Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Old Town Neighborhood in Chicago was "COOL" in the 1950s, "HIP" in the 60s and "FAB" in the 70s. The History with over 80 photographs.

In historical writing and analysis, PRESENTISM introduces present-day ideas and perspectives into depictions or interpretations of the past. Presentism is a form of cultural bias creating a distorted understanding of the subject matter. Reading modern notions of morality into the past is committing the error of presentism. I'm well aware that historical accounts are written by people and can be slanted, so I try my hardest to present fact-based and well-researched articles.

Facts don't require one's approval or acceptance.

I present [PG-13] articles without regard to race, color, political party, or religious beliefs, including Atheism, national origin, citizenship status, gender, LGBTQ+ status, disability, military status, or educational level. What I present are facts — NOT Alternative Facts — about the subject. You won't find articles or readers' comments that spread rumors, lies, hateful statements, and members instigating arguments and fights.

The use of old commonly used terms, disrespectful today, i.e., REDMAN
or REDMEN, SAVAGES, and HALF-BREED, are explained in this article.



In the late 1800s and early 1900s, today's Old Town area was known as "Cabbage Patch" from the German immigrants that grew potatoes, celery, and cabbages on the marshy land. The area was then called "North Town" (not Nortown) as it straddled North Avenue, which was the northern boundary of Chicago.

On October 14, 1948, about 25 neighborhood residents met to discuss improving what was referred to as Old Town (the attribution of which is generally credited to Charles Collins of the Chicago Tribune in 1944). At that time, the "founders" referred to themselves as "The Clark, Ogden, North Triangle," later shortened to "The Triangle" until September 20, 1951, when members voted to officially change the name to the "Old Town Triangle Association," which was initially sponsored by the North Side Planning Council, a Chicago city agency.

During World War II, the triangular area bordered by North Avenue, Clark Street, and Ogden Avenue, which ran up to Lincoln Park until the 1960s, was designated a "neighborhood defense unit" by the Chicago Civil Defense Corps.
1940s North Town Triangle
NOTE: According to a 2008 Tribune article, Old Town is  bounded by Division Street (south) to Armitage Avenue (north), and Clark Street (west) to Halsted Street (east).
The first President elected to the Old Town Triangle Association was James Beverly
Helen Guilbert and Sara Jane Wells were two movers and shakers regarding trees in the Triangle, planting flowering "Hopa" crabapple trees in 1959. They watered the trees with the help of area residents loaning their garden hoses to water the trees by their houses for the months it took for them to stabilize and then let mother nature take over.

When Bob Switzer passed away, he endowed the OTTA with funds to improve the parkways in the late 1970s.

The Menomonee Boys Club was founded in 1946 by a group of concerned Old Town neighbors to "provide wholesome recreation as a means of keeping children off the streets." Menomonee funding has always been tied closely to the neighborhood.
This building is called the Willow Clubhouse, opened in 1950, and is the oldest of four Menomonee Club buildings.
With the help of the North Side Boys Club, the group rented an Old Town storefront and began offering ping pong, shuffleboard, boxing, baseball, woodworking, and choral singing. Membership was 50 cents, and more than 100 children joined during the first few weeks. It started out being a boys' Club, with girls allowed in once per week. That didn't last long. Soon, girls were regularly coming, and The Menomonee Club for Boys and Girls was born. Kids gathered to take lessons, play checkers, and just hang out.

In 1950, the Club's director Joe Vitale discovered a two-lane bowling alley on Willow, and The Club could buy it for $13,000. Its founding members scraped together a down payment and spent the next four years raising the rest of the money for the Menomonee Clubhouse. When it was finally paid for, a celebration was held – a mortgage-burning party!

The Crilly Court Apartments held a Jamboree (block party) that predated the Old Town Art Fair to raise money for a playground. The event was so successful that the Crilly residents decided to expand its mission to include The Menomonee Club and other neighborhood activities. Folklore says the Jamboree inspired the Art Fair.

The Old Town Triangle Association decided to hold an art fair they named "Old Town Holiday" in June of 1950 to raise funds for the Menomonee Club. Shortly after, the Art Fair's name was changed to the Old Town Art Fair, which evolved into a nationally-known event.
Old Town, Chicago, Art Fair, 1954.
In its early years, people didn't go to Old Town on Wells Street (5th Avenue before the 1909 Chicago street renaming and renumbering)... they just went to Wells Street. During the early 1960s, when the commercial part of the area, the "Old Town" designation, was commandeered. The area residents were unhappy and considered changing the name of "The Triangle" to "Old Town" until they realized they had owned that designation first.

To Clarify: The Triangle = Old Town and Vice Versa. 

The residents changed the direction of streets (St Paul and Eugenie) to one way going east to spare themselves the horrendously large volume of auto traffic on Wells Street. In the 1960s, there was so much Friday and Saturday night traffic that it could take 2 hours to drive from North Avenue to Division Street or Division to North Avenue.

Wells Street became Old Town's main street sometime in the early 1960s. Rumor has it that the Old Town School of Folk Music, founded in 1957, was the catalyst for the retail development of Wells Street as musicians flooded into the area, drinking and entertainment establishments flourished, and retailers followed.

In an age when people were fleeing the city for the suburbs, and then urban renewal was leveling nearby areas, local small business owners dug in, and Old Town became a medley of bohemian artists, trendy shops, flashy tourist spots, bars and taverns, museums, and lots of restaurants.

Guilbert ran a short-lived newspaper called "The Old Town News" in 1957.

In the late 1960s, Old Town became Chicago's hippie haven.

Businesses (throughout time) in Old Town:
  • Barbara's Bookstore
  • Beans
  • Bizzare Bazaar (Hippy & Head Shops)
    • A Marijuana Paraphernalia Vendor (1960s-70s)
    • A Silver Jewelry Vendor
    • Indoor Bumper Car Ride
    • T-Shirt Shop (Tie Dye & Heat Transferred Decals)
  • Bootleg Records
  • Caravan
  • Climax Art Gallery
  • Crate and Barrel
  • Dabstract (Spin Painting) 
  • Dave Menza - Old Town Photography 
  • Davis-Congress Men's Wear 
  • Fly by Night Antiques
  • Head Quarters
  • Horse of a Different Color
  • Horsefeathers 
  • House of Glunz (liquor sales since 1888)
  • Johnny Brown's Sandal Shop
  • Madge Women's Clothing 
  • Maiden Lane [Indoor] Shopping Center (1525 North Wells Street)
    • Granny's Toy Shop
    • The Smugglers Gift Shop
    • The Tye Shop
    • The Wiggery
  • Old Town Aquarium
  • Old Town Gate (Antiques)
  • One Octave Lower (Record Store)
  • Parlor Jewelry
  • The Emporium
  • The Fig Leaf
  • The Fudge Shop
  • The Man at Ease
  • The Old Town Auction House
  • The Old Town Shop
  • The Old Treasure Chest
  • The Oriental Gift Shop
  • The Paper Dress Store
  • The Scratching Post
  • The Town Shop 
  • The What Not Shop 
  • The Wick-ed Shoppe (Candles)
  • Toptown Clothing 
  • Wecord Woom
  • Zanies Comedy Night Club
Maiden Lane 
at 1525 N. Wells Street, a shopping center that fits almost none of the conventional ideas of what a shopping center should look like, opened in May of 1966 with space for 20 shops. Maiden Lane was once a garage owned by Henry Susk of Susk Pontiac. Susk found the garage was surrounded by gift shops, antique stores, restaurants, and bistros that have changed the character of North Wells. He decided the building could be remodeled to create the atmosphere of London's Old Maiden Lane shopping area. 

A "lane" ran thru the center of the building, lined with small shops reminiscent of London, and old English gaslights add to the illusion. Near the rear of the building, the lane widens into a square with a fountain.

Frank C. Wells, senior vice president of L.J. Sheridan & Company, Maiden Lane's leasing agent, said this may be one of the smallest shopping centers the firm has ever assisted in developing and leasing. It is also one of the most interesting. Actually, Wells pointed out, Maiden Lane follows the latest concepts of shopping center design, including a heated covered mall, outstanding shopper circulation, and distinctive architecture.
  • Maiden Lane Shopping Center. There were more stores inside than these four:
    • Granny's Toy Shop
    • The Smugglers Gift Shop
    • The Tye Shop
    • The Wiggery
A giant Tiffany lamp hung outside the entrance to the maze of unusual retail shops.
Piper's Alley was opened in November of 1965 by Rudolph Schwartz and Jack Solomon, owners of the five buildings making up the 15 shops that once made up Piper's Bakery and stables.

Shoppers, diners, and the curious walked up and down an original turn-of-the-century alley paved with Chicago Street Paver Bricks and lined with time-period street lamps.

WITHIN PIPER'S ALLEY: Businesses & Restaurants (throughout time)
  • Aardvark Cinematheque (Movie Theatre)
  • Arts International Gallery
  • Bustopher Jones Boutique
  • Charlie's General Store
  • Design India (Furniture and Imported Items)
  • Grin N Bare It
  • In Sanity (Party Goods Store)
  • Jack B. Nimble Candle Shop
  • La Piazza Restaurant
  • Male M1 Men's Shop
  • Off the Hook (Decorator Items)
  • Peace Pipe (Smoking Paraphernalia)
  • Personal Posters (Instant Immortality - photo to poster in 15 minutes)
  • Poor Richards
  • That Steak Joynt Restaurant [attached: Entrance on Wells St]                                          (Claimed Haunted as customers and staff report.)
  • That Hair Shoppe
  • The Bratskellar
  • The Caravan (Handcrafts Store)
  • The Flypped Disc (Record Store)
  • The Glass Unicorne
  • The Hungry Eye
  • The Jewelry Shop
  • The Sweet Tooth (Old Fashioned Candy)
  • Two Brothers
  • Volume 1 Book Shop
  • Ye Olde Farm House Restaurant [attached: Entrance on Wells St]
A 1960s Advertisement
Note the original "Chicago Street Paver Bricks" in Piper's Alley. 
Charlies General Store
La Piazza in Pipers Alley, 1967
Now Leaving Pipers Alley

Entertainment & Pubs (throughout time) in Old Town:
  • House of Horror
  • Like Young (Teen) Nightclub
  • Mother Blues
  • My Sisters Place (For the Younger Set)
  • Philrowe Club 
  • Quiet Knight
  • Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum
  • Second City Theater 
  • Judy's Juniors- 'Teenage Halabalu'
  • Marge’s Still (since 1955), in Old Town Triangle (A Pub since 1885)
  • The Crystal Pistol (Topless/Music)
  • The Earl of Old Town Cafe & Pub
  • The Exit Saloon
  • The Old Town School of Folk Music
  • The Outhaus
  • The Plugged Nickel 
  • The Purple Cow
  • The Royal London Wax Museum
  • Window A Go-Go
Restaurants & Foods (throughout time) in Old Town:
  • Beef & Bourbon Restaurant
  • Bistró Margot
  • Chances R Restaurant
  • Dinottos
  • Franksville Hot Dogs & Hamburgers
  • La Strada Restaurant (Continental)
  • Little Pleasures Ice Cream Parlor
  • Lum's Restaurant (Family)
  • Old Fashioned Fudge
  • Old Town Ale House
  • Old Town Rib Shack
  • Orsos
  • Paul Bunyan Restaurant (Family)
    • "Hot Biscuit Slim's" Bakery
  • That Steak Joynt Restaurant (claimed to be haunted as customers and staff members reported bizarre supernatural experiences.)
  • The Fireplace Inn (Upscale)
  • The Fudge Pot
  • The Golden Dragon Cantonese Restaurant
  • The Pickle Barrel Restaurant (Jewish Delicatessen)
  • The Pup Room (Red Hots & Hamburgers)
  • The Stage Coach Restaurant (Family)
  • Topo Gigio
  • Twin Anchors, in Old Town Triangle
  • Uno's Pizza (Deep-Dish)
  • Ye Olde Farm House Restaurant (Family)
La Strada Restaurant Entrance at 1531 N. Wells Street, 1965
La Strada, 1531 N. Wells Street, Old Town, Chicago, 1965 postcard. A Continental Restaurant with an authentic European atmosphere provided by the owner, Buona Fortuna.
La Strada, 1531 N. Wells Street, Old Town, Chicago, 1965 postcard. A Continental Restaurant with an authentic European atmosphere provided by the owner, Buona Fortuna.
Besides the restaurants in Piper's Alley, other Old Town restaurant choices included the Chances R Restaurants were famous for its burgers and for allowing you to throw peanut shells on the floor. The restaurant's name reflected the uncertainty of this first location in Old Town. "Chances are we could go broke," the owners reportedly said among themselves.
Chances R, c.1965

Chances R
Chances R Interior
The Pickle Barrel Restaurant offered a small barrel of pickles and a bowl of popcorn at every table (not peanuts, as some people get confused with "Chances R Restaurant"). A balloon artist or magician wandering around the restaurant. The Fireplace Inn restaurant and bar features charcoal-broiled ribs, steaks, and seafood.
The Pickle Barrel Restaurant, 1423 North Well, Old Town, 1971.
There was the Paul Bunyan restaurant with "Hot Biscuit Slim's" Bakery (home of the 12" cookie)and the Buzz Saw Bar with drinks named the Big Onion, the Blue Ox, Axman's Revenge, Tall Timber, the Log Pond, and the Ax Handle. Paul Bunyan's motto was, "We have an oversized desire to serve the best food at the most sensible prices to the greatest number of people." 
Restaurants included the Golden Dragon Cantonese Restaurant, the Stage Coach Restaurant, Beef & Bourbon Restaurant, and least we forget Lum's Restaurant, which was on the southwest corner of North Avenue and Wells Street.
The Exit Saloon was located at 1653 North Wells Street, on the Old Town strip, until 2007. The Exit Saloon was often confused with the Exit Chicago Club at 1315 West North Avenue, 1¼ miles west of Wells Street, boasting an under-21 club 4-10pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

The Man at Ease, 1706 North Wells Street, Chicago, closed in Old Town and moved to 2630 North Clark Street in 1969.

It was home to the famed Second City Theater, Uno's, Bizzare Bazaar head shop, The Fudge Pot, the Town Shop, Madge women's clothing store, Parlor Jewelry, a penny candy shop, the Wick-ed Shoppe - a candle store, the House of Lewis, and The Man at Ease a hip men's clothing store.

View from 1500 North Wells Street in Old Town neighborhood; Chicago, Illinois, July 3, 1970. The west side of the street includes the Fireplace Inn, the 'Wecord Woom,' Crystal Pistol, and the Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum.
The Fig Leaf and Paper Dress Store.


The Great Old Town Movie Poster & Comic Book Company was located at 1444 North Wells Street.

The original Crate and Barrel store was on Wells Street, where they displayed the glasses and dishware in wooden barrels and crates filled with straw.
The House of Horror was a spooky, creepy place for a kid to see. I had nightmares.
House of Horrors was close to Lum's, across the street from the Emporium.
The Royal London Wax Museum (figures by Josephine Tussaud) was at 1419 N. Wells Street. It included lifelike figures of Chicagoans Ernie Banks, Hugh Hefner, Al Capone, St. Valentine's Day Massacre, and figures from the Civil War. The Chamber of Horrors featured replicas of Dracula, the Wolf Man, and Frankenstein, while the fantasy room contained Pinocchio, Cinderella, Rip Van Winkle, and Alice in Wonderland. It closed in 1991.
Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum at 1500 N. Wells Street opened with a party on November 21, 1968. Reportedly, more than 500 people showed up. Visitors were greeted with an optical illusion in the lobby. A giant floating faucet seemingly suspended in mid-air, the faucet spilled out a thick and endless flow of water into a pebbly pond. It was a simple illusion. A tall, transparent pipe held the faucet in place at the nozzle, blasting water upwards that immediately gushed back down the sides covering the pipe.
Photo not from the Chicago Ripley's Believe it or Not!
The Chicago branch contained 13 galleries. It included a circus room with its various freaks and mutations and replicas of Cleopatra's barge, a man who lived to be 160 years old, and a mummified monk. The museum closed in 1987 and auctioned off its exhibits. It closed in 1987.
The Earl of Old Town Cafe & Pub
at 1615 N. Wells Street was the fabled Club that epitomized the Chicago folk scene and honed such home-grown talent as Steve Goodman, John Prine, and Bonnie Koloc opened in 1962.
The Earl of Old Town Cafe & Pub, Circa 1962.

Earl J.J. Pionke was born and raised on Chicago's south side in 1932. After jumping between jobs to help support his family, Pionke tended bar at a few local saloons before taking aim at opening his own.
Earl J.J. Pionke, 1982

Chicago’s famed Old Town neighborhood had become the epicenter of Chicago’s emerging music scene and Earl knew there was an opportunity to join the movement and make something special. When Pionke first opened "The Earl of Old Town" in 1962, he was confident he could get people in the door. He didn't know how yet.  
The Sneak Joint, 1615½ North Wells Street, (see sign on wall) was a tiny tavern behind the Earl of Old Town, brought back to life for a few months by John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd during filming of "The Blues Brothers" movie in 1979. 

A colorful and boisterous man, it was Earl’s infectious personality that helped first build the reputation of his club. As longtime Chicago folk-music mainstay Eddie Holstein recalled during Earl’s 80th Birthday Celebration, "You don’t meet Earl Pionke, you hear him coming." After inviting a few local folk singers to play at the club, the unexpected success of their performances set Pionke and The Earl of Old Town to showcase the emerging talent and their songs of the times. 
Once the spark was lit, it didn’t take long before The Earl of Old Town quickly became the hottest club in the city for emerging folk music. Famed Chicago singers and songwriters including John Prine, Bonnie Koloc, Jim Post, Steve Goodman, Fred & Eddie Holstein and many others all got their start playing to the warm audiences and bare brick walls of The Earl. For Eddie Holstein, The Earl was the perfect venue for new emerging artists. The Earl of Old Town featured live music on a nightly basis, and consistently the crowds piled in.  It was a welcoming place. The Earl was refined enough to catch your eye while still holding enough charm to make you feel at home. The intimacy of the room created an unmistakable and important sense of presence for both the audience and the performers.
“It was a listening room,” says Chicago folk veteran Chris Farrell, “you came to hear the music.” The music at The Earl thrived for years and the relationship between Earl and his performers became an atypical one. They were more family than hired talent. He more a fan than a benefactor. As quoted in the liner notes of 1970’s “Gathering at the Earl of Old Town," Pionke insists “They’re my kids, my pals, I love ‘em'.”
The Earl of Old Town closed its doors in 1982. Earl J.J. Pionke died Friday, April 26, 2013, at 80 years old.

Old Town was a mecca for the music scene. The Old Town School of Folk Music, Mother Blues, the Purple Cow, the Crystal Pistol, Quiet Knight, and the Plugged Nickel were trendy music venues.

Not too many people remember The Outhaus at 1311 North Wells Street and closed in 1968

Lincoln Park Pirates
Old Town also catered to the under-21 crowds with dance clubs; Judy's Juniors, Like Young, and My Sister's Place.

The Piper's Alley Fire on March 1, 1971.
Piper's Alley, the big tourist draw in Old Town, is evacuated as fire is discovered in the loft of the Playwright's Center, a four-story building that forms the west end of the U-shaped commercial center. Two thousand spectators watch from the streets, and a hundred diners are evacuated from That Steak Joynt at 1610 Wells Street as a precaution. Firefighters say that every one of the 15 shops that make up the Alley will suffer some smoke or water damage. Fortunately, the glassblower at the entrance to the Alley remains unscathed.

The Fire at Second City Comedy Club, August 26, 2015.
On Wednesday, August 26, a fire ignited inside a grease chute above the kitchen in Adobo Grill on Wells Street in Old Town. The fire spread to the building housing The Second City, a comedy club and school of improvisation, destroying offices and memorabilia from alumni. Months after the accident, the community is still cleaning up the mess.

Firemen said all the shops on the first floor suffered smoke and water damage. The buildings were estimated to be worth $1½ to $2 million.
On top of repairing fire damage, Second City is enduring construction in part of an expansion. Building onto what used to be the Aardvark Cinematheque movie theatre in Piper's Alley, they have gutted all that and put in new stages. The expansion of Second City was massive. 

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Thank you, David Pfendler, Archivist for the Old Town Triangle Association, for the early history of the Old Town Triangle area.


  1. Replies
    1. Old was NOT "Cool" in the 50's; It was "COOLVILLE". How could you forget to mention the Beatniks?

    2. I remember most...thanks neil...awesome

  2. Holy Name of Mary grammar school went to the Wax Museum and Ripley's every year. When I got to high school, I ventured into places such as Bizarre Bazaar and The Smuggler for t-shirts, black light posters, and strawberry rolling papers. I had some of the best times of my younger life in Old Town including many a late night at the Golden Dragon after Dingbat's on McClurg Court closed at 2:00am. The Dragon was open until 5:00. Sweet memories.

    1. how well I remember Tim and Terry of the Golden Dragon. also Mama and Papa. so long ago

  3. Great photos. I used to work at a store called The Man At Ease, 1701 N. Wells in the late 60's and early 70's and my brothers ex-father-in-law had a paper dress store in Pipers Alley.

    1. Man At Ease is mentioned in this article. Do you remember the Paper Dress Store's name Steve Bell?

    2. Yes, I thought it would catch on and would have paper everything.

    3. Our first date was at the Fire Place Inn. That would be January 1968

    4. Hello Steve. You probably don't remember me, but I worked at The Man at Ease with you briefly in 1969, along with George Azelickis and Jerry Botham and various others. Now I teach English in Austin.
      John Robey

    5. The Man had some really great clothes....wonderful style...I was the best dressed kid in HS for sure. Always remember the artwork they had....cartoons wallpapered in the dressing rooms...what great time. Peter Nordloh

  4. Again a great article Neil. Brought back so many memories.

  5. I was so surprised and excited to read your blog. Moved to Chicago from California and happy to be here.I want to see "old town " thanks for the memories.

  6. Replies
    1. My family lived in Chicago 1965 to 1968 and I remember loving going to Paul Bunyan for their big chocolate chip cookies I was 5 at the time. Lol

  7. I loved going to Old Town and Piper's Alley in the late 60's. I bought a paper dress there and also huge paper flowers. And I loved watching the glass blower through the window as he made all his creations. I purchased a pair of green glass elephant earrings in Piper's Alley. In Old Town I purchased a suede fringed vest. I was in high school at the time and wore my suede choker and peace love beads. Good times for sure.

  8. Thank you for the wonderful memories. I used to go to a small store on the south end of Old Town called "The What Not Shop" . A wonderful place to wander. You never knew what you might discover there.

  9. Wow. Memories! I first worked at Bizarre Bazaar in about 1974. Then at the Hair Place and also a jewelry store also owned by Sherman across from the restaurant on the south side of Piper's Alley, before the swinging doors. Robin was a waiter there and I'd eat a baked potato every day for lunch. I still have a red glass tulip candleholder from the candle shop inside and ran into Sinclair a couple of years ago at an O'BAnion's reuniion on the west side.

    1. My dad Sherman Wernick owned Jack B Nimble candle shop which was across the alley from the other Sherman’s wig shop. I was a little kid then but hung out in the Alley frequently. If you know how to reach Sinclair I’d love to reconnect.

  10. My dad used to love to sing at Punchinillos (sp?) don't see any photos of it ? I thought it was in Old Town / Piper's Alley area ????

  11. any more pictures of 'OLD TOWN GATE" Earls 1st pub & his main stay was Earl of Old Town, interested in any more photos of old town gate......not many were around.

  12. Does anyone remember a clothing boutique on the west side of wells st just north of schiller? I can't remember the name.

    1. House of Lewis? sold the latest in fashions back in the 60's & 70's

    2. Remember King Louie? He would ride around in a horse drawn carriage,,,,,,,,,,,,,Ah those were the days! ! !

  13. I remember nearby hangouts like the Store and the Spirit of 76 (later Mother's Love); I'm sure they've been replaced by other hangouts now...

  14. The "mod" fashions of the Man at Ease store made me a hit back in my suburban high school.

  15. The late great jazz guitarist Be Bop Sam Thomas told me he played at the Plugged Nickel with John Klemmer saxophone back then 1960s

  16. Brought back so many happy memories from 67-68! Thanks!

  17. It bothers me that the map represents the area north of North Avenue, but so many of the businesses were south of North Avenue on Wells.

  18. My dad had a shop in Pipers Alley, John Brown's Leatherworks. It was right before La Piazza.

    1. Glenna,i still have the sandals your Dad made for me. middle 60"s i"m 80 y.o

  19. My mom took me to Old Town on North Wells in 1966, visiting from Minneapolis. The area and the "scene" made an indelible impression on me that reminds vivid to this day: Crate and Barrel, Chances R, Piper's Alley. Minneapolis caught on to the scene and became even more "hip" than the Windy City.

    1. Nowhere was hipper than Old Town, Chicago in the 1960s except San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. Just Sayin'

  20. Far out! Many good memories and thanks for the wonderful pictures. That area was groovy.

  21. Very nice. I have many memories of the area.

  22. In 1965 I lived in a “crash pad” in the building on the s.e corner of Wells and Gothe. A cop came there looking for runaways. I asked for a search warrant and he shook his beefy hand at me and said”here’s my search warrant “ We let him in.

  23. Myself sister used to take us down there. Went to the wax museum. Ripleys and the pickle barrel. Loved it. Wish I was older. Would have loved seeing Steve Goodman perform

  24. Wonderful article, Neil! There's something off, however, in your description of the Pipers Alley fire. I lived in the building on the north side of Pipers Alley from '74 til '76, and the ground floor was still That Steak Joynt in that era; Adobo Grill took over the space MUCH later! So I'm wondering whether the fire might have occurred in '81 (or even '91), rather than in '71....

    1. Placed a new header title in the "Fire" section seperating the two fires, 1971 and 2015.

  25. My older Brother hung out at The Earl in the late 60’s early 70’s with his long hair my parents hated then in the late 70,s early 80’s I hung out at EXIT with my short spiked hair which my parents also disliked! Guess you just can’t please everyone! LOL

  26. Famous Chicago sculptor and Art Institute professor Eldon Danhausen owned Soup'son on the lower level of one of the sidewalk shops on the west side of Wells St. I remember having lunch there many times before I ever got to know him, 20 years later, though a mutual friend. La Piazza had the very best deep dish pizza ever. Great memories and photos - thank you. There was also a bird shop in Old Town, Sedgwick Studio, owned by Erling Kjelland: That was an amazing place to be. He had an African grey parrot who sung opera.

  27. I see Mother Blues but right next door was a place called The Out House - featured singers like Del Brown and Baby Huey - I remember the ceiling caved in one night while Baby Huey was performing. They had a bouncer we called "Superman" and the place was always jumping. Sure wish someone had pix of the times there.

  28. Went to the art fair in the early 60s with my mother! Then spent a lot of time as a teen in the 70s wonderful memories.

  29. I was born in 1964 and remember going to Piper’s alley with my dad as a matter of fact I was recently thinking about it but couldn’t remember the name. I still can smell the Pickle Barrel in my thoughts. My dad unfortunately passed away more than 25 years ago so there are plenty of unanswered questions. I remember going to the art fair and my dad selling pictures that he would develop himself. Sometimes I wonder if they are still out there hanging on someone’s wall. My dad was also a firefighter for the city of Chicago but I have no idea where he was stationed. I remember visiting the firehouses being amazed at how courageous everyone was just going down that very tall shiny brass pole! If anyone reads this and knows my dad and has any memories to share I would love to hear them. My dad’s name is Robert (Bob) Cedarwall. Thanks

  30. I really enjoy your photo display of the good old stuff. I am hoping to find a photo of the sign of the head shop at 153 W North Avenue. It was international orange with the name "Stick it in your ear." I have been looking for years but I did not own a camera then. I also miss the "Climax" and thr "First National Nothing." Thanks for your gift tom us all old hippies

  31. Wanted to add a little something about Silver Syd Warner. Syd ran a little jewelry shop near the corner of Sedgwick and North and was known for his handmade sterling silver rings and bracelets. He was also the bass player in Mike Bloomfield's new group, often playing over at Mother Blues. In 1964-65, I lived in a tiny apartment behind Syd's shop.

  32. I remember living at Wells and North Avenue where Walgreens is at Orion race from 1963 to 1970 my mom worked at Uptown tobacco Burton and Wells

  33. THANK YOU! I love the stories and photos. It brings back many memories as a poor born in 1960, I would wander down there for many years from Webster and Sheffield to hand out. Even actually spend some money to see the wax museum or Ripley's although that was a LOT of pop bottles!

    My single mom was a waitress at Roma's Pizza and we lived on Webster until 1971.

  34. Many thanks for the work that created this amazing collection. D. Leigh Henson

  35. Fireplace Inn 1967. My mother Gert was one of the first waitresses hired. Along with The hostJack Batts and bartender Paul Torschiano. I worked there also in 1968 as a salad maker. Years later worked as a hostess and waitress at the C ourt yard Inn

  36. I have a vague memory of Old Town went there on a field trip with my class late 60’s (went to Visitation Grammar School- Miss Higgins was my teacher-awesome ) we went there and I do remember Pipers Alley and I also remember buying candy that was double wrapped; the
    outer wrapper was discarded but the clear inner wrapper was edible (rice paper)we saw cool posters that lit up with black lights and I remember incense…. Moved in 1970 so never got the chance to go back to Old Town yea sucks for me…..

  37. The loss of Old Town is one of the great tragedies of Chicago history and of my life personally. Oh if only we could have it back. I never really got a chance to experience it as an adult, but so many memories of the Wax Museum, Ripley's and the House of Horrors . . . my dad was a cop and would "flash his badge" at the door to get me in (so embarrassing). My mom bought me a book at Barbara's called "Monsters in the Movies" when I was eight that I absolutely wore out. Not sure where we would eat, but I know there were peanuts on the floor, which probably doesn't narrow it down much for that time period Oh, the big chandelier over the entrance to Piper's Alley! Even now, wherever we go, if I see a 1960s or '70s style bar or house with stained glass, dark interior, etc I tell my husband, "That's so Old Town," and he knows exactly what I mean, thank God! A few years back an old friend and I had a plan to open a "haunted museum" of Chicago in the old Ripley's building, which was at the time for sale. Unfortunately, the deal fell through. God bless you for writing this article, and for taking the time to gather all of these incredible photos. At least we still have Orso's, the Old Town Ale House, Up Down Tobacco and a few other gems from the "golden age." Let's enjoy the heck out of them while we can!

  38. Ursula Bielski, if you would have read the article; "Old Town restaurant choices included the Chances R restaurant, famous for their burgers and allowing you to throw the peanut shells on the floor."

    1. I didn't see any mention of the "Twin Anchor's" restaurant. I know it wasn't on the strip but it was in "Old Town". Great place and still in bizz!

    2. Also no mention of the El Gryphon Spanish Restsurant.

    3. TO: AnonymousThursday, July 27, 2023 at 9:37:00 AM CDT

      I've come up blank for "El Gryphon Spanish Restaurant" or "Gryphon's Lair," in Old Town. Please provide an address or photo.

  39. I worked at Bustopher Jones Boutique and spent many days enjoying the sights in my "HIPPY" youth.....I'm 75 now and remember those days like it was yesterday.

    1. Oh yes................I say many times.I wish I could go back to those days.

  40. My dad was the " Mayor of Old Town." He was a fine artist and knew every business owner there. Some of the places that are not mentioned here : The Climax art gallery, Fly by Night Antiques ( 3 stories of antiques in an old mansion ), Davis-Congress men's where, Like Young nightclub ( we were close friends of the owners and my dad did the murals there- even did Pete Cetra's guitar . Pete was a friend of ours and the owners); The Scatching Post, Dave Menza- Old Town Photogeapher; Philrowe ( the club with like a hundred horn instruments welded together outside,; Beans And, Johnny Brown's sandal shop, Horsefeathers; Dabstract - the amusement spin-painting place. And I used to eat at Paul Bunyun's. Our good friend was one of the designers of Piper's Alley and dad and I exhibited at the art shows.Great times, fun people!

  41. I grew up in Old Town. I ate at La Piazza many times. I bought most of my records at the record store in Pipers Alley. However, the correct name of the record store originally was: "One Octave Lower". Great photos! They brought back lots of memories from my teens.

  42. There was a clothing store on Wells called The Garment District. Most of the clothes sold there were designed by the owner.
    Also not sure if Sybil’s Art Gallery was mentioned. She designed the Old Town Collage poster..Thanks for all the interesting Old Town history. It brought back lots of good memories..

  43. This was very interesting to me. Thank you very much and thank you to the person who brought it up again in 2023. I have been looking for the exact address of a place called the blue door. It was a large old apartment building that I believe had bay windows in the front facing Wells Street. It also had an alley directly across the street also facing Wells Street. In the alley were temporary, what we would today pop-up, little kiosks. These two places played a very important part in my life in the summer of 1966. I’d love to know exactly where that was.

  44. I may have missed it, but saw no mention of the Up Shop/Down Shop. My recollection is that they were on the west side of Wells originally, and when they moved across the road, switched so that Up was Down and Down was up. Or did I hallucinate? Anyway, one of the, originally Down and then Up (I think) sold tobacco. I used to stop in and buy a new variety of cigarettes to sample whenever in Old Town. Two brands I remember were Bulgartabac, filterless cigarettes which tasted like finally ground cigar tobacco, and Jezebel Perfumed Amber, which came from Egypt, I think.

  45. I didn’t see the House of Lewis mentioned - bought some great clothes there!

  46. In the 70s I remember an large comic book store. I think it was on the west side of Wells, big place in an old warehouse or something. Does anyone recall?

    1. The "Great Old Town Movie Poster & Comic Book Company" was located at 1444 North Wells Street.

  47. Barbara’s bookstore (1963 closed), Topo Gigio (1988) Bistró Margot ( closed) , old Town Ale House,(1958) Dinottos,(1989 closed) Orsos,( 1980s)House of Gluntz (1888)The Fudge Shop (1963)All on Wells Street. Also Twin Anchors (1932) and Marge’s Still (1885) historic Old Town Establishments.

  48. We got our wedding rings at The Jewelry Store in Pipers Alley in 1972. Would love to know the name of the jeweler and what happened to him. He had been written up in the newspaper for creating an amazing ring so we went there and he created rings exactly as we described them

    1. YES I remember buying a silver ear ring from him and he made it himself.......... my ol hippie days

  49. You forgot to mention Grin N Bare It, which was located in pipers alley in the 80s & 90s

  50. The Sneak Joint is now the rear bar area (and patio) of Corcoran’s Pub.

  51. The Paul Bunyan Restaurant later became two gay discotheques, DEN One, then Carol's Speakeasy mid,late 70s

  52. In the early 1970s, I spent Saturdays with my dad, an electrical contractor. We'd "clean the back," a tradition I cherished.

    Dad's company held an impressive record, with the second-longest City License starting in 1919. After our work was done, we'd head out to lunch. Our favorite spots were the Paddock Club, Busy Bee, Town and Country, and sometimes Bowl and Roll on Wells St in Old Town.

    The first time we went to Bowl and Roll, Dad ordered their famous chicken soup. They brought out a giant bowl filled with chicken and vegetables, accompanied by a hunk of bread. It was a delightful change from the canned soup I was used to.

      Busy Bee:

      Town and Country:

  53. Thank you so much for the pics and memories. I was on leave in December of '67 and somehow found myself invited to an apartment over the Purple Cow. I spent most every night mostly all night there. It was like a fantasy of what one might think. The Livingroom had a fire place, a short stepladder, a lamp and large pillows around. People would sit at the ladder and speak or play music. I left my dad with many parking tickets when I had to go. Thanks again.


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