Shelf Life

Shelf Life: Local author brings to life the deep history of Chicago's neigborhoods

2014-03-17T09:00:00Z 2014-03-19T22:06:14Z Shelf Life: Local author brings to life the deep history of Chicago's neigborhoodsJane Ammeson Times Correspondent
March 17, 2014 9:00 am  • 

As a fifth generation Chicagoan with roots in the city’s political world as well as long-time newspaperman who grew up or spent time in such neighborhoods as Ravenswood, Lake View, Uptown and Edgewater, Patrick Butler always knew that at some time in his life he would explore the what he terms "a kind of curio shop of people and places that time forgot."

“Many of the stories I heard growing up in the neighborhoods,” said Butler, a natural born storyteller and author of both "Hidden History of Uptown and Edgewater" and "Hidden History of Ravenswood and Lakeview" both published by History Press. “Some I reported on and some I discovered as I was researching other stories.”

Illustrated with vivid black and white vintage photos, Butler takes us deep into the neighborhoods, telling us stories of the denizens of these streets and the buildings out of which they operated.

A favorite he says is Sunnyside, which began first as a stage coach stop and then a resort where the likes of Abraham Lincoln could relax and discuss politics. But by the 1860s, under the ownership of Cap Hyman, a Chicago gangster who liked to wave his gun around and wasn’t averse to shooting it either, and his wife Annie Stafford, known as the fattest brothel keeper in Chicago.

“They called her Gentle Annie,” said Butler noting the term was sarcastic because Annie carried a bullwhip which she used to keep the girls and their customers in line.

“If there's any place in Chicago that's been all things to all men, it has to be the corner of the city that is occupied by Edgewater and Uptown,” writes Butler in the Introduction to the Hidden History of Uptown and Edgewater. “Babe Ruth and Mahatma Gandhi found a place of refuge at the Edgewater Beach Hotel, but the locale has also been a sanctuary for Appalachian coal miners and Japanese Americans released from internment camps.”

Al Capone makes an appearance here as well, reportedly moving booze via underground tunnels (there really are tunnels and it’s not that much of a stretch to imagine Al using them) including one connecting the Aragon Ballroom and the Green Mill which now is an upscale cocktail lounge with live jazz and blues. The tunnels are now used for storage, but the booth at the Green Mill where Al and his gang used to hang out still remains.

Butler’s raconteur style makes it even more of a pleasure to read about this slice of Chicago history.

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