Then and Now, Milwaukee-Paulina

1955--Milwaukee Avenue @ Paulina, view southeast

1955–Milwaukee Avenue @ Paulina Street, view southeast

2013--the same location

2013–the same location

In 1955 this stretch of Milwaukee Avenue was a vibrant shopping strip, the heart of Polish Downtown. The Wieboldt’s Department Store here was part of a chain that operated over a dozen branches in the city and suburbs. Contemporary scholars labeled the neighborhood as “working class.” Is that Nelson Algren crossing the street?

Sixty years later Wieboldt’s is only a memory, the Polish population has dispersed, and the neighborhood has been transformed into tony Wicker Park. Here and there, some newer buildings can be found. However, the same street light pole is visible on the far right of both photos.

—30—

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6 Responses to “Then and Now, Milwaukee-Paulina”


  1. 1 David Braverman May 19, 2014 at 7:15 am

    My family owned Joy’s Apparel, two doors down from Wieboldts. Here’s the reverse image, from 1956:

  2. 3 benson May 19, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    So many memories. Even though I grew up a block from Howe School (I was there before you were, John) being part Polish, and with my father producing a time brokered Polish radio program in the early 60’s. I spent a lot of time in that neighborhood. Several businesses come to mind. There was a Polish bakery (for some reason, I’m thinking H&M was the name) that made these apple “pastries”. Down the street was Eagle Jewelers? Also, remembering a music store with those listening booth were you “try before you buy”. Also the Polish newspaper’s offices. And on the next block, a cafeteria? My dad would take me in there for orange juice and a roll for breakfast. I think there was a liquor store next door to that, Leonard’s? There was also another men’s clothing store by Eagle Jewelers. Can’t think of the name.

    BTW, totally off topic, but…one of my interns said they’re doing rock festivals at Humboldt Park? No kidding. I remember going to the Polish May Day parade there as a kid.

    • 4 J.R. Schmidt May 19, 2014 at 3:01 pm

      Benson–
      My Polish grandmother had a nephew who owned a drugstore at the NE corner of Division-Paulina, so we used to go down there from time to time in the 1950s. I remember two things–(1) the abandoned ‘L’ line along Paulina, (2) my first Yo-Ho Potato Chips, which he sold in his store. Now that the Polish Constitution Day Parade is in Grant Park, I suppose they have room for rock concerts in Humboldt Park. I know some Millennial yuppies who have moved into the neighborhood around North and California, so concerts there don’t surprise me.
      –JRS

      • 5 Andrew May 22, 2014 at 12:51 pm

        Forgot about Yo-Ho chips; I recall my grandparents selling them in their bowling alley in Portage Park. Sadly, the bowling alley is gone, and it seems that so are the chips…

        By the way, love your book!

      • 6 J.R. Schmidt May 22, 2014 at 3:56 pm

        Andrew–
        Glad you like the book. In response, I’ll give you some potato chip advice–try Mrs. Fisher’s Potato Chips, made in Rockford–even better than Yo-Hos were.
        –JRS


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