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In this month’s letters: bygone lakefront, too skinny, and not-Wrigleyville

TOP DOCK

Your piece on the lake [Our Lake, June] reminded me of Dime Pier, which in the early 1950s was a secret hideout for a few of us living on the Near North Side. [It was] a narrow wooden structure on pilings jutting out into the lake about 100 yards south of Navy Pier, and, oddly, it didn’t connect to the shore and could be accessed only by rowboat, at the cost of 10 cents. At the east end of this pier, there was a wooden shack inside of which was a small restaurant. There was a patio in front where you could sit and watch the Chicago skyline light up at night. The restaurant offered five items: whiskey, beer, hamburgers, hot dogs, and fries.

In the spring, smelt fishermen would set up their nets at the end of the pier and, with bright lights pointing into the water, haul up thousands of smelt that would then appear on the menu.

Well, hardly anyone knew about this Chicago secret, and for our friends it became the in place to go. We would line up for the rowboat ride to the pier, courtesy of an old gentleman who stood up as he rowed, have beers on the patio, and watch the lights of Chicago. Mirabile dictu, no one fell off the boat on the way back to shore.

Dime Pier’s privacy did not last long. Vogue wrote it up and for a while the little restaurant and the rowboat man did a bustling business. Then, as winter approached, the icy waters of Lake Michigan were soon to foreshadow the demise of this unique place as the very foundations of the pier began to deteriorate and eventually the pier was condemned. The restaurant closed, the smelt fishermen set up elsewhere, the rowboat man was never heard from again, and a fond memory slipped away.

To this day, if you look closely, you can still see some of the pilings rotting away—a sad contrast to the posh lakefront that is Chicago today.

Carl Behr
Bloomington

 

BEEF UP

I recently viewed your magazine cover [Our Lake, June] and was appalled with the image used to represent a Chicago woman. I was shocked at how drastically and unrealistically thin the model was. No women walking around Chicago look like this. Next time, put a little more meat on her bones.

Marguerite Summer
Evanston

 

THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Jeff Ruby’s Playing the Fields in your July issue hit one of my pet peeves. That peeve is calling the neighborhood around Wrigley Field “Wrigleyville.”

I grew up just north of Wrigley near Montrose. My dad had a tavern on Clark and School, so I spent a lot of time in the great Chicago neighborhood of Lake View. Wrigleyville is a “cute” little name that real-estate agents used to get white folks to move back into the area in the late 1970s and 1980s.

In 1857, the area presently bounded by Fullerton, Western, Devon, and Lake Michigan was organized into Lake View Township. People were living in the area starting in 1830. Lake View was an incorporated town from 1887 until 1889, when Chicago annexed it into the city.

Lake View’s name came from a hotel built near what is now Lake Shore Drive and Byron. If you go to Addison and Halsted, you will see the police station called “Town Hall,” [named for] the fact that Lake View’s town hall was located there.

So don’t call it Wrigleyville—it’s Lake View.

Frank Chambers Jr.
Chicago

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6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

I LOVE LOVE LOVE your magazine! One correction does need to be made restaurant critic please remove PHO XE Tang from your list. Growing up with 2 vietnamese aunts and loving the cooking- this restaurant is the worst!!

5 years ago
Posted by j.davis

Hi there
I was hoping to get in touch with Carl Behr of Bloomington and talk to him more about Dime Pier. We are in the process of renovating the pier for public access and I would like to talk to him about more of his memories from this place.

If anyone could guide me on contacting him please let me know

Thank you

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