8 things I never knew about the South Loop (and I thought I knew everything)

8 things I never knew about the South Loop (and I thought I knew everything)
The Forgotten Chicago Tour Group at Cullerton and Prairie Photot/Bruce Oltman

I thought I knew everything about the South Loop.  But I found out yesterday that there are eight things I didn't know, whilst on a Forgotten Chicago tour--led by Jacob Kaplan and Patrick Steffes--of the neighborhood I've lived in just four months short of 20 years.

And here's the list:

  1. In 1909, Bertha Palmer made a 198-year lease on a building she owned at 1301 S. Michigan; today that building houses the Nepal House restaurant.
  2. The building at 1340 S. Michigan, which had a long life as the Cook County domestic violence courthouse, and which now houses a Giordano's and soon-to-be finished lofts, had an initial life in the 1920s as an aeronautics school, serving many African-Americans.  Thus, the name of the newly renovated residential building:  Aviation Lofts.
  3. The building that used to stand on the southeast corner of Roosevelt and Michigan was once called the Town House Hotel and there was a Travelodge across the street and down the block closer to 13th Street.  The Travelodge, built in 1964, was the last of the "Shoreline Motels" built in Chicago.  The demolished Avenue Motel on the northwest corner of Roosevelt and Michigan hosted a secret meeting of Republicans in 1964, the purpose of which was to draft Barry Goldwater to run for president.
  4. I knew all about the Illinois Central electrical substation a bit south of 16th Street on Prairie, but I didn't know it still provides electricity (we could hear the hum) or that it was designed by famous architect (and Frank Lloyd Wright employee) of such structures, Hermann von Holst.
  5. I also had no idea that the mid-century industrial building just a tad south of the substation was originally built for Eastman Kodak.
  6. The industrial structure right across from the westernmost building of McCormick Place at 23rd and Indiana was once a Cadillac service and parts center.
  7. The Ford dealership at 24th and Michigan (the last of the automobile dealerships to close on Chicago's Motor Row) will be moving north to Elston Avenue some time soon.  (I thought it was simply going out of business.)  And speaking of car dealerships, I learned there has been talk of three vintage long-shuttered historic dealerships (including an earlier Ford) a couple of blocks north being  demolished to make room for the McPier/Depaul redevelopment plan in the area.  Hello, Chicago preservationists!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Where are you???????????
  8. The abandoned but very kitschy "Tiki Room" on 24th Street, a little west of Michigan, was originally a lamp factory.

Once our group crossed the expressway, and continued the tour, albeit officially out of the South Loop, I still learned four things I never knew.  Like the news that the original building on the IIT campus, which was called the Armour Institute, was shaken during the Red Line revamp last year and had to be evacuated.  And it's still evacuated without plans for the future.  Again, preservationists!!!!!!!  Where are you???????

I also found out that  a very classy Studebaker Auto dealership once stood in what is now the southwest corner of  Mercy Hospital and Medical Center at 2525 S. Michigan.

And that the same architect who built the glassy, classy residential complex several years back at 31st and Michigan also built the glassy, classy buildings that I have often found somewhat interesting in downtown Evanston.

Last but not least, the architect who built the mid-century  industrial building at 25th and Wabash--made of limestone and granite--built himself a home that looked somewhat similar on the 1400 block of North Astor Street.

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