Posts Tagged 'Northwest Side'

Then and Now, Belmont-Parkside

1972–Belmont Avenue @ Parkside Avenue, view west

2017–the same location

It’s 1972 in the heart of the Belmont-Central shopping district.  Electric trolley buses run on Belmont, and the Will Rogers Theater is showing Nicholas and Alexandra.  Across the street from the theater, the Goldblatt’s Department Store has been expanded.  The cars are big, bad, and loaded with chrome.

Forty-five years later, diesel buses have succeeded electric buses.  The Will Rogers has been replaced by a strip mall, and the onetime Goldblatt’s store has been converted into Tony’s Fresh Market.  You make your own call on the cars!

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Then and Now, Central-Montrose

1975--Central Avenue @ Montrose Avenue, view south

1974–Central Avenue @ Montrose Avenue, view south

2017--the same location

2017–the same location

This was the neighborhood where I grew up.  By 1974 I was married and out of my parents’ home, but the old businesses still remained on this commercial strip.  Moving south from Montrose, we have the drug store, the bakery, Mandis the Chicken King Restaurant, Kars Five-and-Ten Store.  At the far end of the block, just past Kars, the old National Food Store has been converted into an Armanetti’s Liquor Store.

Today most of the residential streets in my old Portage Park neighborhood look the same—bungalows are sturdy.  But all the stores in the 1974 photo are gone, their buildings replaced by a giant Walgreen’s.

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Then and Now, Milwaukee-Edmunds

1951--Milwaukee Avenue @ Edmonds Street, view southeast

1951–Milwaukee Avenue @ Edmunds Street, view southeast

2016--the same location

2016–the same location

Our location is on top of the railroad viaduct at the 5000-north block of Milwaukee Avenue.  During the second half of the 19th Century, the Jefferson Park community began growing up around the Chicago & North Western’s station of the same name.   By 1951 both the railroad and the Milwaukee Avenue streetcar provided commuter service to downtown Chicago.  Edmunds Street is just out of the photo at the lower right.

Today the Kennedy Expressway cuts through the area below grade level, with Milwaukee Avenue crossing over the expressway on its own viaduct.  Edmunds Street now dead-ends at the expressway.  The O’Hare Branch of the Blue Line, operating on the expressway median, has a busy station and bus terminal two blocks to the south.  The result has been a number of multi-story apartment buildings.  Commuter trains still run on the old C&NW tracks, though now they’re part of Metra.

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Wide and Wonderful Sunnyside Avenue

Like most kids, I asked my parents a lot of strange questions.  One of them involved a street a couple of blocks from my home, Sunnyside Avenue.

At 4500 north, Sunnyside was supposed to be a side street.  Yet it was just as wide as Montrose, Austin, or any of the other arterial streets in my neighborhood.  The parkway between the curb and the sidewalk was also generous, leaving room for two more traffic lanes, if the city decided to widen Sunnyside even more.

I remember asking my Dad about it.  He didn’t know why Sunnyside was so wide.  Dad suspected that some politician’s relative had a lot of extra paving material he wanted to sell to the city.

Sunnyside Avenue @ Lockwood Avenue, view west

Sunnyside Avenue @ Lockwood Avenue, view west

I later found that there are a few other unnaturally-wide side streets around Chicago—for example, Catalpa Avenue between Western and Lincoln.  However, most of them are only a block or two long.  The wide section of Sunnyside runs for over a mile, from Milwaukee to Austin.

I’ve come up with two possible explanations for Sunnyside’s extraordinary width—(1) Sunnyside is on the right-of-way of a railroad freight line that was never built, or (2) Sunnyside was originally intended to be part of the Chicago Park District boulevard system.  However, these are only conjectures.  I have no proof of either one.

This blog has a few thousand readers who collectively have a pretty impressive knowledge of Chicago.  If anyone knows the reason why Sunnyside Avenue is so wide—and can document it—please let me know.

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One Mystery Solved!

Some months ago, I posted three Chicago pictures I took during the 1970s, which I could no longer identify.  Happily, I’ve been able to pinpoint the location of one of them.  The photos below are of the 6100-north block of Melvina Avenue, looking north from the intersection of Elston and Milwaukee Avenues.

1974

1974–Melvina Avenue @ Elston Avenue, view north

2017

2017–the same location

In the Chicago of my youth we had a name for vacant lots—the prairie.  The next photo  from further up the block shows the not-so-little houses that now occupy much of this particular prairie.

2017--no more "prairie"

2017–no more prairie

What finally convinced me that I’d found the right location was a telephone pole in the distance of the 1974 photo, center and slightly to the right.  That pole and the buildings behind it are still there today.

1974 background

1974–background close-up

2017--the same location

2017–still there!

Thinking back, it makes sense that I’d take a photo of this spot in 1974.  I was probably on my way to Superdawg, and spontaneously decided to snap a picture of a Chicago prairie—so I could remember what it looked like decades later.

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Then and Now, Elston-Addison

1939--Elston Avenue @ Addison, view northwest

1939–Elston Avenue @ Addison Street, view northwest

2016--the same location

2016–the same location

In 1939 the Irving Park community was already residentially mature.  The Elston-Addison intersection was dominated by a Chicago Surface Lines carbarn on the northwest corner.  The streetcar running on Elston in the older photo is a special service, transporting patients from Cook County Hospital to the Chicago State Hospital at Dunning.

Declining ridership in the CTA era resulted in the closing of more the half of the old transit barns, among them the Elston-Addison facility.  Today a strip mall occupies the site.

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Tastee Freez/Cal’s Creemy Whip/Toot’s Drive-In

The Drive-In Formerly Known As Cal's (1975)

The Drive-In Formerly Known as Cal’s Creemy Whip (1975)

During the 1950s Chicago had a bunch of ice cream drive-ins called Tastee Freez.  Our local branch was located on the southwest corner of Montrose and Central.

Everyone had a personal Tastee Freez treat.  Mine was the dip-top, vanilla ice cream covered with frozen chocolate syrup, served in a square cone.  However, I usually bought a sundae because of the premium attached to the dish—little plastic statues of presidents or baseball players or Jesus and his twelve apostles.

Around 1965 the shop became known as Cal’s Creemy Whip.  Cal’s last name was Hilton, and he claimed to be related to James Hilton, the famous author of Lost Horizon and other novels.  I don’t know whether Cal was telling the truth.  I also don’t know whether he misspelled “creamy” on purpose.

Cal eventually sold out.  The place was spiffed up and became Toot’s Drive-in.  By that time I’d moved out of Portage Park, so I stopped by only occasionally.  Toot’s closed a few years ago, and the old building was finally leveled.  There’s a more “modern” restaurant on the site now.

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