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Wabash Avenue L: 1900

September 1, 1900. "Wabash Avenue north from Adams Street, Chicago." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

September 1, 1900. "Wabash Avenue north from Adams Street, Chicago." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Wabash Avenue L: 2010

Some of the buildings on the right in the 1900 photo, just past the train, still exist. The very tall building in the center is the Trump Hotel and Tower across the river.

And yes, Pete is correct, that's the Palmer house on the immediate left. Between 1923 and 1925, the 2nd Palmer House was torn down while the 3rd (and current) hotel was built. So the hotel never closed during construction!

Palmer House

The building on the left reads "Potter Palmer" near the top, which makes me think this might be the back of the second incarnation (1875-1923) of the Palmer House hotel. The front faced State Street, a block to the west.

Direct Connection, Part 2

The bridge connecting the L Station (Madison & Wabash) to the buildings on the left side of the street was designed by Louis Sullivan for the Schlesinger & Mayer department store in 1896, when the Wabash Avenue leg of the Loop L was brand new. This was Sullivan's first work for the department store; he later built an entirely new building for them around the corner at State & Madison Streets (1899-1904). This building is better known by the name Carson Pirie Scott & Co., which occupied the structure from 1904 to 2007. While Sullivan's bridge is long gone, the building that it "plugged into" has recently had its facade restored, and some "lost" Sullivan ornament was recovered in the process.

Fire Protection

I'd guess those tall pipes are dry standpipes for firefighting. They'd be empty of water until hooked up to a pumper during a fire.

(And I think the hand on the lady's bottom is her own. The man appears to be carrying a parcel.)


I notice not a hint of graffiti on the support beams for the elevated railway.

Re: Signage

My guess is that it from the florist shop and shows designs for wreaths, possibly funerary.

Chicago in the mid 1970s

As a HS student and camera buff, I used to go to the photo stores on Wabash Avenue, under the elevated tracks. Altman's Camera was one of the best places to buy equipment, and I would ride the train from Milwaukee with a pile of cash, arrive at the train station and then walk, nervously, east through pimps, hookers and street thugs to Wabash. Then I would walk back to the train station with my purchases, just as nervously. Boy, has Chicago cleaned up its act since those days.


Those look like standpipes for firefighters. You can see the terminus of one on the top of the building on the right side of the street. Rather than drag a hose all the way up from the street hydrant they could hook on to the standpipe and direct water to whatever floor needed it, or all the way to the roof.

Her Own Parade

And believe me, I'd be in it too!


Are you referring to the woman who appears to be scratching her behind? At first glance it looks like the man walking slightly behind her is "taking liberties," but after closer examination I believe he is innocent.

[I think she's lifting her skirt a bit to keep it off the sidewalk. Hey lady, you're on the Internet! - Dave]

Got HER!

The man walking by the bookshop at lower left appears to be goosing his female companion.

How Often ...

Jake: How often does the train go by?
Elwood: So often that you won't even notice it.

Are these what are known as "cold water" flats due to the water pipe running vertically from the sidewalk? There seems to be one valve or "tap" for each flat accessible from the veranda. What happened in the winter when the water froze?

The Gottcha

Is that someone misspelled "gotcha"?

For that total Shorpy experience

I like to play my Scott Joplin CD while looking at these turn of the century street scenes in Hi-Def. It's almost like watching a Ken Burns documentary.

It seems odd that his music was used in a soundtrack for a movie set in the 1930s (The Sting) when most of his work was written around 1900. I would have thought hot jazz a better choice for that movie, given the period.

A Story In Every Sign

Barely visible below and to the right of the Windsor Clifton sign is a sign for Alfred Peats. According to his March 1915 obituary in the NYT, Peats made money so fast he was "crazed by riches" and driven insane. He ended up at the Bloomingdale Asylum.


Wonderful street scene. Can you find the "Gottcha"? Or what on first glance appears to be a "Gottcha."

Direct connection

The walkway from the building to the station used to be common; many stops in the Loop on the L and in the subway had a direct connection from some adjacent business; it was a selling point for the business.

The ones on the L are all gone now. Most of the subway ones are closed as well, with the exception of the ones that are part of the pedway.


That is an interesting sign behind the Pilgrim Press Booksellers. The one that has pictures of monuments or crosses on it. It would be nice to have a closer look at that.
I did a little more research just guessing it is a monument companies sign and found the Charles M. Gall Company in Chicago at that time. They were also mentioned in the "Monument Mans Handbook" from 1919. The book had illustrations of types of monuments and it seems that some on the sign are military monuments. Of course, I could be totally off base and if anyone has any other ideas let me know.

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