The baseball history loving world has embarked on a season long celebration of 100 years of Wrigley Field. While the majority of us Cub fans can wallow in our misery of never having witnessed a major league championship, we can certainly bask in the glory of cheering on our team in one of the world's grandest sport cathedrals. Although the ballpark is my own personal holy place, what makes Wrigley Field particularly special for me is the historic neighborhood she calls home. And her saloons help tell her story.
When Weeghman Park opened it's doors in 1914, the Federal League
Chicago Whales were playing in the neighborhood known as Lake View.
Originally a place where German and Swedish farmers settled, the area
soon developed into a suburb where Chicagoans could getaway from the
chaos of the city and where the mid-19th Century wealthy could build
their summer homes. The township became a city in 1887 but as Chicago
grew, it slowly made its push into the area and, in 1889, it was
finally annexed to Chicago.
Take one look at this beautiful Victorian era building and you are looking at every corner of late 1800s Lakeview. Once a tavern in 1910, a grocery store during the Prohibition era and later Jungmann's Corner Deli in the 1950s, it got back to its liquor roots when the Hansa Club opened in the 1960s. Justin's arrived in 1984 during a time when Lakeview was a not so nice place to be. Southport without strollers? Yes, there was once a time. Justin invested into his dream bar during a time that the Cubs got us excited for a brief post-season minute. Today, Justin and his bar are considered pioneers of the successful Southport corridor.
To even try to talk about Wrigleyville saloons without including Murphy's would be foolish. As it lies in the shadow of Wrigley Field, the tavern seems to beckon you with each end every 1:20PM start. But what of its history? While you can certainly call it Wrigleyville, remember that Wrigley Field didn't come to be until 1926. A drive-up hot dog stand where you could purchase beer by the bucket, Ernie's Bleachers was here during the 1930s.
In 1965, legendary DePaul University basketball coach, Ray Meyer
established Ray's Bleachers - Home of the Bleacher Bums. Marge Meyer,
his wife, was said to be Mama Bleacher Bum. In 1980, Jim Murphy bought
the place and renamed it Murphy's Bleachers. Investing much of his time
and money into neighborhood improvement advertisements, anti-ballpark
expansion campaigns, and area fundraisers, Jim Murphy became somewhat of
a local legend that can be credited with keeping Wrigleyville the true
EL JARDIN (3335 N. Clark St.)
Chicago is an immigrant city and each and every one of her neighborhoods
are building blocks to that bigger picture. Although mostly European
immigrants are responsible for Wrigleyville's foundation, like any other
Chicago environs, things change. El Jardin tells a more modern story.
In 1947, Catalina Salazar and her two sisters, Lita and Mary, moved to
the Midwest from San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Like many other immigrants
trying to achieve the American dream, they each worked at local
factories. In 1966, the sisters purchased this building that housed the
divey biker bar called Buckingham Gardens. Seeing the bar business as
an opportunity for additional income, they kept the tavern and took
turns working in the evenings. While cooking meals for themselves and
for their staff, hungry bar patrons would often ask if they could
purchase a taco or two. Soon, it was this delectable food that kept the
customers coming. By 1967 the bar was a full-fledged restaurant called
El Jardin (garden in Spanish). Perhaps better known for it's present
day mind-bomb margaritas, let's make something ever clear: there is no
Everclear. Just a whole lot of tequila. Brilliant.
Have your opinion of what Wrigleyville is today, but make no mistake that it's truly a fantastically historic neighborhood with drinking dens worthy of her tales. Next time you're there, look around, take a sip, and soak in some Chicago history.
To learn more about the area's past and Wrigley Field history, join Liz on May 10th for a walking tavern tour of Wrigleyville pubs. Stuart Shea, author of Wrigley Field: The Long Life & Contentious Times of the Friendly Confines, will be a special guest on the tour.