Monday, February 28, 2011


Bugatti Type 59, originally uploaded by William 74.
With a history that dates back to 1909, Bugatti has quite possibly the best pedigree in automobiledom. "Proper" Bugattis were among, if not the, most exotic cars of their time, and often times the fastest as well. Cars such as the Type 35, the Type 57 Atlantic, and the famous Royale were exclusive, fast, and beautifully designed and built. The cars were renowned for the high level of detail in their engineering, as well as the artistic way in which the designs were made metal. This exoticism came at a price, though-you couldn't just jump into a Bugatti, fire it up, and run down to the shops (or the club, as a Bugatti owner was far more likely to have someone to do the shopping for them). Finicky starting procedures and specialized maintenance was the rule for these highly strung sports cars. This one happens to be a Type 59 Grand Prix racer from the late 30's. It is ridiculously quick and sounds amazing.

So, apropos of nothing, do you like what you see here? Know someone who likes to look at fabtastic photos of awesomeriffic cars? Then hustle on over to Doug's Used Cars, where you'll find images like this one, for sale even, to fill the blank space on the wall of that gearhead in your life. Don't know a gearhead? No problem! We've got other stuff over there too!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Little Sweden

Simon's-Chicago, IL, originally uploaded by William 74.
Andersonville is a neighborhood in the Edgewater area of Chicago's north side, and was once a sleepy little village with a large Swedish immigrant population. That history is alive and well today, as Andersonville is home to the Swedish American Museum, as well as several Swedish delis and bakeries. It's a really cool neighborhood, with a very diverse population and an awesome mix of restaurants and shops in it's commercial district. In fact, the commercial district along Clark Street is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Simon's is an Andersonville institution, a classic bar that-naturally-features a few Swedish favorites like Pripp's Lager, aquavit, glogg, and of course, Schlitz beer. It's been there since the 30's and features decor inspired by the S.S. Normandie-it's said that most of the clientele of Simon's couldn't afford to sail on the famed liner, so the bar was styled to allow patrons the feeling of being onboard. It's an excellent tavern, very homey.

And, this being Neon Friday, it has an awesome sign hanging out front, in blue and yellow of course. Oh, and the fish with the Martini? Pickled herring. Geddit?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Michael Reese Hospital

Located on Chicago's Near South Side, just off of Lake Shore Drive, Michael Reese Hospital was a major research and teaching hospital, as well as being one of the largest in the city. Originally opened in 1880, the original hospital was named after real estate developer Michael Reese, who died in 1877 and left funds in his will for the development of a new hospital. This original building was demolished in 1905, to be replaced by a newer, larger building two years later.

As early as the 1940's, the Near South Side neighborhood was already starting to decline, but Reese, along with IIT and Mercy Catholic Hospital, opted to stay in the area and promote urban renewal rather than abandon the neighborhood. From the 50's on, Michael Reese Hospital purchased adjacent properties, eventually ending up with several clinics and pavilions on the campus. I remember seeing it when it was open, and it was a pretty big place.

By the 1990's, Reese had become a for-profit hospital, and this presaged the beginning of the end for the facility. Running costs, particularly physical plant costs, were considerably higher than newer, more modern hospitals, and many of the older buildings fell into disuse and disrepair. Hospital records were stored on pallets in unused clinics, and by 2007 Michael Reese had reduced capacity to just 150 beds. By 2008 Reese was closed for good.

Being over a century old, the Reese campus has-or had-many buildings of architectural interest. The older buildings, particularly the Rosthchild Nurses' Residence and the main hospital building boasted lots of ornate architectural detail, particularly in the main building's common areas. The campus' signature feature, however, are the late 40's additions designed to a master plan devised by Walter Gropius. Most of the new buildings, while designed by local Chiacgo architects, show a strong Gropius influence. Demolition of the campus started in 2009, in preparation for the-since canceled-2016 Chicago Olympics. The Michael Reese property was to be the Olympic Village.

This is the back side of the main building, visible from across the old South Shore tracks in back of McCormick Place.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Snowfall, originally uploaded by William 74.
When in doubt, go back to the Tea Garden in Batavia. It's such a picturesque little spot, and it's always fun to shoot in different lighting and weather conditions. I like shooting snowscapes, but don't often shoot when it's actually snowing-it seems that when it's falling hard enough to be picturesque it's also falling hard enough to make driving anywhere a pain. But I got lucky this day and the roads were pretty good, and I didn't get stuck or anything.

I like this one-it's got an old-timey feel, don't ya think?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Goodhue Special

Goodhue Special-TtV, originally uploaded by William 74.
This week's TtV Tuesday entry is another locally made antique windmill from the Batavia collection. This one's a Goodhue Special, made by the Appleton Manufacturing Company. It dates, if I remember correctly, from the 1920's, and is in fine condition.

This is another one of those shots that shows just what I like about TtV photography. It's essentially a picture of a reflection, as this is what's on the mirror inside one of my dusty old Full-Vues, which is directly viewable from the glass window on the top of the camera. It's very analogue, like looking at a projection.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Roadster, originally uploaded by William 74.
The term "roadster" is usually used to describe a small, open, two seat car-something like an MG or Alfa Romeo, or maybe a hot rod Ford. But for a time in the 50's and 60's, it also referred to the big, front engined racers that dominated Champ Car racing in general, and Indianapolis in particular. The cars were big, built by hand to a very high standard, usually ran the classic Offenhauser twin cam, and often came from one of four shops in the Los Angeles area. This one happens to be a Watson, and won the '56 500, Pat Flaherty up.

The progenitors of these cars can be traced back to the Indy racers of the 30's, as the cars began to get lower and faster, and the end of the "junk formula" that brought about the rebirth of purpose built, purebred racing cars. Postwar, Frank Kurtis became the king of Champ Cars, building cars suited for all classes, from quarter midgets up to the big Indy cars. His cars were always beautifully built and rugged, and generally ran some version of the Offy mill.

A.J. Watson first came to prominence in American racing in the early 50's, finally winning the 500 as crew chief for the John Zink team. The team was running Kurtis chassis, and for '56 the team decided to let Watson design their own car. Based on a Kurtis style spaceframe, Watson did a Chapman and "added lightness" by eliminating what he felt were unnecessary brackets and structure, as well as redesigning the steering system and using lightweight materials in several areas. Topped off with a sleek, Larry Shinoda designed ally body, the Watson looked fantastic and was fast, right out of the box.

Watson continued to refine the same basic design until 1963, pioneering the use of fiberglass bodywork, and 23 examples of the roadster emerged from his shops in Los Angeles. Like earlier Kurtis designs, Watson roadsters continued to race for several years, the final appearance at Indy being in 1966. A.J. Watson eventually moved his shop to Speedway, Indiana, and has even built a few more roadsters, as they've proven to be so popular.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Road To Ride

It's pretty common for railroads with long names to be more famous by nicknames or shortened versions of their full names. Two such roads are shown on this sign.

The Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific was a classic Midwestern railroad, famed for it's "Rocket" passenger trains, as well as being one of the roads that handled the Golden State Limited from Chicago to Los Angeles. However, declining revenues throughout the fifties and sixties, as well as having routes that were doubled by the Burlington Road, caused the Rock Island to slide into bankruptcy, and by 1980 was out of business for good.

The New York, Chicago, and St. Louis was better known as the "Nickel Plate" because of the road's smooth riding rails. Primarily an eastern carrier, the Nickel Plate ran from New York to Chicago, and was renowned for it's use of steam well into the postwar diesel era. However, like so many mid-sized railroads in America, declining revenues forced a merger with the stronger Norfolk & Western, and the Nickel Plate disappeared in 1964.

The title comes, of course, from the folk classic Rock Island Line, by Kelly Pace, and popularized by Leadbelly and Lonnie Donegan. Originally recorded by John Lomax, and sung by Pace and his fellow inmates at an Alabama prison, the song tells the story of a train operator who smuggled pig iron by claiming he had nothing but livestock.

Get your ticket at the station!

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Ghost Sign-Sterling, IL, originally uploaded by William 74.
An amazing ghost sign in the town of Sterling, Illinois. It appears to be for the Haymarket restaurant, which doesn't appear to actually exist anymore, although there was a restaurant around the corner from this. Despite the big worn spot down the middle (what the heck happened there?) and the bricked over window, this one's still in good shape, and includes a vintage Old Style logo.

One of my favorite recent finds.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Drink Coca-Cola

Drink Coca-Cola, originally uploaded by William 74.
Coca-Cola is one of the best known brand names in the world-second perhaps to McDonald's-and Coke memorabilia is very popular. This is a big Coke machine, probably from the early fifties, and would have been in a convenience store or gas station. It's currently being used as decoration at a garden center that happens to be located in a very intact Pure Oil cottage style station.

I've never seen one quite like this, and more importantly I've never seen one with the fifties Squirt logo on it either. It's a sticker, and unfortunately it seems that someone has tried to peel it off sometime in the distant past. Too bad-it may not be original but it added some interest to the machine.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Through the Viewfinder Tuesday!

Barn TtV, originally uploaded by William 74.
I seem to have skipped a week, so here's the return of Through the Viewfinder Tuesday!

This week's subject is a barn and silo complex in rural Illinois, along the Lincoln Highway. I've passed this place numerous times, but have never managed to get a really good shot of it until recently. The recent heavy snowfalls and cold temperatures have left an excellent blanket of the white stuff along the fields. I think it's a remarkably pretty scene. The buildings appear to be abandoned-the nearest one is open on the sides and appears to contain only garbage, although the snow had drifted mightily so I'll probably have to go back and investigate again when it's warmer.

This is an interesting TtV shot. I don't usually shoot into the sun with this setup, because the plastic lenses of my trusty Spartus Full-Vue craze badly, and tends to show up the weird double reflections of the crazed mirror. But I was trying to do a TtV version of a photo I'd taken earlier-I'm not sure if I quite succeeded, but I do like the outcome.

ETA  link.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Chilly Dog

Chilly Dog, originally uploaded by William 74.
The iconic Mack bulldog, a face only a trucker could love.

This one is a B-61 tractor, probably a late fifties example if I'm not mistaken. I like the B series trucks-they have a really nice, late 40's style to them, with lots of nice brightwork. The cab is also quite small by modern standards-about the size of a pickup cab-and it's quite Spartan inside, with plain vinyl trim and lots of painted meta, all in traditional Mack green. The outside's orange, and pretty faded, but the truck does run. I'd love to see it restored again.

Friday, February 11, 2011

DeKalb Theatre

DeKalb Theatre-DeKalb, IL, originally uploaded by William 74.
I don't know what it is, but there's something about movie theaters and neon signs I like. I've shown a couple others here (the Chicago Theatre and the Sterling), and here's another for this week's Neon Friday.

This is the DeKalb Theater in DeKalb, Illinois. I know absolutely nothing about this theater, except that when I shot this back in '09 it wasn't in use and was looking kind of shabby. I've been past since and there seems to be something going on there, but I haven't been able to stop and look. Either way, the DeKalb has this excellent vintage sign out front-surely it deserves to be restored to it's former glory?

Union Station

Union Station-Chicago, IL, originally uploaded by William 74.
The grand entrance of Chicago Union Station, the last of the inter-city stations in the city. Opened in 1925, Union Station served the Milwaukee Road, the CB&Q, Michigan Central, and the Chicago and Alton. It was by far the busiest of Chicago's stations, and remains so today, as it handles both commuter traffic as well as Amtrak intercity trains.

Union Station is also a well known landmark in the city, and it's grand entrance staircase is a popular setting for television and movies set in the city.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Way of the Zephyrs

Denver Zephyr, originally uploaded by William 74.
The Zephyr fleet was one of the Burlington's signature services, high speed passenger trains renowned for their speed and service. Originally running with articulated trainsets (like the Pioneer Zephyr), but eventually with specially built, stainless steel EMD E5 locomotives and separate cars.

This is the Nebraska Zephyr, which is a hybrid of sorts. The locomotive is an E5 (the only one to survive, in fact), with the following cars being one of the original articulated Nebraska Zephyr sets. The Nebraska run got two sets, and all of the cars were named after classical deities-the "Train of the Gods" and the "Train of the Goddesses". This happens to be the latter, and the cars are called Venus, Vesta, Minerva, Ceres, and Juno. Two other cars, Psyche and Diana, were removed from service sometime in the fifties.

I photographed the Zephyr at the Illinois Railway Museum, where it has lived since it's retirement in 1968. It's a beautiful sight, and I'm glad that the museum still runs it regularly.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Space Age

'61 Imperial, originally uploaded by William 74.
A lot of people think that the idea of mass manufacturers introducing "luxury" brands started with Acura (Honda), Lexus (Toyota) and Infiniti (Nissan), but Chrysler was ahead of them when they spun the Imperial line off into it's own separate marque in 1955. Imperials were Mopar's top line, and between '57 and '66 had their own platforms separate from other Chrysler products. Styled by Virgil Exner, Imperials reflected his "Forward Look" style, featuring dramatic rooflines and aggressive long hood-short deck proportions. There was nothing quite like them.

This particular Imperial is a '61, probably the most iconic version. It features the biggest fins (the last year for fins on Imperials), complete with characteristic gunsight taillights. More strikingly, Exner added separate, podded headlights to the front end, giving a truly unique look to the car. This style lasted for only one season, before the fins were cut off and the headlights returned to a more normal position.

Friday, February 4, 2011


Happy Neon Friday!

Y'know, a lot of people think of one thing when they think of neon signs-big glitzy things like you see in Vegas or something. Which is cool, but misses the fact that for many years, neon signs were everywhere, the best way to advertise your business day or night, and that they ranged from complex marquees to simpler ones that had a name and maybe some chasing lights. The fancy ones seem to stick around, but it's those simpler signs that are becoming a rarity.

This is such a sign, in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood. It's advertising a drugstore that's still very much in business (and they still light the sign at night!!). I like this sign for a couple of reasons-for starters it's showing it's age, and it's clearly been there a long time. I like long-standing businesses, they really help make a neighborhood unique. I also like the "Apteka-Botica" legend at the bottom. It shows you just how long Barry's has been in business-"apteka" is Polish for drugstore, and "botica" is Spanish. It's a definite reminder of Wicker Park's Polish and Latino heritage-Poles started living in the area in the late 1890's, and the provisional government of Poland met there during the First World War. Immigration rose during WW2, with an estimated 150,000 people arriving between 1939 and 1959.

Things started to change in the early 1960's, with the arrival of the Kennedy Expressway, which displaced quite a few residents. Larger number of Puerto Rican and other Latinos began moving to Wicker Park around the same time-less than 1 percent of the neighborhood's residents were Latino in 1960, but this grew to 40% by 1970. I figure this sign dates from the late fifties or early sixties, when these two diverse groups were still largely in evidence in Wicker Park.

Wicker Park underwent more changes-like much of Chicago people fled the city during the 70's and 80's, but the neighborhood has undergone some improvements in the last decade or so. It's now a trendy place to live, with shopping, restaurants, and concert venues all in the neighborhood. Plus some vintage shops, such as Barry's.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Majestic Store

The Majestic Store (Everything for Men!) is-or was-a clothing store located in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood. It's right underneath the L tracks, and has been there for years and years. I never saw it open for business when I lived in the neighborhood, although there were some clothes in the windows. My understanding was that the store closed down either because the owner owed a ton of back rent, or because the roof was leaking. I don't believe it's reopened since.

Although the sign is clearly a sixties or seventies item, the building itself dates to the 1920's, and features some really nice terra cotta details.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Charcold, originally uploaded by William 74.
Well, Snopocalypse 2011 is done-we got about twenty inches locally, it took a few hours to dig out the driveway, I did the sidewalks for the neighbors, and the city kept the roads commendably clear. But my barbecue plans were ruined.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Trust Your Car To The Man Who Wears The Star

Texaco, originally uploaded by William 74.
The Texaco Star! This is the classic Texaco "banjo" sign, which at one time was a common sight in the United States-Texaco is the only petroleum company to sell gas in all 50 states under the same branding. These days, Texaco is a regional brand (there aren't any around here anymore), and the stations that remain don't have banjo signs anymore. This one is in front of the Ambler's Texaco in Dwight, Illinois, along historic Route 66.