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Then and Now: North Clark Street and West North Avenue

Written by
Jonathan Samples


Photograph: Courtesy UIC University Library Special Collections

It’s strange to see one of the city’s busiest intersections not packed with cars. Thanks to streetcars, the intersection of North Clark Street and West North Avenue (along with plenty of other streets in 1930s Chicago) had relatively light traffic in 1937. With more than 500 miles of rails and almost 100 routes by 1935, Chicago’s streetcar system was one of the largest in the world and the main mode of transportation for residents of the Windy City. This photo shows these relics of the city’s mass-transit past, in front of the Chicago Historical Society (now the Chicago History Museum). Tied to tracks and powered by overhead wires, this streetcar line ran along Clark between West Cermak Road and Howard Street—a 12-mile trip that took riders through the Loop and past a portion of Lincoln Park.


Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas

The Chicago Transit Authority bought Chicago Surface Lines in 1947, signaling an end to the city's streetcar system. Trains and buses replaced surface lines, and an explosion in automobile production helped turn this North Side crossing, as well as countless others, into a place you'd be smart to avoid during rush hour. Located at the border of Old Town and the Gold Coast, this intersection sits at the southern tip of Lincoln Park—home to the Chicago History Museum, Lincoln Park Zoo, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and the Lincoln Park Conservatory. The west side of the street still has plenty of retail options, but the old Walgreen Drugs has since been replaced with Elly’s Pancake House.

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