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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Thursday, July 25

Gapers Block

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Brenda / August 12, 2004 10:52 AM

Does Lake Michigan qualify as a "landmark"?

Stewart / August 12, 2004 11:11 AM

Oooh, good one, Brenda. If it doesn't count, as a Hyde Park resident, I'll give props to The Point.

Also, I really really dig that hot-dog shaped bridge on Damen right next to the Vienna Beef factory.

Andrew / August 12, 2004 11:22 AM

When I was a kid, my landmark driving into the city was the huge neon Coke sign whose "dynamic ribbon device" would swirl on and off.

When I was a teenager, it was the Barnum & Bagel, which meant I wasn't far from Kafein in Evanston. Or it was Wrigley Field, which meant I was nearly at Clark and Belmont.

Now, It's the "Chili Hamburger" sign above a taqueria near Clark and Devon. It's close to home, and the fact that it remains long after the greasy spoon that installed it has gone (the taqueria serves not chili nor hamburgers) reminds me of the age of the city.

Steve / August 12, 2004 11:24 AM

The el. Every stinkin' rusty inch of the above-ground portion of it, anyway.

Any city can dig tunnels and run trains underground or at street level -- but only Chicago would go over and through the neighborhoods and along the expressways....

anne / August 12, 2004 11:38 AM

For one brief week, I lived near Al's Fun in the Bun, a wonderful landmark consisting of a giant neon hotdog skewered by a fork, standing high above Foster Avenue at Ravenswood. But now, it's gone, replaced by a tasteful sign for a Chinese food place in the same shopping center. Al, I hardly knew ye.

Shylo / August 12, 2004 11:39 AM

The weird humanized hot dog tableau atop Superdawg.

robin.. / August 12, 2004 11:58 AM

i was always partial to giving directions by the "meat wheel" painting--which i assumed incorrectly was a mosaic (how how would that have been!)--on the NW corner of damen and lawrence. then the building on which it stood burned down...

Michael / August 12, 2004 12:16 PM

As a North-sider, for me it would be a three-way tie between Wrigley Field - how could you not love a ballpark embedded in a thriving residential neighborhood...the "El" - which evokes memories of a grittier and less tame Chicago...and Graceland Cemetery - the final resting place for many of the city's great founders and early industrialists (not to mention a ghost or two).

Steve / August 12, 2004 12:29 PM

Robin -- that place burned down? I just noticed the empty lot there last week and was wondering wha' happen....

Carly / August 12, 2004 12:33 PM

Shylo-that's a good one! I used to pass it all the time when my parents would drive us into the city to visit relatives. It always made me think of Chicago.

As an "adult", I'd say I-90. I know that's not a landmark, but it's this expressway that brings me into and out of the city sometimes.

pj chmiel / August 12, 2004 1:11 PM

that place on the corner of Lawrence/Damen was quickly run out of business and bulldozed (along with every other business on the block) to make room for...guess what... MORE CONDOS! Thank god; just what the north side needed. Looking forward to the new cell phone store, Quiznos or Starbucks that will replace it, (if any ground-level businesses are even a part of the scheme).

steve_sleeve / August 12, 2004 1:13 PM

Big Al's Fun In The Bun is GONE? RIP.

My favorite landmark is another RIP: the Magikist sign formerly visible north of the city on I-90.

anne / August 12, 2004 1:42 PM

Yup, Al is gone. I used to use it as a landmark for people driving in from 90 towards my house as a "you're almost to Ashland and Clark" point. Now they'll have to use the Metra bridge there at Ravenswood that says "Save the Environment: Wear Fur". Not quite the same though... poor Al.

amyc / August 12, 2004 2:22 PM

Two landmarks I loved that are now gone: The rainbow flag sticker on the sign for the Belmont exit from Lake Shore Drive (it always cheered me, like I was entering a "safe zone"), and the horrible Bryan Ferry mural on the back of Club 950, visible from the Red Line train.

Oh, and there was a sign over the little donut/hot dog joint in the Wrigley Field parking lot that said "Enjoy a Pepsi Either Way" without specifying what the options for Pepsi enjoyment were. I loved that weird little sign.

Steve / August 12, 2004 2:31 PM

Ah but AmyC, we still have the top half of the Prince mural to enjoy.

And that Prince plays a mean game of hoops, and ain't afraid to taunt you over pancakes afterwards.

Michael / August 12, 2004 2:44 PM

...and the Revolution? Oh yeah, those guys can ball!

Roni / August 12, 2004 2:45 PM

Totally the Magikist sign as a kid because that meant we were almost to the Cubs game. Also the start of the blue line on the Ike because, as a kid, that's when I knew we were in Chicago.

amy / August 12, 2004 3:02 PM

This summer - it's my new neighborhood (Andersonville/Edgewater) not to mention the strip of Montrose between Ravenswood and Damen. That's where I was for 6 years and everything I ever ever needed was there.

Though I insist that the happiest place in Chicago is Dog Beach at Montrose. You can't help but run and jump with the doggies when you are there.

Ann / August 12, 2004 3:11 PM

Magikist lips on the Dan Ryan (southsiders had them, too) always meant we were getting close to downtown. I guess I hadn't noticed that it was gone. Though I'm not sure if a patch of land could be considered a landmark, I hold very dear the grass on the lakefront next to the Planetarium. It was where my mother always took us for the skyline view. I have photos of myself standing there every few years from 1974 to 2002.

lynn / August 12, 2004 3:22 PM

Yeah, yeah Magikist -- the sign that heralded the promise of wonder and excitement in the city to all Western suburban kids.

Jonathan / August 12, 2004 3:42 PM

The Bridgeview Bank Building at Lawrence & Broadway. The sturdiest building in Uptown, which is the first neighborhood I lived in when I moved to town.

mar / August 12, 2004 4:56 PM

The Budweiser sign at Sacramento on the Kennedy. The old one, with the moving red lights. It always fasinated me as a kid. And then when I started dating a boy took me to the base of the sign - just to show me where it was. But I thought he was so cool 'cuz he new a lot about my favorite sign.

Alice / August 12, 2004 4:59 PM

Besides the Pickwick Theatre in Park Ridge, I'd have to go with the Leaning Tower of Pisa replica on Touhy Avenue in Niles.

Daniel / August 12, 2004 5:48 PM

There's this little yellow dump truck on the roof of some business I can't recall visible from the Cicero greenline stop.


It's too small to be an actual vehicle and too big to be a toy.

ron / August 12, 2004 6:49 PM

The Rosarios Italian Sausage sign on south Pulaski . The pigs on the sign are walking into a grinder. It's just so damned beautiful.

Heather S. / August 12, 2004 9:10 PM

I'm from Bartlett, IL and my Mom never drove expressway so she'd always drive Route 19 to Chicago. Back in the 1970s & early 1980s you could stop on Route 19 where it goes next O'Hare, park the car and watch the planes take off and land. Seeing the planes was the highlight of the trip.

I also hold the old Water Tower close to my heart. When I was in 4th grade we made replicas of Chicago monuments and I made the Water Tower out of paper towel and toilet paper rolls. I thought I was so damn cool.

Luke / August 12, 2004 9:23 PM

That will never be the Bridgeview Bank Building. It was, it is and it shall forever be the Uptown Bank Building.

jm / August 13, 2004 1:50 AM

I used to work in the basement of the OLD Park Hyatt (between Chicago and Pearson). It was also magical to leave work and climb out of the darkness into the marvelous square surrounding the little old watertower on Michigan Ave and Chicago. Made me feel like throwing my hat into the air a la Mary Tyler Moore. Contender? A certain front stoop at 421 West Belden Ave. Some of the most beautiful years of my life are connected to that stoop.

brian / August 13, 2004 10:14 AM

Heather - if you take Toughy, you can still park by the airport and see them take off.

These days my welcome to Chicago is the smell of the el after I get off a plane at O'Hare. As a kid, it was the thick yellow murk of the streetlights as we pulled over the Skyway.

I love the Skyway. It fascinates me.

Benjy / August 13, 2004 10:22 AM

The ever changing mural walls on the building at the North Ave. exit on the Kennedy. Used to be for Bigsbey & Kuruthers and now it's LaSalle Bank. The one where Rodman and his changing hair colors graced it for a short while, etc. Currently it's an adaptation of Suraut's "A Sunday on La Grande Jatte" but with the Chicago skyline in the background.

Luke / August 13, 2004 10:45 AM

Ah, yes, smells. The Blommers Chocolate smell ought to be landmarked for preservation.

haydn / August 13, 2004 12:55 PM

The Flatiron building in Wicker Park comes to mind first.

For demolished landmarks, there's the old Baird Warner building at Ravenswood and Belmont that you could see from anywhere on the North Side.

But nothing beats the sign of the jovial man tossing pizza dough at Barry's Spot at Broadway and Ardmore.

dce / August 13, 2004 1:52 PM

The water tower in Andersonville with the Swedish flag painted on it. Being part Viking, it warms my heart nearly every day.

+mojan. / August 13, 2004 3:09 PM

There's something special about the Wrigley building. Looking at it from any angle makes me think WOW, I live in Chicago, and Frankie was right, this IS my kind of town.

Lori / August 13, 2004 3:12 PM

Definitely the superdawg.

Timmy / August 13, 2004 3:19 PM


Lisa / August 13, 2004 5:40 PM

It's gotta be the Lincoln head sign...

JIMBO / August 13, 2004 6:24 PM


Steve / August 13, 2004 7:20 PM


Yes, I do not remember.

Steve / August 13, 2004 7:20 PM


Yes, I do not remember.

Steve / August 13, 2004 7:22 PM

Nor do I remember how not to do double-post.

db / August 13, 2004 9:00 PM

The "Tip-Top-Tap" sign that used to be atop the Allerton Hotel. ... The Lindbergh Beacon atop the Palmolive/Playboy building ... the Magikist signs ... and the Morton Salt sign along the Kennedy -- 'When It Rains It Pours.' That one always made me think.

elisabeth / August 14, 2004 12:44 PM

On the South Side there is a beautiful staute of Columbia in her full pride and glory(from the Great Exhibition of 1898 -I think) She's standing in a well-used but grass forlorn park and youdrive around her in a circle....lovely and mysterious.

Alex / August 14, 2004 2:53 PM

The sorely missed Magikist sign...

Chris / August 14, 2004 3:08 PM

Promontory Point in Hyde Park. I love that place.

Tyler Durden / August 14, 2004 5:16 PM

Np points for originality, but the Sears Tower is my favorite landmark. Although it's not the tallest anymore, it is STILL a magnificent building, and since oyu can see it from anywhere in the city, I use it as a poor man's GPS. If I ever get disoriented, all I gotta do is look up.

AL / August 14, 2004 6:46 PM

Elisabeth- I just took a Chicago Architecture Foundation tour of Jackson Park this morning. That statue is a replica of the original Statue of the Republic from the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. The original was 3 times the size, but was made of plaster and fell apart shortly after the fair. The replica went up in 1918. It currently stands where the Administration building once stood.

I'm moving out of Chicago in a couple weeks and now I'm getting really sad. There are too many "landmarks" for me to name. Can I just say the whole entire city?

noname / August 15, 2004 7:57 AM

wrigleyfield, definitely.
that and the wonderful statues around town of forefathers, etc. which are still in pristine non-commercialized non-nike condition. I dont know if they're all that specific to chicago, but they're important history nonetheless.

but wrigleyfield is chicago, and its still (thank you tribune co.) pretty much 1920's style, no ads, no loud music during the game, just a ball park. and with everyone else in the league tearing theirs down and rebuilding, its value increases.

Beth / August 15, 2004 9:27 AM

For a longtime Northsider, it's the sign for the A&T restaurant on Clark and Greenwood in Roger's Park. Their Roger's Park Omelette should be a landmark in it's self.

st / August 15, 2004 4:10 PM

Ron said it all, Rosarios Italian Sausage Sign, but i'd have to add the Mattson's Steak House Sign in all it's animated cowboy glory on 81st cicero. And as far as smells go, I miss the old Cracker Jack plant and am still a big fan of the Nabisco Plant on 71st and Kedzie. Ahhhh childhood.

Allen / August 15, 2004 8:57 PM

Gotta be Olive Park. Right next to Navy Pier, but it's kind of hidden away.

Vit / August 16, 2004 11:00 AM

The Magikist lips on the Dan Ryan were it for me (always knew we were almost there when I saw them). Also Comiskey Park and the Red Building on the IIT campus were some of my earliest childhood road memories.

My favorite landmark though has got to be that damn lake.

Polamer / August 31, 2004 6:49 AM

Landmarks, the chess tables at North Ave. Beach, the whole Polish population in Chicago, including all the old Polish neighborhoods, Wicker Park/Bucktown, Belmont and Cetral, Milwaukee which is a landmark st. above all other streets., and every other ethnic neighborhood, even carnaryville. Unfortunately White Trash trailer parks don't count. Oh and of course, Gene and Judes Hot Dog Stand, North Ave and River Rd. The bomb. Great place to go after Maywood park Race Track. Win or loose.

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