Monday, March 24, 2014

Chicago, Circa 1945

A few weeks ago, a 1940s-era 32-minute film extolling the virtues of Chicago came to light.  If you haven't had a chance to look at it, you really should make the time.  There's not a lot of Uptown in it, but it's startling how many scenes around the city look familiar, and how many are unrecognizable:
  • A beautiful waterfront and skyline -- without the Sears Tower, the John Hancock, or the Aon Building.
  • Winding, busy Lake Shore Drive -- pedestrians walking calmly along the sidewalks just three feet from the cars with no barrier to protect them.  
  • Personally, the biggest change for us was hearing Chicago boasted about as a manufacturing and production mecca, showing massive factories on the West Side, the South Side steel plants, and the unforgettable visual of thousands of penned animals awaiting their fate at the stockyards.
Aside from Montrose Beach scenes near the end (strangely done minus narration), the only Uptown scene shown is the corner of Lawrence and Broadway, described as an "outlying shopping district." You can see the building we know as the Broadway Grill advertising "LOANS" with a Santa Fe Railroad billboard on top of it.  You can see the Uptown Theater's roof marquee (long gone). The familiar shape of the Bridgeview Bank is there, but there are shops where we now see drive-through banking.  There appears to be a dance hall sign where La Fiesta Mexicana is now.  It's very brief, around the 15:50 mark.

You can see the film on Vimeo, and read about it in The Atlantic.  It's a rare opportunity to experience Chicago as we would have if we'd lived right where we do now, but 70 years ago.

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