Archive for October 2009

CHUCKMAN’S PLACES – SOUTH SHORE DRIVE – NORTH OF SOUTH SHORE NEIGHBORHOOD – AERIAL WITH SKYLINE   Leave a comment

SOUTH SHORE DRIVE - NORTH OF SOUTH SHORE - AERIAL WITH SKYLINE

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CHUCKMAN’S PLACES – SOUTH SHORE AERIAL – VIEW OF NORTH END ALONG LAKE – DATE UNKNOWN – FROM SKYSCRAPER PAGE SITE   Leave a comment

SOUTH SHORE AERIAL - VIEW OF SOUTH END ALONG LAKE - DATE UNKNOWN - FROM SKYSCRAPER PAGE SITE

This picture ends on the right side around 71st Street, the complex, low-rise building near the point into the lake being the old South Shore Country Club, now an institution called the Chicago Cultural Center.

The great bulk of my South Shore is out of this frame, to the right, the shopping streets 75th and 79th and the many blocks of apartments between them.

71st Street in its heyday was fairly elegant in spots with many nice shops, two big movie theaters (the Hamilton and the Jeffery), many restaurants, and professional offices.

The line of parkland to the left of the old South Shore Country Club denotes South Shore Drive. The buildings along the bottom of the Drive reflect Chicago’s days of grandeur in the early 20th century as a beach/vacation resort location (before Florida developed and in the wake of the amazing construction of Chicago’s 22 miles of parkland and beaches along the lake at the turn of the 19th century), including elegant old hotels and apartment hotels along the lake front, a kind of development which continued further north along the lake front. Some of these places were once the locations of ballrooms and fine restaurants.

CHUCKMAN’S PLACES – WINDSOR PARK I.C. PLATFORM – TAKEN YEARS LATER BUT LOOKING MUCH AS IT DID IN 1950s – FROM EVA CASEY’S PERSONAL SITE   Leave a comment

WINDSOR PARK I.C. PLATFORM - TAKEN YEARS LATER BUT LOOKING MUCH AS IT DID IN 1950s

The commuter station at 75th Street was called Windsor Park because when the Illinois Central commuter system was built that was the name of  part of what is today Rainbow Beach. The beach originally had several sections with different names, including Windsor to the north of 75th Street and Manhattan to the south.

These were all consolidated under the name Rainbow Beach after WWI, in honor of the Rainbow Division.

The parks and beaches in those early days of the 20th century were an important local amenity and a draw for tourists, drawing crowds as perhaps never since. That is a major reason there were so many grand hotels built along the shore on both the south and north side. Florida was still a swamp when the Burnham Plan created Chicago’s magnificent recreational shoreline, and people came in great numbers to use it.

Check below for images of vintage postcards over the years featuring the various names and crowded scenes.

CHUCKMAN’S PLACES – SOUTH SHORE BRANCH LIBRARY – 73RD AND KINGSTON – A LATER VISIT BACK – FROM EVA CASEY’S PERSONAL SITE   1 comment

SOUTH SHORE BRANCH LIBRARY - 73RD KINGSTON - FROM EVA CASEY'S PERSONAL SITE

 

Have the bricks been painted? I don’t recall them being such a dark red.

CHUCKMAN’S PLACES – FIRE STATION – 73RD AND KINGSTON – A LATER VISIT BACK – FROM EVA CASEY’S PERSONAL SITE   Leave a comment

FIRE STATION - 73RD AND KINGSTON - FROM EVA CASEY'S PERSONAL SITE

CHUCKMAN’S PLACES – SOUTH SHORE APARTMENT BUILDING – 6714 S CHAPPELL – REAL ESTATE PHOTO   1 comment

SOUTH SHORE APARTMENT BUILDING - 6714 S CHAPPELL - REAL ESTATE PHOTO

A fine example of the handsome, gracious apartment buildings which lined the streets of the neighborhood. It was possible for those of limited means to find a small apartment, while there were large apartments for more affluent people. The neighborhood thus had a naturally occurring mix of economic situations, the kind of situation contemporary planners in public housing attempt to achieve artificially with mixes of owned units plus subsidized housing.

I think that was only possible because of the huge stock of good quality apartments that neighborhoods like South Shore or Hyde Park had from an earlier time, a stock unlike anything I have observed in many other cities over the years. 

The last time I visted the old neighborhood, during the mid-1980s, I was surprised and pleased that the pleasant and graceful streets of apartment buildings mostly looked good. The notable change was black iron gates in front of many of them, something which didn’t exist in the 1950/60s, a reflection of soaring crime rates.

In the 1950s, every yard and courtyard and gangway was part of our urban playground. More than once we did things like building a snowman at another building where the snow was more favorable or run and hide somewhere around a building while friends tried to find you.

Many of these apartment buildings have been converted to condos, which in the long term is good since people preserve and care for what they own.

The good condition was not true of all the streets and buildings. There were buildings with boarded windows on some streets (I’ve chosen not to include any images of that nature). Also the modest individual homes on streets, say, from about Kingston Avenue going east are in bad condition, and some have disappeared entirely.

My old good friend Preston Uney’s house on Kingston just south of 79th, for example, had suffered a fire and had part of the roof missing. I noted recently on Google Earth that it had disappeared entirely for a parking lot.

Commercial streets – 71st, 75th, and 79th – were depressing, much like war-savaged zones with relatively few stores, home-made signs, store-front churches, iron grills over fronts, plus plenty of empty lots like missing teeth in a smile.

Even today, if you look at Google Earth or at some commercial real estate offerings on the Internet, you will see that the commercial streets have never recovered. Many fine old commercial buildings have been torn down to be replaced by the kind of ugly, cheaply constructed units you might find in far-flung suburbs. Others have simply rotted into slums. Haphazard-looking parking lots are in scores of lots where buildings used to be.

CHUCKMAN’S PLACES – SOUTH SHORE RESIDENTIAL STREET – 8141 S KINGSTON – FROM DREAMTOWN’S PHOTOSTREAM SITE   Leave a comment

SOUTH SHORE RESIDENTIAL STREET - 8141 S KINGSTON - FROM A REAL ESTATE BROKERS SITE

A perfect example of how handsome some of the old three-storey walk-ups could be. In Chicago the first floor is always up some stairs, the ground level typically being dedicated to a lobby and basement facilities for laundry and locker rooms.

The bowed windows were great for light, considering the time of these buildings’ construction, which in many cases was during the first two decades of the 20th century.

All services such as garbage collection were at the back, each block being intersected by alleys, a clever planning concept still not common today: here phone poles, garbage trucks, and (up to the early 1950s, before conversion to oil) coal trucks all ran. The alleys were also great places for boys to explore and climb the roofs of the garages which typically lined them.

The streets in front of such buildings were typically lined with gorgeous elm trees, which softened the streets appearance, shaded from the sun, and provided a partial screen to windows of apartments across the street.

Front outside doors of these buildings and the inside doors, which secured the access to the building from the lobby, were hardwood frames with bevelled glass (sometimes, stained glass) and brass handles.  Inside, the lobbies typically had handsomely tiled floors and brass mailboxes with buzzers and an intercom system on the wall. The stairs to apartments were carpeted and had hardwood railings which matched the color of the solid wood apartment doors on the “landing” of each floor.

Small apartments in such building typically included features like built-in cupboards and charming items like small ironing boards which folded into a door in a wall. Murphy beds, in small apartments, were standard, and folded into a pair of handsome hardwood doors in the living room, which also included storage space inside.

Altogether, having now lived in many cities, I regard the Chicago apartments in their heyday as the best such facilities ever offered to working people. Add the magnificent park system, free to all, and you know why Chicago, in the first half of the 20th century, was the “working man’s dream.”