Oh, I love the night life

One of the things I’ve discovered in blogging about the history of Hollywood Park is most stories start in the neighborhood but eventually lead to my learning something new about the city.

I planned on interviewing Allan Zirlin about his memories of growing up in nearby Albany Park in the 1940s. It turned out he had a bigger story to tell: he’s been photographing downtown Chicago street scenes since the 1950s, when he was a student at the Art Institute. He sent me a few photographs to share on my blog, and, as noted in my previous post, you can see many more on his website and also on his Facebook page.


(c) Allan Zirlin

A parade of stars once swept through the doors of 610 N. Fairbanks Court in Streeterville. Lines formed around the block to see the likes of Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Milton Berle, Sophie Tucker, Jimmy Durante, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Bob Hope performing at the Chez Paree supper club.


Maike (Mike) Fritzel and Joe Jacobson opened the nightspot in 1932. In 1949 they sold the business to a group that included Jay Schatz. The property, now called the Schatz Building, is still in the family.

In the 1920s, Fritzel owned Friar’s Inn, a speakeasy on Wabash, and later owned Fritzel’s at 201 N. State.  He also bought the Tradewinds Restaurant at 865 N. Rush and had an interest in Don the Beachcomber. 


Allan Zirlin (right), with a date and his parents, caught the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis act at Chez Paree in the early 1950s

The Schatz Building was designed by architects Benjamin Marshall and Charles Eli Fox in 1917 and originally housed a bakery for the Horn & Hardart Automat Company. Marshall and Fox designed several Chicago landmarks, including the Drake Hotel and the Blackstone Hotel.

I first noticed the building, unusual in that area for its strong emphasis on horizontal lines, in the early 1980s. Over the years the facade changed slightly and then dramatically, always retaining a connection to the arts–a sculpture, a mural.

That was the exterior. I had no idea of its cultural significance on the inside. In the 1940s, the Bauhaus School’s Laszlo Moholy-Nagy opened the School of Design, later called the Institute of Design, and still later a part of the Illinois Institute of Technology, on the building’s second floor.


(c) Allan Zirlin

Above is Zirlin’s shot of Randolph Street from the Randolph/Wabash L station. The movie named on the Oriental marquee is Desk Set with Tracy and Hepburn, dating this to 1957 or ’58.

el station

(c) Allan Zirlin

These stories may lead me around the city, but I’ll always end up back home in Hollywood Park. Here’s (below) a look back at Hollywood Kiddieland after dark.


(C) Allan Zirlin


(C) Allan Zirlin

Credits: All photos, except second from top, courtesy of Allan Zirlin. Photo of 610 Fairbanks as it appears today is from Google Maps.

Sources: That Toddlin’ Town, Charles A. Sengstock, Jr.; Chez Paree entry in Wikipedia; The Schatz Building website; obituary of Jay Schatz.

Check out Allan Zirlin’s photo albums on Facebook and on his website.

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16 Responses to Oh, I love the night life

  1. Marv August 11, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

    The two Chicago icons I would like to have visited are the Chez Paree and Fritzels. My parents talked about going to both during the 50s while leaving us with the babysitter.
    I was however able to listen to a late night radio interview show from the Chez hosted by Jack Eigen on a transistor set. It was exciting stuff for a youngster.

  2. Frances Archer August 11, 2011 at 4:14 pm #

    It all looks very glamorous, doesn’t it? Thanks for visiting.

  3. Allan Z. August 11, 2011 at 8:15 pm #

    Once on a double date in the early 1950s, for some unknown reason, we went to Fritzel’s
    after the movie downtown. We were so out of our league and must have looked like it because one of the owners, Joe Jacobson, came to our table to make sure we were OK. I had to order the cheapest meal on the menu so I wouldn’t have to wash dishes.

    I remember there was a robin’s-egg blue Caddy convertible with white leather interior parked outside the front door, top down of course, for maximum effect.

  4. Frances Archer August 11, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

    Allan, from the looks of the photo of you at Chez Paree, I thought you looked right at home in a swanky joint.

  5. Jerry Pritikin August 11, 2011 at 8:41 pm #

    I took my best friend to the Chez when he got engaged in 1957 and saw the Vagabonds, and the bill was $100. Then we went to the Blue Note on Clark, and Fat’s Domino was there.

  6. Frances Archer August 11, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

    Jerry, I bet you looked right at home in a swanky joint, too.

  7. Shari Cohen Forsythe August 11, 2011 at 9:45 pm #

    I had forgotten about the Wieboldt’s sign, very much a fixture in my youth.

  8. Bonnie McGrath August 12, 2011 at 2:10 am #

    isn’t it the building that most recently contained the pritzker military museum–now on michigan avenue?

  9. Frances Archer August 12, 2011 at 7:31 am #

    Yes, it is. Did you ever see the museum?

  10. Frances Archer August 12, 2011 at 7:32 am #

    It was there for decades.It was a nice little mall, wasn’t it?

  11. Bonnie McGrath August 16, 2011 at 11:21 am #

    frances, i went to the pritzker museum in the old spot a couple of times.. and have already been to the new one a couple of times.. they have very interesting and unique programs..

  12. Katherine Bucar November 28, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

    I work for Liska+Associates, a design/branding firm that has just moved into an office space at 610 North Fairbanks – the building once occupied by Chez Paree and Maholy-Nagy’s New Bauhaus school.

    It is very exciting to be working at such a historic building, especially since the New Bauhaus had such a positive, far reaching influence on the design industry in Chicago. I just finished a blog post about the many ways the school (and the building) have changed the way we think about design. I hope you have a chance to visit our blog – http://liska.com/blog/index.php/2011/11/liskahaus/

  13. Frances Archer November 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

    Thank you for visiting and providing the link to your terrific blogpost on the New Bauhaus and its influence on Chicago. I noticed that I have written a post about a building designed and built in 1949 by one of your firm’s clients: http://francesarcher.com/2011/11/this-was-deborah/ Another coincidence is that some 12 years ago I freelanced for a company that was a client of Liska. Thanks again for visiting and I plan on following your blog for more on design in Chicago.

  14. Katherine Bucar November 28, 2011 at 4:43 pm #

    Thanks, Frances. I enjoy your blog very much and never tire of seeing images from Chicago’s past!

  15. dave osterman March 2, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    Had the honor of doing some hvac work for mr.schatz in the 90s.he had a collage of all the entertainers who performed there what a great time capsul of that era.great guy.good friends of then mayor.

  16. Frances Archer March 6, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    Hi, Dave. Thanks for stopping by. Would love to see that collage.

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