Friday, October 1, 2010

Uptown, Pt. 4

The Green Mill #2, originally uploaded by William 74.

Our last stop on the Lawrence and Broadway crossroads is an unassuming looking storefront just a few steps down from the Uptown Theater. Unassuming until you see the bright green neon of the Green Mill's sign beckoning you to come inside. Built on the site of a popular roadhouse, the Green Mill Garden Complex was an outdoor venue, featuring walled-in sunken gardens and an elegant restaurant. The restaurant became the current Green Mill when the Uptown was constructed, and has remained a jazz club ever since.

The Green Mill is a true piece of Chicago history. Machine Gun McGurn owned it at one time, and his boss, Al Capone, had his own booth. Joe E. Lewis got his throat cut for trying to leave his gig there. Performers and patrons heading to the Riviera or the Aragon would stop in for a quick drink. The Prohibition-era tunnels that laced the Uptown district connnected to the Green Mill's basement.

Like Uptown itself, the Green Mill fell on hard times after the war. Sure, the big players still came in, but all too soon the neighborhood began it's decline, and as the pimps and drug dealers began to move in, the affluent patrons moved out. Soon the club was a shadow of it's former, rollicking self.

The Green Mill today is going stronger than ever, though. Restored to it's former, speakeasy glory, it once again features the best jazz musicians in the world. Inside it's almost a parody of what a jazz club should be. It's dark and woody and intimate. It's been restored, but you'd never really know it. Gold velvet booths and tablecloths. Ornately carved frames to murals depicting pastoral landscapes. A Schlitz statue, complete with a glowing globe. It almost feels like everything's in sepia, like an old photo found in a shoebox.

Walking back out onto Broadway is a shock, a real looking glass moment.

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