August 22, 2002

Raise a stein! The Heidelberger Fass, circa 1995.

According to the 2000 census, in North Center, my old neighborhood, the median household income increased 32% in the 1990s. And the price of a home increased 106%.

I'm sure this is music to the ears of the real estate developers. For us, however, the jump in home price was part of the reason we moved away when we finally had the wherewithal to buy. Unless we wanted to buy a condo looking out onto a used-car lot, we could no longer afford to live in our own neighborhood.

Ironically, we chose that neighborhood for its lack of trendiness back in 1995. Fresh from a college town in Indiana, we wanted to live among families and kids and old people. We wanted to live as far away from Lincoln Park/Wrigleyville trendiness as we possibly could. We liked the area because it seemed so...rollerblade-free.

Those days, it seems, are gone.

I thought about these statistics the other day when I was walking home up North Lincoln Avenue. This was the first Chicago street I really got to know when I lived here. It had landmarks that I could recognize (the Lincoln Restaurant, with its enormous head of Abe out front; the Sulzer Library, further on up the road; and, eventually, the weird series of turns that leads you out onto Western and then back onto Lincoln at Foster) during a long walk. And it had legions of interesting storefront shops.

It's a different street now, definitely. With a Starbucks on the corner of Lincoln, Damen, and Irving Park, there's no turning back. Gentrification is here, and if you don't like it, you'd better move someplace else.

Lots of the businesses I remember fondly did just that; still more folded up quietly and disappeared. Here are a few North Lincoln Avenue establishments that are long gone:

Galgano's on Irving Park (OK, not technically on Lincoln, but it was on the way): In the mid-'90s, this was the home of the $1 LP. I stocked up on '80s vinyl here. They've relocated to Gurnee. Also in this building were the kind folks at Plass, from whom I thankfully bought an air conditioner in the hot summer of '96.

Little Seneca, on the corner of Lincoln and Irving Park, whose signs boasted "Best Tacos in Tawn" and "Hat Dogs"; during one of the several times they were shut down by the health department, a sign on the door appeared reading "Closet."*

Mia's Diner, across the street from Little Seneca; some years ago, this brightly painted restaurant with the nondescript menu made way for a Blockbuster.

Douglas the Giant TV, where we dragged our electronics to be fixed several times. $300K condos are on that block now.

Also in the Douglas building were the typewriter repair shop (not much business in recent years, alas) and the tiny second-floor bowling alley, where it was always busy.

The Philco store a block north of there is still there, but many of its neighbors have departed. I was sad to note the departure of JC Electronics, where Eric and I carried a failing lamp to be repaired for a mere $10.

Also in that area was a video store in the mid-'90s, where handwritten signs exhorted you NOT to rewind the tapes, because your equipment would ruin it, thank you very much. (They had a good selection, though.)

Further north on Lincoln was the Psychic Museum, long gone now.

Across the street from the Jewel grocery there's now an art gallery, but there used to be the first hair salon I ever frequented in Chicago. The owner, a fading beauty, kept a large photograph of herself in her glory days hanging in the entryway. It creeped me out so much I never went back.

Don't get me wrong--I love my current neighborhood and I don't look back, much. But when my route takes me to the eye doctor, or to the farmer's market at Belle Plaine and Lincoln, I look for things that aren't there any more.

The European Sausage House, circa 1995.

*Mildred's House of Signage has compiled a bevy of classic Chicago signs.

Here's an article along the same lines, only it has vomit. Those crazy kids!

Posted at August 22, 2002 09:13 PM

Having just moved back to Chicago after being gone for five years, it's definitely weird to see the changes Chicago is going through. It's nice that it's cleaner and safer, but sad to see unique local places torn down for condos or Starbucks. Case in point: I used to spend a lot of time at Maxwell St. when a student at UIC. Not only is that whole area gone now, but between the condos, stores, and huge Dominicks, I might as well be driving through Schaumburg. Blech!

(About North Central - there's still a very cool CD store at Lincoln and Byron.)

Posted by: brian on August 23, 2002 01:17 AM

CD store? We used to live right near there, but I don't remember that. More info?

Posted by: Anne on August 23, 2002 09:44 PM
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