographer that I intentionally framed this photo to include the beach umbrella at the upper right, which echoes the shape and position of the jellyfish. But I never even saw the umbrella until I edited the photograph hours later.


Chairs (small)

Just before leaving the resort, while taking one last view from our patio, I admired the graceful curve of these deck chairs. But in the original photo, the curve was lost amid background clutter. So during editing, I turned down the brightness and turned up the contrast, and all that remained is the chairs and tables. Nicely abstract, I think.

Incidentally, the first three photos were taken with my new GoPro camera, which has an ultra-wide-angle lens that creates a fisheye effect. No, the horizon is not curved in Hilton Head.

June 1, 2015 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: Red Cross Pharmacy, Antimigraine

Anti-migraine (small)

This fading ad (in Savannah, Georgia, at the corner of Broughton and Habersham Streets) appears to actually be two ads, of two different but related businesses that once occupied the building: the lower ad ("Antimigraine Cures Headaches") must have been from the The Antimigraine Company, which was here from 1891 to 1892, while the upper ad ("Red Cross Pharmacy", with a faint yellow background), from 1904-05. The building has undergone an extensive restoration by the Savannah College of Art and Design; until recently, the ad was hidden by a coat of white paint, and was only painstakingly recovered:

When work began the entire building was painted white. There was no evidence of a commercial sign though students thought it might be "neat" if there was a Coke sign under the paint. To remove the white paint a chemical and power washer (hot water) were used. One day as Jim was inspecting the project he saw the letter "A" begin to unveil itself in the paint removal process. He immediately stopped the workmen. He did not want to strip away any of the historical evidence of the commercial sign. To uncover the sign, which must have been painted with lead-based paint, the paint stripper was diluted and the power on the washer was turned down. What eventually was revealed are the words "Anti-migrane Cures Headaches" of the original 1890 business of the Anti-migrane Pharmacy. The round disks shown simulate pills. Also revealed was "Red Cross Pharmacy" which was what the name of the pharmacy was at some point during its history. And, if you look closely to the south end of the sign you might see lady looking toward you in profile.

That lady isn't visible in this photo, and while I did take another that captures that section, the image is badly deteriorated and the lady can now be seen only with a great deal of imagination. How wonderful that the preservationist took such care to save this ad. If that is at all suggestive of the work that has been done on the interior of the building, it must be a lovely restoration indeed.

June 1, 2015 in History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (2)

Graphic Papers of Joliet


One of my favorite buildings in Joliet: paper wholesaler Graphic Papers of Joliet. I particularly like the "GPJ" logo at the top. I don't think this building was originally a warehouse - it's adjacent to the former Joliet Steel Works, so I assume it was once something industrial. That weird peak is actually the end of an long, windowed, loft-like section above the roof that runs the length of the building, which must have allowed light and ventilation into the factory floor. I've seen this feature on a lot of old factories but don't know what it's called.

May 17, 2015 in Joliet, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Universal Overall Company


Chicago's West Loop neighborhood may not have many fading ads, but it does have a lot of old factory buildings, many of which still have their cool original signage. This one is over the entry of the Universal Overall Company, (1060 W. Van Buren) which was founded in 1924 and is still family-owned and operated. That's something I always love to see. If a company has been around that long, and survived the strife which surfaces so often in family businesses, you know they're doing something right.

May 12, 2015 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (2)

Joliet Industry: Triptych




May 3, 2015 in Joliet, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Joliet Steel Works: Triptych




April 25, 2015 in Joliet, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: Graphic Arts Finishing Co.


While walking back to the office after lunch yesterday, I happened to glance down a long, narrow alley and saw this ad. After discreetly allowing a restaurant worker, who stepped out from a side door, to pass (photographing signs in an alley is already weird enough without also having to explain yourself) I slipped down the alley and took the photo. The ad is on the back of a building at 119 N. Peoria, in the West Loop. The company seems to have moved to Melrose Park quite a few years ago, but it's nice to see that in addition to the usual loft condos, the building is also the home of Threewalls, an arts organization and gallery space. Which seems fitting, given the building's former usage.

April 11, 2015 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Faded Ad: Culicchia & Co.

image from http://www.boogaj.com/.a/6a00d83451ce9f69e201bb08186506970d-pi

Culicchia & Co., purveyors of pizza ingredients, was in business from 1942 to 1999. Located at 1100 W. Randolph Street, in the old food wholesale district, which is rapidly gentrifying but still home to quite a few wholesalers. I hope this ad is a realistic depiction of Mr. Culicchia, and that his life was as joyous as the image suggests.

April 7, 2015 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fading Ad: Phil's Tavern


Here's a real obscurity: Phil's Tavern, on the northwest corner of Madison Street and Carpenter Street, on the Near West Side. I can find absolutely nothing online about this place - even searches of the approximate street address come up empty. My only discovery is a Google Street View image from last May, which shows a shingled awning that formerly obscured the sign; that awning is now removed, and the sign revealed. (But that also suggests the building is being renovated, which means the sign might disappear soon.) Based on the drab exterior and the tiny size of the building, it's probably safe to say that Phil's used to be a non-descript, hole-in-the-wall dive, perhaps dating back to the era when this stretch of Madison was the city's skid row.

March 25, 2015 in Photography | Permalink | Comments (2)

Hibernian Hall, Joliet


In an effort to revive this blog, I intend to post something historical here every weekend. Above is a photo of the old Hibernian Hall on East Cass Street in Joliet. The building was the lodge for the local chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Irish fraternal society. The building has seen better days - many of the upstairs windows are broken, and the auto repair shop on the ground floor, with the gaudy checkerboard facade, looks like it might be out of business - but it still maintains much of its original dignity. If you look closely, you can read the Hibernians' motto ("Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity") and see the letters "AOH" and several Celtic crosses and shamrocks. An interesting relic on what is rapidly becoming a worn-down part of Joliet.

March 15, 2015 in Joliet, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

Heinz strained beets! Swan's soap! Public telephones!


I love this detail from Gordon Parks' 1943 photograph of a Harlem street scene.

February 22, 2015 in History, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)

The few things I will miss about Rosemont

Since August I've been temporarily working in Rosemont, where my company is based. This has required a long, tiring drive (85-mile roundtrip) on clogged expressways, and cramped office space. But tomorrow, I return to downtown Chicago, to a newly built office and a resumption of my daily train ride. Rosemont isn't much to speak of and I'm glad to be leaving, but there are a few things I will miss about the area.


Late lunches at Mac's Restaurant in Park Ridge, where they serve a great club sandwich and always greeted me with a smile. I always found quiet satisfaction at being their last customer of the day, before they closed up at 2:30.


Unobstructed sunsets over O'Hare.


A parking garage that was unexpectedly photogenic if I looked carefully enough.

Okay, the fact that one of the three things that I'll miss about Rosemont is a parking garage should tell you how little I'll miss the place.

February 16, 2015 in Personal, Photography | Permalink | Comments (0)