I've just finished reading--looking at, actually--a remarkable new book: "good old neon" by Nick Freeman, a former advertising man turned painter and photographer who lives in St. Charles. It contains scores of beautiful, colorful and vibrant photos he took of neon signs--some lost, some still here--from around the Chicago area.
I realize that these days the South Loop has a dirth of neon. Some of the most notable signs in the book were in my neighborhood at one time. And I miss them.
Like the sign on the former Hotel Roosevelt at Roosevelt and Wabash. I regret never entering the place when it was a fleabag at the end of its life--before becoming an affordable apartment building. I do miss the nice flashing neon sign that graced the building before it turned "respectable."
Then there was the good old Pacific Garden Mission at Harrison and State--now the site of the new Jones College Prep. For decades, one had to do a little praying to get a roof over one's head and a good meal. And I presume religious services are still a part of the landscape at the new location at 14th and Canal.
The/Gay Villa is gone, too. And pretty much forgotten at Cermak and State. I never knew it existed until I read the book, and started feeling nostalgic about what the 'hood has lost in the way of good old neon. (Notice the establishment tried to obscure the "gay" in its name at some point in time, in favor of the word "The.")
We South Loopers are lucky because just beyond our "official" South Loop borders, there are three neon signs that are still there for the looking. The Berghoff on Adams, just west of State; Central Camera on Wabash, just south of Adams; and last but not least, Live Poultry at 244 W. 26th Street.
But I say, instead of regaling what was or tracking down what is, the book, which was recently mailed to me from Lake Claremont Press is a best bet for appreciating what our city and its neighboring communities has/had to offer in terms of the "gaudy, garish and spectacular." The beautiful pictures tell the whole story.
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