10 things you might not know about razed Chicago
- On the Lyric Opera’s first opening night in November 1929, crowds gathered to watch the city’s rich and famous in all their finery. One of the best seats for that show was from the elevated tracks that ran down Wacker Drive. The Lake Street elevated railroad’s Market Street spur was built in 1893 and was the first downtown stop for the line before the Loop “L” was completed in 1897. The spur, which ran just the three blocks to Madison Street, was demolished in 1948.
- Frank Lloyd Wright’s Midway Gardens, a dining and concert facility at Cottage Grove Avenue and 60th Street where ballerina Anna Pavlova and jazz great Benny Goodman performed, was only 15 years old when it was knocked down in 1929, replaced with a gas station and carwash.
- Chicago’s Gold Coast began its gilding in 1885 when merchant Potter Palmer and his socialite wife, Bertha, opened their “castle” at 1350 N. Lake Shore Drive. The turreted brownstone mansion had 42 rooms, a great hall with a stained-glass dome and a gallery full of impressionist masterpieces that would later be donated to the Art Institute of Chicago. The Palmer castle was lacking one thing, however: outside doorknobs that worked. The only way to get into the house was to ring and wait for a servant. The castle was demolished in 1950 to make way for apartment buildings.
- Back when taking a bath was neither a regular habit for many Chicagoans nor very easy to accomplish, the city opened a series of public bathhouses to promote cleanliness and public health. At their most popular around 1910, more than a million baths were taken annually in the 11 bathhouses then running. But the effort didn’t get off to such a clean start. The very first bathhouse, a converted boathouse at Chicago Avenue and the lake, was a huge success its first full summer in 1893, with 1,000 boys a day enjoying a bath. But over the winter, the Tribune reported, the structure was torn down “until not a vestige of it remains” — apparently by residents needing firewood. While few signs of the bathhouses remain today, keep an eye out for “Joseph Medill Public Bath” engraved in stone along the 2100 block of West Grand Avenue.
- Chicago hasn’t been eager to preserve its gangland past. The SMC Cartage Co. at 2122 N. Clark St., scene of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, is gone. No building stands there now — just a few parking places. The site of Schofield’s, the North State Street flower shop where mobster Dean O’Banion was murdered across from Holy Name Cathedral, is a parking lot. The Lexington Hotel, Al Capone’s headquarters at Michigan and 22nd (now Cermak), was razed in 1995. The new apartment tower on the site is appropriately called The Lex. (There’s an exception to the gangster-erasing trend: the Biograph Theater, where John Dillinger saw his last movie. It’s preserved as the home of Victory Gardens theater company.)
- One of the first structures ever built in Chicago had a spectacular demolition. That’s the original Fort Dearborn, which was torched by Indians after their bloody battle with U.S. troops in 1812.