Saturday, May 30, 2020

Paying Homage to Restaurateur Burt Katz; The Inferno, Gullivers, Pequod's and Burt's Place. He is the "Father of the Caramelized Pan Pizza Crust."

Many Chicagoland pizza joints make their pizza pies with tomato sauce either on the bottom of the dough or on the top of their Deep-Dish or Pan pizzas. How the restaurant layers, the topping makes no difference and is usually proprietary to the restaurant or chain. It's up to the Pizzaiolo (Italian pizza maker) to be consistent.

Pan Pizza is made with a thick dough pasted all around the bottom and wall of a well-seasoned pan.

Deep-Dish Pizza is made with a thin to medium dough pasted all around the bottom and wall of a well-seasoned pan.

If you like more bread, look for a Pan Pizza Restaurant. Envision the Deep-Dish pizza as a 'pizza pie.' Call the restaurant and ask which pizza style they serve.

Bert Katz (1937-2016) was born in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood. Burt attended Roosevelt High School in Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps and studied history at Roosevelt University. Bert spent 25 years, on and off, as a pit trader at the Chicago Board of Trade.

On December 6, 1962, Burt and Sharon started a year-long, around-the-world honeymoon road trip in Japan. They bought a rare Toyopet Stout truck, an original Toyota, then drove through several countries, including Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan. Photographs show the then 24 and 25-year-olds with their truck, on which they stenciled their many stops. They shipped the truck to Chicago from Lisbon but never drove it again. Katz donated it to a friend's auto museum, which closed and sold it for scrap. When the salvage yard owner saw the stenciled country names, he could not bear to crush the truck, so again, it sold.
In 1963, Katz became an owner-partner in the pizza restaurant called The Inferno on Central Street in Evanston, a north suburb of Chicago. Katz introduced a new kind of pizza to the Chicago area consumers for the first time: a caramelized crust. The Inferno was the first place he would eventually fully own, but it would be far from the last.

He sold his share in 1965 and opened Gullivers, a pan-pizza Restaurant, with partner Jerry Freeman. Katz named it as a tribute to "Gulliver's Travels." His original Gullivers Restaurant opened on May 1, 1965, only had one dining room and was flanked by a pottery shop and a delicatessen in the same building. It was located at 2727 West Howard Street in Chicago's West Ridge community. Freeman became passionate about antiques and filled the restaurant with stained glass lamps, statues, and other items. The two soon split up. Katz would sell Gullivers and enter the business world, and he would not emerge into the pizza industry again until 1970.

Gullivers closed after 56 years in January 2022.
In 1970, Burt Katz decided he didn't enjoy the futures trading business any longer. After a confrontation with his boss, he quit his job. Now, he needed a job to support his wife, Sharon, and three children. 

So, turning back to the pizza industry and the unique caramelized pizza he had created years before, he opened the original Pequod's Pizzeria at 8520 Fernald Avenue in Morton Grove in 1971 (their menu and website incorrectly say 1970), a north-west suburb of Chicago. He named it Pequod's after the whaling ship in "Moby Dick." The original restaurant is located at 8520 Fernald Avenue in a converted house. Its original logo was just a whale, although it has since been modified to be a whale wearing a thong on his head.

Katz sold Pequod's in 1986 to Keith Jackson, who still owns the restaurant. Katz simply says he got 'burned out' at Pequods, but, of course, he couldn't stop.

Constantly changing his pan pizza (every restaurant menu 
said 'PAN PIZZA,' NOT 'DEEP DISH) recipe from place to place, Katz finally opened up Burt's Place in the suburb of Morton Grove, which he operated with his wife, Sharon. The pizza at each establishment where Burt had left his caramelized recipe was different at each place. 

I was first introduced to Pequod's in Morton Grove by a friend who took me there in 1975. It is just off Lincoln Avenue at the alley at 8520 Fernald Avenue. Burt was always in the kitchen but would step into the dining room to see if he knew anyone!

Burt, a radio collector, filled the interior with beautiful vintage console radios, table-top radios, microphones, ham radios, and the QSL postcards of people's ham radio call letters stapled to the ceiling beams. There was a backroom filled with Burt's most precious collection items. Very few people were invited to see Burt's radio collection. He was just too busy.
Chicago Tribune, January 20, 1980.
"Antiques by Anita Gold" column.
One of those QSL cards was from a friend of mine. His call letters were WB9VLV, but, on air, he called his identity W - B  - 9 - Very Lovely Virgin.
QSL Card from the 1933 Chicago Century of Progress World's Fair.
Burt added cheese between the edge crust and the hot pan when placing the pie back into the oven after turning it around (180°) to finish baking. This gives the crust's edge its burnt look and delicious taste. 
Bert took the aged pizza pans from Gullivers when he sold it in 1965, so by the time he opened Burt's Place in 1989, the seasoned pans were almost 25 years old.
Bert's Well Seasoned Pizza Pans.
Pequod's pan pizza is to die for. I rank it higher than Giordano's, The Original Gino's, Gino's East, Lou Malnati's, Uno's, and, yes, even Burt's Place.

NBC TV Chicago; 
Published February 19, 2024:

Personal Experience
Pequod's is a great informal, cozy date place and the greatest pan pizza anywhere. I took a girlfriend there, her first time, in 1976, and she absolutely loved their pizza. We went back shortly after that. We were seated at the 2-topper table at the front window. While waiting for our salad and pizza order, I commented how cool it would be to live across the street in one of those houses. You could call in your order, go across the street to pick up your order and bring home a scorching hot pizza. 
Well, just as I finished my statement, the house's front door directly across the street opened, and a man crossed the street and came into Pequod's, picked up his order, and went back home with it. We nearly got kicked out of the restaurant because we were laughing so hard, that tears rolled down our cheeks. Truth be told, we were a little loud too. The waitress came to our table, and I managed to tell her why we were laughing. She chuckled and explained that a lot of neighborhood residences walk in for pick up.

If you've ever been to the Morton Grove Pequod's, before Katz sold it in 1986, and used the tiny, and I mean T I N Y, restrooms that, at least the men's room, had the walls painted black and bathroom humor phrases and words were painted in different colors on the walls, and not from customers or taggers. The restroom door was slatted on both the upper and lower half of the door and angled down so you couldn't see inside. Sometimes, you could hear someone expelling gas, making grunting noises, or tinkling sounds. Creepy... but as soon as someone started to laugh or giggle . . . nobody could stop.

When the two-way swinging kitchen doors opened, viewable from only one or two tables in the back, you could see {new} women's undies, bras, and panties hanging from the ceiling. No lie! 
In 1989, Burt and Sharon Katz opened the restaurant "Starback" at 8541 Ferris Avenue in Morton Grove, renamed "Burt's Place because of a trademark conflict with Starbucks.
NOTE: The sign in the right window says, "Morton Grove's 1st and Finest pan Pizza Since 1971." Burt's pizzas were 'pan pizzas." See videos of Burt making his famous pan pizza below. April 1994
Charles Peschke and son George at his Blacksmith Shop at 8541 Ferris in Morton Grove, Illinois, in the late 1800s. The early blacksmith provided essential services to local farmers and industry by crafting specialized tools and repairing anything made of metal, and Horseshoeing was only one part of his work. Charles Peschke also served as one of Morton Grove's first police marshals and helped organize the Morton Grove Volunteer Fire Department. The houses in the background are on Callie Avenue.
Burt's Place building was built in 1912. There is an apartment on the 2nd floor.
Burt was the sole operator in the kitchen, while Sharon was the only waitress, phone-order taker, and front-end manager." Burt believed if you want something done right, do it yourself, and he did.

A photograph of a slice of pizza from Burt's Place was featured on the cover of the October 2007 issue of Saveur magazine with an accompanying article. A huge cover reprint was displayed on the wall beside the kitchen entrance.
He achieved worldwide fame after being featured on a Chicago-themed episode of Anthony Bourdain's television documentary series "No Reservations" in 2009.
Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations"
on the Travel Channel.

In 2012, based upon a survey involving 85,000 votes, the magazine Men's Health editors selected Burt's Place as the USA's Best Pizza Parlor.

Due to Burt's health problems, he closed Burt's Place in 2015.
Meet The Pan Pizza Superhero
Burt's Place, Chicago's Best Viewer's Choice

Burton D. Katz died on April 30, 2016. His wife Sharon survived Burt, their three children, and six grandchildren; he was predeceased by one grandchild. Burt Katz is buried at Waldheim Jewish Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois.
May Burt Katz's memory bring joy to all who knew him and think of him with every bite of pizza you take.
Remembering Burt Katz: The Pizza Show

In 2017, Burt's Place was reopened by Jerry Petrow and John Munao, former futures traders and first-time restaurateurs, who were selected and trained by Burt Katz when he knew he was dying of cancer. Petrow said he wrote down everything Bert told him from memory.

Petrow and Munao used the same fresh ingredients (shopped for every day), recipes, methods, and the pizza pans that Katz left. "There were some rumors that we weren't using the same pans," Munao said. "That is false."
Burt's Pan Pizza

Burt's Place New Interior.
The entrance had a small ramp installed because it was necessary to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act, as are the two newly designed restrooms, to become ADA compliant.

John Munao ventured out independently, taking Burt Katz's caramelized pizza crust secret, and opened Lefty's Pizza Kitchen in Wilmette in 2018. The pizzas are a New York style with the crust being double thin or, as Chicagoans call it, Eastern Style.

Keith Jackson bought Pequod's in Morton Grove in 1986 from Katz for about $300,000 (per the Cook County Assessor's Office). Jackson said the sale price was for the business and the building.

Jackson would buy the building in Chicago's Lincoln Park in 1991 to open the second Pequod's Pizza at 2207 North Clybourn Avenue
When asked if there was any bad blood between himself and Burt Katz, Jackson, a radiant 60-year-old with blue eyes and a peace and love mentality, said, "Let bygones be bygones." However, Jackson added that it was "disappointing that he opened up Burt's Place right up the street from our Morton Grove location." Jackson understands that it's a competitive business, and despite this, his restaurant does very well, especially in the booming Lincoln Park community.

Written with love, Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Hotel Alcazar in Chicago. A "Green Book" Approved Hotel for Negro Guests.

Hotel Alcazar, 3000 Washington Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois. — Tel: VAn Buren 6-7500 (826-7500)
The Hotel Alcazar on Washington Street at Sacramento Avenue in Chicago. 1920s
The Hotel Alcazar was one of the businesses listed in the "Green Book" in 1961-1964 and 1966-1967. In the June 1963 Ebony magazine, Hotel Alcazar was listed with 200 newly furnished rooms with private baths.
The Hotel Alcazar Lobby
The Hotel Alcazar Lobby, 1965
The first edition of the Green Book, officially known as the "Negro Motorist Green Book," was published in 1936, initially as a guide solely to the New York City metro area. 

The popularity of that inaugural issue prompted publisher Victor Hugo Green to expand the Green Book to cover the entire U.S., and eventually destinations outside the country. Aside from the years 1942-1946, when the publication was suspended during World War II, editions were released annually until the final double issue of 1966-67. 

By the mid-1960s, the final issues of the Green Book included listings for previously whites-only hotels including the Conrad Hilton, the Ambassador East, and the Ambassador West, and the famous, 5-star, Drake Hotel.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Real Blackhawk Restaurant's Famous Spinning-Bowl Salad Dressing Recipe, created by Otto Roth.

The Blackhawk Restaurant's Famous Spinning-Bowl Salad was created by Otto Roth and made ahead of time. Owner Don Roth prepares the Spinning-Bowl Salad table-side for diners, including actor Buster Keaton (at the right).
Without argument, the Blackhawk's signature offering was the Spinning-Bowl Salad, a flamboyant presentation with a bowl spinning on a bed of ice as a waiter or waitress proceeded to create it using 21 ingredients. As one waiter once described, "We would spin the bowl, and we would talk as we spun, and add the ingredients and toss the greens. No matter what was happening at the table — even if the guests were deep in discussion or having drinks — everything at the table would stop as we spun the bowl."

NOTICE: Do not skip or substitute a single ingredient or change the proportions the first time you make this.
  1. 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  2. 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  3. 1/2 clove garlic
  4. 1 chopped hard-boiled egg
  5. 1 cup quality extra-virgin olive oil
  6. 1 raw egg
  7. 1 tablespoon + 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  8. 1 tablespoon sugar
  9. 1 1/4 teaspoons white pepper
  10. 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  11. 2 tablespoons freshly chopped chives
  12. 2 tablespoons mayonnaise (do not use lite or fat-free mayo)
  13. 3 ounces of crumbled blue cheese
  14. 3 ounces softened Philadelphia Original or a firm style Cream Cheese
  15. 3/4 teaspoon paprika
  16. 3/4 teaspoon salt
  17. 4 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained 
  18. 4 cups torn romaine lettuce
  19. 4 cups torn salad greens
  20. 5 tablespoons of water 
  21. House-made unseasoned croutons
  • Beat cream cheese and blue cheese in a small bowl until smooth. 
  • Beat in water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is pourable, and set aside
  • Combine egg, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup oil in a blender and mix on medium speed for 15 seconds. 
  • Increase speed to high and add remaining oil in a slow, steady stream, occasionally stopping to scrape down the sides of the container. 
  • Add mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, chives, Worcestershire, salt, paprika, garlic, white pepper, mustard and anchovies, and blend until smooth. 
  • Combine salad greens in a large bowl with enough dressing to coat. 
  • Sprinkle with chopped egg and season with salt and pepper; add the croutons. Add 2/3 tablespoon cheese mixture and toss 
The remaining dressing and cheese mixture can be covered and kept in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Otto Roth's Blackhawk Restaurant, Chicago, Illinois.


The History of the "Original" Blackhawk Restaurant on Wabash Avenue in Chicago's Loop.

86th Infantry Division
The Blackhawk restaurant satisfied diners' 
sophisticated palates and music lovers.

From the moment Otto Roth opened the doors in the shadow of the 'L' at 139 North Wabash Avenue on December 27, 1920, the same year that Prohibition began in January until his son Don Roth closed it in 1984, a memorable 64-year run. 

The Blackhawk, a legend to several generations of Chicagoans, was named for the 86th Infantry Division Blackhawk in World War I to honor Chief Black Hawk, who assisted the U.S. Army in Illinois and Wisconsin during the early nineteenth century.
Looking South at the Blackhawk Restaurant on Wabash Avenue, Chicago's Loop, 1952. Note the name of the Blackhawk bar, "INJUNBAR."
Looking North at the Blackhawk Restaurant on Wabash Avenue, Chicago's Loop. 1952
Father and son were savvy innovators, tapping into diners' desires and setting trends before the word "trendsetter" became part of America's vernacular.
Looking South on Wabash from Randolph at Don Roth's Blackhawk Restaurant in 1979.
The main floor 600-seat dining room had magnificent murals, rich wood panels, and crystal chandeliers. An extensive continental menu was served by impeccable waiters to patrons seated at tables gleaming with white tablecloths, cloth napkins, and crystal, silver, with crested china. Classical musicians played from the balcony as diners ate below. 

With Prohibition in place, Otto searched for a way to attract more customers. In September  1926, he abandoned the classical music format. He had a stage and a large dance floor installed. Otto booked the young dance band Carlton Coon-Joe Sanders and their Kansas City Nighthawks to play for two seasons. Success extended the orchestra's booking into the next five years at The Blackhawk.

The men's grill downstairs was a rathskeller (restaurant in a basement), symbolic of a diner, where lower-priced lunches and dinners were served quickly at both tables and counters. Once seated, a menu section offered some 30-minute lunch choices.

According to John Drury, author of "Dining in Chicago" (1931): "If you like to dance between the soup and the entree (which connoisseurs claim is bad practice), we recommend the Blackhawk, at the east end of the bright light area (139 North Wabash Avenue); across the street from Marshall Field & Co. department store. Here is a luxurious dining room where the food and the music are both of high order and where you may see happy and not so happy couples and have an all-around good time. Coon-Sanders orchestra will tickle your toes if nothing else will. Dancing is from 6:30 PM to 1:30 AM, and there is no cover charge at any time. They serve a $1.50 table d'hote  (fixed price)  dinner that meets with the approval of Blackhawk patrons."

Many orchestra leaders and musicians found fame at The Blackhawk, like Bob Crosby and his Bob Cats, Jack Teagarden, Les Brown and others.

Later, when radio became popular in the 1930s, Otto Roth sponsored broadcasts directly from The Blackhawk, making it known for its entertainment. "Live! From the Blackhawk!" became so popular that entertainers like Louis Prima, Glenn Miller, Perry Como, Kay Kyser, Chico Marx, Ozzie Nelson, Doris Day, Ted Weems, and in 1929, a 4-year-old Mel Tormé entertained dinners and dancers alike. 
Melvin Howard Torme was born in Chicago, Illinois, to immigrant Russian Jewish parents, whose surname had been Torma." However, the name was changed at Ellis Island to "Torme." A Child prodigy, he first sang professionally at age 4 with the Coon-Sanders Original Nighthawk Orchestra, singing "You're Driving Me Crazy" at Chicago's Blackhawk restaurant.

The radio show became so famous that Western Union put a telegraph machine on the bandstand to receive song requests from the states east of the Rocky Mountains.

The Blackhawk survived the Great Depression and Prohibition, both ended in 1933, because of their entertainment choices and food quality.

In 1938, Don Roth took over the restaurant's operation after his father had a heart attack. At that time, Don Roth hired managers to operate the restaurant while he served in the Marine Corps. He returned to The Blackhawk as owner-manager in 1945, one year after his father's death.

As the big band era ended by 1950, Don Roth shifted The Blackhawk's focus from entertainment to food. Catering to business executives, the restaurant food focused on serving large portions of meat, such as prime rib with potatoes and salads. 

In 1952, The Blackhawk was known as the venue "where food is the show." Don Roth introduced his signature 21-ingredient Spinning-Bowl Salad, which he prepared and served tableside with flare from a rolling cart.
"Live! From the Blackhawk!" aired live on WGN Radio, 720AM on the radio dial; a 50,000 Watt "Clear Station" reaching 38 states at night. 
Menu Cover
Otto Roth had become one of the first restaurateurs to mix dinner and dancing. Otto was a savvy promoter, attracting female shoppers for a "dainty lunch," executives dining with clients, and sweltering Chicagoans to enjoy "cooled air."

Otto Roth's ads invited women shoppers to stop in for a respectable and "dainty lunch," executives to dine with clients, and sweltering Chicagoans to enjoy the Blackhawk's "naturally cooled air." 

When Otto Roth died suddenly in 1944, his son, Don, took over. Don Roth was a University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana graduate, fresh from serving as a lieutenant in the Marine Corps during World War II, took over the restaurant.

"We were a hearty restaurant," said Don, "But we knew that we had to replace the big bands with something revolutionary if we were to survive." During Don's reign, he did away with the stage and live music, preferring to "Made Food the Show."
Don's tableside theatrics featured prime rib and roast beef, served from food carts rolled through the dining room. His signature Spinning-B
owl Salad was set on ice and surrounded by all the ingredients, including their secret "spinning-bowl" dressing, which he later bottled and sold via local grocery stores. His signatures of the restaurant included a 15-shrimp cocktail and Boston scrod.

The Real Blackhawk Restaurant's Famous Spinning-Bowl Salad Dressing Recipe.

The restaurant was also the first to have art exhibits in the 1940s, a salad bar, and one of the first restaurants to have black and white waiters working alongside each other, claims Ann Roth, Don's wife.
NOTE: The Tip Top Inn Restaurant in Chicago's Pullman Building at 79 E. Adams Street, employed negroes as waiters, sometime in the late 1890s, and soon after employeed negro woman for their more reasonabley priced Black Cat Inn Restaurant. The waitstaff was segrated by sex.
"He was a very imaginative person and was extremely creative. My husband, Don, loved the business and was very charismatic," said Ann.

The restaurant, a legend to several generations, was named for the U.S. Army's Blackhawk infantry division, which was named for Chief Black Hawk.

A stink bomb was tossed into the restaurant on opening night, which cleared the restaurant until "a lake breeze supplied a new atmosphere," according to news reports, sending guests back into The Blackhawk to continue celebrating. 

On January 10, 1952, when a statewide horse meat scandal erupted, civic authorities closed the Blackhawk Restaurant.[1] Roth challenged the charges in court, where a jury found the restaurant not guilty. Upon reopening, business exploded.

While in college I worked lunch in the more informal downstairs [dining] room (where lots of students worked). Don Roth was a very good boss and a smart man. An anti-Semitic diner came in about once a week and said bad things to me about Jews. I told him [Don Roth], and he said to show him the man the next time he comes in. So when he came in next, I pointed him out to Mr. Roth, who immediately walked over and told the man to leave the table and not return to the restaurant. I was so proud of Mr. Roth and relieved. He was a good businessman, a socially savvy person, and a good listener.    —Ms. M.C.

Don Roth closed the Original Blackhawk Restaurant on August 31, 1984.
Don Roth prepares the Spinning-Bowl Salad for diners, including
actor Buster Keaton (at the right).
The secret recipe for spinning bowl dressing was so popular Don Roth bottled it.
Don Roth opened several other restaurants on Michigan Avenue, Pearson Street, and Wabash Avenue north of the Chicago River, but they were all short-lived.

"Don Roth's Blackhawk" at 61 North Milwaukee Avenue, Wheeling, Illinois, opened in 1969 and ran 40 years before closing in 2009. Much of the original Blackhawk Restaurant's memorabilia became part of the Wheeling location.

Don Roth's Blackhawk in Wheeling closed on December 31, 2009.

Don Roth, one of Taste of Chicago's creators, was also involved in national and local restaurant organizations, often serving in leadership roles. Don Roth died on November 21, 2003. 

As 1951 turned into 1952, many Chicagoans noticed their meat tasted different. And now, the reason was evident a couple of weeks into the new year. They'd been eating horse meat, and Federal officials had been looking into meat sales around Chicago. Today, the papers reported that another state meat inspector had been fired for refusing to cooperate with the feds. That made seven.

The investigation started with a packing plant in Lake Zurich. The feds claimed the "pure beef" shipped from there was 40% horse. The plant had processed over 10,000 pounds of meat a week, most wound up in Chicago.

Simple economics was the reason in 1952, beef sold for 59¢ a pound. A pound of horse meat went for 14¢. The feds had shut down the Lake Zurich plant, but other area packers were still under suspicion. And the Chicago mob seemed to be behind everything.

State meat inspectors had been bribed to look the other way, and any retailers complaining about getting strange meat were warned to keep their mouths shut. As a result, Chicagoans had consumed up to 4.5 million pounds of horse meat in the past two years.

News of the scandal had an immediate impact. Hamburger sales in Chicago dropped 50%, and fruits and vegetables were suddenly in demand. Meanwhile, city food inspectors became hyper-vigilant. The world-famous Blackhawk Restaurant was found to serve horse meat and had its license pulled. There was also political fallout. Governor Adlai Stevenson, a Democrat, was running for re-election, and the parade of disgraced meat inspectors didn't credit his administration. Though the governor wasn't involved in the scandal, the Republicans now joked about "Adlai-burgers."

The horse meat probe led to several indictments. In the end, only a few people did any prison time. The Blackhawk reopened, and Adlai Stevenson became his party's nominee for President of the United States. He lost that election, but horse meat was not a factor.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Chicago in the Early 1800s.

An Area in Transition.
Chicago's early history, consecutive movements of population, the encroachment of commerce and industry as the settlement crossed the north branch of the river and sprawled northward, have all left their impressions.

Indians camped along the river where great factories smoked and thousands of vehicles clamor at the bridges. Indeed, it is just over two hundred and forty years ago, as tradition has it, since a black man from San Marc, Haiti, bearing the ornate name of Jean Baptiste Point de Sable (the "du" of Point du Sable is a misnomer. It is an American corruption of "de" as pronounced in French. "Jean Baptiste Point du Sable" first appears long after his death), built the first log cabin in 1779 of what was to be the settlement called Chécagou, on the north bank of the river.

Antoine Ouilmette was the first permanent white settler of Chicago building a cabin at the mouth of the Chicago River near du Sable's cabin in July of 1790 (see illustration below)

Du Sable's cabin was later acquired by John Kinzie in 1804. Kinzie's cabin became the center of a little settlement near the stockade of the long-vanished Fort Dearborn
The Kinzie Mansion. The House in the background is that of Antoine Ouilmette. Illustration from 1827.
Successive owners and occupants include:
  • Jean Lalime/William Burnett: 1800-1803, owner. (A careful reading of the Pointe de Sable-Lalime sales contract indicates that William Burnett was not just signing as a witness but also financing the transaction, therefore controlling ownership.)
  • John Kinzie's Family: 1804-1828 (except during 1812-1816).
  • Widow Leigh & Mr. Des Pins: 1812-1816.
  • John Kinzie's Family: 1817-1829.
  • Anson Taylor: 1829-1831 (residence and store).
  • Dr. E.D. Harmon: 1831 (resident & medical practice).
  • Jonathan N. Bailey: 1831 (resident and post office).
  • Mark Noble, Sr.: 1831-1832.
  • Judge Richard Young: 1832 (circuit court).
  • Unoccupied and decaying beginning in 1832.
  • Nonexistent by 1835.
After the War of 1812 and the Fort Dearborn Massacre, a village grew up between the northern and southern branches of the river and Lake Michigan. 
With the dredging of the harbor in 1833, the village became a town. Wharves were built along both banks of the river. Chicago's first packing house was built at this time. Immigrants from the East came crowding in, and by 1837, the year in which Chicago was incorporated as a city, it had become a community of several thousand. It had pushed northward to North Avenue and Lincoln Park. It was expected that Kinzie Street would be the business street of the new city, and Chicago's first railroad, the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad, was brought down the center of Kinzie Street in 1847. The lumber business was then located along the river, and things were in a state of boom. But Chicago was still a frontier town. 

In 1845 there were only about 5,000 white people between Chicago and the Pacific Ocean.
The United States and Territories in 1840-1842
Note: There was no California in 1840. The 1st California Census was in 1850 and reported 92,597 citizens after the California Gold Rush in 1848. The 1890 Census was the first one to count Indigenous people throughout the country.
On the northwest corner of Michigan Boulevard and Lake Street was a very large, vacant field, which was usually filled with camping parties, and whole communities migrating from the East to the West. It was common to see a long line of prairie schooners drive into this field, with cows tied behind the covered wagons. There they would unload for the night. There was always mystery and charm about their evening campfires.

The greatest excitement was the arrival of the weekly boat from Buffalo, New York. These boats brought many supplies and our only news from the outside world. In those days the great West Side, as we know it now, did not exist; and even the North Side seemed like a separate town because there were only one or two bridges connecting the two sides of town.

In the decade and a half before the Civil War, the city grew rapidly, and by 1860 there were 29,922 people living north of the river. During the years between 1850 and 1860, nearly half of Chicago's increase in population was by foreign immigration, as it was also between 1860 and 1870. 

And while previous to 1860, the population of the North Side was mainly Indians, the first statistics available on the composition of Chicago's population by wards, those for 1866, show that there were then a considerable number of Irish and Germans living in the North Division. The Irish, the first of five waves of immigration that were to sweep over the Near North Side, began coming soon after the Irish.

The commercial importance of the North Branch continued to grow. The tanning and meat-packing industries were located along the river. The lumber business was rapidly increasing; warehouses were rapidly being built. In 1857 Chicago's first iron and steel industry began on the banks of the Chicago River with the opening of the North Chicago Rolling Mills Company, about two and a half miles northwest of the city's center

Later, as railroads came into the city, a number of machine shops were built on Clark, Wells, State, Erie, Kinzie, and Division streets and on Chicago and North avenues, thus binding the North Side more closely to the activities of the city as a whole. 

Starting in 1858, horse-drawn streetcars began to run lines on Clark, Wells, and Larrabee streets and across Chicago Avenue and Division Street, run by the Chicago City Railway Company and the North Chicago City Railway Company.
Although the Chicago Surface Lines built some replica vehicles in the 1930s, North Chicago City Railway Company's Street Railroad car № 8 is not among them. The original, built in 1859, we see it here in demonstration service during the 1948 and 1949 Chicago Railroad Fair (link includes both years' Official Guide Books in PDF) on the lakefront. This car № 8 is preserved at the Illinois Railway Museum.
Meanwhile, some small retail businesses were springing up on the streets near the river. 
From Schiller Street North to 12th Street (Roosevelt Road) South Side. 1868
The tendency to segregate the segregation of population on the basis of race, nationality, and economic status, which is an inevitable accompaniment of the growth of the city, was becoming evident at this early date. The more well-to-do and fashionable element, the Irish and German immigrants, the laboring population, and a small group of riff-raff and transients, were beginning to live in groups to themselves and to characterize certain streets, sections, and divisions of the North Side. 

The Near North Side has always been, more or less, the fashionable residence district. In the 1860s, the fashionable and aristocratic residence section of Chicago on the North Side was in the district from Chicago Avenue south to Michigan Street (Hubbard Street), and from Clark Street east to Cass Street (Wabash Avenue). Residences on Ohio, Ontario, Erie, Superior, Rush, Cass, Pine (Michigan Avenue), Dearborn, and North State streets appear frequently in the "society columns" and Chicago directories of the 1860s. On these streets, the leading families of the early settlers and the early aristocracy lived, with South Michigan Boulevard the fashionable street of the day. It was not until the 1890s that Lake Shore Drive became 'the' place to live.

One of these early aristocracy writes:

The North Side was "home," and a lovely, homelike place it was. The large grounds and beautiful shade-trees about so many residences gave a sense of space, rest, flowers, sunshine and shadows, that hardly belongs nowadays to the idea of a city. There was great friendliness, and much simple, charming living.
 Over between Clark, Illinois, Dearborn, and Indiana streets stood the old North Side Market, where the men of the families often took their market-baskets in the morning, while the "virtuous woman" stayed at home "and looked well to the ways of her household." 

Another institution of our day was the custom of sitting on the front steps though even then there were those who rather scorned that democratic meeting place. But for those of us who did not rejoice in porches and large grounds, they had their joys…. In fact, it was even possible for unconventional people like ourselves to carry out chairs and sit on the board platforms built across the ditches that ran along each side of the street, and on which carriages drove up to the sidewalks. 

Of course there were "high teas," when our mothers and fathers were regaled with "pound to a pound" preserves, chicken salad, escalloped oysters, pound-cake, fruit-cake, and all other cakes known to womankind; and where they played old-fashioned whist and chess. 

...Parties usually began about half-past seven or eight o'clock, and "the ball broke" generally about eleven or twelve o'clock; where there was no dancing it ended at ten or eleven o'clock.
 Of course there was no "organized charity," as we know it nowadays, but there was much of that now despised "basket charity," when friendships were formed between rich and poor.
Between Clark and Wells Streets, south of Chicago Avenue, was a neighborhood of storekeepers and merchants, while west of Wells lived the laboring people. In this area, there were a number of laborers' boarding houses and cheap saloons. At this time, there was nothing but a sandy waste between Cass Street (Wabash Avenue) and the lakefront.

And there was an unsavory population on the sand flats at the mouth of the river and immediately along its banks, known as “Shanty Town,” and ruled over by the “Queen of the Sands,” Emma "Ma" Streeter. A memorable event of the decade was the raid on the “Sands” led by “Long John” Wentworth, then-mayor, when the police razed the Sands brothels amid the mingled cheers and hisses of the populace. 

The Irish had settled along the river, to the south and west. The settlement extended as far east as State Street immediately along the river, but most of the Irish lived between Kinzie and Erie, in the vicinity of old Market Street. 

In 1853, William B. Ogden, a Chicago real estate developer, built a channel to provide a more straightforward alternative to the Chicago River’s winding North Branch. The result was an island, the only island in Chicago. This river settlement along the North Branch was known as "Kilgubbin," or more often, as "the Patch". It quickly became a haven for Irish immigrants who were so poor they couldn’t afford proper housing. The island was dubbed Kilgubbin, after the area most of them were originally from. Taking a cue from the life they left behind in Europe, they built flimsy wooden homes with gardens and farms where they raised cabbage and vegetables and livestock. As the city grew around them, the island got a few factories, but other than that, it barely changed. Chicagoans came to see the residents as backward, treating them with a mixture of pity and mockery, so they called Kilgubbin “Goose Island.” 

The Irish were then mostly laborers, not having been in America long enough to have exploited their flair for politics. However, they were already displaying their love of a fight, and a solidly Irish regiment was recruited from Kilgubbin during the Civil War. Kilgubbin was a squatters’ village and contained within it a lawless element. In an article printed in the Chicago Times in August of 1865, some account is given of Kilgubbin and its population:
At the head of the list of the squatter villages of Chicago stands "Kilgubbin," the largest settlement within its limits. It has a varied history, having been the terror of constables, sheriffs, and policemen. It numbered several years ago many thousand inhabitants of all ages and habits, besides large droves of geese, goslings, pigs, and rats. It was a safe retreat for criminals, policemen not venturing to invade its precincts, or even cross the border, without having a strong reserve force.
The Germans, on the other hand, were gardeners rather than laborers. Very few went into business, though there were three breweries owned by Germans where the Chicago Water Tower's pumping station now stands. But the majority of the Germans lived north of Chicago Avenue and east of Clark Street, in cottages on small farms or gardens, and did truck farming. There were German families scattered along Clark, La Salle, and Wells streets. And the German element, for a time, found the center of its social activities in the vicinity of the German Theater, at the corner of Wells and Indiana Streets (Franklin Boulevard). This theater was supported by a German musical society, offered "the first purely musical entertainment ever presented in Chicago," and continued to present dramatic sketches in the German language for years.

The city limits extended at this time, 1860-70, to North Avenue. But until after the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, the area north of Division Street, and even north of Chicago Avenue to the west, was practically still the "country."

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.