Another Time, Another Place
By Stanley Paul
I arrived in Chicago from New York in early December of 1964 starting my new career as the new orchestra leader at the world famous Pump Room. What a great break this was coming at such a young age. During my first week at the Pump Room, I was asked numerous times, “How do you like our city, and have you had a chance to go to the Loop?”
The Loop? … what a strange name for an area? What is it? I didn’t want to reveal that I had no idea what they were talking about, so I decided to find out for myself.
I went to Eddy, the doorman at the Ambassador East Hotel, as I knew he was a long time Chicagoan and had a plethora of information about Chicago. I was confident he would point me in the right direction. Eddy said, “Take the 36 bus going south and get off on State Street, between Randolph and Washington. On the east side of the street, you will see Chicago’s famed Marshall Fields.
As I stepped off the bus I immediately felt the energy of this area and was impressed not only with the beautiful architecture of Marshall Fields, but all the surrounding buildings that were influenced in their design by European architects.…all in contrast to the “new, renovated,” stores in New York.
I had heard about Marshall Fields, but had no idea of its enormity and its beautiful mahogany counters. It reminded me of Selfridges department store in London, where I had just visited the prior summer.
Those magnificent mahogany counters.
I spent the next couple of hours wondering from one department to another. At one point, I noticed a group of sales people hovering over an elegant older woman. I later found out it was the legendary Irene Castle, a famous dancer, who with her husband Vernon, appeared on Broadway and in silent films early in the 20th century. She was Christmas shopping.
The legendary Irene Castle.
I had not eaten breakfast that morning, and I knew I wanted to further explore and complete my journey…finding the Loop. I still was not sure why Chicagoans referred to this area as the Loop. I took the elevator to the 7th floor and discovered the famous Walnut Room.
When I got out of the elevator the very first thing I saw was one of the most magnificent, traditionally, decorated Christmas trees, known by Chicagoans as the “Great Tree.” It stood tall in the center of the restaurant and seemed to go on forever. I recall that the restaurant and the service reminded me of the best railroad dining cars, with its white linen tablecloths, heavy silverware and fine china.
I finished lunch and returned to the main floor, looking for the State Street exit that I had entered just a couple of hours ago…instead I was swept away by a group of shoppers pushing me to one of the store’s many exits on Wabash. As I exited, I heard the roar of a train above me and looked up to see an elevated train making its way to, I wasn’t sure where.” What is THAT,” I wondered. As the train roared along, below it, undisturbed business people, shoppers and tourists continued to feverishly move quickly to their destinations.
It took me a while to get my bearings. I still wasn’t sure where or what the Loop was. I asked a traffic cop, “Where is the Loop?” “You’re in it sonny,” he replied pointing up and waving his hand above his head in a circular motion.
I discovered that day that the train encircled the area, every day, all day, stopping to transfer people from one stop to another (known as L stops) taking Chicagoans to their homes and neighborhoods throughout the city and giving the Loop its name.
The Loop became much of my exploration and source for learning Chicago. It was the central business and government district. It was in those days the commercial core of many Chicago’s landmarks, restaurants, hotels, shopping, theatre, entertainment and much more. All, before Michigan Avenue became the Magnificent Mile. Together, let’s reminisce and explore the 1960’s Chicago Loop. Are you ready?
We hope you enjoy the photos of this bygone era.
Randolph Street looking west.
There were fabulous movie palaces all over the Loop, each different, yet all somewhat alike. State Street had the Chicago Theatre, the State Lake and the Roosevelt. The McVickers was on Madison and on Randolph there was the Woods, the United Artists, the famous Oriental Theatre and the Palace. I really got a kick out of those garish Balaban and Katz confections!
The wonderful Balaban & Katz Chicago Theatre interior.
State Street looking north.
Another view of State Street looking north.
Randolph Street at night in all it glory.
The Shubert was of the many legitimate theaters in the Loop.
A vintage image of the Blackstone Theatre next to the Blackstone Hotel.
The Harris and Selwyn Theaters now combined in the Goodman Theatre.
There were endless restaurants to choose from such as Fritzel’s, Trader Vic’s in the basement of the Palmer House, The College Inn, Don Roth’s Blackhawk, Al Farber’s Steak House on Clark Street and so many others long gone.
The Berghoff interior all decked out for Christmas.
Many wonderful and interesting stores lined the streets and are no longer there. Stores you may remember included Wiebolts, Mandel Brothers, Goldblatts, Carson Pirie Scott, Sears and Roebuck, F.W. Woolworth to name a few.
State Street in all its 1960’s Christmas glory.
Home Page image by Roger Lapinski.