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The CT Obamamania — Your Guide to The New Crawford, Texas

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Five Contrarian Things to Do in Hyde Park (Illinois), by Max Grinnell, AB ‘98

Since Senator Barack Obama became President-elect Barack Obama a few weeks back, dozens of media outlets (i.e. daily rags, 60 Minutes, the Rockford Daily Shopper, etc.) have scoured Hyde Park for the inside scoop on what makes this place tick. Hyde Park has seen it all before, and for the most part, mainstream media has focused on the “classics”: the UofC, the Valois Cafeteria, the bookishness of every single one of its residents.

Fortunately, one of the CT’s editors, the Urbanologist (aka Max Grinnell), is one of the world’s greatest living authorities on Hyde Park, Illinois. Not only is The Urbanologist the author of an architectural history of Hyde Park – “Images of America: Hyde Park, Illinois,” he’s also The Go-To Tour Guide on Hyde Park. (More on this later)

In brief, the CT is happy to assume the role of World’s Most Authoritative Resource on President Obama’s neighborhood.

To kick off our 8 (hopefully) years of exhaustive coverage on The New Crawford, Texas , we give you – from the Urbanologist himself– five contrarian things of note in Hyde Park, and here they are, in no particular order.

1. Take a walk behind the Museum of Science and Industry.

The Museum of Science and Industry is a uber-non-contrarian destination. Lots of schoolchildren from the southern suburbs, tourists with a penchant for German subs, and so on. Never fear: If you take a walk directly behind the Museum, you’ll encounter a rather large lagoon. It’s rather pleasant back here, and there’s usually random men fishing for something (probably fish, but who knows). Say hi, and take a look around. A nighttime excursion here is probably not a wise idea, but you’d definitely get bonus contrarian hit points.


2. Grab a drink at the Falcon Inn

Everyone who goes to Hyde Park hears about Jimmy’s (aka The Woodlawn Tap) over on 55th Street. A fine place, but you’d do better to check out the Falcon Inn right east of the Metra tracks on 53rd Street. The place is attached to a pizza joint (Cholie’s) and the drinks are cheap as hell. It’s a good place to run into someone who has a story about R. Kelly, R&B legend and South Side native-son. They have an odd Columbian Exposition-style mural on the wall, and friendly folks behind the bar.


3. Wander down Rosalie Court (aka Harper Avenue)

Back in the 19th century, Hyde Park was its own bucolic village, and people liked it that way (and some would prefer that it be that way today…) A two block stretch of the hood was developed as a private community, and it was named Rosalie Court. Of course back, then the train operated at grade level through their collective backyards, so it probably wasn’t that pleasant. Today, the street is called Harper Avenue, and if you wander up from 59th Street next to the Metra tracks, you’ll see a collection of old motley homes that feel like sitting on Grandma’s davenport, that is, if Grandma would let you sit on that thing, what with all the plastic and such. Cats on porches, off-beat color combinations (purple and green stand out), and random pieces of art make these two blocks worth a visit.


4. Go to a wine tasting at Kimbark Liquor’s

There’s absolutely nothing special about the building that Kimbark Liquor’s calls home, unless you’re a fan of urban renewal projects dedicated by Hizzoner Richard J. Daley. Fortunately, Kimbark Liquor’s sponsors a wonderful wine tasting every Friday and Saturday evening. You might want to call ahead to check the exact hours (they tend to change quite a bit), but it’s worth a stop. Pick up a bottle of passionfruit-infused booze on your way out and you might find yourself on the way to the lagoon behind the Museum of Science and Industry.

5. Count grotesques.

Let’s clear the air regarding the whole grotesque/gargoyle schism. A grotesque is a carved decoration on a building that is NOT used as a drain spout. Gargoyle….well, those happen to have a drain spout. So wander on over to the Hyde Park campus of the UofC and count a few grotesques. Extra points if you can find the building that is festooned with various creatures, including an alligator. You could be there all day, so bring some trail mix, an astrolabe, and sturdy boots.

Want more?

For more detailed information on Hyde Park, please contact the CT directly – we can arrange a special, ultra-exclusive contrarian tour of the neighborhood, which will conclude with a stop at President-elect Obama’s dry cleaner, a visit to an Obama-friendly shoe store, and twilight drinks at The Falcon with The Urbanologist – and if we’re extremely lucky – Chicago Tribune legend, and Urbanologist pal, Rick Kogan.

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