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South Water Street: 1943

South Water Street: 1943

April 1943. South Water Street Illinois Central Railroad freight terminal, Chicago. View full size. 4x5 Kodachrome transparency by Jack Delano for the Office of War Information. Another view of the big Pabst sign against the Chicago skyline.


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Since the mid-1980's a huge effort has been made to clean building surfaces. If you go look at the original Blues Brothers movie and then compare with what you see in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, only a few years apart, the difference is staggering. If you then look at Cooley High, the filth downtown is shocking. It's regular old polution, coal fired furnaces, oil burning furnaces, autos without catalytic converters and other pollution reducers AND all those coal-fueled trains pulling into town.

Keep in mind Chicago then (and now) is a railway hub for the country, and the IC (Illinois Central) lines shown in that photo are only one of three major sets of rail lines converging on the Loop area of downtown. Don't forget Northwestern Station and Union Station less than a mile to the west, all contributing to the particulate matter in the air, depositing on the building surfaces.

Carbide and Carbon

The tower in the middle is the beautiful art-deco Carbide and Carbon Building, which would ordinarily be a dark green and gold - but for the soot, I suppose.


I've been to Chicago many many times, I don't ever recall the buildings looking so incredibly dirty.

[The air back then was full of coal soot. - Dave]

PBR for the working man

Mentioned in a great Johnny Russell song from the 1970's that says it all about the blue collar worker: "There's no place that I'd rather be than right here, with my white socks, rednecks and Blue Ribbon beer."

Pabst Blue Ribbon

Well, I'm a microbrew/handcrafted beer fan, i.e. PBR has never been on my list of favorites. But I'm intrigued by the "Blended 33 to 1" phrase. Can anyone tell me what that was all about?

[See below. - Dave]

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