31 August 2006

Lost City: Chicago Edition: City of the Big Closures

The wind blowing down Chicago's State Street is apparently blowing tumbleweeds, not shoppers.

For Chicagoans, the latest newspaper headlines have been worldview-shattering. Last week, the owners of landmark State Street department store Carson Pirie Scott announced it will close its doors. Even more unbelievably, CPS's State Street neighbor Marshall Field's—the very name of which says "Chicago" to most folks—is to be converted into a Macy's, as will all Marshall Field's across the nation. Add this to the shuttering of legendary Loop schnitzel house Berghoff's last February, and the effect is as if it was announced to New Yorkers that Sak's, Bloomingdale's and Peter Luger's would be closing after Labor Day.

I went to college in Chicago and know its downtown well. It's hard to imagine the Loop even existing without MF, CPS and Berghoff's. Remove three legs from a chair and does it still stand? Adding to the sadness is that all three were housed in beautiful old buildings. Walking into Berghoff's was like walking into the era of Sophie Tucker and Stanford White. And the filigreed charm of CPS's Louis Sullivan-designed corner entrance can hardly be matched. The store reminded one that going to a department store was once a momentous, semi-dignified experience.

The only good news is that the building's owner, Joseph Freed and Associates, said it plans a massive restoration of the building's facade. And the Berghoff's dining room is still owned by the Berghoff family and used for private events. (So, whereas before the price of a bratwurst would buy you elegant atmosphere, now it will take $10,000.)

But poor State Street. As the song goes, "On State Street/That Great Street/I Just Gotta Say/They Do Things They Never Do on Broadway."

Well, sure they do. They steamroll over irreplacable history—just like in New York!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


There is a link to this post at The Berghoff Memorial Blog. If you would like it removed, please let me know.

The Berghoff Memorial Blog is a place to share stories and memories of this beloved eatery.

Cheers and auf wiedersehen.