Posts Tagged 'South Loop'

Then and Now, Roosevelt-Wabash

1972–Roosevelt Road @ Wabash Avenue, view west

2017–the same location

In 1972 service had been restored to this section of the South Side ‘L’ after a hiatus of more than twenty years.  The old Roosevelt Road ‘L’ station had been removed in the meantime.  Trolley buses were in their final months on the #12-Roosevelt line.  The neighborhood was run down and lightly-populated.

Today the South Loop has been revived.  The ‘L’ line once again has a Roosevelt Road station, now with a direct link to the subway station a half-block away.  Just to the west, the long Roosevelt viaduct has been truncated, so that it no longer passes over State Street.



Haven School

Chicago’s Haven Elementary School was located at 1472 South Wabash Avenue.  I often drove by the school in the early 1970s, when few people lived in the South Loop, and wondered how a neighborhood school could continue operating in that particular neighborhood.  It couldn’t—I took the picture in 1973, and Haven closed in 1974.

Haven School was named for early school board president Luther Haven.  The first school was built on the site in 1862.  Within twenty years it proved to be too small, and was replaced in 1885 by a new Haven, the building in the photo.  Today Coliseum Park occupies the property at the southwest corner of Wabash Avenue and 14th Place.


Mickey Finn’s Special (12-16-1903)

If you are a sophisticated drinker, you know about Manhattans.  Obviously, that cocktail was inventing in New York City.  Here in Chicago, we can lay claim to devising our own famous mixed drink.

On this date, the city was learning about the Lone Star Saloon and Palm Garden.  The Lone Star was one of the dives of Whiskey Row, on State near Eleventh Street.  Mickey Finn, a little gnome ex-pickpocket, owned the place.  Today one of Finn’s barmaids—Gold Tooth Mary Thornton—was testifying before a special commission.


Gold Tooth Mary said there was a sign at the Lone Star inviting customers to “Try a Mickey Finn Special.”  This cocktail was a mixture of raw alcohol, snuff-soaked water, and a white liquid supplied by a voodoo doctor.  Anybody who drank a Special was knocked out cold.  The victim was then dragged into a side room, where he was stored until Mickey got around to robbing him.  After that he was dumped in the alley.

Mary and her colleagues got a percentage of Mickey’s take.  That was just as well, since their customers weren’t in any condition to give the ladies a tip.

not-mickeyMickey had all the angles covered.  Some people would drink only beer, so he had another concoction called the “Number Two” that he poured into the beer.  According to Mary, her boss had no fear of the police.  Mickey boasted that he was in tight with Alderman Kenna, and that he always saved the best cigars for the local cops.

This time, friendship and stogies did him no good.  Because of all the publicity, city officials revoked Mickey’s liquor license.

Mickey thought he had been given a bum deal.  Gold Tooth Mary’s story didn’t make any sense.  “I’d lose money feeding dope to the guys that blow in here,” he claimed.  “I wouldn’t get enough money out of their clothes in a year to pay for the dope.”

With the Lone Star closed, Mickey left Chicago.  He later returned and operated another saloon.  By that time he was so notorious that he didn’t dare try any funny business.

But Mickey had the last laugh.  He sold his secret formula to a half-dozen other saloonkeepers, and from there it spread throughout America.  Today, any kind of knockout drink is called a Mickey Finn.



Then and Now, 18th-Clark

1948--18th Street @ Clark, view east

1948–18th Street @ Clark Street, view east

2015--the same location

2015–the same location

By the time the older photo was taken in 1948, the once thickly-settled neighborhood around 18th and Clark had evolved from residential to industrial.  Even though most of the local population had left, Old St. John’s Catholic Church still stood proudly on the northeast corner of the intersection, as it had since 1881.

Old St. John’s closed in 1962 and was demolished soon thereafter.  Seven years later, the ‘L’ along 18th Street was built to give trains on the new Dan Ryan route access to the Loop—though now the structure is used mainly for the Orange Line to Midway.  Meanwhile, several commercial and residential developments have brought new life to the area.




The Magnificent Auditorium (12-9-1889)

The President of the United States came to Chicago today to dedicate the largest building in the country.  The president was Benjamin Harrison.  The building was the Auditorium.

In 1886 Ferdinand Peck, businessman and arts patron, had organized a syndicate of like-minded rich men.  They wanted to give Chicago a grand opera hall.  Since operas usually operated in the red, the idea was to locate the hall in a larger commercial building.  That way, profits from the commercial building would balance out the money lost by the opera.

Early Auditorium postcard

Early Auditorium postcard

The firm of Adler & Sullivan was hired to construct the Auditorium.  Their plan was for a ten-story masonry building on Congress Street, stretching from Michigan to Wabash, with a seventeen-story tower at the west end.  At the center was the 4200-seat opera hall.  The rest of the building would include stores, offices, and a hotel.

Construction stretched over three years.  Many technical problems had to be solved.  In the summer of 1888, the Republican National Convention met in the half-finished building.  Benjamin Harrison was nominated for president.  He promised to come back and dedicate the completed Auditorium if he won the election.

Now the day of dedication had come.  Harrison had returned, as promised.  He was in a jolly mood as he greeted Ferdinand Peck and the local dignitaries.  “It’s the right sort of day, Mr. Peck, for the opening of Chicago’s—I should say America’s—greatest building!” he exclaimed.

The vice president was also on hand.  So were cabinet members, senators and representatives, the governors of several states, and other notables.  Crowds spilled through the streets, watching the mighty pass.  Those who didn’t have tickets for the grand dedication could take vicarious pleasure—with the opening of the Auditorium, Chicago was truly a world-class city.

Adelina Patti at the grand opening

Adelina Patti closing the dedication

Everything in the building had lived up to expectations.  The interior décor was beautiful.  The electric lighting—a recent innovation—was awesome. The acoustics in the huge opera hall were perfect.  When opera star Adelina Patti closed the program singing “Home Sweet Home,” most of the sophisticated audience broke into unexpected tears.

The Auditorium never became the financial bonanza the investors had hoped for.  Several times it came close to being demolished.  Today the building houses Roosevelt University.  The opera hall continues to be a popular venue for all kinds of music and theater.


Then and Now, State-Balbo

1955--State Street @ Balbo, view north

1955–State Street @ Balbo Avenue, view north

2014--the same location

2014–the same location

In 1955, as it had been for decades, this stretch of State Street was a slum.  Taverns, pawnshops, and grindhouse theaters were among the most prominent businesses.  The Pacific Garden Mission served the needs of those locals who were down-and-out.

South State Street’s renaissance began with the opening of the Harold Washington Library Center in 1991.  Development followed, slow but steady.  The mission relocated in 2005, the expanded Jones College Prep High School now occupying its former site.  Today the neighborhood has been gentrified, and even has a trendy new name–South Loop.