Most trips to Old Chicago started out with a view like this while heading
to Bolingbrook on Interstate 55. It's a little hard to see the dome
but you can see how Old Chicago filled the skyline and was a memorable landmark.
My in-laws who used to live in Berwyn while my father-in-law was going to
college said that they always knew they were getting close to home after
heading down state to visit family when they saw Old Chicago filling the
After exiting on Route 53 you pulled into Old Chicago's parking lot
a few minutes later. When you left your car behind Old Chicago's memorable
lions greeted you as you entered the building. The lions were actually
replicas of the same lions that sit outside of Chicago's Art Institute.
The only difference was that Old Chicago's lions have tails that are tucked
in so that they wouldn't brake off from the thousands of kids, like myself
who made it a point to climb on them.
Old Chicago was just a magical place especially to a child like I was when
it was open. There was this impressive building that just kept getting
bigger and bigger the closer you got to it filling all of your vision.
Then there were the lions that you climbed on top of to pose for one of
the countless photos taken of kids doing the very same thing. You
pushed the doors open with excitement building up more and more with every
step and finally you were inside where you were surrounded with the sounds
of people having fun, smells of good food and the sight of these hanging
gardens above you.
There was always a festive atmosphere at Old Chicago in it's early years.
In this postcard there's the Chicago Cub and Old Chicago Bears costumed
figure as well as a balloon vendor. Behind them is the Columbian House
restaurant which only lasted a year before they closed down.
Old Chicago's Shopping Center was made not to look like a mall but to make
you feel like you were walking down the streets of Chicago at the turn of
the 19th century.
When it was full there were all sorts of stores in Old Chicago from a Hallmark
Cards shop to other various stores. Most of the stores were specialty
shops with a few chain stores like Fayva Shoes.
The Old Chicago Shopping Mall was sectioned off into different streets like
this area which was the Water Street Market.
This is the Biergarten Restaurant. It was a fantastic place to eat
and if you got one of the good tables you could look out over the Old Chicago
I have many fond memories of eating here. My family would go every
once in a while and one year for our T-Ball end of the season party was
If you ever watched the Brian DePalma movie "The Fury" this is
the restaurant where the Paratrooper gets flung through. To see that
bit from the movie check out my
Old Chicago Videos page.
Old Chicago went at great lengths to give the mall a nice atmosphere including
getting replica streetlights of the ones that Chicago had at the turn of
Here's a photo of one of the shops that was in Old Chicago. Yes it's
a head shop filled with bong's, hookah's, pipes and other stuff that's supposed
to be used for tobacco but let's be real here this stuff was used to smoke
weed. Do you know how I know this? Well one of the gentlemen
kneeling down and looking into the cabinet emailed me. He was quite
into pot back then but he turned out ok as he is now an accountant.
The shopping center part of Old Chicago was nice but looking back I wonder
if it was not a huge mistake not to have any anchor stores like a Sears
to bring in more people. It was like they expected the amusement park
to bring in the people to keep the mall going instead of visa versa like
the wildly successful Mall of America or West Edmonton Malls who took the
concept of Old Chicago and corrected this mistake.