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Literary Chicago

Mark Twain said, “She is novelty; for she is never the Chicago you saw when you passed through the last time.” Buildings crumble. That Thai restaurant you loved becomes a Tex-Mex joint, which becomes a hookah smoke shop. Bars close their taps. The fine arts theatre where you first saw Casablanca now plays horror films, mostly, and sometimes soft porn. Department stores, even baseball stadiums and…  read more

Mark Twain said, “She is novelty; for she is never the Chicago you saw when you passed through the last time.” Buildings crumble. That Thai restaurant you loved becomes a Tex-Mex joint, which becomes a hookah smoke shop. Bars close their taps. The fine arts theatre where you first saw Casablanca now plays horror films, mostly, and sometimes soft porn. Department stores, even baseball stadiums and skyscrapers, call themselves something else. But then, there’s that hat store that does your blocking—still there in Six Corners—and the little league field you played on as a kid, and your old barber who does close shaves with a shaky hand.

Chicago’s literary landscape, too, is ever-changing. The house in which L. Frank Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is now a hodgepodge of multi-unit, low-income housing. The Blue Sky Lounge, Mike Royko’s dad’s bar, above which the family lived, is now a Ma & Pa dentist office. The Stockyards, where Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle took place, is gone but the old entry gate. But then…the school playground on which both Studs Terkel and James T. Farrell romped is still there. Ernest Hemingway’s birthplace is not only around, but restored to the condition in which it stood during the future Nobel Prize winner’s first six years—and open for public tours. The homes of Lorraine Hansberry, Gwendolyn Brooks and Richard Wright have all received historical landmark protection.

To understand Chicago’s remarkable literary cultural, it is essential to visit the sites, both here and gone, that figured so prominently in the lives of our greatest authors. Through the places associated with Chicago’s literary figures, we can tell the story of our great authors, their stories, and, indeed, our city. Our Literary Map of Chicago identifies some of Chicago’s most significant literary places, and will be the basis for a series of more narrowly-defined maps that delve deeper into individual histories. The map will evolve over time, and in the future we hope to publish contrasting photos—archival and contemporary—to pinpoint the past and present realities of each site. 

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001Robert Sengstacke Abbott’s Former Residence
002Jane Addams Hull-House Museum
003Nelson Algren’s Last Chicago Residence
004Nelson Algren Fountain
005Nelson Algren’s Favorite Saloon
006Margaret Anderson’s House/Apartment
007L. Frank Baum’s Home
008Oz Park (L. Frank Baum)
009L. Frank Baum Selig Studio Building
010Saul Bellow’s Childhood Home
011Lifelong Brooks Family Residence
012Gwendolyn Brooks’ House
013Edgar Rice Burrough’s Oak Park Home
014Edgar Rice Burrough’s Last Chicago-area Home
015Edgar Rice Burroughs Exhibit
016Cliff Dwellers Club
017Stuart Dybek’s Family Apartment Building
018James Farrell’s Home
019Eugene Field Memorial​​​​​​​
020Lorraine Hansberry House
021Lorraine Hansberry’s Adolescent Home
022Ben Hecht Residence
023Ernest Hemingway Birth Home
024Ernest Hemingway Museum
025Museum of Science and Industry
026Newberry Library
027The Poetry Foundation
028Carl Sandburg’s Home
029Union Stock Yards Gate
030Richard Wright House

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