29 March, 2008

Pure Oil Gas Station, Dempster & Chicago, c.1930s

When we lived in Uptown Chicago, I was a fanatic for Uptown memorabilia. I amassed quite the collection of postcards and vintage photos. Eventually, after we sell the condo we still have there, Ted and I plan on buying a two-flat in Uptown as an investment property. So I still collect Uptown souvenirs and grow the collection, and we're working hard to keep our connections to the Uptown community strong.

But, not surprisingly, I find myself becoming more and more enamored with my new home town. For those who may not know, it's a college town, home to Northwestern University. Although a suburb of Chicago, the first one north as you leave the city, we have our own vibrant downtown center with tons of restaurants, coffee houses, and book stores. We love it here; I even think our dog, Maggie, is happier. (Note she's now "our dog" and no longer just "Mom's dog".) And because I'm a history junkie, I've started gathering historic images of our new town, too. The two above are a couple I'm currently bidding on on eBay--wish me luck on winning them! They show a gas station on the corner of Dempster and Chicago.

I'm not sure what exactly it is that attracts me to the 1920s/1930s. The music? The fashion? The architecture? Maybe it's all of the above. It tends to be the period I zero in on. In any case, I love knowing how a street looked before, what once stood on a spot before some developer built a condo complex or, heaven forbid, another Starbucks on it. (By the way, my best guess is that there is now a Starbucks on the site of this gas station!) My interest in history definitely begins to wane around the 1970s; I wonder if that's because any history or development from that period on happened during my lifetime.


Jen said...

I love historic images....there is a web site that The Petch House mentioned the other day. called Shorpy.....going to find it.....be rightback......


Good luck with your bids....:)

Anonymous said...

Hi Joanne-
If you're interested in photos of the Main Street Shopping District around where my husband's jewelry store is located (it's been there since the 30s), I think I can find a couple of those--I don't know how good they'll be though. Glad you like Evanston! I love it too; I really wanted to find a place there, but I had to settle for working there instead!

Joanne said...

Jenni--Thank's for the link for Shorpy. They definitely have some cool images. I think some of them come from the Library of Congress online catalog, which is really amazing. Check it out if you haven't already.

Denise--I would LOVE to see whatever images you have. You can e-mail me at blog(a)compassrose.com.

Jocelyn said...

I've spent some time on the Library of Congress website too- it is very cool. It is funny how some of us tend to zero in on certain time periods. Mine is turn of the century and around the time of the World's Fair in Chicago.

After I read "Devil in the White City", I became hooked and want to read more and more about Chicago during that time.

Recently I read "Sin in the Second City," which was about the red light district and just finished "Charlatan," which actually was more in the 1920s-30s and about quackery. I just love the stories about what people's struggles were back then. I'm always amazed at what was accomplished given conditions and people dying so young etc... It just amazes me. It really seems like back then people had something to prove and I wish we were more that way now.

Re: Uptown, do you ever read any of the blogs over there like Uptown Update etc...? Quite an active community there. We have that in RP too and I suspect Evanston does as well.

Joanne said...

Jocelyn--Ted recently finished reading "Devil in the White City" and has plans for "Sin in the Second City." We have a small collection of vintage Chicago books, although we haven't decided yet where to set them up in the new place. At the condo, we had them on display in a bookcase in our guest bathroom!

I haven't read up on the
Columbia Exhibition as much as I have the Century of Progress. I even have a photo of my grandmother posing as a fan dancer at the fair! I should post that sometime for no other reason than it's cool.

Re: Uptown. Yeah, we do read the community boards; I used to read Buena Park Neighbors, but there hasn't been as much activity there since Uptown Update started. Uptown Update tends to irritate me more often than not, however, because there's just so much negativity on it. The moderator is anonymous, most posts are anonymous, and I'm never sure how many people are really in a discussion--and people can be downright mean. Still, I tune in a couple of times of week.

Then I have an Uptown history blog. I get hundreds of hits on that a day, but not much in the way of commentary. That's at: http://uptownhistory.compassrose.org

I haven't been able to tap into the same community activism in Evanston yet, but we have only been living here a month. I asked a few of my new neighbors for information on the block club, making the assumption there was one based on my experiences in Uptown. There's a block party, but no real block club from what I can tell. Maybe I'll have to start one!