Lots of pictures ...
was a fast read! Chicago Then And Now
by Elizabeth McNulty was part of my birthday haul over the weekend. I am a real sucker for historic photos of my town, so I dove right into this, and had gotten through the book before my actual birthday was half over. Of course, there is only a smattering of text in this, most of the book being an old photo and a new photo of the same building, neighborhood, or view on facing pages, with a couple of describing paragraphs.
It was especially cool to see several pages shot in my neighborhood, with our building in the background of one of them. I was surprised to find several factoids which were in the "I did not
know that" category, like seeing Grant Park barely laid out with no trees (but with some very recognizable features) in 1929, or reading that Chicago was supposed to have five
"municipal piers", of which Navy Pier (which was officially #2) was the only one built. Also surprising was how many very recognizable (and still extant) buildings can be pointed out in an 1936 aerial view ... and several familiar blocks where everything survives from the 1890's ... and that two main buildings in a shot from Chinatown in 1928 are still standing (one housing our favorite Dim Sum place!). Also odd to consider are shots from the south Loop before there was
"the loop" ... the El being such a defining element to Chicago's downtown ... but here are pictures from 1895 showing decorative fronts of buildings that have been obscured by tracks for more than a century.
I was slightly miffed to find some tell-tale photoshopping (careless photoshopping at that) in at least one "now" picture ... you would think that if they were going to mess with some of these they might have taken out some "melt" spots on the antique negatives and not have left a duplicated sign edge hanging over Milwaukee Avenue in a modern shot!
Needless to say, this is a book for fans of either antique photos, urban history, or da grate city of Chicago. Since I'm pretty much all three, it was a home run for me, but I'm pretty sure this isn't everybody's
cup of tea. Being a hardcover picture book, it's not cheap, but it's not unreasonable either, and "new" copies can be had via the Amazon new/used guys for eight something before shipping.