Holiday Club, 1997

Holiday-Club-1996-©2019 Michael Priorie. All Rights Reserved.

Around 1997, I went on a road trip to the West Coast. While in San Francisco, I stumbled upon an underground scene where Swing music was enjoying a revival. It was complete with clubs that played live big band music and cool kids who dressed in vintage 1940’s Zoot suits and poodle skirts. Fedoras were a must. The trend came to Chicago to places like the Holiday Club but it didn’t get a big as it was on the West Coast. That was too bad because I enjoyed getting dressed up in vintage clothes and seeing those big bands play. 

4 HR. Service, 1997

4-Hr-Service©2019 Michael Priorie. All Rights Reserved.

Of all the things that have disappeared in Wicker Park, I believe this store front has remained unchanged through it all. I’ve been going to the area since about 1992-93 and this is the same sign that probably has been up for decades. Everything around them has been gentrified. Back in 1993, there was not a lot of places to go into down this stretch and the area would get sketchier the further south you went down Milwaukee Avenue. I used to have this cleaners sign as my landmark to “turn back” to safety. Of course, it probably wasn’t as bad as I originally perceived it.

Look Into Our Eyes

IMG_7766©2019 Michael Priorie. All Rights Reserved.

I found this mural striking. I was walking up Damen Avenue one fall afternoon and stopped in my tracks. I took out my iPhone and captured this. It wasn’t until later that I realized what a strong image it was.

North/Damen/Milwaukee 1996


©2013 Mike Priorie. All Rights Reserved.

So at this point, which was the summer of 1996, Wicker Park had become the focal point of Chicago’s music and art scene. The landscape was rapidly changing since I began photographing there a few years before. Gentrification had started to reach south on Milwaukee toward Division and north toward Armitage; to the west toward Western and the east toward Ashland as well. More new storefronts and Lofts began replacing the old and I began noticing the influx of newer people coming to the area. It would be a few years before I started to see baby strollers though.

Northwest Tower (AKA The Coyote Building), 2012


©2013 Mike Priorie. All Rights Reserved.

The Northwest Tower is a well known landmark in Chicago. You can see it on the horizon as you come up from the subway on the Blue Line. Once you see it, you know that you have reached Wicker Park. It was built in 1928 and in the 1980’s became known as the Coyote building because the artists who were living there thought it resembled a howling coyote– thus how they got the name for the Around The Coyote Arts festival.

Vintage Shoes, 1994


©2013. Mike Priorie. All Rights Reserved.

Around this time, vintage anything was popping up everywhere . This was evident here in Chicago, especially Wicker Park. Of course at the time finding mint saddles shoes or a nice red and black chrome 1950s dining set was in decent abundance. Nowadays, you’d be pretty lucky to find a original in good condition. The ones I’ve seen recently were all crap unless you bought a replica for new.
It’s funny how in the midst of all the technology of that time, how there was such an underground movement to bring back the mid twentieth century. In this period, I fell in love with the ideologies of The Beats. Going out and doing your things for kicks really inspired me. That’s why I started to dig the art scene in Wicker Park back then. Everything happening coincided with how I felt. It seems like the dressed-in-black days of the old Belmont and Clark were over, and a new, plaid shirt bohemian existence was beginning.

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