Friday, July 6, 2012

63rd and Wallace

     I picked my brother up from Midway Airport on the pleasant, sunny afternoon of June 22nd. I was late because the city had decided to repave Cicero Avenue and traffic was backed up for a mile. When we left the airport, we started looking for an alternative route.  Driving east towards the lake, my brother spotted a Portillo's, a Chicago landmark, and we had stop in for a sausage. As we examined the street map spread on the table before us, my brother had a revelation. 
      "Isn't the H. H. Holmes murder castle that you're writing about in your sequel close to here?"
      "Yeah, I guess. It's down 63rd street towards the lake. It was on the corner of 63rd and Wallace."
       "We'll never be closer than this," he said. "Let's go take a look at where the hotel was. You can't have any credibility writing this book if you don't visit the original site."
     "That's not a good neighborhood," I warned.
     He gave me a "so what" look and I knew I could not back down from a brother challenge.
So warily clutching the wheel of my minivan, we are off down 63rd Street.
     "Do you have a gun?" I asked.
     "No, I just got off a plane."
     "Oh, yeah, right." I thought it was a fair question since he is a police officer.
     We traveled a few more mile talking about the Cubs chances this year, all the time feeling nervous and terrible out of place.
     " That was it!" he yells as we passed under an elevated train track.
     " That was what?"
     "Wallace. It ran right next to the tracks. You've got to turn around." He surveyed the neighborhood with a practiced eye. "Just do it quick." he added.
     Like he thought he needed to tell me that. Then I got a better idea.
     "I'll just turn down this alley. It should come out on Wallace. We won't even have to stop."
      Well, that was true in a way. We didn't have to stop until we got to the end of the alley where it ran into the structure of the elevated train. If you don't feel safe driving through the streets of Englewood, just cruise down the alleys.
     Through my research I knew that a Post Office now occupied the spot where the infamous "World's Fair Hotel" had been located. The building appeared on our left and I realized it had sat on the southeast corner. The long side of the 125 by 50 foot building was actually on Wallace where the restaurant and jewelry store had their entrance. The Robinson Pharmacy was on the corner with an entrance off 63rd. I thougth of the estimated 200 people who died horrible deaths on that unholy piece of property and wondered if the local residents had seen any ghosts.
     "Once the site of lost souls, now the site of lost mail," quipped my brother.

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