On a crisp autumn night, September 26, 2003, a young journalist sat down at a desk in what was then called Hotel 71, unfolded a keyboard, slotted in a travel-worn U.S. Robotics Palm Pilot and started to write about what he saw around him. The Chicago Architecture Blog was born.
This was before there was a Facebook. Before there as a Twitter. Before iPods were in color and worked on Windows. Back then, you called it a “weblog,” not a “blog,” if you even knew what a “blog” was. DogPile, Excite, HotBot and Altavista were the search engines of choice.
In that hotel room, I hammered out the first article for this new blog. An article about a fanciful new paradise promised on the shores of Lake Michigan. A place they were calling “Lakeshore East.”
It promised a park, shops, restaurants, and homes for 50,000 new Chicagoans right in the heart of downtown at a time when Chicago’s population was starting to reverse decades of decline. But when I went to visit, it was anything but an urban paradise.
In fact, it was a golf course. And not a very good one. In my memories, it looked mostly abandoned. The one thing it had going for it was the clubhouse restaurant, which still operated, and served as some kind of social lunch station for people who had eaten there for so many years they’d forgotten that there was anywhere else to eat. As a newcomer to Chicago, I couldn’t grok that it didn’t take credit cards.
Access to Lakeshore East was via a slow, rickety elevator. Rusted and urine-soaked, it trembled next to Fire Station 13 as it conveyed passengers from the faux surface streets of the Illinois Center above to the dirt and weeds of a promised paradise below. But there was no paradise. Just some urban pioneers in The Lancaster, the rattling of tow trucks, and a lot of homeless people.
Of course, Lakeshore East has come a long way since then. And so has this blog.
So for the next few months, we’ll run a series of articles about Chicago a decade ago, using pictures from this blog’s archives. Where possible, we’ll match up photos from then and now so you can see how the city has grown and changed over time. We start the series where we started the blog: Lakeshore East.