Old Town then and now

It was approximately 1749 North Wells which is now an apartment building but was a quaint stone building with a court yard built in the early 1930s. And not only home to my Aunt and Uncles apartment but Van Sydow Moving Company, where my uncle was a supervisor.

I was only about five when he passed away in 1960 and my Aunt moved to an apartment in the suburbs. But I remember the great windows of their large apartment that looked out over the exquisite tree-lined Wells street. I remember the enchanting courtyard where I would chase fairies and the first remote control that changed the channels on their console television.

I remember my Aunt hating God when my Uncle died. She met a new man a few years later just as special but we returned to Wells street many times to talk about her memories of Old Town as well as create new memories for me.

Many have commented that rents had plummeted in the 1960’s and Old Town was the most populated hippy neighborhood in the Midwest. It was the 1960’s that I remember bits and pieces of the Old Town Art Fair which I have enjoyed over the years. On an average, over 200 artists still display their creative work in June every year.

And after the fair or just spending a weekend in Old Town,  it was the Pickle Barrel restaurant that opened in 1960 on Wells that I went to several times where I remember being greeted with a barrel of kosher dill pickles and popcorn  for snacking. The walls displayed a variety of antiques and tables/chairs did not match.

The first Crate and Barrel store opened on Wells street in 1962 filled with European pottery and glass in. And another all time favorite for me was the original Pipers Alley, a cobblestone passageway that housed several eclectic shops and theater at 1608 Wells street.  The alley lent itself to original Victorian architecture.  A huge Tiffany lamp fixture hung over the the trip down the alley that included an old fashioned candy store,  poster shops, a candle shop, and even a pizza place.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Old Town became the center of Chicago folk music which was experiencing a revival at the time.

In 1957, the Old Town School of Folk Music opened at 333 West North Avenue and stayed at that address until 1968, when the school moved to 909 West Armitage Avenue. It has retained the name, although it is no longer located within Old Town. Singer-songwriters such as Bob Gibson, Steve Goodman, Bonnie Koloc, and John Prine played at several clubs on Wells Street, such as The Earl of Old Town.

According to Wikipedia, The Old Town School of Folk Music was closely associated with these artists and clubs. One large and successful folk club was Mother Blues, which featured nationally known artists and groups such as Jose Feliciano, Odetta, Oscar Brown Jr., Josh White, and Chad Mitchell. It also presented comedian George Carlin, Sergio Mendez, Brazil ’66, and The Jefferson Airplane.

In later years and today, I still walk the streets of Old Town enjoying the great shopping and entertainment such as Second City, The Chicago History Museum and O’Briens restaurant.

 

Chicago’s Most Haunted Houses: Hull House and Glessner House

The Jane Addams Hull House Museum is worth a trip to see whether are looking for a ghost or not. Jane Addams founded, with Ellen Gates Starr, the world famous Hull House on Chicago’s west side. Jane Addams lived their until her death in 1935 where she established a kindergarten and day care facilities for children of working mothers as well as providing classes. Some of the classes included preparing for citizenship, theater, music and art.

The Museum is located in two of the original settlement house buildings- the Hull Home, a National Historic Landmark, and the Residents’ Dining Hall, a beautiful Arts and Crafts building that has welcomed some of the world’s most important thinkers, artists and activists. Located on the second floor of the Residents’ Dining Hall, the museum’s gift shop has a range of ecologically and socially sustainable gifts including all natural hand soap, t-shirts, books about Jane Addams and the Reformers of Hull-House, and other items that you can only find at Hull-House.

The Museum is closed on Mondays and Saturdays and public tours are available without a reservation unless you have a group of ten or more.  Hull House Museum is located at the University of Illinois /Chicago at 800 S. Halsted.

According to Prairie Ghosts, at the time that Jane Addams took over Hull house she thought it was haunted and writes about this in her book Twenty Years at Hull House. She had heard loud footsteps in her room which was where the previous own Mrs. Charles Hull had passed away and she then took a different room.  Local legend claims that a deformed baby was born in the houses called the Devil baby and some claim to have seen the ghostly figure of the disfigured child who was suppose to have horns. The movie Rosemary’s Baby actually was created from the parts of this legend.

Over the years, I have enjoyed strolling Prairie Avenue in Chicago and reading about the life and times of the rich and famous during the late 1880’s, researching stories of Marshall Field, who lived in a six block section of the street only for the elite. This also included George Pullman, John Glessner and Pillip Armour. Prairie avenue was sometimes called Milionaires row and the beautiful Glessner House/Museum still stands and available for tours.

Glessner House was designed by noted American architect Henry Hobson Richardson and completed in 1887. So different from the Victorian houses that were being built at the time and eventually those, for the most part, were torn down. The House is a National Historic Landmark and offers wonderful tours with many of the rooms accurately restored to their original appearance and decorative objects and furnishings have been added by the Glessner family. John Glessner lived there until 1936 and thousands tour the house every year.

However, is a ghost and many visitors continue to see his apparition.

Henry Hobson Richardson never got to see his creation built since he died after he completed the blue prints. Many have seen him walk the halls. Even during the time the Glessner family lived there, Haunted houses.com  claim that many family member felt a cold presence moving through the mansion,even today.

The Glessner House Museum offers haunted tours of historic Prairie Avenue. Director of the Glessner House has admitted that there is a strange feeling that has been experienced on the street. The Keith House, privately owned by Marcy Baim, is another on the street. It has been restored, at 1900 Prairie and offers special events such as weddings.

Many say it is haunted too.