Landmarks: A Schlitz-built tied house being reborn as East Side Tap, saving a structure and over a century of neighborhood stories

Schlitz Brewery-Tied House, 1907, architect Charles Thisslew, 9401 S. Ewing Avenue. Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers

“The giant terra cotta globe on the second story of a tavern at 94th Street and Ewing Avenue is probably its most notable feature, but a smaller, more ornate vestige of the ‘tied house’ era is what caught the eye of Mike and Laura Medina when they’d drive by or pop in for a lager.

“The upper ‘eyebrow’ arch of the building’s main picture window was outfitted with an intricate stained glass rendering of the logo for Schlitz beer. Originally built by the brewing company in 1907, the Bamboo Lounge building had been a neighborhood dive for decades.

“‘Knowing what I know about where this building is located, the odds that it’s going to be something better were kind of slim,’ Medina said. ‘The economics of the neighborhood are not going to lend themselves to adaptive use of this building. Someone is going to knock this down. They’re going to take the globe, they’re going to knock this building down.’

“Four years later, he opened his doors Sept. 8 for a small gathering of interested people at an event sponsored by the Calumet Heritage Partnership and the Field Museum’s Calumet Voices exhibit.

“The gathering was a way to ‘shine a spotlight on preservation in the Calumet region,’ Stricker said, a complex area where “industry, residential communities and natural prairies, marshes and dues are so tightly packed together.”

“‘It’s been a fascinating trip because so much was preservation by neglect,’ he said. ‘Nothing changed because nothing needed to change. It worked. No one was going to come in with a new concept and rip all this stuff out.’

“The backroom’s tin patterned ceiling shines once again after a bit of restoration. An ancient fan mounted above a doorway remains positioned to vent nicotine from a roomful of smokers. And a Western Union clock, once linked to the home office by teletype to maintain exact time, still churns as it automatically winds. It allowed patrons who needed to punch in at the nearby steel mills, or be back aboard ships on the Calumet River, time for their own last call.

“The bar itself, and its Art Deco backsplash, likely date to when Schlitz had to divest the tied house taverns from company ownership in the wake of new laws enacted as Prohibition was repealed. The original bar was probably much more ornate, and considered out of style when the new owners were again serving legal suds.

“‘In neighborhoods that are not as well served in Chicago, things like this (building) go away, and those stories disappear with it, with no fanfare,’ he said. ‘People come back and say this used to be here, and they point to an empty lot.’

“‘Those stories are important, and it’s important that this is here and it stays here, just because of that. It’s no less relevant because it’s at 94th and Ewing than it is if it’s (Schuba’s) at Belmont and Southport, because everyone knows about that one. This is equally a place people remember.’

“‘Whatever happens with our stewardship of it, it will be here for someone else in the future,’ Medina said. ‘It won’t be wiped off the map and forgotten about. I think that’s important.’

“He doesn’t know when he’ll be able to open back up as a neighborhood tavern, but believes he’s closer to that goal than to the beginning of the process. In the meantime, he hopes to acquire the original stained glass Schlitz eyebrow window, now hanging on a wall in someone’s house.

“If we manage to get the glass back, we can add it to the city landmark designation so it doesn’t happen ever again,’ Medina said. ‘That may be wishful thinking, but everything has a price.'” (Eisenberg, Daily Southtown / Chicago Tribune, 9/19/23)

Read the full story at Daily Southtown / Chicago Tribune

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