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Chicago Conservatories: Keeping the City Green Since the Late 1800s

The Lincoln Park Conservatory. Postcard published by Chas, Levy Circulating Co., Chicago. Chicago Conservatories have provided Chicagoans with a much-needed oasis of plant life—as well as year-round warmth—since the late nineteenth century. According to the Encyclopedia of Chicago , horticulture became popular during this time among city dwellers in the United States and Europe who were concerned about the negative effects of industrialization. The Douglas Park Conservatory. Postcard published by B. Sebastian, Chicago.   Three small conservatories were built between 1886 and 1888 in Humbolt Park, Douglas Park, and Garfield Park. The Lincoln Park Conservatory was built between 1890 and 1895 and still stands today. A fifth Chicago conservatory was built in Washington Park in 1897, only to be demolished in the 1930s. And the Oak Park Conservatory, which is still open today, was constructed in the Western suburb in 1929. The Washington Park Conservatory and Pergola. Postcard published by
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Amazing Uptown

                                    The Chelsea Hotel building at 920 Wilson Avenue in Uptown. Postcard publisher is unknown. Former Uptown resident Anastasia Robieson frequently returns to her old North side neighborhood to meet up with friends or record music with her band The Uh Ohs. “I really, really like Uptown,” she says. “I think it’s a very interesting place.” When asked to describe what makes Uptown so memorable, Robieson answers that perhaps the folks behind the popular Slightly Insulting Chicago Posters summed up the neighborhood best with their slogan “Uptown: Roaring Twenties Charm Meets Psych Ward with No Walls.”  Uptown has certainly changed its personality many times over throughout the years. In the 1920s, Uptown was a popular nightlife destination flush with nightclubs, theaters, and hotels. Some of its most well-known establishments include the Green Mill jazz club, which is still in operation today, and the Uptown movie theater, which is currently being restored. T

Chicago's Christmas Characters

Marshall Field & Company's State Street store decorated for the Christmas Holiday. Postcard publisher is unknown.           The Christmas characters known as the Cinnamon Bear, Uncle Mistletoe, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer can all be traced back to Chicago department stores.  The Cinnamon Bear radio program first aired in the weeks leading up to Christmas in 1937. The program was produced in Hollywood and aired around the country but was sponsored by Wieboldt’s department store in Chicago and the Oregon-based department store Lipman-Wolfe and Co. Wieboldt’s sold stuffed Cinnamon Bear toys for $2.98 a piece and gave out Cinnamon Bear buttons to children who visited the store to see Santa Claus.                Cinnamon Bear’s official name was Paddy O’Cinnamon, and he spoke with an Irish brogue. The show consisted of 26 15-minutes episodes and told the story of how the bear helps lead a pair of twins to Maybe Land to search for a silver star. Cinnamon Bear also had a shor

Putting the “Toddle” Back in “That Toddling Town”

  Postcard designed and sold by appshop. The “toddle” was a jazz dance step that became popular across the nation just in time for the Roaring Twenties. And Chicago became known as “that toddling town” thanks to the lyrics of Fred Fisher’s 1922 song “Chicago (That Toddling Town).” While many still know Frank Sinatra’s famous cover version of that song, the dance step has largely been forgotten. In a 1921 South Bend News-Times article, dance teacher Arthur Murray describes the toddle as having the “delightful abandon so characteristic of everything American.” According to Murray, the toddle was similar to the shimmy but without the shoulder shakes. It also bore a resemblance to the fox trot but with an extra bounce added to the steps. Songwriter Fred Fisher was not the first to associate the toddle with Chicago. A variation of the toddle, which focused on movements of the hips rather than the feet, was called “the Chicago toddle” or simply “the Chicago.” In 1921, a print advertiseme

Burlesque Dancer Sally Rand Took the Chicago World's Fair by Storm

Sally Rand danced at the Streets of Paris exhibit. Postcard printed by Curt Teich & Co, Chicago. Sally Rand was never supposed to perform her iconic “fan dance” at the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago. The dancer’s requests to perform inside the Streets of Paris exhibit had been turned down several times. But Rand decided to take matters into her own hands by riding into a pre-opening party on the fairgrounds, uninvited, on a white horse wearing nothing but a velvet cape. The crowd loved it. Rand was arrested but released the next day, when she promptly accepted an offer to perform as the headliner in the Café de la Paix’s floor show for $90 per week. While her dancing broke boundaries and city decency ordinances at the time, her legacy was born and Rand made her cultural mark on the world. According to The 1933 Chicago World’s Fair by Cheryl Ganz, 29-year-old Sally Rand had previously worked as an acrobatic circus performer and film stuntwoman. She had also alread

Going to Graceland

Graceland Cemetery is also known for its beautiful landscape and magnificent trees. Postcard printed by V.O. Hammon of Chicago. Situated at Irving Park Rd. and Clark St. near Wrigley Field is Graceland Cemetery, a scenic 119-acre burial ground and arboretum where many of Chicago’s elite have been laid to rest. The cemetery was established in 1860 by lawyer Thomas Bryan and designed by landscape architects H.W.S. Cleveland, Ossian Simonds, and William Le Baron Jenney, who is also known for designing the first skyscraper. Graceland became famous as the “Cemetery of Architects.” Along with its three designers, other prominent architects who are buried in Graceland include Louis Sullivan, who designed the Carson Pirie Scott building; Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who designed Chicago’s Federal Center; and Fazlur Khan, who designed the Sears Tower and John Hancock Center. The grave of architect Daniel Burnham, who was chief of construction for the 1893 Columbian Exposition, lies on a small, wo

Sweets in the City

Louis XIV Candy Shop at 163 State Street. Published by Curt Teich & Co., Chicago. Since the late 1800s, Chicago has been the "home sweet home" of a  number of candy companies, making it known as the "candy capital of the world." Chicago made an ideal place for candy-making for a variety of reasons. The city’s location near the center of the U.S. made it a transportation hub, and its proximity to the Great Lakes made it easy to ship raw ingredients in and finished products out. Chicago also had a strong labor force made up largely of immigrants, who worked in candy factories or opened sweet shops using candy recipes from their homelands. Charles Gunther is believed to be the first person to produce and sell caramels in America. An immigrant from Germany, Gunther ran a successful candy factory and store, first on Clark Street and then later on State Street after he rebuilt his business following the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. At the Columbian Exposition of 1893