A walk through Bucktown

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Photo: Peter V. Bella

Walking through neighborhoods always provides visual treats, especially to a Chicago history buff.

While walking down Armitage, in the Bucktown neighborhood, I came across two Schilitz tied houses just mere blocks apart.

Tied houses were the result of liquor license reform during the late 1800s in Chicago. The city council raised the cost of liquor licenses to prohibitive highs. Some claim it was to reduce the number of saloons to appease prohibitionists and religious reformers. Others claim it was aimed at immigrants, especially Germans, who were obtaining wealth and power.

The breweries responded by bringing an English tradition to Chicago, the tied house. The brewery would build and furnish the saloons and buy the licenses. In return, the owner would be required to exclusively sell the brewer's brand of beer.

Schlitz brewery dominated tied houses in Chicago. Tied houses employed high quality architectural design, providing an attractive place for public drinking. Some tied houses also provided rooms upstairs. Chicago has over forty of these buildings, most by Schlitz.

Schlitz Brewery had a historic and humanitarian tie to Chicago as well. After the Great Chicago Fire, Schlitz sent a continual stream of beer wagons loaded with barrels of drinking water to Chicago. Allegedly this humanitarian effort made "Schiltz, the beer that made Milwaukee famous".

You find bright spots of color in signage while walking the streets along with iconic establishments, like Margies Candies on Western and Armitage. Margies Candies is known far and wide. Local and international celebrities like Al Capone, the Beatles, Kim Novak, William Holden, and Roy Rodgers, to name a few, stopped in Margies.

In the older neighborhoods there is a wide variety of home designs. Many are retrofitted due to rehab, but there are still some original frame and graystone two flats.

Then there are architectural masterpieces, like the John L. Rumpf building on the 1600 block of North California. After hours futile search, I could not come up with information on this building. It could have been built in 1903 and owned by an insurance broker.


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