Friday, July 11, 2008
Are There Still Old Neighborhoods...?
The title for the post comes from a line I saved in my commonplace book, a question someone rhetorically asks in a letter to a paroled murderer no longer living in Chicago. The demolition along Archer Avenue shows this, as every available small building--the torn down building in question used to be tiny little Ted's Drive-In--and make something bigger, adding floors, losing parking spaces. I have omitted a few photos from earlier in my trek, when I was closer to Chinatown, but they'll find their way here soon enough. I had headed towards 29th and Poplar, walking up Halsted from Archer Avenue (maybe around 27th Street, and the site of the dull white triangle that had been Ted's since back in my college days). I then walked the opposite way because, well, its what I do. When given a decision involving doing one of two things, I'll second guess and do the wrong thing. To my credit, I got as far as the next block, Emerald Street, and realized I was headed the wrong way. Well, the quarry is gone, I knew that by walking past that guy on crutches with kids playing basketball in the park further down the way. There's this massive church, St. Barabara's, that almost engulfs the immediate skyline depending on the street, and I used that as my compass as I walked around an enclosed lot. Not From Michigan Mike had told me the place was chained up after a murder a few years back. Well, I tried to get close. My favorite photo of this bunch is the spiral staircase one, even though it speaks of the changes in the neighborhood. The aren't any old neighborhoods, to answer that guy in the story. In my day, that staircase would have been beaten-down wood, with steps that circled down the same way the metal ones do, only much steeper, like the stairs Martin Balsam falls down in the Bates house in PSYCHO. In some of these buildings, they may have the interiors gutted to make them more like lofts. At least the buildings are still called a two flat or a three flat and the exteriors haven't been modernized as they have been with about 75% of the apartments on the north side. I love the narrow passageways between the homes, as a kid we called them gangways, nowadays they are breezeways. This section of the southside is built in a cool way because of (I'm guessing) its proximity to the South Branch of the Chicago River. I couldn't get any photos that would do it justice, as many of the buildings were in shade and I knew the photos wouldn't show what I'm talking about. The homes all had lawns below street level, so that you can often see stairs leading both downward and up a dozen steps (instead of, say, three) to the front door. Kind of like an odd bi-level. You'd see five or six home facing Archer like this and then just as many with no sunken yards or no long staircases. Maybe some were built after the Chicago Fire of 1871, as the fire did spread this far south, pretty much to about 35th and Damen, which was two miles from where I was just then. Regardless of how that particular building might have changed, though, I do like the spiral staircase photo....Wayne