Unearthed Video Captures Mid-Century Chicago In Its Prime
What the city looked like at the peak of its population, but before the skyscraper boom that gave the City of Big Shoulders its immense height.
By Whet Moser
Published Jan. 15, 2015
This video has been making the rounds for a second time, and I can see why. It’s an old, probably mid-1940s promotional video about Chicago produced by the Board of Education, and visually it’s charming; the vivid colors and soft focus make it look like a movie assembled from vintage postcards.
More interestingly, it captures Chicago at a very interesting time: when the city had basically reached its peak population, but before the great boom of high-rise downtown architecture would give us most of the skyline we know today. The Civic Opera House is the first point of architectural pride cited by the film, followed by the then-newest of the city’s skyscrapers, the Board of Trade tower, which was completed about 15 years before the film was likely made.
Instead, the newness comes later in the film, when it tours the apartment buildings, bungalows, and the vaguely-cottageish single-family homes of the era—plus a brief shot of the Lathrop Homes, which would have been just a few years old.