Maryville Googie

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The East Wing of Maryville Columbus is an elegant building at the Northeast corner of Montrose and Clarendon. The gradually curving curtain wall is secured with aluminum casements containing tongue-in-groove glass windows and opaque plastic panels at the floorline. There’s a highly Googie-esque roofline feature that makes the eaves look almost like a painter’s palette when viewed from Montrose Street.

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The North and South walls of the building are covered with two foot limestone blocks. The inscription on a short span of West wall indicates that the building was erected in 1957. The architect, Edo J. Belli has a style that has been characterized as “Catholic ecclesiastical”, which was highly appropriate for this structure, as it origially served as Cuneo Hospital, a Catholic hostpital for women and children. He also designed St. Patrick’s High School at 5900 West Belmont, and the St. Joseph’s Hospital at 2900 N. Lake Shore.

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Maryville – Columbus served as a hospital and shelter for runaways until 2006 when it was closed because of budget shortfalls and sold by the Catholic church. The East building shows very little wear, with the exception of a few missing windows, it appears to have weathered the past few years rather well.

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The windows on the first and second floors of the East building have been covered with boards. Because of Uptown’s homeless population, the interior areas along Clarendon have been fenced off, as they have become a popular place to sleep.

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The West building of Maryville – Columbus is a much more angular, high-concept building of the 70’s. It has precious few windows and highly-abrasive outer walls, as they are covered with gravel, which is not holding up very well. It is falling off in places.

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One portion of the building appears to have been influenced by a flying saucer.

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The wall along the entry to the subterranean garage was tagged.

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The buildings are in a strange kind of limbo at the moment. Recently alderman James Cappleman hosted a vote for the local citizenry to decide if a developer could zone this land for four apartment towers and the proposal was rejected. You can keep up with the status of this building by reading the Uptown Update, or following them on Facebook.

Frank’s Fast Food

This is a fast food restaurant that has been closed for a long time.
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This location doesn’t get much traffic since the closure of the steel mills.

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The Footprint of US Steel

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This vacant lot on the 8600 block of South Burley Avenue is the former location of the US Steel Chicago Works. This area of town has historically been referred to as “The Bush“, and as this land reverts back to prarie it’s easy to imagine how it got such name. Below you see the Google satellite view of the southwest corner of the property, currently home to the park district bike velodrome:

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Deceased Trees

Not sure why I began photographing dead trees, but thought I would share them nonetheless. Something rather Pythonesque and human about them, like the Knights who say Ni!

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Jays Factory

I’ve always been loyal to Jays chips, not just because my name is Jay, but also for the same reason most Chicagoans are loyal to anything (including sports teams)… Jays is an example of an honest, unpretentious, great regional brand. Following an acquisition by Snyders of Hanover, Jays Foods closed the doors on its Chicago manufacturing plant in December of 2007. I know, this was awhile ago… I decided to include this feature after seeing this:
Auction – processing equipment – Jays Foods

Many people were caught unaware of the plant closing, partially because of Jay’s steadily shrinking market share since the early 1990’s. It just couldn’t compete with prevalence of the Lay’s products, and that company’s efforts to gain product placement dominance in big store chains. Also, many chain stores have begun selling other private label brands under their own name. Panera Bread recently pulled all Jays products from it’s store chain to begin selling chips in their own packaging, another devastating blow. Someone needs to give Jays some props, so I decided to do some investigation, to see what I could learn about Jays Potato Chips, it’s founder and this brand’s history in Chicago:

Leonard Japp was the son of a Minnesota railroad worker. In 1921, after graduating from high school, Japp jumped on a moving milk train to Chicago. Once in town, he worked as a lifeguard at the ever-popular Oak Street beach. One of his lifeguard colleagues was a young Johnny Weismuller, who would gain fame as an Olympic gold medalist swimmer, and also as film actor, portraying Tarzan on the big screen. But that wasn’t Japp’s only brush with show business fame. As a boxer, he would occasionally spar with another aspiring boxer named Leslie Townes Hope… Hope went on to stardom after changing his first name to Bob.

In 1927, Leonard partnered with a friend to start a concession business called Japp & Gavora. The basis for the entire business was one truck, from which sandwiches, pretzels and cigarettes were sold. Japp had observed the speakeasy culture in Chicago, and determined that there was an opportunity to sell snacks, since many of the bars didn’t carry any food products. As the business grew, so did the manufacturing operations. A fleet of trucks was purchased, as were frying vats, but the success was short-lived. With the Great Depression came great loss, and the assets of Japps & Gavora were forever lost when their bank went into liquidation.

In 1940, Japp went on to found a newer company called Special Foods, which was launched with the help of some winnings from a lucky bet at a racetrack. The company opened a plant on 40th Street to manufacture it’s own potato chips. Up until this point, the company had packaged and redistributed chips from another chip company, Mrs. Fletchers. Things were in full swing by 1941, when another factor began to adversely affect sales.

Anger over the attack on Pearl Harbor had created a new pejorative meaning for the Japp name, and people were avoiding the purchase of the Japp’s brand. Leonard contemplated changing the company name to “Jax”, but could not when it was discovered that there was already a beer manufacturer by that name. Finally the name “Jays” was settled upon. You may have noticed that the company name has no apostrophe, that is because there has never been a person at the company named Jay. The product dress we know and love today became complete when Jays added the “can’t stop eating ’em!” slogan, in response to Frito-Lay’s “bet you can’t eat just one”.
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Borden Foods bought Jays in 1986, but kept most of the operations the same. It was not a successful acquisition however, and within four years Borden decided to divest. It was at Leonard’s 90th birthday party (in 1994) that someone in the Japp family (it’s unsure who) masterminded the idea to repurchase the Jays name and go back into independent production. Jays was still the most successful chip in the Chicago area, but there were indications that concerns about trans fats and health were adversely affecting the sales of all potato chips brands. Corporate restructuring and newer marketing approaches helped sales for the ailing brand, as did development of the popular Krunchers name, but the national dominance of the Frito-Lay brands made this sales increase short-lived.

Sadly, in 1999 there were the untimely deaths of Leonard’s son, Leonard Jr., and his grandson, Leonard III. Shortly thereafter, Leonard himself died, changing the dynamic of the company forever. His son Steven took over management of the company, but declines in sales and ultimately bankruptcy led to it’s sale to a private equity firm in 2004. Ubiquity Foods was founded, which saw Jays Foods paired up with another snack food company, Lincoln Foods, the makers of Fiddle-Faddle. Despite the launch of “Sweet Baby Jays”, the first new product offering from Jays in years, the steady decline in sales continued, leading to the acquisition by Snyder’s. At least the Jays product will carry on, but this is just another in a string of depressing evacuations from Chicago’s snack food and candy corridor.

Apparently, we can stop eating them.