Then and Now, Cermak-State

1904--22nd Street (Cermak Road) @ State, view east

1904–22nd Street (Cermak Road) @ State  Street, view east

2013--the same location

2013–the same location

The 1904 picture was taken on the eastern edge of the Levee, Chicago’s world-famous red light district. In those days the city’s politicians found it convenient to keep vice segregated and centralized in one place. A person getting off the ‘L’ here could walk a block north to Big Jim Colosimo’s café, or a block west to the posh Everleigh Club brothel. And those were only two of the more famous attractions.

The years passed. The Levee died, 22nd Street was changed to Cermak Road and widened, buildings were torn down, and the ‘L’ station closed. But in our own time developers have rediscovered this area a mere two miles south of the Loop. Real estate prices have soared. Reflecting this trend, CTA recently announced that–after 40 years–Cermak and State would again have an ‘L’ station.

—30—

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3 Responses to “Then and Now, Cermak-State”


  1. 1 Pat Herlan July 15, 2015 at 10:43 am

    If the photographer had turned around 180 degrees and taken another photo, I would have a photo of my grandfather’s “saloon” on the northwest corner of State and 22nd – I think. In trying to research our family history, I’ve been astounded to learn about the levee, the 4 Douces, Bathhouse, and all kinds of disreputable businesses alongside my grandfather’s place. Oral history tells me the saloon was VERY high class (no women were allowed in the bar), and my grandparents were religious and straightlaced. My question to you is among all those “disreputable” establishments, could the family saloon have been an oasis of respectability? Still seeking info about the area, too. Remember being on the el with Dad, who pointed to a building west of the Cermak station and identified it as the saloon – would have been in the late 40’s. Could there have been photos of the area taken in preparation for the Dan Ryan and might those photos be in some file somewhere? Again, thanks for the photo and I look forward to more Chicago stories.

  2. 2 ladyfleur June 16, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    So glad you posted this shot. My husband’s great-uncle was Ben Zellen, aka “Polack Ben” who owned the Vestibule Cafe on 22nd St just west of the L station. That’s the cafe with the sign “cafe” in this pic. I’m not sure when exactly he bought the place, but there were multiple articles about him and his cafe in the Chicago Tribune from 1914-1919.

    The first article was about him being a ringleader in bribing cops in a plan to reopen the Levee in 1914. Last ones in 1919 were about the Vestible being raided for prostitution. Thanks for finding a photo to go with the family story.


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