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 horizon.
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
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
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 the century.
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.