That Great Street – Not State Street – Randolph, Once Upon a Time

Vivian Maier 1961 Chicago

Vivian Maier 1961, Randolph Street with Woods Theatre in background


The summer after 8th grade, I went downtown a few times a week to take classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago Young Artist’s Studio program. The photo silk screening class was in the Pakula building at 218 S. Wabash. The painting class was in a studio on the campus building behind the Art Institute. On occasion, I would shop at the Woolworth’s on State Street and the Stop & Shop at 16 W. Washington. When I was about 18, I summoned the courage to walk into an X-rated book store located on Randolph near State, if memory serves me right. I hightailed it out of there when a freaky guy in a trench coat leered at me. Perhaps he would have flashed me, or my vivid imagination got the better of me. I was fascinated by Randolph Street, in particular the block between State and Dearborn. It had a similar kind of sleazy charm as Times Square in the 1970s, albeit on a tiny scale.

The photographs featured in this blog provided inspiration for businesses to include and a search for materials such as matchbooks, postcards, and menus. This ephemera offers a glimpse at a street that was once vibrant and thriving with an incredibly cool and eclectic array of businesses. Sadly, by the time I ventured downtown, most of these businesses were long gone or had lost their luster. I primarily researched businesses between State and Randolph, west to LaSalle. Of course the beautiful Chicago Cultural Center’s north lobby is on Randolph at Michigan.

Randolph Street 1950s 1957 1970s


Shopper’s Corner

I clearly recall going into Shopper’s Corner on the Northeast side of Randolph and State. It seemed like an intriguing store with all sorts of weird items and souvenirs, but I distinctly remember an unfriendly environment in which I was given the evil eye as I browsed, so I never returned.


Shoppers Corner 1962

State and Randolph New Years Eve 1961


Greyhound Bus Terminal

Although I never stepped inside, I certainly remember the iconic Greyhound Bus Terminal designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill at the corner of Clark and Randolph. The Greyhound station opened on March 19, 1953 and was demolished in 1990, many years after it had fallen into a state of disrepair. The terminal moved to 630 W. Harrison, a far less convenient location purposely away from the Loop. My mother warned me to never venture near the terminal, and rightly so. By the mid-1970s, it had become one of the most dangerous places in the Loop, attracting pimps, pickpockets, rapists, drug addicts, baggage thieves, and bums, according to a sensationalized 1975 article in the Chicago Tribune. A far cry from the once shiny station in close proximity to theaters, wonderful restaurants and the iconic Sherman House at Clark and Randolph.


Greyhound Bus Station 1964


Sherman House

The first Sherman House burned down in the Chicago Fire, and the second one opened in 1873. At the turn of the century, the hotel had already lost much of its luster. Entrepreneur Joseph Beifeld acquired it, bringing first-class customer service and entertainment to the hotel. By 1904, the new and improved hotel and its famed restaurant and jazz venue, the College Inn, attracted celebrities and members of high society. A multi-million dollar, 15-story Beaux Arts redesign by Holabird and Roche featured 757 rooms. The 1925 annex expansion increased capacity to 1,600 rooms, making Hotel Sherman the largest hotel west of NYC. The 1911 building was razed in the early 1950s, leaving the more modern annex. Unable to compete with newer hotels, Hotel Sherman closed in 1973 and was torn down to build the James R. Thompson Center.


Sherman Hotel


Chicago’s Great White Way


Chicago's Great Whiteway Looking West from Wabash


Randolph and Oriental Theatres

This name is far more synonymous with the marquees of Broadway theaters. Indeed, that’s where the Chicago-based company White Way Sign, established in 1916, borrowed its name and how Randolph Street got this moniker. The 845-seat Randolph Theatre at 14-16 W. Randolph designed by the noted Chicago theater architect Henry L. Newhouse, opened in December 1918 and closed in 1933. The site soon became home to the Eitel Old Heidelberg, then Allgauer’s Heidelberg, subsequently Ronny’s Steak Palace, and now an Argo Tea Cafe. White Way fabricated and maintained marquees at Chicago theaters, including the Oriental Theatre at 24 W. Randolph (built in 1926). By the 1970s, the Oriental had fallen on hard times and was showing exploitation movies. Today the full name of this beautiful theater is The Ford Center for the Performing Arts Oriental Theater and it features Broadway productions.


Randolph Theatre 14-16 W Randolph

Photo Credit: David Nystrom 1980


Woods Theatre and United Artists

Movies palaces in addition to the Oriental included the Woods Theatre (54 W. Randolph) and United Artists (45 W. Randolph), both of which closed in the late 1980s. It’s amazing that three movies theaters in such close proximity thrived for as long as they did. The Woods Theatre opened in 1918, closed in 1989, and was demolished in 1991. The United Artists Theatre opened in 1921, closed in 1987, and was demolished in 1989. As a youngster in the 1960s, I vaguely remember going to a movie at United Artists and I’ve seen a Broadway in Chicago play at the Oriental.


Help Opening at Woods Theater 1965

Photo Credit: Mike Tuggle 1975

Photo Credit: Deb Christopher 1961

United Artists 1956


RKO Palace Theatre 

The current Cadillac Palace Theatre at 151 W. Randolph enjoyed several former lives as the New Palace Theatre (1926-31), followed by the RKO Palace Theatre (1931-53), Eitel’s Palace Theatre (1953-72), and Bismarck Theatre (1984-99). Practically right next door at 171 W. Randolph was the Bismarck Hotel, which opened in 1894 and is now home to Hotel Allegro.


RKO Palace Moving Ad

RKO Palace Theater Thompson's Cafeteria BT Sandwich Shop - 1950


Garrick Theatre

Like so many other gorgeous historical buildings, the circa 1891 Garrick Theatre at 64 W. Randolph was torn down in 1961 and replaced with a parking structure. Thankfully, Chicago historical preservationist Richard Nickel took many photographs of the Sullivan and Adler masterpiece and rescued hundreds of artifacts and ornaments before and after demolition. Nickels died in 1972 doing what he loved most – salvaging architectural ruins from the Old Chicago Stock Exchange. He never completed his Sullivan Project, which including the Garrick Theatre.


Garrick Theater

Garrick Theater Auditorium

Richard Nickel: Demolished Garrick Theater


Iroquois Theatre

The Iroquois Theatre, located at 24-28 W. Randolph (between State and Dearborn) was a stunning, Renaissance-style building advertised as fireproof. A Wednesday matinee performance of the musical Mr. Blue Beard starring Eddie Foy, overflowed with a standing-room audience of nearly 2,000 people, mostly women and children. During the second act, an arc light sputtered, igniting a strip of paint-saturated muslin on a drape. The 5-week-old Iroquois Theatre went up in flames on December 30, 1903, killing more than 600 people. This was one of the most tragic disasters to befall the city of Chicago and stands today as the worst theater and single-building fire in American history.


Randolph Street Iroquois 1905

Iroquois Theater

Iroquois Fire




Henrici’s Steak & Lobster

Founded in 1898 by 23-year-old Phillip Henrici, a member of a noted family of nineteenth-century Viennese restaurateurs, Henrici’s Steak & Lobster was one of the oldest and finest restaurants in Chicago. After the four original locations burned to the ground in the Chicago Fire, Henrici opened the flagship restaurant at 67-71 W. Randolph, in the heart of the Theater District. This location closed in September 1962 when the building was demolished to make way for the Daley Center.


Henrici's Postcard


South Pacific Restaurant

Located at 28-30 W. Randolph, restaurateur Wayne Sit became renowned for his signature Almondine Duck and Hong Kong steak dishes, among others. The South Pacific Restaurant menu featured Polynesian dancers, luau decorations, and a fire dance by a man wearing only a Hawaiian-print loincloth. Before opening his restaurant in 1954, Sit worked at another Chinese restaurant on Randolph, Hoe Sai Gai. The below photo depicts Sit’s nephew Tom Go in 1962.


South Pacific 1962


In an Oct, 31, 1969 review, Chicago Tribune columnist and restaurant critic Kay Loring wrote about the newly remodeled restaurant, “Cantonese and Chinese dishes have always been good. But deterrents for many have been the garish block in which the restaurant is located, and the somewhat bleak and dreary dining room of barn-like proportion. It’s still a garish block and the dining room with its hard tile floor is still far from opulent. But it’s cheerful now and more comfortable with the old soot-blackened bamboo painted warm vermilion; artificial tropical trees growing amusingly from structural pillars, and beaded curtains all around.”  The Sit family opened Hoe King Lo Restaurant in Lincolnwood in 1967 and ran both restaurants until selling them and retiring in the 1980s. Sit died in 2006 at the age of 88.


South Pacific Matchbook & Ad


Hoe Sai Gai

Joseph Eng emigrated to the U.S. around 1911 from China’s Guangdong Province. In the 1920s, Eng opened the Golden Pumpkin at Madison and Pulaski, billed as “the largest and most beautiful Chinese cafe in the world.” He also owned three other Madison Street restaurants called the Paradise Inn, the Tea Garden, and the Chicken Shop. He lost all these restaurants in the Depression and opened Hoe Sai Gai in the 1930s with just $300.


Chicago Tribune Archives: Harry Eng

Joe’s son Harry


Located at 85 W. Randolph, this beautiful restaurant was known for its Ming Room and splendid Art Deco décor. The restaurant drew American and Asian patrons, including many Chinese-American college students from throughout the Midwest who wanted a taste of home. Among the patrons was Sydney Greenstreet, who starred with Humphrey Bogart in the Maltese Falcon and Casablanca. Harry Eng, Joe’s son from his first marriage emigrated to the U.S. around 1919 to go to school, and eventually Joe made him a partner in the restaurant business. In the 1940s, Harry went out on his own and opened the House of Eng on the Gold Coast.

After Joe suffered a stroke and died in 1946, the business was largely run by his widow and four daughters. Like Henrici’s, Ho Sai Gai was demolished in 1962 to make way for the Daley Center. Laura Eng Sit, who became a top salesperson at Marshall Field’s 28 Shop, died in May 2017 at the age of 95.


Hoe Sai Gai Postcards

Hoe Sai Gai Menu

Hoe Sai Gai Menu 1941 (ebay)


Old Heidelberg Restaurant

Located at 16 W. Randolph, the elegant Old Heidelberg Restaurant opened in 1934 as a spinoff from a popular German restaurant operated by the Eitel family at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1933. The restaurant was owned later by Gustave Allgauer, evident in one of the photos and a wiki about the restaurateur. Built by the famed architectural firm Graham, Anderson, Probst and White on the site of an old wooden warehouse, the exterior of the Old Heidelberg was designed to evoke the charm of a traditional German village. This site later became home to the iconic Ronny’s Original Chicago Steak House, which is now located at 100 W. Randolph in the James R. Thompson Center.


Eitel Restaurant

Old Heidelberg Allgauers 1958


Holloway House

Located across the street from the Oriental Theatre at 27 W. Randolph, not much information exists about Holloway House. A Forgotten Chicago reader said, “The restaurant had a little display off to the side for kiddies like me that said ‘free balloon (take one) if you finish everything on your plate!’” This was a chain of cafeterias, with two other Chicago-area locations at 7527 N. Western and 900 Winston Park Plaza in Melrose Park, in addition to seven restaurants in Missouri, Indiana, Wisconsin, Louisiana, and Washington, D.C. The wonderful 1955 photo by Lee Balterman may be Holloway House according to this blog, but could possibly be DeMet’s Tea House or Thompson’s Cafeteria, which had more than 100 locations across the U.S.


Randolph Street Holloway House 1966

Lee Balterman Baking Pies 1955

Lee Balterman 1955, Baking Pies


Toffenetti-Triangle Restaurants

Born in 1889, Dario Louis Toffenetti emigrated to the U.S. in 1910, allegedly after being recruited to peddle ice cream from a cart in Cincinnati. Before opening his first restaurant in Chicago in 1914, he was a bus boy at Chicago’s Sherman House on the northwest corner of Clark and Randolph. By 1937, he ran six restaurants in the Chicago Loop known as the Toffenetti-Triangle and this grew to seven by the 1950s, including one that ceremoniously opened a week before the Greyhound Bus Terminal. This location boasted a staff of more than 250 workers with seating for 600 patrons, in order to accommodate the huge throngs of people that would come through the station.

Toffenetti won catering contracts for both the Chicago World’s Fair of 1933 and the New York World’s Fair of 1939-40. The latter led to an incredibly brilliant acquisition of property on the corner of 43rd and Broadway in Times Square. He commissioned Skidmore, Owings & Merrill to design a two-story, glass-fronted modern building, where he opened a highly successful restaurant that served 8,500 meals on its opening day.


Toffenetti Menu 1950s

Toffenetti Matchbook


DeMet’s Candy

DeMet’s Candy was once as popular in Chicago as Fannie Mae, with locations all over the Loop, including 5 W. Randolph, which also was a tea room. George DeMet established DeMet’s in 1898 as a candy store and soda fountain shop in Chicago. Of course the company is most famous for creating Turtles candies. A 1952 ad said, “There’s no lovelier or more practical Valentine than this candy-filled sewing heart of natural finished wool filled with two pounds of famous DeMet’s light and dark chocolates with assorted centers.” Judging from the photo showing Holloway House, I surmised what looks like Dutch Mill Candies was the former DeMet’s. After several mergers and acquisitions, DeMet’s was purchased by Nestlé in 1988 and sold in late 2013 to Yıldız Holding, the Turkish conglomerate that owns Godiva.


Dutch Mill Candies


What an Eclectic Mix!


Once upon a time, Randolph Street was a wonderful mix of diverse businesses. In addition to the aforementioned businesses, the photos reveal many cocktail lounges, currency exchanges, the Brass Rail, 17 Restaurant, Randolph Square Theater Lounge, Hotel Bancroft, Sunny Italy Italian Restaurant, Around the Clock Coffee Shop, The Ham n’ Egger, Morrow’s Nut Shop, Hudson-Ross appliance store, State Auction Galleries, United Cigars, Trailways Bus Terminal, Bensinger’s Billiards and Bowling (located at 29 W Randolph on the 6th floor until 1961). A 1956 ad for Hotel Bancroft revealed it had rooms with and without baths – and kitchenettes – as well as special rates for show people. I decided to end this blog with two rather curious businesses I found fascinating.


Randolph Street at Night

Randolph Street at Night


Baer’s Treasure Chest

Opened in 1949 by Bobby Baer, the Treasure Chest was a somewhat sleazy novelty shop and arcade with a magic counter managed by Ed Marlo, a well-known Chicago magician. The arcade section featured rows of Skee-Ball, a shooting gallery, flashy pinball games, and mechanical arcade machines. From 1942 to 1977, it was the only arcade licensed within Chicago’s Loop that allowed pinball games, since they were designated a form of gambling. A 1988 Chicago Tribune mentioned a crowd standing in line at Baer`s Treasure Chest, a video game room at 19 W. Randolph St. The store is featured on the cover of the 1997 book Arcade Dreams by Jon Racherbaumer and Ed Marlo.

The shop had two floors, a chase-lighted marquee, two smiley-bears wearing cartooned straw hats gazing down from the double doors, and 12-inch tall moveable letters advertising goods such as jewelry, records, and souvenirs. It became a favorite hangout for teenagers and Navy cadets in the 1960s-70s. According to Chuckman’s, the fire photo is from 1980, so the Treasure Chest survived that by at least eight years. The 1962 Billboard clip indicates the original building housing the Treasure Chest burned down in 1961 and Baer unveiled a new and flashier shop in 1962. This photo also pictures the X-rated book shop I mentioned earlier in this blog. So the business survived two fires, but I can’t find any documentation when it closed.


15-19 W. Randolph Fire. 1980


The 2007 book The Magical Life of Marshall Brodien: Creator of TV Magic Cards includes many sections about Bobby Baer. Brodien worked at Baer’s original arcade Finer Amusements at 159 N Wabash at the tender age of 14, demonstrating and selling magic tricks from 4 pm to 9 pm and working double shifts on weekends. After Baer closed that arcade and opened the Treasure Chest, Brodien followed. Don Alan, Okito, and Theo Bamberg also demonstrated magic tricks at the upstairs Abbott’s Pro Shop.



Hargrave Secret Service Agency

In 1888, Edward J. Hargrave established the Edward J. Hargrave Secret Service in St. Louis, Missouri. George E. Hargrave, son of the founder opened a branch office in Chicago many years later. After his father died in 1919, the name of the business changed to Hargrave Secret Service. Chicago was the headquarters, the business was franchised, and incorporated by July 1, 1969.

The Romanian-born Anne Sage, the famous “Lady in Red” who gave up John Dillinger was rumored to be a paid operative for Hargrave Secret Service! A Chicago Tribune article did not mention this connection, but did reveal some intriguing facts. Sage was the landlady of Dillinger’s red-haired waitress girlfriend Polly Hamilton and a successful operator of houses of prostitution. Deportation proceedings had been started against her at the time of Dillinger’s death in June 1934 and she was wearing an orange skirt that looked red. Another interesting piece of history – in 1963, after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the CIA considered using Hargrave Secret Service, which at the time was at 6 W. Randolph, as seen in two of the color photos posted near the beginning of this blog.


Original Hargrave Badge


Vaughan Seed Company

Based initially in Chicago, Vaughan was one of the largest horticultural distributors in the U.S., supplying large sections of the country with grass and flower seeds, as well as plants. They operated a seed store at 10 W. Randolph that also sold pets and educational toys. Gager Throop Vaughan, the great-grandson of the founder Amos Throop died in 1991 at age 76. I found gorgeous catalog covers indicating they had other locations at 84-86 and 31-33 W. Randolph in the late 1890s to 1915. The covers are so beautiful, it was tempting to include all of them!


Vaughan Catalog Cover 1

Vaughan Catalog Cover

Vaughan Catalog Cover 2


I hope you’ll share your memories of any of these businesses or others on Randolph Street! Thanks to Sonya, granddaughter of Joe Eng  for providing factual corrections to Ho Sai Gai.

Photo sources:  Amazon, Calumet 412, CardCow, Chicago Tribune historical archives, Chuckman’s Collection, Cinema Treasures, Creatively Graceful, ebay, Facebook, Flickr, Pinterest 


  1. Whitney C Brown

    So many memories you brought back! Thank you for a trip down that lane. I remember taking the El to Randolph Street to go to the theaters, shop and eat. My grandmother loved the restaurants, especially Ham ‘n Egger. I think she felt like she was slumming sometimes. Once we saw a pimp in a long white fur coat and hat, and a few of his ladies parading down the street. State Street and Randolph Street were definitely favorites in our family. Between downtown, Old Town (before it became “the place to be” and Maxwell Street, I have some fantastic memories. I grew up in the Old Town Triangle and on Sedgwick street. Those were the days! Thanks for the memories!

    • Thanks for sharing your memories and glad you enjoyed this post, Whitney. I remember you from my Old Town post! Growing up in Lincolnwood, I didn’t go downtown as much as I would have liked. We spent more time on the Gold Coast because my dad worked on North Michigan Avenue. It must have been great growing up in the Old Town Triangle area!

  2. Penny Lane Juhlin

    What a wonderful collage of photos to jog the memory and ring back past days. I wonder who took them? Thanks to whoever it was!!

  3. Excellent historical blog on Randolph Street –
    FYI – The Greyhound Bus Terminal was the same location as the Pony Express stop for Chicago, ultimately a coach stop … then Greyhound Bus Terminal.

  4. Carol M Seemayer

    Having worked at 27-29 West Randolph Street when the building was being used by The YMCA College and High School in the late 70’s/early 80’s, I can tell you that the 29 West Randolph Street building was given to the YMCA by an organization that called itself Chart House. In the Chart House family at the time were such food giants as Thompson’s Cafeteria, Holloway House Cafeteria, Henrici’s, Burger King, Green Giant and others. In fact, when I worked there, a brand new Burger King occupied the old Holloway House cafeteria at 27 West Randolph. When we obtained the building, we moved the YMCA High School from 19 South LaSalle Street to the 29 West Randolph Street location. We also moved some College Data Processing (I/T) classes and the Business Offices (temporarily) from 211 West Wacker Drive to 29 West Randolph. I worked as the administrative assistant to the Senior Vice President of Business Affairs when all this was going on.

    I have inside knowledge of the building and what it was used for, because the building and grounds fell under the supervision of the Vice President I worked for. I’d even been on the roof of that building with the building engineers a few times. I’ve seen it mentioned on a few websites that the old Bensinger’s Bowling Alley occupied the 6th floor of the 29 West Randolph building, but there were only five floors in that building. The basement of the building was used only by whatever restaurant occupied 27 West Randolph. The 2nd through 5th floors of the 29 West Randolph building spanned the width and length of both 27-29 West Randolph Street. There was no bowling alley or pool hall there when I worked in the building, just classrooms and offices.

    Pictures of the 27-29 West Randolph Street Building and that whole block as I knew it are hard to come by. I was down there at the beginning of November to go to the Chicago Theater with my daughter. The buildings on Block 37 as I knew them are gone forever, replaced with flashy, glistening skyscrapers with apartments in them. How sad for those of us who love the old architecture of downtown Chicago. Thanks for posting such great pictures of Randolph Street. It brought back a LOT of memories for me, some of which are bittersweet. As more of the people I worked with at those locations pass away, it has dawned on me that I may be one of the very few people still alive who remember the details of how this building once was.

    • Hi Carol – Thank you for sharing such important historical and personal details about the 27-29 W. Randolph building. When I walk on Randolph Street today, it’s nearly impossible to imagine that it was once packed with so many interesting restaurants and businesses. Many of these were long gone by the time I was old enough to remember. I agree with you that it’s sad how many architectural wonders have been razed in Chicago in the name of progress. Don’t even get me started about the Gold Coast!

      Apparently, Bensinger’s occupied three floors of that building at one time and closed in 1960 – it was far more famous for billiards than bowling. Here is an intriguing bit of history from “It was a magnificent place, with velvet curtains and original oil paintings on the walls. An open, wrought-iron cage elevator took you up to the second floor where the tournament games were held. At night, you were surrounded by the glow of neon lights from Chicago’s Loop until the games were ready to begin.”

      • Carol M Seemayer

        Thanks Betsy – I’ll check out your link tonight. The building, when I worked there, was far from magnificent. Unless the high school students were in the halls, it was an empty place full of echoes. No carpeting, nothing fancy. I can’t wait to visit the link you attached. Thanks so very much. :0)

  5. Dorothy panzyk

    OMG! This brought back so many memories. I worked at the Sinclair Building on Wacker and Randolph – would walk east to all the wonderful shops and restaurants. Especially hung around Hoe Sai Gai and South Pacific. Would eat there then walk to the bandshell for music. Beautiful! At lunch, I would meet friends at a place around the corner, from work, The Purple Onion. There also was The Salt Cellar near the Opera House – ate many lunches there.

    Women wore dresses or skirts to go downtown then and all those old pictures showed that. Seemed like everyone was always heading somewhere, busy busy. Thank you for showing. Nice memories.

    • Hi Dorothy – It must have been a great place to work back then – thanks for sharing your memories. By the time I worked in the Loop in 1983, a lot had changed. Randolph Street especially is so different and not particularly interesting, except for the soon to be renamed James M. Nederlander Theatre.

    • Barbara Picco

      I was also employed at Sinclair during the late 60s and early 70s. I remember meeting friends at the Chodash. I walked to work from the Dearborn and Randolph St. El subway. Did an awful lot of Christmas shopping at Field’s, Carson’s and so many shops along State St. Took in a lot of movies too. My favorite place to eat was The Italian Village. So, so many great memories.

  6. Carol M Seemayer

    Oh man, I messed up my email address on that last post. Hopefully, this post will fix it.

  7. Thank you for this post! In my teens, I worked and hung out in this area throughout the 1970’s and 80’s. I used to work at Stouffer’s Restaurant, Bob Elfman’s Sandwich Shop, and at R.H. Donnelley in the Prudential Building. I frequented and tried all the restaurants, theaters, and shops in the area. Your post brought back a lot of memories. Thank You! Jimmy

  8. 56 West Randolph was home to The Ranch (aka Bar-Double R) from the late 70s until it closed in ’89. This location was its third home in 40 years in the Loop. The Ranch featured a band called the Sundowners and they played seven nights a week as I recall. Occasionally, some bona-fide Country stars were known to drop in. Joel Daly (of Channel 7 News) also frequently got up and performed with the band. They served some pretty good food at 3:00 am, too. Spent some good times there.

  9. Estella De La Fuente

    I am so glad that I found all this information about Chicago. My father Joe Escalera lived at 14th and Halsted around 1929-1933. He used to go dining and dancing at the Palmer house. He mentioned the speakeasies. He saw the body of John Dillinger when he got killed. They had the body on display and he met Dillinger’s father, who was looking at his son and crying. My father took boxing lessons at the Hull House. He got very sick with pneumonia, but when he got well, he returned to San Antonio. All my life, all I heard was how beautiful Chicago was. It never crossed my mind to take him back to visit Chicago. I went on a tour of Chicago, but I want to go and stay at least a week to go to all the places my father mentioned. I will share pictures of my father in Grant Park and other locations.

    • Hi Estella: Thanks for sharing your father’s experiences in Chicago. Sounds like he had quite the time in Chicago, in the Depression, no less. If you email vintage photos of him in Chicago, I will include them in a future blog and credit you. Just send them directly to Thanks much!

  10. Wow – What a treat! So many places I saw as a child and young adult.

    I worked at the Greyhound Bus terminal every Spring break, Christmas break, and summer from 1965 until 1969. I loaded and unloaded freight and baggage and started at the fabulous wage of $2.89 an hour. I worked the 2nd and 3rd shift, and many times both. That helped pay for my college tuition and enabled me to buy my first car in 1967 – a 1965 fire engine red Ford Mustang convertible (a 4 speed 289). Sometimes, I would eat lunch at the Ham & Egger where a family friend was a waitress. Great memories! It also taught me the value of an education. At 18 years of age in 1965, I was making the same wage as a co-worker who was 27 with a wife and two children. That sunk in the following year.

    A great night was date night on Randolph St. Loved the theaters and restaurants. Went to my first concert at the Oriental Theater…The Lovin’ Spoonful.

    And last, thanks to this blog, a personal mystery was solved. My father had a coffee cup with the name Thompson’s on it. Never knew where it came from. Thanks to a photo in this blog, it confirmed that it came from Thompson’s Cafeteria. This was just down the street from the Greyhound Bus station. Oh! By the way, my dad worked at Greyhound, too.

    • Hi Dennie – Thank you for sharing your great memories of Randolph St. I’m sure you have a lot of interesting tales about working at Greyhound. Owning a Ford Mustang convertible as a young man – how cool! Do you have a photo of this car? Also, I’m pleased this blog solved your mug mystery!

      • Hey Betsy!

        Unfortunately , I don’t have one photo of that car. I sold it in 1972 to an Army buddy and was told several years later that it met its untimely end in Florida. The only things I have left are the ignition key and the Hurst pistol grip shift handle from the 4-speed transmission. I’ve tried to track down some photos … contacting every old friend I had back in the day, but no success yet. I’m still looking.

        And, thanks a bunch for your kind words.

    • Dear Dennie, where was the Ham n’ Egger located? My memory of it is on Clark near Lake in the 60s. It is a bit embarrassing for me to be unsure because I worked there for a little while in 1969 or 1970. My best buddy’s dad Frank Ganger owned it, and when we were in the city we always ate there.

      • Hey Peter,

        You are correct. The restaurant was located on Clark Street, right off of Lake. There was a little-used entrance from the Greyhound Station, which was right across the street from the Ham n’ Egger. I had about 30 to 45 minutes for lunch/breakfast (I worked mostly the 2nd and 3rd shift). The food was pretty good – service was fast and friendly and I could get back just in time to punch in.

        On many cold and snowy nights, I remember eating there listening to Johnny Rivers sing The Poor Side of Town. Haven’t thought about that in decades. Thanks for jogging my memory, Peter.

      • Hi and thanks for these histories and photos. I learned that photographer John Chuckman died in 2021. He contributed a great deal to Chicago’s photo history.

        Regarding Ham n’ Egger, my dad, disk jockey Bill Anson broadcast live radio interviews with recording stars from “The Lariat Room,” steak house upstairs. I spent many childhood hours there, and it was at 58 West Randolph in the 1950s. I want to know if owner Frank Ganger was related to my dad’s great pal and gin rummy partner Lloyd Ganger. I understood that my dad co-owned the Ham n’ Egger and Lariat Room restaurants on Randolph.

  11. Bettie Fuery Minefee

    My dad cooked at the Randolph Café. I used to go down to the corner of Randolph and Dearborn every Friday. They served goulash and a cornbread muffin for $1.00. My dad loved that place – he would have been 95 this year on October 3. Retired from the Hilton Hotel – RIP dad. I worked at 32 W. Randolph for Becker CPA Review!! Memories!!!

  12. joel weissman

    Do you know the name of the bookstore/news shop that was next to the Treasure Chest?

  13. Vaughn’s Seed Company was a favorite of mine. As a child, my grandma would take us there up to the second floor. They had a fantastic toy area that carried tin soldiers from Britains Finest. I still have those beautiful treasures.

    There was a restaurant near the Greyhound station called the ‘Double Yolker’ that only served double yolked eggs.

  14. In 1962, I was in high school and had a part time job after school and in the summer at Matthei’s Pharmacy at 209 W. Wells. I cleaned up the place and other odd jobs, and delivered prescription medications to people who worked in downtown office buildings. I really learned how to maneuver around downtown, using little known shortcuts through different buildings. Nowadays, you could NEVER legally allow a 16-year-old to deliver prescription medication that included a lot of narcotics.

    I remember one afternoon that I had to deliver medications to an office on north LaSalle or Clark at the Board of Education building. There was a sit-in protest going on. It was peaceful, however, I had to walk across this lobby. That meant stepping over hundreds of protesters in order to get to the stairs which were guarded by police who weren’t allowing the protesters access past the lobby. I am Caucasian – all of the protesters were blacks. Initially, the police wouldn’t let me through. I opened my leather bag containing the medications and showed it to them. They allowed me access.

    In the summer of 1962, I sometimes worked an 8-hour day at Matthei’s and would finish at 5 pm. I remember treating myself to Ronnie’s Steakhouse, where I got a steak, baked potato, and bowl of salad for – I believe it was $1.49 or $1.79 plus tax. At age 16, I felt like I was really something. Sometimes after eating at Ronnie’s, I would go to the old Grant Park Bandshell and listen to the free concerts. They ended at about 9:30 pm. I would then take the subway to Logan Square and transfer to the Milwaukee Avenue bus, get off at Montrose, and walk two blocks home from there.

  15. gerry murphhy

    What happened to the boxing gym near Bensingers? I hung around there as a kid.

  16. Edwin H. Lugowski, Jr.

    I was first introduced to Randolph Street as a 14 year old. My best friends – Don Pohlplatz Thornton (Bowen HS 1958) and Bob Pohlplatz Thornton’s (Hammond HS 1962) adoptive parents would take us every other Saturday night to Hoe Sai Gai for dinner. My mother’s Chop Suey would never be the same again! Every Christmas – Bob, Don, and I would take the IC Electric from South Chicago to shop at Marshall Field’s for gifts for our families. After a quick run through the store buying gifts, being avid philatelists, we would spend hours in the stamp collecting section of the store. We’d end our visit to the Loop at one of Ronny’s Steak restaurants for our steak and baked potato meal. One year, we decided to go to Toffenetti, where we enjoyed all the spaghetti we could eat. After we were filled to the brim by either steak or spaghetti, we’d head back to the Randolph Street IC Station all happy, sleepy, and sated.

    When I was 17 years old I found myself on Randolph Street every Saturday night on the 14th Floor (actually the 13th) of the Oriental Building. I was a stagehand for Chicagoland Youth for Christ which held their weekly rally in the Skyland Auditorium for all the members of their high school bible clubs throughout the Chicago area. One thing to note here is that Youth for Christ did not like the real name of the space they rented which was the Skyland Ball Room because as Christian Protestants, dancing was forbidden. The Skyland Ball Room/Auditorium is now part of a hotel and is being used as a Dinner Theatre.

    The four members of our stage crew were all from the real East Side neighborhood on the far southeast side of Chicago and we attended the East Side Bible Church together as well. Earl Syler (Washington HS 1961), Paul Dollaske (Washington HS 1961), Dave Wilford (CVS 1959), and I (CVS 1959) were having a ball. We were meeting teens from all over the city and suburbs, plus we were coming to the Loop early to enjoy all that Randolph Street could offer a teenager. We’d go to the movies, eat at all the restaurants, and shop at the stores, especially the ones selling cheap gaudy stuff which totally delighted us.

    Reliving those days spent on Randolph Street brings back many fond memories. My wife Luci and I still spend time there even today as we go to the Cadillac, the Oriental (I’m not happy with the name change), as well as several restaurants on the street.

    Thank you for stirring up the great memories,

    Ed Lugowski

  17. Dear Betsy, Thank you for creating a wonderful celebration here of old Chicago. My interest is in Ho Sai Gai as I am the granddaughter of the restauranteur behind the Golden Pumpkin, The Chicken Shack, The Paradise Inn and ultimately Ho Sai Gai.

    Kindly allow me to offer you some factual corrections and request that you correct your article. My grandfather’s name was Joseph Eng, and not Howard (Harry) Joseph Eng. He emigrated to the US in 1911.

    Harry Eng was Joe’s son from his first marriage, who Joe brought over around 1919 to go to school and eventually made a partner in the restaurant business. The picture you have in your article is not Joe but Harry. In the 1940s, Harry went out on his own and opened the House of Eng on the Gold Coast.

    Joe Eng’s second wife bore him five children, including my mother Florence who along with her three sisters, worked at Ho Sai Gai, after Joe had a stroke. Joe passed away in 1946 (not Harry as your article says) and after that time, the business was largely run by Joe’s wife and my mother and her sisters.

    I hope this will help credit my grandfather Joe more appropriately as people consider the rich history of Chicago. Thank you so much. I am happy to answer any further questions.

    • Dear Sonya: Thanks so much for providing details and corrections to my article. I wrote this article sometime ago, but I was able to find the primary source of the misinformation: Chicago: A Food Biography by Daniel R. Block and Howard B. Rosing. I found this through a Google search and the text appears on page 184. The photo in question came from the Chicago Tribune and noted that Harry Eng was owner of Ho Sai Gai in 1953, which is obviously not true. And quite a few other sources incorrectly credit the restaurant to Harry Eng. I corrected the article and mentioned you at the end before the photo credits. If you have any pictures, I would love to add them to this article!

  18. Jerry Pritikin

    Thanks, this was one of the best reviews I’ve seen and I recall almost everything posted. I did not see the Treasure Chest on Randolph just west of State Street. It was a favorite of teens in the 1950’s. My brother Neil worked at the Woods, and Up in Arms with Danny Kaye was playing about 1945, at the time he first started. I worked at Marshall Field in the mid-50’s and visited many businesses mentioned here that were still around.

    • Thanks, Jerry – I was remiss not to include the Treasure Chest. I found some fascinating information and photos and will add it to the blog!

  19. Linda Matthews

    What a terrific article and collection of photos! I came upon this looking for a restaurant my family would go to in about 1960. It was walking distance from State and Randolph and I can only remember the front had green hedges which I thought was so funny when I was little. The best part was a treasure chest inside the entrance where kids could pick out toys. Maybe on Dearborn? Can’t remember. Anyone?

  20. michael foster

    In 1969, I was stationed at Great Lakes NTC from March until December in communication school. Chicago was where I spent every weekend and I always stayed at The Sherman House.

    My first night there I went to the bar (age 19) and attempted to buy a shot of bourbon…that didn’t work even with a fake ID, but after showing an active duty USN ID and NC driver’s license and room key, the bartender took a chance. I was wearing sport jacket, tie, and Jarman-Benchmark lace ups…something guys my age didn’t wear.

    This became my Saturday night ritual at 9 pm. College Inn bar, double bourbon straight up or whiskey sour, and the piano player who was a great guy who seemed to know every song ever written. Every time I hear Billy Joel’s Piano Man I think of ‘HOTS’…and the 3-D back-lit full color Yankee Clipper keeled over at 20 degrees at night that was behind the bar.

    Spent my last weekend there with a girl I’d been dating named Linda from Northbrook. Fond memories from a half century ago.

  21. Dean Rawlings

    Went to Immaculate Conception School just off Old Town. I also used to run around Randolph and State as a teenager. Used to like the escalators at Greyhound and the cafeteria downstairs…great hangout if you were low on funds, especially in the winter! Bought all my Xmas gifts at Shoppers Corner…what bargains! Neckties for $2.00, ashtrays for a buck, dress shirts for $5.00. Never ending deals and lots of entertainment on the street outside. By the way, this was early to mid-60’s!

    Question: What was the name of the restaurant on Randolph where a girl was on a swing up on the front of the building…near the corner of State and Randolph…always intrigued me!

    • Flo’s was the name, on the south side of Randolph near State Street. There was a 2019 episode of Chicago Tonight on WTTW where Greg Borzo was interviewed, the author of “Lost Restaurants of Chicago”.

  22. Wow, this takes me back – seems we’re oddly connected although we’ve never met (I don’t think). I too was at the SAIC-YAS grade school through HS, although not in Pakula much. Many same-day, back-to-back-to-back movies at Randolph and Loop theaters. Also attended RISD. Oh, and there was the occasional peek into Treasure Chest, but I’m not the guy in the raincoat.

    Thanks, I enjoyed that read.

  23. I have a postcard of a Gimbel’s restaurant at 28-30 W. Randolph. This didn’t seem to make it into your history, although the successor South Pacific Restaurant did. Since, as far as I know there was never a Chicago Gimbel’s, I’m surprised the restaurant. with that name was here. But Gimbel’s also owned Saks Fifth Avenue, which did have a Chicago presence.

    • That is fascinating – thanks for bringing this to my attention. Indeed, when I did a Google search I found a menu from this restaurant, but couldn’t determine its connection to the famous department store. That will take more time than I have on Thanksgiving!

  24. Michael Riley

    The Greyhound Terminal was never in disrepair. I used to go up to Wisconsin once a month via Greyhound. The terminal was nice, clean and convenient with shops and restaurants. It had its characters but was never dangerous in my opinion. Unless you were frightened of black men. But there were always plenty of cops and people around so there was no need to be scared.

  25. I miss going to the Loop as a kid in the 1950s and 1960s. Great food, historical buildings and free of the crime that has made the Loop a ghost town after dark. I am a retired Chicago police detective and know that crime occurs with impunity. My parents would be rolling in their graves seeing what has happened to Chicago. In less then 10 years, the Loop will be vacant land or boarded up. Daley allowed this and it has only gotten worse.

    Thank you for keeping this old Chicago site going.

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