HP Chamber Speak

By JoAnn Fastoff Blackman

Hyde Park: Repurposed and Revived

The more things change, the more things change. People grow, so must a community, otherwise the community dies. Change can be good. It can mean “to replace with another”, or “to make or become different”. So, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy (ride).” – Bette Davis, All About Eve

When my daughter was a teenager she worked part-time in a clothing store on the corner of Harper and 53rd Street called United Colors of Benetton. The store left for financial reasons and that corner then housed one of the most popular Starbucks on the city’s Southside, which later became two women’s clothing stores, which then became Modern Cooperative modern/vintage store.

North of Benetton was the original Harper Court which accommodated Dr. Wax Records & Tapes, Calypso Cafe, Park 52, Checkerboard Lounge, C’est Si Bon!, Maravilla, Dixie Kitchen and Bait Shop (formerly Chances Are), the Fret Shop, the Sewing Circle, et al. This area is now known as Hyatt Place and the new Harper Court.
On the west side of the street on Harper lies a parking lot formerly part of the original Harper Court which housed an artisan shop, print shop, animal hospital, plants and flower shop, et al on the lower level. The Harper Theater was once called the Hyde Park Theater, the Meridian Theater, and now, once again, the Harper Theater. The Village Foods Shopping Center located on 51st & Lake Park enjoyed 31 years in that spot and shared that spot with the Original House of Pancakes, KFC and Hyde Park Mortgage Center, later Metropro Realtors. This shopping mecca became Whole Foods, City Hyde Park, Michaels, Marshalls, et al.

At Lake Park & 53rd Street the destination was once a Hollywood Video and a Krochs & Brentano’s bookstore. Now Starbucks, Roti Mediterranean, Chipotle and the University of Chicago office building have claimed it. Across the street on 53rd Street sits Akira clothing store and Core Yoga, which was once a Borders Books & Cafe, and before that a courtyard. To the west of Akira is the new Verizon store which used to be Binny’s Beverage Depot, which used to be Chalet Wine & Cheese, which used to be LeMeck’s Restaurant. Behind the U of C office building on the Lake Park side was a public parking lot which provided space for about 100 cars. East of the Metra tracks on 53rd stood the Tiki Restaurant. After 38 years it fell to the shovel and became the Del Prado parking lot and will, very shortly, become another Hyde Park high-rise. The Elms Hotel on the corner of 53rd and Cornell was demolished and is now Universal Dental Group. The Cove Cocktail Lounge was originally called The 1750 and next door stood a socialist bookstore. Montgomery Place on 56th & South Shore Drive is sitting on the former Shore Motel and Morton’s Restaurant site. The University of Chicago Lab School on Stony Island is built on the former site of Doctors Hospital, formerly Hyde Park Hospital and before that Illinois Central Hospital.

A Chevrolet dealership was the original tenant of the Arts Deco Building on the corner of 55th & Lake Park. Winters Men’s Store on the corner of 55th & Kenwood became a bicycle shop, pet store, McKey & Pogue Realtors and Bank Financial, formerly University Bank. George’s Men’s Shop on 55th Street became grassy knolls in front of the Lutheran School of Theology. Giordano’s Pizza was formerly the Eagle Pub. The Hyde Park YMCA lasted 73 years at 53rd & Dorchester until it became Rexall Drugs and later, Fifth Third Bank, et al. Across the street was Enrico’s Italian Restaurant, then Butlers, then Dunkin Donuts, then the University of Chicago Police central office, and now the new Sophy Hotel.
Target now operates on the sites of the original McDonald’s in Hyde Park as well as the Mobil gas station, which had the cheapest and best car wash around. Ribs & Bibs lived on the corner of 53rd & Dorchester for 48 years before becoming Hyde Park Taco Station. In Kimbark Plaza, Breslauers Department Store, Gabe’s Men’s Store and Andersen’s Hardware were all gutted to become CVS Pharmacy and Leona’s Restaurant. Chicago’s Osteopathic Hospital on 53rd Street became a 300 unit apartment complex. The A&P Store on 55th Street became the south end of Nichols Park.

Whew! Some say when change is not good it can connote a “loss of original identity”. In Hyde Park’s case, identity continues to be an eclectic blend of politics, religion, education, diversity, homes, apartments, bars, restaurants, culture..and people. Happily, some things never change.

Thank you HP Herald for the use of your archives. JFB