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History of Southport Ave?

1560 Views 2 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  paytonc
I have always wondered this. I have lived on or near the Southport Coridor for about 2-3 years now. I think the area is pretty cool. Lots of yuppies of course, but unlike a lot of recently built up areas these days, Southport doesn't feel too generic. It feels very neighborhoody, kinda like Taylor Street where I've also lived.

The question is, people tell me that Southport is such a new development. People that have lived there for years have told me that 5 years ago, the area was all surface lots and run down buildings, similar to Ashland Avenue 2 blocks over (ironically, Ashland looks like its going through the same transformation). Anyone who lived in Chicago or specifically that area, do you have any photos or memories of the old Southport and how it came to be the way it is today?

Also for you visionaries, how do you percieve Southport today and how do you think it continues over the next few years.
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I worked at the Music Box maybe 15 years ago and that stretch of Southport was rather desolate. Apart from the theatre, a coffee house and a Thai restaurant, it was very sleepy. Red Tomato was the only real restaurant around the L station if I remember correctly. One of the newer condo buildings did displace a really fantastic liquor store on the same block as the Music Box, but most of the change has been really positive, I think.
I worked at the Music Box maybe 15 years ago and that stretch of Southport was rather desolate.
Ehh. I used to go to the Music Box very often when I was an undergrad (late 1990s) and it seemed pleasantly sleepy. (I continued to go back every few weeks for haircuts until maybe two years ago.) Back then, I'd also stop by a Viennese-themed pastry/coffee house where music students would sing arias on "opera night." That was replaced by Coobah long before Meinl opened. I remember there being several restaurants and a handful of bars, but not a whole lot of foot traffic -- these days, it seems like a posher extension of "Wrigleyville." (Just as Broadway is Halsted's daytime counterpart, Southport seems to have become Clark's counterpart.) Einstein Bros., Kinko's, Jewel/Osco, and Corus are the only chains I remember.

It had started to get overrun with the stroller set by 1999 or so, about the same time that the condo influx started. (That happened right after the neighboring areas all got downzoned.) I doubt it was ever "run down" -- an older (i.e., elderly) white ethnic demographic seemed to prevail. There was never much traffic on Southport, so the experience walking down the street was very different than over on Ashland.

I don't remember there being many surface parking lots between the "L" and the theatre, except for the Jewel/Osco lots. There wasn't much of great architectural merit, either.

The area seems pretty generic to me nowadays -- but then again I live in Bucktown, which is only marginally better.

FWIW, Southport and Roscoe are among the streets which had streetcar service but whose corresponding CTA bus routes were discontinued in 1973.
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