Friday, April 30, 2010

1726 N Hudson


Another great Italianate, One reason that I'm drawing attention to this home is to show how diverse the many Italianates within Old Town really are.  It is very interesting to see how the various Italianate homes Old Town each possess common features, and yet also all have their own unique qualities.

This home is located at 1726 north Hudson Avenue.  Thanks to a nicely placed marker on the building itself, we know it was constructed in 1880.  This brick home features attractive carved stone lintels over the windows and doors, paired corbels at the cornice, as well as dentils on the trim. The lintels are either of exceptional quality, have been very well maintained and/or have been replaced, as the carvings are especially sharp and clear, regardless, it is very nice to see.  The continuous horizontal stone band, approximately 3 brick courses tall, is a nice detail that gives the facade of this home additional interest by breaking up the main brick field, which can otherwise at times be tiring on the eye.

Given the home's age, it is fair to assume that the wooden stairs presently on the home are not original.  It is likely that at the time the home was first constructed, the stairs were built of concrete.

If you have ever walked the streets of Old Town, you might have noticed that there seems to be an on going debate about the merits of wooden vs. concrete stoops.   It seems many owners, trying to save money, decide to replace their old, deteriorated concrete stoops with new wooden ones.  This leads to an almost endless cycle of repainting and replacing of worn or damaged treads.  This of course leads to a future owner, tired of all the hassle of repainting their wooden stairs, deciding to have a concrete stoop installed...  and the cycle begins anew...

Monday, April 26, 2010

A New Blog to Keep an Eye On

Breaking news on the Old Town Blogger front (I bet you didn't even know there was an Old Town Blogger front, let alone breaking news items): Shirley Baugher, noted Old Town historian and author of such Old Town specific books as

"A Taste of our Old Town: The Art of Food"

"Our Old Town: The History of a Neighborhood"

"At Home in Our Old Town: Every House Has a Story"

has started an Old Town blog at Chicagonow. You can read Shirley's "My Kind of Old Town" here. Also, all the books mentioned above are available through the Old Town Triangle Association, here. In her first regular post, Shirley highlights the upcoming 'Sounds of Music' show at the Midwestern Buddhist Temple (located at the 435 W. Menomonee):

"...TV has Glee, Old Town has Sounds of Music, four amazing choral groups from the Lincoln Park High School (Timothy Cooper, Director); Abraham Lincoln Elementary School (Eric Brummit, Director); Franklin Fine Arts Academy (Anne Gray Director); and the Sounds of Sweetness from Walter Payton College Prep High School (Jeff Weaver, Director) performing live on Sunday, April 25, at 2:00 p.m. at the Midwest Buddhist Temple, 435 W. Menomonee Street."

Read the rest of the post here.

Welcome to the blogosphere (which has little to do with "Rod" Blagojevich, honestly)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Paddy Bauler - Alderman, Saloon Keeper, Pretend Irish, Big Fat Guy: Part 1

This is the first in a two part series on former Chicago alderman Mathias "Paddy" Bauler.

In his book "Chicago: The Second City" Abbott Joseph Liebling, of the New Yorker Fame, observed that That "...among politicians the rule is: when in doubt, be Irish".  Few, if any, in Chicago history exemplify this rule better than Mathias "Paddy" Bauler (1890-1977).  Paddy, whose father was a German immigrant and mother was a child of Germans living in America,  found it politically expedient and beneficial to his chosen profession, saloon keeper, to take on the persona of a jolly, drunken Irishman.  By all appearance, Bauler and all of his mash potato 300 pound body, succeeded grandly.  

Bauler owned a saloon, The De Luxe Gardens, at North Avenue and Sedgwick Street.  An excerpt from Liebling discusses the Garden as follows.
"A superb specimen of a Chicago alderman is Paddy Bauler, who represents the Forty-third Ward. Bauler's De Luxe Gardens, at north Avenue and Sedgwick, is as sedate a groggery as you will come upon in the city of Chicago. It occupies the former premises of the Immigrant State Bank, which went under in the crash, and the original lavatory solemnity of the interior's marble d├ęcor has never been altered. The high ceilings, the grilles barring the way to the vaults, and all the other accessories designed to nurture unfounded confidence remain to warn of the uncertainty of appearances, and the patrons conduct themselves as discreetly as men about to solicit a loan. It is here that the Alderman, who is also a member of the Cook County Democratic Committee, holds court, like Saint Louis of France under his tree of judgment, from nine to eleven each evening, when he is not traveling in Europe. Paddy travels often, and always in style; he says that trips to places like Rome and Palestine help him to understand the different kinds of people in his ward. The saloon's license is in his brother's name. Paddy has apparently done well at making his aldermanic salary of five thousand dollars a year stretch.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Old Town Gardens Inc.


A healthy relationship between residences and businesses plays a critical roll in sustaining the inviting culture of a functioning urban neighborhood.  In Old Town, no location better exemplifies this relationship than Old Town Gardens.  With its tiny city lots and many 3 and 4 story buildings, often built lot line to lot line, opportunities to enjoy the natural world are greatly appreciated within Old Town.


Old Town Gardens has been providing Old Town with beautiful flowers in the spring, fresh vegetables in the summer, and even a healthy selection of pumpkins come October.  Located at 1555 N Wells Street, immediately south of the busy North Ave. and Wells Street intersection, Old Town Gardens is a surprisingly calm and peaceful retreat.


The Old Town Gardens are happily placed between a 3 story brick building to the south, that provides adequate shade in the summer months, and the Galleria liqueurs to the north, which serves an excellent visual buffer between the Old Town Gardens and another 3 story brick building to the Galleria's immediate north.  This generous placement creates an intimate but not confining space for serious gardeners and "window" shoppers alike.










All of these photographs are from my recent visit to the gardens, as I prepared for early spring flower planting.  Currently the Old Town Gardens only has a small fraction of its future stock, but as you can see, a healthy selection of pansies are already in bloom.  I'll certainly be back for some young tomato plants in the upcoming weeks.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bauler Park Clean Up

A great opportunity to visit with locals in old town and help the community is coming up, a week from this Saturday. Bauler play lot is a small but very well loved park. The park is located at the corner of Wisconsin street and Hurlbut street (later changed to Cleveland Avenue). It is named after longtime 43rd ward alderman, bar owner, and Chicagoan through and through, Paddy Bauler.

In the future I'll give Paddy Bauler and the park a proper write up, but for the time being, I just want to bring attention to the park clean up. I am planning to be out there bright and early to lend a hand.

The following comes directly from Vi Daley, current Alderman of the 43rd ward. I hope to see you there!

"On Saturday, April 17th, 9AM - Noon: Join the Lincoln Central Association and your neighbors at Bauler Play lot (Wisconsin and Cleveland).

Plan to prune bushes, rake leaves and clean-up litter. Supplies will include some gloves, garbage bags, and T-shirts will be given out on a first-come, first served basis.

If you have any of the following, bring them along: work gloves, rakes, brooms, shovels, wheelbarrows, buckets, hoses, sunscreen, sunglasses, water bottle and rain poncho or jacket. Dress in layers with sturdy shoes."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

319 W Eugenie

Built in 1874, this lovely Italianate, like many of the homes in Old Town, is on the National Register of Historic Places.  It is located at 319 W. Eugenie, which is at the crux of the "T" intersection of Orleans and Eugenie.  "T" intersections of this type are common within Old Town.  Many of the streets simply do not obey the typical Chicago grid, they start stop, twist and turn in every which way.  This disobedience with the Chicago grid is a result of old Town surviving the great Chicago fire mostly intact.  At the time of the fire, Old Town was at the northern limits of the city of Chicago.  Prior to the fire, Chicago did not have a grid system, but took the opportunity, after an immense portion of the city had burned down, to institute a more logical pattern for its roads.

Old Town's jumbled roads are a hold over from the previous, less formal time.  This is fact is quite popular amongst Old Town residents for several reasons the foremost being that it gives them a simple, fun fact to bark at nearly all Old Town visitors who happen to be in earshot, or worse yet, happen to get lost on one of the local streets.

The twisting, winding roads also have the benefit of greatly limiting through traffic, as the roads simple do not go through the neighborhood uninterrupted. As a result, Old Town roads are rarely the fastest or most direct way to travel through the north side of the city.  This lack of through traffic enhances the calmer sides of the neighborhood and encourages a walking culture that is more than abundant in Old Town.

319 W Eugine possess several charming Italianate details, including decorative flattened arch frames over the windows and doors, lovely paired corbels and dentils at the roof eave.  Over the front entryway, a decorative stained glass window shows the houses address.  This window is a great detail, but it is worth noting it is not original to the building.  A little bit of Chicago history detective work will reveal the truth.

In 1909, the City of Chicago adopted a a street renumbering and renaming scheme, proposed by one Edward P. Brennan. This renumbering scheme changed the address of many, many Chicago properties, but had the effect of creating uniformity.  The historic numbering scheme was chaotic, random and unpredictable and the city benefited immensely from the changes.  For our specific property in question, the original address of 319 W Eugenie was 102 W Eugenie.  Clearly the window was added after the change, and at a minimum, more than 35 years after the home was built.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Filming in Old Town: The Color Of Money

Rather than do a single post of all the films shot in or immediately adjacent to Old Town, I've decided to break the subject down into individual posts to allow more room to explore both the film and the setting in detail.

In the 1986 film the Color of Money, directed by Martin Scorsese, Fast Eddie Felson (The iconic role which the late Paul Newman won the Academy Award for Best Actor), an aged liquor dealer and former pool hustling, takes the young Vincent Lauria (played by a young Tom Cruise), a cocky but talented pool player with a "sledge hammer break" to a fictional restaurant and bar 'Sir Loin Inn' .  This was actually shot in O'brien's Steakhouse, at 1528 N. Wells Street in Old Town.    In the scene, Eddie hustles Vincent and his street smart girlfriend, Carmen (played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) into picking up  the tab for dinner.  This scene occurs early in the film and is important in establishing the tenor and back and forth, hustle or be hustled dynamic that is explored several times throughout the story.  The Color of Money has several other scenes shots near Old Town, including local bars and pool halls.  tI is a gritty, character film with some excellent performances by Newman, Cruise, Mastrantonio and even has some nice appearances by a young John Turturro and as well as a young Forest Whitaker respectively.  This is isn't a movie review site, but if you'll give me the latitude, I'd recommend it, if for nothing else than the opening scene which believe it or not, uses a Phil Collin's song to incredible effect.


Obrien's Restaurant & Pub is a popular Old Town Mainstay on Wells Street .that "welcomes you to an atmosphere of casual dining with a Continental cuisine specializing in prime steak & fresh seafood."  Obrien's is especially popular during the warm spring, summer, and fall when they have an outdoor garden cafe for open air dining.  By virtue of its location it is especially convenient for people watching comedy shows at Zanies (at 1548 N. Wells.Street) or the Second City (at 1616 N.Wells Street).  Wells street has long been a popular strip for Old Town residents with its diverse restaurants such as Kamehachi, The Fireplace Inn, Topo Gigio, The Adobe Grill, Los Pinatas, and Club 33.  In addition to the many restaurants, Wells street is populated by interesting boutique shops, such as the Old Town Aquarium, The Spice House,The Twisted Baker, The Fudge Pot, and the Up Down Tobacco Shop. 

The Color of Money will always hold a special place for me, given that Paul Newman is my all time favorite actor.  Newman had an incredible screen presence and was a truly great humanitarian (having given over $250,000,000 in charitable donations through his Newman's Own food products, as well as many, many other large donations to various charities, causes and colleges.)