Sunday, November 6, 2016

The "Duck" House at Lake Shore Drive & Oak Street, Chicago, Illinois (1921)

The "Duck", is a small house at Lake Shore Drive and Oak Street in Chicago. It was later called "the little sister" to the elegant Drake Hotel which is in the background of this 1921 photograph. On the left, in the lake, you can see Municipal Pier (opened in 1916 then renamed to Navy Pier in 1927 to honor navy veterans of World War I).
NOTE: Nicknamed the "Duck" house because a 'Drake' is a fully sexually mature adult male duck of any duck species.

By Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Why old photographs handwritten notations are reversed.
Many old negatives bear handwritten notations inscribed on the emulsion side, which was easier to write on. The emulsion side means that inscriptions written on the emulsion side appear reversed in the printed photograph.

Secondly, no other view point puts Navy Pier in view for a photograph.


  1. Thank you sir, as always!

  2. What fun! This supplied me with a fun hour or so. I found another source of this print online that contains handwriting on the right side but it’s in reverse, meaning this image was flipped at some point. The house would actually have been on the south east corner of Oak and LSD (though probably closer to the (mich/Walton corner). The facade of the Drake in the photo does not match the north face of the Drake but DOES match the west face. If the image is flipped correctly, then it makes sense how the pier can be seen in the distance on the right. Thanks for posting this!

    1. The reverse writing is how photogrpahs were marked. It is very common. If you can read the writing, the picture is in reverse. Secondly, Navy Pier is NOT to the NORTH of Oak Street.

      See for an example:

    2. Ok. thanks. good to know. Not trying to pick a fight! All I am saying is that the building in the background does not match the Drake for where you are placing the house. The Northern front of the drake has two protruding wings with 6 windows across on each wing. If that is really the Drake in the background, it has to be the east or west exposure. Examine photos, those are the only sides that match and I don't believe the east is a possibility.

    3. Sorry. Please bear with me. SO if that really is the Drake and its really the western exposure. Then the only way that can be Navy Pier in the background is if the image did get reversed somehow so that the image is being taken looking east, with the pier to the right of the Drake (south of the Drake). That would mean the house sat on what is currently the west side of Michigan Avenue between Walton and Oak. Its easy to theorize that the image could have accidentally been reversed at some point since there isn't anything in the image to orient whoever might have been doing the labeling.

      Anyway, I appreciate you posting this. I had never seen this pic before and I live right around the corner on Chestnut and LSD so I have a particular interest in pics of the neighborhood.

    4. Look at this article again, as I have added the reversed handwritten inscription explaination.


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