"Chicago" by Carl Sandburg

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

-excerpt from the poem "Chicago" by Carl Sandburg (1916)

Chicago Skyline

Chicago Skyline
The Chicago Skyline from a Near West Side highrise

Monday, February 25, 2013

Chicago's Abandoned Movie Palaces

Chicago magazine recently did a beautiful pictorial exposé on Chicago's great abandoned movie palaces.  The piece, which is introduced by Roger Ebert, displays the interiors of these early movie theaters, showing past glory often muddled by decades of decay.  It wasn't that along ago that crowds of thousands would line up down the street to see the showing of one particular film.  Nowadays, with few exceptions, the multiplexes showing dozens of films throughout the day on dozens of different screens have rendered these architectural masterpieces obsolete of their original purpose.

So what is the purpose of this brief article?  First and foremost, to draw attention to oft-forgotten pieces of Windy City history.  Although these particular buildings are in great disrepair, there are organizations out there fighting for funding to help these structures be restored to their former glory.  If you're interested in supporting a historic Chicago cause, there are opportunities here with these movie palaces. Secondly, there are also many historic theater venues that are still in operation, several of which have been recently restored.  The Logan Theatre (Logan Square), Portage Theater, and Patio Theater (both in Portage Park) show that there is still a place in Chicago for grandiose arts venues.  They serve as anchors to commercial centers and community gathering places.

Although we don't have many images, we'd like to share where these theaters are, and how you can help.  So here are Chicago's abandoned (and hopefully soon-to-be-restored) move palaces.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Little India/Devon Avenue

The Breakdown
How educated are the residents of Little India?
Let's just say even the cell phones have PhDs.
An overview: Like Greektown, Little India represents a cultural stretch of road (Devon Avenue), within a neighborhood (West Rogers Park), within a community area (West Ridge).  West Ridge itself is a hidden gem of an area.  Besides hosting a large subcontinent population, West Ridge is also home to East Asians, Eastern Europeans, and one of the country’s largest Hasidic Jew demographics.  With so much ethnic flavor to offer, we felt for the sake of one entry that we’d keep our focus on Little India this time.

Devon Avenue, starting at California and heading eastward, is an electric blend of Chicago architecture and south Asian flare.  It’s a nonstop barrage of Indian/Pakistani shops, services, restaurants, and grocers.  Despite being a destination for south Asian culture, Little India isn’t just for Indians and Pakistanis.  Anywhere you go, whether sitting down at a restaurant, or just walking the streets, all the ethnicities of Chicago are represented.  Demographically speaking the area around Little India is one of the City’s most diverse areas.

To just call the area Devon Avenue would be a misnomer considering the wealth of other culture along this stretch of northern Chicago roadway.  Also, to just call it Little India would be another misnomer as there is a substantial representation of Pakistani culture along Devon as well.  However, without an official name for the area around Devon and Western Avenue, we will default to its common nickname of “Little India” for reference.