Skip to main content

The Second City on the Third Coast


People are bathing at a sandy beach on South 76th Street in Chicago, likely in the 1920s.
Published by Max Rigot Selling Co., Chicago.

European explorers who first encountered Lake Michigan and the four other Great Lakes described the huge bodies of water as “inland seas.” In a way they were correct. These glacial lakes contain 90 percent of the fresh water in the United States and 20 percent of all surface water in the world, according to environmental groups. And Chicago, which is located near the southwestern portion of Lake Michigan, was built at its current site for only one reason: to use the resources of this huge freshwater lake for drinking, fishing, building and transportation.

Some people today refer to the Great Lakes region as the “third coast,” noting that the nearby state of Michigan borders more coastline than any other state–yes, even more shoreline than California and Florida. Chicago has about 28 miles of shoreline on the lakefront. The city also has over 20 sandy beaches and even a popular lakefront recreational path that runs from the north side to the south side.
A large group of people fishing on a pier in Chicago in the very early 1900s.
Published by V.O. Hammon Publishing Co., Chicago.

In the late 19th century, many parts of the lake in Chicago were inaccessible, as industry took over almost all of the shoreline. There were huge steel mills on the far south side of the city, along with other industrial boat shipping dock areas. Even a train line running adjacent to the lake cut off access for many people. In the late 19th century, city visionaries like the mail order magnate Aaron Montgomery Ward began a campaign to transform the shoreline into “forever open, clear and free,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

After several court battles, Ward and others forced the city to create and maintain open space along the lakefront. It was Ward’s legacy along with the work of preservationists that gave us this recreational gem. The following postcards display the lakefront along with the ways people enjoyed it.



People bathing at a beach in Jackson Park. The postcard is postmarked from Chicago
 on December 1, 1907. Published by Alfred Holzman, Chicago-Leipzig.


Vehicles and buggies on Sheridan Drive (now Lake Shore Drive) in Chicago. This postcard
is postmarked May 18, 1907. Published by E.C. Kropp Publishing, Milwaukee.

Oak Street Beach where Lake Shore Drive meets North Michigan Avenue.Published by Cameo Greeting Card Co., Chicago.

Several individuals walk along Lake Michigan with high waves
at Jackson Park Beach. Published by V.O. Hammon Publishing Co., Chicago.


 A comic postcard from the Sunshine Beach at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933. Published by Curt Teich & Co., Chicago.



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Marshall Field's at Christmas

  The aisle on the first floor of the State Street store is 358 feet long. Postcard publisher is unknown.  Many Chicagoans continue to miss visiting Marshall Field’s during the holiday season. Just talking about the famed Christmas windows and holiday decorations brings about memories of the department store’s glory days. Many of us can recall the strong smell of perfume that would greet visitors upon entering the flagship State Street store, along with the huge white Romanesque columns decorated with Christmas fare on the first floor. The real fun, however, was taking the elevator to the 7 th floor to get a glimpse of the giant Christmas tree inside the Walnut Room restaurant. The best place to view the tree was one floor up on a balcony area. Christmas decorations on the first floor. Postcard publisher is unknown.  Frango mint chocolates were piled high in various areas throughout the store, and many visitors couldn’t resist buying a box. Frango chocolates were once made in a kitc

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

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 CafĂ© 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