Strolling on Canal Street
I love this 1953 view of Canal Street, looking north from Fulton Street. I'm intrigued by the presence of the woman and child - back then the area was almost entirely industrial sites and railyards, and not exactly the ideal place for a stroll. All I can think of is that with the Chicago & North Western railroad station having been a few blocks from that corner, maybe the two had a layover between trains and the woman wanted the kid to burn off some nervous energy before getting on their next train.
Here is the current view from almost the exact same vantage point. The tall building in the old photo (North American Cold Storage) is just visible as a sliver at the left of the right-hand condo tower - the cold storage building itself was converted to condos during the 1990s. The industrial building on the west side of the street in the old photo is now Cassidy Tire, which is marked by red signage.
Fading Ad: Champlain Building
Walking down Wabash this afternoon, I was surprised to see this faded ad in the distance, a few blocks south on the opposite side of the street. I don't remember ever seeing it before, but I guess the El tracks block its view from most vantage points other than where I happened to be walking. The lettering is hard to make out, but I could just discern "Champlain" and "37", which I later found out was the Champlain Building, at 37 S. Wabash. Though the faded ad itself leaves much to be desired, I like the composition of this photo, particularly the contrast of the vertical columns of the buildings against the diagonals formed by the streetlights, tracks and windows.
At home with the Petries
I just love these two 1963 photographs by Earl Theisen, taken on the set of The Dick Van Dyke Show. I grew up on reruns of the show, and it's fascinating to see the oh-so-familiar Petrie living room and bedroom from these unfamiliar angles. It's also wonderful to see the genuine warmth between Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore in the second photo - I think I heard somewhere that during the show's heyday, a significant portion of viewers thought the two were married in real life. That's how convincing the actors were.
Joliet has a modest maritime connection, thanks to its location on the Des Plaines River between the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and the Illinois River. Any barges traveling from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi have to pass through Joliet. Above is an Egan Marine towboat docked on a river wharf, just south of the McDonough Street bridge.
Ordinarily I love vintage signage, especially for a former Chicago institution like Karoll's. But I have to admit that this signage (shown in 1977) was kind of tacky, and really marred the exterior of the Reliance Building, one of the Loop's true architectural gems.
(Via Calumet 412.)
Yesterday afternoon, while enjoying a brief stroll, I couldn't help admiring this bas relief on the Commonwealth Edison substation at 115 N. Dearborn. Though I'm not sure what that's supposed to be - maybe a superhero? Electric Power Man?
Having a catch
Love this 1953 photograph by Gordon Parks, especially how it echoes (unconsciously?) Henri Cartier-Bresson's classic "Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare". (Based on how all the boys are bunched together, I can't help wondering if they're playing a game of 500.) Parks was quite the Renaissance Man: FSA photographer, poet, composer and, of course, director of Shaft.
Sometimes train delays are good things. Yesterday morning my train was stopped for several minutes on the southwest side, in the Garfield Ridge neighborhood, which gave me time to fully take in the scene outside. A dusting of snow had partially covered this vacant industrial lot, which used to be a car junkyard but was recently cleared and graded, for some unknown purpose. I couldn't decide how to best describe the scene; at first, the snow mixed with the dark soil reminded me of powdered sugar on chocolate cake, but as I gazed longer the table-flat lot ringed with wild grasses looked almost like a lake. And obviously, the cake and lake versions are impossible to reconcile. Fortunately, images often succeed where words fail, and this photograph describes the scene more vividly than I can in writing.
Fourth in a series of memorable curbside discards. Or in this case, alleyside - behind an apartment building on Jefferson Street, on the east side of Joliet. The taped-on sign, of course, begs the question of why the TV's owner is just throwing it away. And I suspect it probably won't work quite as good after sitting in four inches of snow.
The Kings' new home
What a wonderful image: Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King (the couple at the top center) at the apartment they moved into in 1966 at 16th and Hamlin on Chicago's west side, to bring attention to living conditions in the city's slums.
It's hard to imagine now, but there once was a CTA elevated track running right down the middle of North Wacker Drive (then called Market Street). That photo above shows the Market Terminal at Madison Street, where the line terminated, in front of the grand Civic Opera House. The stub was demolished during the late 1940s, undoubtedly to the relief of the Opera House's owners. This memorable 1946 painting by John Falter shows a scene beneath the terminal, at roughly the spot where the lone car protrudes from underneath the structure in the photo. I walk past this intersection on a regular basis and always admire the broad, airy expanse of Wacker Drive, and although I'm normally a traditionalist, I'll admit that the demolition of the Market Stub is one act of urban renewal that I have absolutely no objection to.
Hockey at the Garden
I have no interest in the New York Rangers, but I'd still love to own an original of this poster, as shown in this 1943 image. Interesting that they'd go to the trouble of printing and hanging a poster that only promotes the next three home games, which would have given the poster a useful life of no more than a few weeks.
Schulze Baking Company
This morning, Frank Jump posted this photo of a faded ad for Schulze's Butternut Bread. And thanks to a Metra debacle, this morning I had to take the Rock Island train instead of my regular train, which serendiptiously brought me within two blocks of the old Schulze Bakery. My hurried photograph of the building (at 55th and Wabash) is shown above. Butternut was baked there until 2004, before the owners shut it down. I'm not sure what business (if any) operates there now, but at least the building is still standing, and the Schulze name is still emblazoned across the top.
"At the Pub with Tony Hall"
(Photograph copyright © Libby Hall)
Spitalfields Life shares a terrific collection of 1960s pub photographs from London's East End, by the late Tony Hall. I love the look of quiet mirth on the face of that lady above as she sips her ale.
This is one of several water-intake cribs on Lake Michigan, from which Chicago and many suburbs get their drinking water. The cribs were built three miles from shore, primarily to adequately dilute the pollution spewing from the Chicago River, which was an open sewer for decades. The water was (and still is) pumped to shore via underground tunnels.
My dad used to tell me than when he was a kid, the lake would freeze solid all the way to the cribs in winter, and it was possible to walk across the ice to the cribs. Though I didn't totally believe him - it sounded like a tall tale a father would be fond of telling - now I have visual proof. (Which is not to imply that my dad was a kid in 1875, when this photo was taken.) Forgive me for doubting you, Dad.
Milwaukee & Racine
Charmingly shabby image of the corner of Milwaukee and Racine, 1958. I'm pretty sure those two toughs are up to no good. Here's a current view of that same intersection, which has been utterly condo'd beyond all recognition.
Spike, in sunlight
A few weeks ago my evening train stopped briefly on the Western Avenue viaduct in McKinley Park (between 36th Street and Archer Avenue), and I was very pleased to capture this image. The bumps on the diagonal are rivets in the steel walls that line the edges of the overpass (the dark tails are shadows from the late-afternoon sun), the square with the one curved corner is a patch of dirt and dead grass next to the entrance to a Jewel supermarket parking lot, and the whitish blur at the upper right is a passing car. The only clearly recognizable, non-abstract element here is the sewer cover near the upper edge of the photo.
Jos. Kohler's Bier Halle, 1883
Vielen dank, Herr Kohler. I'll have a lager in my regular stein.
Love, love, LOVE this photo. I wish I knew these people. So joyful and full of life.
Garrick Restaurant, 1963
This 1963 photo of a Chicago parking garage is pretty cool, but even cooler for me is the inset photo above, which shows the front of the Garrick Restaurant, where my dad ate lunch every day for fifteen or twenty years before his office moved out to the suburbs. (I'd like to pretend that the dark-suited man just reaching the front door is him, but given the odds that would be just wildest fantasy on my part.) Though I've seen a few interior photos that my brother took during a downtown visit in the early 1970s, this is the first time I've seen the outside of the building. Nice.
What a fantastic image: a tower of empty beer crates at the Schoenhofen Brewery in 1933, waiting to be filled at the repeal of Prohibition. This implies that Schoenhofen must have been one of the few Chicago breweries that refrained from surreptitiously continuing to brew and sell beer during Prohibition. Because the city never came close to going dry.
Daily News Plaza
The top photo is a 1929 image of the fountain on the plaza at the Chicago Daily News Building. The second photo was taken yesterday, from the exact same vantage point (the building is now called Two North Riverside Plaza). Sadly, the fountain is no longer functional, and during my visit yesterday there was also a complete absence of behatted gentlemen and genial ladies. (The only person present was a guy, just out of view behind the foliage at the right, copping a quick smoke.) But although all of that foliage is a poor substitute for gloriously descending water, it's actually a big improvement over a few years ago, when Washington Mutual (then still in its heyday of pushing subprime mortgages on every homeowner who still had a pulse) leased the space for advertising, and built a miniature log cabin inside the basin to represent, I guess, how cozy and quaint owning one's own home could be. Within the context of the grand Art Deco plaza, the log cabin was one of the most hideously incongruous pieces of advertising I've ever seen.
The last photo shows detail of the sculpture on each side of the fountain. I'm really not sure what that's supposed to be. A fish? An alligator?
Fading Ad: Chicago Paper Company
Over the weekend I was very pleased to see this 1960 image of a Baltimore and Ohio train pulling into Chicago's old Grand Central Station. (The station's distinctive clock tower is in the center of the photo.) And the reason I was most pleased is that although the station is long gone, the "faded ad" on the right for the Chicago Paper Company still exists and is modestly visible. The bottom two photos were taken this morning, from my Rock Island District train just before pulling into LaSalle Street Station (Grand Central was two blocks to the west, at Harrison and Wells). I had to play with the contrast and brightness a little to bring out the lettering, but overall the photos are pretty faithful to what you can see with the naked eye. (The greenish tint is due to the tinting of the train window.) That building is a long walk from my office, so I figured that even though I'd get a better shot from the street, I might not do so anytime soon, so the train vantage point will have to do for now.
Here's a fine 1956 image of Randolph Street, looking east toward State Street. My dad worked literally right here, on the north side of Randolph (in the Oriental Theater building, just beyond the left edge of this image), though not until a few years later. Most of the buildings shown here are now gone, including all of that great neon signage on the right which was demolished as part of the infamous Block 37 renewal project. I particularly admire that Swift Quality Foods sign, and its depiction of a cheerful pig, cow and chicken who seem utterly delighted to become your next meal.
Sunrise, Washington Street
The silhouetted figure at the lower left is a homeless man who was waiting to cross Eastern Avenue, likely headed, as are many at that time of morning, to the Morningstar Mission a few blocks away.
Oh my, this is marvelous: the former Turtle Wax headquarters, at the three-way intersection of Madison, Ashland and Ogden on the Near West Side. The company is still around and locally owned, but sadly, the charming building is long gone. No word on the current whereabouts of the turtle.
It's interesting what you can find when you finally weed a long-neglected flower bed. This summer I've been gradually cleaning out the bed in our front yard. We're rarely in the front yard due to its proximity to the noisy four-lane street we live on, and with all the work to be done in the rest of the yard, the front is usually the last part I get around to.
To my pleasant surprise, cleaning out the weeds has uncovered a tiny pine forest. That first photo is of the granddaddy - over two feet tall, but usually completely obscured by a big stand of ornamental grass. The others are smaller (six inches or less) and were smothered by weeds. Instead of pulling up these seedlings (saplings?), I've decided to let them grow. The big one started growing last year and was able to survive the winter, so I want to see if the others survive as well.
I know that, left unchecked, all of these would eventually overwhelm the yard (I've heard that pines excrete acid into the soil to kill off other plant competitors), so if they survive until next year, I would like to replant these in some woods somewhere. Ideally they would be moved to land owned by someone I know, and where I could watch their progress over the years. But if I have to sneak these into a forest preserve, then so be it.
Ten Years of Metra, continued
Another photo from my daily Metra commute. The structure in the center is a guard tower at the old Joliet Penitentiary. I like how the train's motion, the low morning sun and the misty window make this look like a watercolor painting. Which was totally accidental on my part.
Ten Years of Metra, continued
Another casual photo from my daily Metra commute. That's my precious monthly ticket. Shortly after I first started riding Metra, I lost my ticket (left it in the holding clip on the upper level of the car) just a few days into the month, and had to buy another one, full price. That's an expensive mistake I haven't repeated.
Ten Years of Metra
As of this month, it's now been ten years that I've been commuting to work on Metra between Joliet and Chicago. Like many public transit commuters, I have a love-hate relationship with Metra: love, when I'm immersed in a good book with a cup of coffee; hate, when never-explained delays get me home 45 minutes late. To mark the occasion, over the next few weeks I'll be posting photos from my commute. Above is the vestibule which divides each rail car.
Chicago, a study in contrasts
Wow, just...wow. The glittering Palmolive Building on Michigan Avenue, framed by the degradation of Little Hell (just a few blocks to the west) and foregrounded by that casual act of vandalism - although there seemingly wasn't much left to destroy on Orleans Street by 1952. The neighborhood was apparently undergoing one of the city's periodic waves of urban renewal.
Dancing, er, picnicking on Stalin's grave
Struck by the oddity of this window sign, I did a Google search which produced a news item from the Tucson Daily Citizen on March 9, 1953, which reported that Irwin Berke, the owner of the shop (which offered "Town and Country Garb for the Discriminating Woman"), took out a classified ad in a Chicago newspaper to announce the employee picnic:
Berke, a 37-year-old ex-navy veteran, said he paid $200 for the advertisement. He said he "always hated the guy and this seemed like a good way to show it." Berke said he didn't think his four employees would actually show up for the picnic, but "with Stalin dead I'll buy them dinner or throw a picnic with champagne."
Sounds like a great, if eccentric, boss.
Bar Car, 1968
Welcome to the Bar Car...Joe the bartender is eagerly waiting to mix your first martini. Metra eliminated the last of its bar cars a few years ago, although those I was familiar with weren't swanky like this one - instead, they consisted of a small service counter jammed into one of the vestibules, and with no comfy dedicated seating. The closest thing to luxury remaining on Metra is the near-silence of the Quiet Car, and we're somehow expected to be wowed by the electrical outlets and flush toilets on the newly rehabbed cars that are being rolled out in the near future. Meh. I doubt that the Jackie Kennedy-esque woman in this photo would have been impressed either.
Union Station, 1948 and 2012
The top image is a 1948 view of the main waiting room at Union Station in Chicago, by Esther Bubley. The bottom image was taken yesterday, from roughly the same vantage point. Interestingly, the benches are in almost the identical location in each photo, despite them being removed regularly for various events. Though I would have loved to shoot from the exact vantage point and angle as the original, I didn't want to get right up in that young woman's face - which is one reason I never would have been a good photojournalist. However, had there been a grandfather, mother and two towheaded boys eating popcorn on that bench, I definitely would have overcome my natural reticence.
(1948 photo via Chicago Past.)
This partially obscured faded ad is for Uneeda Biscuit, located on the back wall of an old office building at 209 W. Jackson Boulevard in Chicago. I've been aware of this ad for several years but never photographed it before, figuring the usual street-level vantage point wouldn't make for a good image. But yesterday while out for a stroll I headed to the parking garage next door and took the elevator to the top levels, where I took several photographs. From photos of other Uneeda ads I've seen, I can decipher the hidden portions of this ad; from top to bottom it reads:
THE WORLD'S BEST SODA CRACKER
SOLD ONLY IN PACKAGES
NATIONAL BISCUIT COMPANY
That logo at the lower right is for Nabisco's groundbreaking In-Er Seal packaging, which was first used with Uneeda. The logo eventually evolved into the familiar Nabisco logo of today. Uneeda ads seem to be fairly common (I've photographed at least one other, but haven't put it online yet) and this one is less colorful than most, probably due to its southern exposure and consequent fading from the sun. Looking closely at the lettering, it looks like this one originally had a green and black background. The ad is fairly massive - five stories high, and as wide as it is tall - and I don't even mind the parking garage obstruction nor the windows carved right into the face of the ad. Those are reminders that the city continues to evolve, even as it retains glimpses of its long-ago past.
Here's some interesting background on Uneeda and In-Er Seal at the Nabisco Wikipedia page:
After the consolidation, the president of National Biscuit Company — Adolphus Green of American Biscuit and Manufacturing Company - asked Frank Peters to create a package to distribute fresher products. This paved its way for In-Er Seal package, whose logo is a prototype for the "Nabisco Thing". The In-Er Seal package is a system of inter-folded wax paper and cardboard to "seal in the freshness" of the product. At the beginning of his presidency, Green decided the National Biscuit Company, often shortened to NBC, needed a new idea that grabbed the public’s attention. He got it when his employees created a new cracker that was flakier and lighter than any of their competitors' versions.
The UNEEDA biscuit looked promising, but Green had to make sure it got to customers fresh and tasty, so it was the first to use the In-Er Seal package in 1898. Until then, crackers were sold unbranded and packed loosely in barrels. Mothers would give their sons a paper bag and ask them to run down to the store and get the bag filled with crackers. National Biscuit Company used this as part of Uneeda Biscuit advertising symbol, which depicts a boy carrying a pack of Uneeda Biscuit in the rain. In 2009 (after over 110 years), Nabisco discontinued the Uneeda biscuit out of concern that the product was not as profitable as others.
A very nice ad, and one I'm glad I finally got around to photographing. And I never would have guessed that the product survived until just three years ago.
"In the terraces of two-up two-downs, people could talk over the garden fence but in the towers they became strangers to each other."
At Spitalfields Life, there's a striking set of images (from 1962-82) by John Claridge which show the old slums of London's East End, and the tower blocks (high-rises) which slowly replaced them. These images are eerily similar to ones I've seen of Chicago's South Side in the fifties and sixties, where a similar effort at urban renewal turned out to be an utter failure. Today, few of the CHA high-rises remain, having been demolished over the past fifteen years and mostly replaced with low-rise townhouses. You might think that the failed American experiment in high-rise public housing would have been a cautionary tale for today's urban planners, but as Spitalfields Life indicates, new tower blocks are still being planned for London. Those who ignore history...
Lill's Ales, 1868
I like this photo for many reasons - the dapper proprietor Tierney, the ales, the connection to William Lill (Julie lived on Lill Street - named in his honor - when we first got together), and how dramatically the corner of State and Monroe has changed since 1868.
Algren at Riccardo's
As if I wasn't already enough of a sucker for the vintage photos posted at Calumet 412, now here's one by the great Art Shay of my literary hero, Nelson Algren, enjoying cocktails and conversation at Riccardo's in 1955 with actress Janice Kingslow. Beautiful. Riccardo's was renowned for its murals depicting the seven "lively arts", which can be seen here on the back wall behind the bar.
I absolutely love this 1960 photo from the Tip-Top-Tap, at the Allerton Hotel on Michigan Avenue. For years I admired the bar's brilliant sign atop the hotel, and always wanted to take my dad there for a drink. Sadly, I learned a few years ago that the Tip-Top-Tap had been gone for decades. And my dad is no longer with us, either. Still, it's nice to imagine settling in at one of those tables with him over cocktails (for him, most likely a "dry VO Manhattan on the rocks, with olives and a twist") and savoring that magnificent view.
Benson & Rixon, then and now
Chicago's Benson & Rixon Department Store, as seen in 1937 and today. What a bold, vibrant building it once was, and what a faded glory it has become. (Then again, "faded glory" accurately describes most of State Street these days.) Still, it's encouraging to see that some sort of facelift is going on, though whether that facelift includes purging McDonalds and its obtrusive signage remains unknown.
Third in a series of memorable curbside discards from around Joliet, this one on Eastern Avenue. If there's such thing as a prototypical castoff, this is it: the plaid couch.
Boy's gotta have it.
Ikea's KNÄPPA digital camera - made of cardboard. True, the cardboard is probably not impervious to rain, but I'm not sure my iPhone is either. And at Ikea's prices, a waterlogged one of these would be much easier to replace.
Author Photographs: Gwendolyn Brooks, 1960
The esteemed Ms. Brooks at her South Side Chicago home, in 1960, in a photograph by Slim Aarons. It looks like she might have been interrupted in the middle of writing a new poem, and though posing politely for a moment, she really wants to get back to work.
(Via Calumet 412.)
What an arresting photograph - a homeless squatter on Chicago's Northerly Island, in 1930. While the site (later to become the Meigs Field lakefront airport) would have given squatters plenty of isolation, it also must have been extremely windy, and forbiddingly cold during winter. Yet this gentleman still saw it as home, going so far as to blithely dub it "Sleepy Hollow."
Julie's Supper Club
Oh wow, oh wow. Would I love to own this sign.
The Sands...and no, not the Vegas one
Love this image from The Sands Motel in Chicago, from 1964. Uniformed waiters serving drinks, poolside. Now that's one classy motel.
Another day, another Calumet 412 stunner. This 1932 photograph, by Gordon Coster, will surely make my heights-phobic wife woozy.
Chicago lakefront, 1932
Lovely aerial photograph of Chicago's lakefront, circa 1932. (Apparently hand-tinted, since Kodachrome wasn't commercially available for still photography until 1936.) I love how the cloud shadows create an imaginary, seahorse-shaped peninsula off of North Avenue Beach. The southern end of Lake Michigan is strangely devoid of peninsulas and islands, two geographic features which always stoke my imagination.
(Via Calumet 412.)
The quiet solitude of coffee
(Via Calumet 312.)