Old Chicago Revisited

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As ALA Annual returns to Chicago this month, it will be my second time there for a library conference.  I enjoyed seeing the city when Annual was held there 4 years ago. I hadn’t been to Chicago since I was a high school freshman.  My parents and I lived south of the city for a year, and we frequently visited.  As I did 4 years ago, I plan to do some historical sight seeing.  Below are a few local history books I have read and enjoyed about Chicago.

Chicago: A Biography by Dominic Pacyga

Chicago Fire Map - 1871

Chicago Fire Map – 1871

From a seasonal hunting ground of Native American Indians to a frontier trading post to a major metropolitan city, the history of Chicago is told as a biography.  I learned a lot about the city reading this book. The 1871 fire is only one event of many in Chicago’s history. Pacyga is a native of the city.  Maps and black and white illustrations included.

Then & Now: Chicago’s Loop by Janice A. Knox & Heather O. Belcher

Originally published in 2002, the famed Loop is shown in past and present photographs. The name dates to 1882 when an old cable car route ran through what was then the business district.  Some places have changed since the photos were snapped while others still remain intact today.

Marshall Field’s by Gayle Soucek: THE department store that helped define Chicago.

The store was founded by Marshall Field, a transplant from Massachusetts. At the time of Field’s arrival in 1856, Chicago was a bustling city. However there weren’t many stores to shop. Field changed that. Harry G. Selfridge, founder of Selfridges in London, got his start here. (His life story is the subject of “Mr. Selfridge” on PBS’s “Masterpiece Classic”) My parents and I visited the famed store a few times.

As an aside, I was shocked to see the same building renamed as Macy’s in 2009.  It was bad enough seeing Hecht’s, a longtime D.C. department store chain, renamed as Macy’s!*

State Street by Robert P. Ledermann

If you went to shop in Chicago, this street is where you did it.  Take a look back of what it was like to be on State Street and what’s ahead for the famed street. It includes a chapter about other well known stores and lots of wonderful photos.

Lithuanian Chicago by Justin G. Riskus

Lithuanians were among the immigrants of various nationalities who settled in Chicago during its history. Released in January by Arcadia Publishing, this book is a photographical history of the Lithuanian-American community.  If you have a Lithuanian relative or two who settled in Chicago in your family tree, this book should be of interest.

Encyclopedia of Chicago: an online resource about Chicago with maps and other special features

In Old Chicago

In Old Chicago

Finally, if you have a chance to see it, the Oscar winning 1937 movie “In Old Chicago” is a fictional dramatization about the O’Leary family and the 1871 fire. It is in black and white; it is currently available on DVD.

Whether you’ve been to Chicago previously or going for the first time, enjoy visiting the city and see you at McCormick Place!

* Two of Hecht’s sister stores were Filene’s and Kaufmann’s, based in Boston and Pittsburgh respectively.

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