Posts Tagged 'North Side'

Then and Now, Huron-Michigan

1976–Huron Street @ Michigan Avenue, view west


2017–the same location

Four decades ago, the neighborhood just west of the Mag Mile was still mostly low-rise.  The wall along the left side of the older picture belongs to a Woolworth’s five-and-ten store, and across Huron is a city-owned parking garage.  St. James Episcopal Cathedral towers over the scene.

Today St. James looks like a toy among the surrounding skyscrapers.  The Omni Chicago Hotel building has replaced the Woolworth’s.  And with the municipal garage gone, cheap parking is no longer available.



Carl Sandburg in Chicago

Hog Butcher for the World,

Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,

Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;

Stormy, husky, brawling,

City of the Big Shoulders . . .

There was a time when every child in a Chicago school learned those words.  They are the opening lines of Carl Sandburg’s poem “Chicago.”  This house, at 4646 North Hermitage Avenue,  is where he wrote them.

Sandburg was born in Galesburg in 1878, the son of Swedish immigrants.  As a young man, he drifted through a series of jobs—milkman, bricklayer, fireman, soldier, hobo, political organizer for the Social Democratic Party. Then he got married.

Time for stability.  Sandburg moved to Chicago and became a reporter.  He landed a job with the Daily News.  He’d been writing poetry for years, with little success.  That began to change.

His collection Chicago Poems appeared in 1916.  Another anthology followed, then a series of children’s books.  Sandburg was gaining a reputation.  His publisher suggested he write a Lincoln biography for young people.

Sandburg did the research, and more research.  In 1926 he emerged with Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years.  The children’s book had morphed into an adult book in two volumes.

The Lincoln book was a best-seller and ended Sandburg’s financial worries.  It also made him a literary lion.  For the rest of his long life, he was as famous for being Carl Sandburg as for anything he wrote.

Sandburg-Monroe (1962)

Sandburg with Marilyn Monroe (1962)

He moved to Michigan in 1930, and eventually settled in the hill country of North Carolina.  The Lincoln biography grew to a total of six volumes, with the publication of Abraham Lincoln: The War Years.  He won three Pulitzer prizes, two for poetry and one for the Lincoln books.  In 1959 he even won a Grammy for his narration of Copeland’s “Lincoln Portrait.”
The house on Hermitage was built in 1880 by attorney Samuel B. Gookins.  Sandburg rented the second floor apartment from 1911 through 1914.  He later lived in Maywood and Elmhurst.  The Carl Sandburg Home is an official Chicago Landmark.  It is privately owned.

Though he lived elsewhere after 1930, Sandburg remained one of Chicago’s favorite sons.  In 1960 the city embarked on an urban renewal project in the Clark-Division area.  The idea was to stabilize the west end of the Gold Coast with a series of high-rise apartments.  They called the new buildings Sandburg Village.

Sandburg himself kept Chicago in his heart.  He often returned to the city that made him famous.  He appeared regularly on Irv Kupcinet’s TV round-table.  When Orland Park named a high school in his honor, Sandburg came to the dedication and had a grand time, telling stories and singing ballads.

He had been a workingman.  He always cultivated the image of the people’s poet, with rumpled clothing and unkempt hair.  A few years after the dedication, he decided to revisit “his” high school.  By then a different principal was in charge.  The new man thought Sandburg was a panhandler and threw him out.

Carl Sandburg died in 1967.  Some years earlier he had summed up his philosophy this way: “What I need mainly is three things in life, possibly four—to be out of jail, to eat regular, to get what I write printed, and then a little love at home and a little outside.”


Then and Now, Clark-Devon

1943--Clark Street @ Devon, view north

1943–Clark Street @ Devon Avenue, view north


2017–the same location

In 1943 Clark and Devon had long been a busy crossroads on the city’s far North Side.  Ashland Avenue, visible behind the line of parked cars, also entered the intersection then.  Just north of here, hundreds of streetcars were housed on the grounds of a carbarn on Clark.  World War II was underway, and the special white streetcars was encouraging enlistments in the WACs—Women’s Army Corps.

Clark and Devon remains a busy crossroads in our own time, though Ashland Avenue traffic has been diverted away from the intersection.  The carbarn is gone, replaced by the 24th District Police Station.  And since 1978, with the disbanding of the separate WAC branch, women are fully integrated into the U.S. Army.


Then and Now, North-Sedgwick

1972–North Avenue @ Sedgwick Street, view east

2017–the same location

For decades, there were proposals to widen the two-lane portion of North Avenue.  In 1970 the city began expanding the segment between Clark and Larrabee Streets.  Buildings on the north side of North were leveled or truncated.  When I took the 1972 photo the street widening was well along, and new construction already underway.

Expanding North Avenue to four lanes involved restringing the trolley bus wires over the street.  A year after this was done, CTA junked all its electric buses and removed the wires.  It would be an interesting research project to find out who got the contract to restring those wires, and who got the contract to remove them a year later.


Then and Now, Sheridan-Surf

1936-Sheridan Road @ Surf Street, view north

1936-Sheridan Road @ Surf Street, view north

2017-the same location

2017-the same location

In the 1936 photo, our location just north of Diversey shows the effects of the Great Depression.  Vacant lots along Sheridan Road await multi-story apartment buildings, which haven’t been constructed.  The booming 1920s are definitely over.

Today this stretch of Sheridan is filled with high-rises.   And the double-deck buses of yesterday have been replaced by modern articulated buses—shorter in height, but longer in length.


Then and Now, Eddy-Southport

1908–Eddy Street @ Southport Avenue, view east

2017–the same location

Our location is a short block south of Addison Street.  This part of Lakeview was still thinly settled in 1908.  However, the Ravenswood branch of the North Side ‘L’ had just been extended through the area, with a station at Southport.  New construction was already starting to pick up.

In 1914 a baseball stadium for the fledgling Federal League opened a few blocks east of here.  Though the Federal League didn’t last, the ballpark still stands, and has given the neighborhood a new name—Wrigleyville.


Then and Now, Devon-Western

1934--Devon Avenue @ Western, view west

1934–Devon Avenue @ Western Avenue, view west

2016--the same location

2017–the same location

The shopping district around Devon and Western began to take off during the early 1920s, with various retail stores, restaurants, a couple of banks, and the usual business mix springing up as the decade moved on.  However, the Great Depression brought a halt to new construction.  A few vacant lots are visible in the 1934 photo.

In 2017 the vacant lots are long gone from the Devon Avenue strip.  Once a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, the area is now the center of the city’s Indian, Pakistani, and other South Asian communities.