Southmoor Hotel

1924

In 1924 the Southmoor Hotel opened on the northwest corner of Stony Island Avenue and 67th Street. With 300 elegant rooms and a prime location at the southwest entrance to Jackson Park, it soon became a jewel of the South Shore community.

The Southmoor was one of many residential hotels that once dotted Chicago’s finer neighborhoods. Two historic events distinguished the Southmoor from the others. Most famously, The Woodlawn Organization was formally organized during a meeting at the hotel in 1962. A lesser-known incident occurred seven years earlier–during his first Chicago concert tour, Elvis Presley hid out from his fans in the Southmoor.

1977

The hotel started to slide in 1969, when management unknowingly hired some members of a local street gang. Within months the gangbangers had run off the residents and the other employees, and established the Southmoor as their headquarters.

A Time magazine story on this particular form of adaptive re-use didn’t sit well with Mayor Richard J. Daley. The city seized the building, kicked out the thugs, and launched a fruitless search for someone who’d restore the property. In 1977, shortly after I took the photo of the vacant hulk, the Southmoor was demolished.

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Then and Now, Indianapolis-State Line

1941--Indianapolis Avenue @ State Line Road, view southeast

1941–Indianapolis Avenue @ State Line Road, view southeast

2014--the same location

2014–the same location

From 1896 through 1940, Chicago streetcars ran across the Indiana border into Whiting and Hammond. The top photo was taken shortly after the route was cut back to the state line.  The smoke on the left of the picture might be coming from the nearby ComEd plant, or from one of the factories along the lake shore.

In 2014 the scene is dominated by the Chicago Skyway, here crossing the border to become the Indiana Toll Road. The area is still largely industrial. However, the local economy has now been diversified by a couple of casinos.

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A Star Is Born (8-21-1914)

In August 1914–100 years ago this month–golf’s U.S. Open was being staged at the south suburban Midlothian Country Club. Among the entrants was a 21-year-old pro from upstate New York named Walter Hagen.

Hagen had finished 4th in the previous Open. But he’d been ready to abandon golf in favor of a baseball contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. He was back at the Open only because a wealthy friend had bankrolled the trip.

Hagen at Midlothian, 1914

Hagen at Midlothian, 1914

This was Hagen’s first visit to Chicago. The night before the tournament, Hagen and a buddy had dinner at a Loop restaurant. Within a few hours, the young golfer was throwing up.

Hagen wanted to withdraw from the tournament. His buddy convinced him to at least give it a try. Popping pills and stumbling around in a daze, Hagen shot 68, a course record. He was leading the Open.

By now, Hagen was feeling better. His scoring fell off the next two rounds. Still, he held the lead going into the final eighteen holes.

On his way to the most important round of golf in his life, Hagen stopped to watch a 7-year-old boy knocking a golf ball around the practice green. Hagen asked what he was doing. “Playing golf,” was the answer. As Hagen listened intently, the kid proceeded to give him a lesson.

Fourth round. Hagen’s play was raggedy now. Yet he managed to drain a long putt on the last green and post a final total of 292. When local amateur Chick Evans just missed holing out a chip on that same green, Hagen became the 1914 U.S. Open champion.

Afterward, at the ceremony where officials presented Hagen with the trophy, nobody was prouder that a certain 7-year-old boy. He went around telling everyone that he’d taught the new champ to play golf only a few hours earlier.

For his part, Hagen didn’t stick around the clubhouse too long after his victory. During his final round, he’d become acquainted with a young lady in the gallery, and they’d made a date. Now he hurried off to meet her.

Walter Hagen went on to become one of history’s greatest golfers, with 11 major championships–or 16, if you count his five Western Open titles. He summed up his philosophy of life memorably: “You’re only here for a short time. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.”

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Dillinger Wannabe (8-18-1955)

It was Chicago’s biggest manhunt since Dillinger.  And it ended on this date, when police captured Richard Carpenter.

Born in 1929 and raised in Chicago, Carpenter had a long record of trouble, including a dishonorable discharge from the Army, and a 1951 arrest for accidentally shooting his mother.  He drifted through a series of jobs.  Convicted in a holdup, he served time, then escaped.

Richard Carpenter

Richard Carpenter

By the summer of 1955, Carpenter had been a fugitive for eighteen months.  Chicago police considered him a prime suspect in a series of 60 robberies on the North and West sides.  It was all small-time stuff–saloons, grocery stores, isolated pedestrians.

On August 16 a police detective recognized Carpenter on a subway train and arrested him.  At the Roosevelt Road station, a block from police headquarters, Carpenter pulled out a gun, shot the detective dead, and got away.

The next evening, another cop spotted Carpenter at the Biltmore Theater on Division Street.  There was more gunfire and an officer was wounded.  Carpenter escaped out the emergency exit.

Carpenter had been hit in the leg during the shooting.  He broke into a truck driver’s two-flat on nearby Potomac Avenue, holding the family hostage.  Meanwhile, a city-wide search was underway.  It was the early days of television, and the new medium breathlessly reported on the hunt for “Cop-Killer Carpenter.”

By the evening of the 18th, Carpenter had been holed up on Potomac Avenue nearly 24 hours.  He let his guard down.  He let the truck driver’s wife take the children out for some fresh air.  Then he allowed the truck driver to step out.

The truck driver immediately alerted the police.  The building was surrounded.  Searchlights filled the sky, a helicopter hovered overhead.  Two thousand people gathered on the street.  The bull-horn blared: “Carpenter!  Come out with your hands up!”

The siege on Potomac Avenue

The siege on Potomac Avenue

Carpenter tried to get away, jumping into the open window of an apartment next door.  More gunfire.  But this time, the police got their man.  As they led him away, the crowd shouted “Kill him!  Kill him!”

Richard Carpenter was convicted of murder and executed in 1958.

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Graemere Hotel

Graemere postcard

The Graemere Hotel was a West Side landmark. Located on the northeast corner of Homan Avenue and Washington Boulevard, across from Garfield Park, the building was designed by Walter W. Ahlschlager. The architect specialized in large residential hotels. Among his other Chicago works were the Webster, the Parkway, the Sovereign, and the Sheridan Plaza.

The Graemere opened in 1923.  The hotel soon became a favorite venue for weddings, bar mitzvahs, and other social gatherings. Wealthy people who enjoyed the convenience of hotel living became permanent residents. The most prominent of these was longtime West Side congressman Adolph Sabath.

Graemere Hotel (1975)

The East Garfield Park neighborhood declined in the decade after World War II. By the time I took the 1975 photo the Graemere had been vacant for years. Plans to convert the hotel to low-income housing never became reality, and the building was demolished in 1977.

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Then and Now, Sheridan-Devon

1943--Sheridan Road @ Devon, view north

1943–Sheridan Road @ Devon, view north

2014--the same location

2014–the same location

We are at 6400 north and 1200 west. At this intersection, North Sheridan Road makes a 90-degree-turn to become an east-west street for a few blocks, before making another 90-degree-turn and resuming as a north-south route. Since streetcars didn’t operate on Park District boulevards, the tracks and overhead wires in the 1943 picture avoid Sheridan–they come in from Devon on the left, then turn right to continue south on Broadway.

In 2014 many of the smaller buildings in the area have been replaced by taller structures. The greatest loss is the Granada Theatre, one of Chicago’s magnificent movie palaces.

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Montclare Theatre

Montclare Theater

The Montclare Theatre was located at 7133 West Grand Avenue, in the community area of the same name. The photo dates from 1975. I recently rediscovered it while digitalizing some old slides.

The odd thing is, I can’t remember why I snapped the picture. I grew up in Portage Park, and never hung out at Grand and Harlem. The only movie I recall seeing at the Montclare was that noted cinema classic,  Flesh Gordon.  Perhaps I was trying to finish a roll of film before I dropped it off at Skrudland’s to be processed.

The Montclare Theatre was built in 1929, and seated 1200 people. It closed in 1985. The building was demolished in 1996.

Watch this space–I’m finding all sorts of odd Chicago photos from the 1970s that I’ll be sharing. Maybe a few of them will make some sense.

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