The Dil Pickle Club was beautiful. So was Urbus Orbis. And Maury's bookstore. And Logan Beach. And Ralph Clarkson's tenth-floor studio in the Fine Arts Building. It was like Paris in the 20s! Everywhere there were people making art. You can still get a sense of it by flipping through Ben Hecht's memoirs, or a novel by Henry Blake Fuller, or by looking at an old photo of a group of drunk-looking adults sitting in school desks in a nightclub, or listening to Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville. But you'll never get to be there.
You'll never know the thrill of leaving your small town or suburb and getting your first apartment in the city in a crumbling building in a neighborhood still dodgy enough that, as you walk to the el in the morning to head off to your day job in an office downtown, you pass hookers coming off the night shift. You'd like telling your friends back home about this: about living someplace real.
You'll never know the shock of excitement when you hear the Smashing Pumpkins for the first time at an underground club, or listen to a lecture on birth control or race relations at the Dil Pickle, and realize that you are in the middle of something historic, something people will remember forever.
And you'll never know the rage when other people, people who couldn't care less about art, move in on your turf, start wearing your clothes (though they buy theirs new instead of from a thrift store), and eventually take over your (big, beautiful) apartment because they can afford to pay more rent than you can. People call you a hipster, but that's not true. These new people, they're the real hipsters, colonizing and commercializing everything that made the neighborhood so great, transforming it from bohemia to brohemia.1
Since history is doomed to repeat itself, it'll happen again. It's already happened over and over in Chicago, going back for more than 100 years, ever since the Fine Arts Building opened and created the city's first artists' colony.
So we've also had 100 years of old-timers telling young people about how glorious it was when they had time to hang around the coffeehouse or drop by the nightclub every night, when it was full of people they knew who were also in the middle of creating a brilliant new culture that would change the world.
You can go there now, of course, but all the great stuff happened six months ago. Or maybe two years, or ten. Sorry, sucker. You missed it.
The Little Room,
Location: South Loop
Disparaging term for inhabitants: "Artists."
Primary activity: Afternoon tea.
Major exports: Painting, sculpture, writing, and cultural uplift. Even then, Chicagoans were distressed about not being as cool as New Yorkers. When Harriet Monroe, future editor of Poetry magazine, wrote an ode to the 1893 Columbian Exposition, it sold so few copies that she ended up using the surplus to fuel her bedroom stove. This setback made her and her confederates determined to improve literary and artistic culture in Chicago.
Original settler: Unknown.
Chief hangout: First the Auditorium Hotel, then the Fine Arts Building, after its conversion from a factory and showroom for Studebaker carriages into the 19th-century version of an arts incubator. The Little Room took its name from a short story by Madeline Wynne, one of its members, about a room that disappears and reappears in different locations. Its most successful and long-lasting incarnation was painter Ralph Clarkson's studio. In later years, it calcified into a formal social club, decidedly nonhipster.
Major figures: Monroe; writers Henry Blake Fuller, George Ade, and Hamlin Garland; sculptor Lorado Taft; social reformer Jane Addams; philanthropist and wife-of-richest-man-in-Chicago Bertha Palmer.
Reason for its disappearance: Lasted until 1931, when it was formally disbanded.
- The Newberry Library, Chicago
- Floyd Dell, proto-hipster of Jackson Park and literary man-about-town
Jackson Park Art Colony,
Location: Hyde Park
Disparaging term for inhabitants: "Bohemians."
Primary activities: Conversation, free love.
Major export: Writing. The writer and literary critic Floyd Dell, the neighborhood's proto-hipster, was, at the time, editor of the Evening Post's Friday Literary Review. "People wanted to test their stuff out on him," says Paul Durica, a Chicago literary historian.
Original settler: Lorado Taft, who left his studio in the Fine Arts Building in search of cheaper rent.
Chief hangout: Taft's studio in Midway Studios (which still exists; it's now the home of the University of Chicago's creative writing department), where his young apprentices lived and where he hosted weekly lunches. Also leftover concession stands from the Columbian Exposition around 57th Street and Stony Island. They had limited heat and plumbing, and plenty of rats, but they were still good studio spaces for artists and musicians. Dell and his wife, schoolteacher Margery Currey, moved into adjoining studios, the better to foster their experiment with an open marriage, and Currey began hosting weekly salons.
Major figures: Dell, Sherwood Anderson, Edgar Lee Masters, Carl Sandburg, Ben Hecht, Margaret Anderson (editor of the avant-garde journal The Little Review). "To focus on these famous names largely misses the point, though, even if it is an unavoidable temptation," writes the sociologist Richard Lloyd. "In Paris, in New York, and in Chicago, the luminaries, Baudelaire, Manet, Duchamp, Sinclair, Sandburg and so on, were always soundly outnumbered by those whose destiny was obscurity. Impossible to forget, since we never knew of them anyway, they provide nonetheless the essential service of creating the critical mass that makes bohemia viable (even if always nestled in the larger mess of the 'everyday' city)."
Reason for its disappearance: To the surprise of no one, the Dell-Currey marriage broke up in 1913, after a single year, and he took off for New York and Greenwich Village. (He would publish a book of short stories in 1925, called Love in Greenwich Village, that declared the Village hipster scene totally over.) Hecht and both Andersons followed. It's probably fair to assume the others got tired of enduring Chicago winters without proper heat.
- The Newberry Library, Chicago
- The front door of the Dil Pickle Club at 18 W. Tooker Place
(There were two major hipster waves, the first from the 1910s to the early '30s, the second in the '40s and '50s, when the Bauhaus School was located in the neighborhood.)
Location: Division south to the river, Michigan west to LaSalle; roughly today's River North. The name derived from the Water Tower, at the time the neighborhood's major landmark. "It was a slum," says historian Thomas Dyja. "A really fascinating, cool one."
Disparaging term for inhabitants: "Bohemians," "art students."
Primary activities: Writing, talking.
Major export: Writing, tourism. Not everyone plying a trade in Towertown was an artist. There were also plenty of transients, bums, gamblers, and prostitutes, all of whom contributed to produce a certain atmosphere—seedy but not quite dangerous—that made the neighborhood irresistible to tourists and slummers who wanted to experience the "real" Chicago. These included "politely excited groups of men and women in evening clothes, clerks from department stores and offices, who like to visit a less expensive vaudeville show, and college boys and girls who believe they are acquiring a risque and brilliant knowledge of life," wrote Maxwell Bodenheim, a professional hipster who got his start in Towertown. Towertown's tourism heyday also marked the beginning of the beloved River North tradition of the theme restaurant: the Gold Coast House of Correction and Big John's Coal Scuttle (prison and coal mining respectively).
Original settler: Unknown.
Chief hangouts: In the early days of Towertown, when literary salons were still a thing, a few wealthy Gold Coast mansion dwellers, notably an insurance broker named Jake Loeb, were happy to host. ("The meeting of creativity and money really helps," Dyja observes.) There were also literary and artistic gatherings at Tree Studios (12 E. Ohio), an artists' commune that still exists. It now hosts weddings.
As people got tired of hanging out in the homes of others, Towertown became the first Chicago neighborhood to adopt the most obvious sign of hipsterdom: a surfeit of coffeehouses. But given that the neighborhood's glory days coincided with Prohibition, establishments billed as coffeehouses or tearooms didn't just peddle caffeine. Among the best known of these institutions was the Green Mask, one of the few nonsegregated, uh, tearooms in the city. The Ballyhoo Cafe had no pretension of being anything other than a nightclub with really excellent drag shows; it was popular with gays and lesbians (and also sociologists).
The most famous Towertown hangout, though, was the Dil Pickle Club. Washington Square Park, outside the Newberry Library, had become a popular spot for soapbox speakers; they were the reason for the park's nickname, Bughouse Square. But when the weather got cold, they needed somewhere else to go. Jack Jones, formerly a miner, a housepainter, and an anarchist, obliged in 1914 by opening the Dil Pickle in an old barn at 18 W. Tooker Place (really an alley between State and Dearborn). It was marked by a green light and an orange door bearing the message "Step high, stoop low, leave your dignity outside." Every night, Jones invited lecturers—a mix of professors, labor leaders, jazz musicians, and visiting celebrities like Mae West—to give talks on their areas of expertise. The audience was just as eclectic: "The street car conductor sits on a bench beside the college professor," Sherwood Anderson wrote in 1919, "the literary critic, the earnest young wife, who hungers for culture, and the hobo." As Ben Reitman, a medical doctor, anarchist, birth control advocate, self-proclaimed "king of the hobos," and the Dil Pickle's most frequent speaker (about, apparently, anything), proclaimed, "We of the Dil Pickle believe in everything. . . . Anything to make the mind think!"
As time went on and the Dil Pickle became more of a tourist attraction, the talks and debates grew less about making the mind think and more about getting laid. One night in 1931, as Reitman delivered an impromptu lecture on the plight on the unwed expectant mother, someone in the back of the room stood up and "went through the motions of a baseball pitcher," in the words of an unnamed but gleeful Chicago Tribune reporter. "An oval shaped object left his hand and sped like an arrow. It was an egg. It was rotten. It splashed against the wall, alongside the good doctor's head. In another moment, the air was full of missiles. Some were eggs, some were cantaloupes, all in doubtful stages of maturity. There were even fish."
The Dil Pickle was shut down in 1933 for serving alcohol (Jones refused to pay protection money to the mob). A 1944 attempt to revive it did not go well. "The fact is," wrote Charles Collins of the Tribune, "that the Dil Pickle, miscalled a club, was a kiln for crackpots."
Major figures: "Chicago has a 'Bohemia' which is several degrees worse than Greenwich Village," wrote Mitchell Dawson, a Chicago lawyer who sometimes hung out in Towertown in the 1910s and '20s. "It fawns on anyone who shows a slightest degree of brilliance." Nonetheless, Ben Hecht, Harriet Monroe, Clarence Darrow, Emma Goldman, Theodore Dreiser, Ring Lardner, Edgar Lee Masters, the legendary con man Joseph Weil, labor leader Big Bill Haywood, and boxer Jack Johnson were all celebrated neighborhood residents, or at least speakers at the Dil Pickle. And there was Maxwell Bodenheim, who cofounded the Chicago Literary Times with Hecht, but was more famous for being a professional bohemian. "He was a notorious moocher," says Paul Durica. "He did a lot of what today we'd call couchsurfing. He had questionable hygiene, long hair, and dirty nails. A lot of it was performative." Bodenheim eventually took his act to New York, where he became a famous Greenwich Village "character." "The booster in me says Greenwich Village was invented by someone from Chicago," says Dyja. (Bodenheim's story has a grisly end: he and his wife were found shot dead in their room in a New York boardinghouse in 1954.)
Reason for its disappearance: The Michigan Avenue Bridge was finished in 1920. Suddenly it became a lot easier to get from Towertown to the Loop, a fact quickly capitalized on by the natural enemy of the hipster: the douchebag (also known as the yuppie or the bro). "Scores of old, disreputable houses were made over into studios, but not for artists," an old Towertown resident named Alfreda Gordon recalled in a 1940 article for the Chicago Sunday Times. "They were fitted with French windows, over-ornamented fireplaces, ceiling beams and various 'quaint' and 'artistic' gew-gaws—and rented to businessmen and assorted dalliers who adored north light sentiment." But although the "Magnificent Mile" shopping strip first appeared in the 20s and was formally named in the 40s, it took nearly 50 years for developers to kill off Towertown completely.
- Sun-Times print collection
- A lecture at the College of Complexes, a “fully discredited institution whose academic standards are far below normal”
Location: Wells Street between North and Division and surrounding area, including some community outreach into Cabrini-Green.
Disparaging term for inhabitants: "Beatniks," "hippies."
Primary activities: Guitar playing.
Major export: Folk music, improv comedy, tourism, expensive faux-bohemian crap. New Yorker writer Emily Hahn did some field research in 1967 for her book Romantic Rebels: An Informal History of Bohemianism in America and reported, "The shops offer goods from the less privileged foreign lands, offbeat clothes, custom-designed furniture—again, these things are not inexpensive."
Original settler: Slim Brundage, a former bartender at the Dil Pickle. In 1951, he opened up his own joint, the College of Complexes, at 1651 N. Wells, a block from what's now Piper's Alley. But he refused to accept the blame. "It isn't true [Wells] street is strictly for squares," he wrote in the Tribune in 1965. "It isn't true it's a carnival that'll move to Armitage avenue next year. And it isn't true I started the whole kooky mess. Old Town was full of swinging cats when I moved in a dozen years ago. . . . I thought I'd get a little bar business from those characters."
Chief hangout: The College of Complexes was an open forum in the spirit of the Dil Pickle. Brundage furnished it with classroom desks and got a certificate from the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools that proclaimed the College "a fully discredited institution whose academic standards are far below normal." (The College still exists, though much diminished, in the form of a series of weekly meetings at the Lincoln Restaurant in North Center. Bughouse Square is still around, too, as a semiformal debating event, held every summer the same weekend as the Newberry's annual book sale.)
There was also Maury's, a 24-hour bookstore where beatniks hung out but never bought anything; the Second City, which opened in 1959; the Gate of Horn and the Earl of Old Town, two folk clubs (the Earl's owner, Earl Pionke, died this past spring); and the Old Town School of Folk Music. The Old Town School's founder, Win Stracke, and some of the other teachers earnestly tried some community outreach into Cabrini-Green, but, says Dyja, they didn't actually hang out there.
Major figures: Bill Smith, the owner of Maury's; Cholly Wendorf, the dean of Bughouse Square; folksinger Steve Goodman, who wrote "Go, Cubs, Go," "City of New Orleans," and "A Dying Cub Fan's Last Request" and who got his start at the Earl along with John Prine and Bonnie Koloc; the Hairy Who artists' collective; and Will Leonard, a Tribune reporter who chronicled the goings-on in the neighborhood he called "Chicago's Left Bank" while simultaneously reporting the absence of beatniks in Chicago. ("This is no place for a beatnik," a University of Chicago student told him, "and the weather is the principal reason. If you want to lie around like a beachcomber in Chicago, contemplating your navel and grumbling about the uselessness of it all, you're out of luck. It gets cold here in the winter time, and you might have to go to work. And that would spoil everything.")
Reason for its disappearance: "Wherever the Old Town School goes, there's gentrification," jokes Bill Savage, a Northwestern professor who specializes in the literary history of Chicago. Brundage blamed Frank Ryan, who opened the first commercial enterprise on Wells—a furniture store next door to the College—and the "characters" who hung around the neighborhood bars and amused the tourists. "Within five years, all the joints on either side of the block had become character spots," he complained. "And the landlord tripled the rent."
- Joel Mann
- The Rainbo Club, where Nelson Algren drank in the 40s and musicians and hipsters mingled and drank in the 90s
Location: Centered around the intersection of Milwaukee, North, and Damen.
Disparaging term for inhabitants: "Hipsters." (Originally coined in the 1940s to describe jazz aficiondos; later co-opted by Norman Mailer to describe "American existentialists." "There are probably not more than one hundred thousand men and women who consciously see themselves as hipsters," he wrote in his essay "The White Negro," "but their importance is that they are an elite with the potential ruthlessness of an elite, and a language most adolescents can understand instinctively for the hipster's intense view of existence matches their experience and their desire to rebel." Which they do by leaving suburbia for marginal city neighborhoods.)
Primary activities: Band practice, drinking coffee.
Major export: Music.
Original settlers: Dee Paira and Gavin Morrison, who bought the Rainbo Club from an old Polish couple in 1985 and started booking punk bands, and Clem Jaskot Jr., who around the same time took over his family's bar—Phyllis' Musical Inn—and started letting young musicians play there, so long as they were willing to pay for their own beer. Both these bars, and the neighboring Gold Star Bar, had the extra cachet that comes of having served Nelson Algren, who was also a hipster, but of the 1940s tough-guy variety who would have probably beat up the more effete Wicker Park musicians.
Chief hangouts: Many, many clubs and bars, notably the aforementioned Rainbo, Phyllis', and Gold Star; also HotHouse, Double Door, Pontiac, and Subterranean; the Flat Iron Building, where artists had studios; Myopic Books, Quimby's Bookstore, and the Autonomous Zone Infoshop; the Earwax Cafe and the Busy Bee diner; and the late, lamented Urbus Orbis coffeehouse, which suffered the indignity of being transformed into the Real World house during the summer and fall of 2001. "To me, Wicker Park was Quimby's and Myopic," says Ed Marszewski, who coedited the zine Lumpen Times. "Just by sitting there, you could meet everyone who was interesting."
Major figures: To the outside world: Liz Phair, Urge Overkill, Veruca Salt, and the Smashing Pumpkins. To those who lived there: Tom Handley, owner of Urbus Orbis; Joe Judd, owner of Myopic Books; underground artist Shane Bugbee; soundman Elliot Dicks.
Reason for its disappearance: There are many theories, all of which center around the idea that Wicker Park was a gritty hipster paradise that was ruined by its discovery by the outside world. "I think it ended when Wicker Park became a world music capital, with Liz Phair and all those people," Marszewski says. "For all I know, it ended in 1991 when I got there. Our magazine was complicit in gentrification. We were writing about local small businesses and bars."
Or maybe it was over by 1994, when the New York Times published an article that declared Wicker Park the "Latest Next Seattle." Rents began creeping up, enough that artists realized they were about to be displaced. The Wicker Park old guard, even people who had lived there only six months, were not happy. "Given their desire to associate with the 'fringe,' while still having access to galleries, good bars, and school at the Art Institute, it is not surprising that newcomers to Wicker Park soon resented those that followed and upset the ecological balance," wrote sociologist Richard Lloyd in Neo-Bohemia: Art and Commerce in the Post-Industrial City, his ethnography of Wicker Park in the 90s. Unlike the bohemians and beatniks of Towertown and Old Town, who appear to have accepted newcomers peacefully, the hipsters of Wicker Park turned violent.
"[It] is increasingly evident [that] this near-northwest-side arts enclave . . . is rife with radical activism, competing community agendas, vicious attacks and counterattacks, and anonymous acts of sabotage," Jeff Huebner wrote that summer in the Reader. The ostensible catalyst for these attacks was Around the Coyote, an art festival that residents feared would bring even more attention to Wicker Park, and with it yuppies and douchebags who were willing to pay higher rents in order to live in an "artsy" neighborhood. ("No one gives a fuck about art," Marszewski grumbles. "People who move into a neighborhood need art as an accoutrement.") So they threw rocks through the windows of the Flat Iron Building and wrote "Fuck the Coyote" on a billboard above the Kennedy Expressway.
Or maybe it was over by the late 90s, when hipster culture was so commercialized that you could buy its uniform—flannel shirts, baby-doll dresses, and Doc Martens—at suburban shopping malls. Most of the recent college grads moving into the neighborhood had jobs at banks and law firms; like Towertown, Wicker Park had become, in Lloyd's words, "a bohemian-themed entertainment district where patrons are not starving artists but rather affluent professionals."
In 2000 Marszewski, who had by then moved back to Bridgeport, where he'd grown up, gave a tour of his old neighborhood. "There were about 40 places that were no longer there," he remembers. "It freaked the shit out of me. We put up signs to show where things used to be." ("There are very few material traces of structures connected to the [hipster] community," observes Durica.)
It was definitely over by 2001, when The Real World started filming. Local businesses, notably Myopic Books, refused to serve the cast members, and neighborhood residents staged protests in front of the house. "All the protesters were morons," remembers Bill Savage. "Those knuckleheads didn't block the back of the building. I went back there and in the gatehouse there was this old black guy watching the Cubs game and the cast and crew were going out the back door. But [the protesters] made their point. Of course they were the people the blacks and Latinos and Polish people had been run out by. They were the assault troops on the beach, and The Real World was the aircraft carrier."
"Now it's the anus of the universe," says Joe Bryl, a DJ who cofounded HotHouse. "I call it that because every asshole is there."
- Ashley Limon
- Hipsters waiting patiently to get inside the Whistler in Logan Square
Location: Milwaukee between Kedzie and Armitage and surrounding area.
Disparaging term for inhabitants: "Hipsters."
Primary activities: Bike riding, eating, drinking, Instagramming.
Major exports: Food, craft cocktails.
Original settler: The way Jason Hammel tells it, his arrival in Logan Square in 1995 was like a fairy tale, everyone's dream of arriving in a new, yet-to-be-anointed hipster mecca: "I asked a friend for advice on moving to Chicago. He said, 'Go to Logan Square. There's a cool coffeeshop there called Logan Beach.' I got an apartment without looking at it. It was $325 a month, including utilities. It was big, and it was near the boulevard. On the first day, I walked to Logan Beach. I went with my girlfriend. Her name was Lea Wood. We sat down and looked up at the menu, which was written on a chalkboard, and saw 'Lea's Amazing Soup.' I said we had to order it because it was spelled the same way. And it turned out I was talking to my now ex-girlfriend about my future wife [Amalea Tshilds] while sitting at table 51 in the restaurant I would own. And it was my first day in Chicago. Logan Beach was everything that matters to me in Logan Square."
When Logan Beach was foundering financially, Hammel couldn't bear to see it close, so he and Tshilds took over and renamed it Lula Cafe. It was the neighborhood's first serious restaurant. "People were looking at us and saying, 'It's too busy, there need to be more places in the neighborhood.' But it took a while to develop." ("Everyone mimics someone else's success," Bryl muses.)
Chief hangouts: Lula Cafe, Longman & Eagle, Reno, Bang Bang Pie, Parsons Chicken & Fish, and the Cozy Corner, among many others for eating; Cole's Bar, Helen's Two-Way Lounge, Whirlaway Lounge, the Whistler, Scofflaw, and Weegee's Lounge for drinking, in addition to whichever avant-bar is opening next week; Logan Square Farmers Market and the Dill Pickle Co-Op (named for the Dil Pickle Club) for thinking about eating and drinking; Cafe Mustache and New Wave Coffee for caffeine; and Logan Square itself for temporarily ignoring the need to eat and drink.
Major figures: Hammel; chefs Abraham Conlon, Adrienne Lo, Matthias Merges, and Jared Wentworth; mixologist Paul McGee; Maria Jaimes, longtime owner of the Whirlaway Lounge, who never forgets a face or name; Hammer, jack-of-all-trades at Fireside Bowl; Ed, longtime owner of the Mutiny.
Reason for its disappearance: Logan Square is adjusting more gracefully to its hipsterdom than Wicker Park did. "Logan Square feels more open than Wicker Park of that era felt," Hammel says. "Maybe it was because I was young and felt shut out. I hope it's not like that. Someone once wrote on our window, 'Lula is the same as Wal-Mart.' They wrote it angrily, like graffiti. But isn't there negativity everywhere?"
But rents have definitely gone up. "There's been less of a lag in terms of transition," says Paul Durica. "The transition of Old Town took decades. Wicker Park took from the mid-80s to the late 90s. Logan Square seems like it transitioned from a young, hip neighborhood to yuppie within a couple of years. It's not even waiting for a transition period. It's going from ethnic to hip kids to yuppies all simultaneously. It's a fascinating development."
John McDermott, of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, believes that many of the hipsters came in during the housing boom of 2002-'07 and that the bars and restaurants are just now starting to catch up with them. The foreclosure crisis has slowed development down a bit. In the meantime, the community has been trying to maintain affordable housing and avoid the sort of rent increases that drove hipsters, and black and Latino people before them, from Wicker Park. The Latinos in Logan Square, however, learned from the experience of Wicker Park: in order to avoid being forced out, they bought their property. Despite the arrival of the hipsters, the neighborhood is still one-third Hispanic, though that's mostly concentrated in the central and western parts, leaving the eastern portion, near the el, to the hipsters, who prefer to rent. This may be their undoing.
"People should buy property!" Marszewski says, pounding on a tabletop for emphasis. "Or else you will be moved out of the neighborhood. It ruined an entire generation of artistic output. People left Wicker Park and moved all over the country. Dispersement kills innovation and creativity!"
Joe Bryl, who also moved back to his childhood neighborhood, Back of the Yards, is more philosophical. "Movements are part of our culture," he says. "The urban poor gets pushed out to the suburbs, and housing values in the city rise and rise." Artists are just the latest in the line of casualties.
- Eric Allix Rogers
- Maria’s in Bridgeport. In 2023, will you be bragging you hung out there before it was cool?
Whither the hipster?
Where's the neighborhood you should be moving to right now in order to be able to say that you were there? People speculate, but nobody will know for sure until it actually happens.
A few likely candidates:
Avondale and Hermosa: The two neighborhoods adjacent to Logan Square have been a "safety valve" for Latinos who've had to leave in search of cheaper rent, says McDermott. Why wouldn't white hipsters follow? The only problem is that that neither Avondale nor Hermosa is directly on an el line the way Wicker Park and Logan Square are. "They all want to be 20 minutes from downtown," says Savage.
Bridgeport: After Marszewski moved back to Bridgeport, he and his brother took over Maria's—the bar and package store previously owned by their mother—and he became the neighborhood's cultural community organizer, opening the Co-Prosperity Sphere, an experimental cultural center, and creating events like Version Fest and the Mash-Tun Festival. But he doesn't think Bridgeport will appeal to the herds. "You create the seeds for something you don't want to be around," he says, referring to the artists and musicians who first brought attention to Wicker Park. "But we're not close enough to mass transit here."
"The Bridgeport hipster is beyond ironic," says Bill Savage. "It's more unimaginable to me than the 'Bridgeport Negro' or the 'Bridgeport Republican.'"
Pilsen: "The Mexican community has been here since the middle of the 20th century," says Durica, a current Pilsen resident. "It has deep roots. There's more tension. It won't be as quick a transition as Logan Square."
Podmajersky, a development corporation that owns most of Halsted between 16th and Cermak, has been announcing for at least 50 years its intentions to turn the neighborhood into an arts district, though the project has largely turned out to be a failure, driving unhappy artists to Bridgeport and leaving blocks of empty storefronts. But when Hammel and Tshilds opened a second restaurant, Nightwood, in 2009, they chose a spot not on North Milwaukee but on South Halsted; its chef, Jason Vincent, was just named one of Food & Wine's best new chefs. (Nightwood is also the title of the Djuna Barnes novel that's practically required reading for female hipsters.) And this past summer Bruce Finkelman, who owns the Empty Bottle and Longman & Eagle, bought Thalia Hall on 18th, where he plans to open a tavern, a music venue, and a restaurant. His first tenant, though, is Modern Cooperative, a vintage furniture store. It was a furniture store, you'll recall, that was the first harbinger of Old Town's doom.
1 The term "brohemia" was coined by Sarah Crawford.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the many roles undertaken by Hammer at Fireside Bowl.