Tower Cabana Revisited

Tower Cabana

Tower Cabana, Chicago, circa 1958. Courtesy of Mike Kitay.

Don’t let those palm trees waving in the breeze fool you.

This was the Tower Cabana, a year-round city country club on Peterson at Jersey on the North Side of Chicago, in its technicolor heyday. A vacation to Miami Beach without leaving Hollywood Park. Fashion shows, musical theatre and talent shows, mah-jongg and teen dances–owner Oscar Brotman dreamed big and spared no expense. He even planted those palm trees. And in the winter they froze the whole pool over for a skating rink.

Tower Cabana

Fashion show at the Tower Cabana, circa 1958. Coutesy of Mike Kitay.

I never step foot in the Tower Cabana. Missed it all. A toddler when this photo was taken and not yet ten when the place closed down after some years of slow or no business. I recall hearing that such a place existed, when a friend one hot summer day said, “We have to go to pool at the Acres Motel now because Tower Cabana closed.”

I did go to the Acres Motel pool, and let me tell you,  it was no Tower Cabana. But, thanks to Mike Kitay, we can all see what a swell place the Tower Cabana must have been.

Mike Kitay

Mike Kitay at the Tower Cabana, circa 1958.


Tower Cabana

In a Florida state of mind: Mike’s sister, Helen Kitay Fynn, and their mother, Pearl Kitay, at the Tower Cabana, circa 1958.

And one more thing. This has nothing to do with Tower Cabana, but that green cyclinder with the red and white checkerboard around the top? Does that ever look familiar.

Read more about Tower Cabana and Oscar Brotman:

Photos of the Tower Cabana Club

The Man Who Put the Hollywood in Hollywood Park, Part 1

The Man Who Put the Hollywood in Hollywood Park, Part 2

Oscar Brotman obituary,  Chicago Tribune

20 Responses to Tower Cabana Revisited

  1. Andy Romanoff November 16, 2014 at 10:23 am #

    Great photo of the Tower Cabana! I remember skating there in the winter, weather freezing and windy. Was there a stand that sold Hot Chocolate or do I only remember wishing there was?

    The gas tank was an important landmark to me all the time I was growing up. A sign visible for miles around. We had boyhood fantasies about it in the post war days, What would happen if someone fired a pistol into it, what if it blew up…?

    As I recall it was an engineering miracle, the tank rose and fell as the volume of gas inside expanded and contracted so the pressure was always equal. But now I wonder if that was also a boyhood story, Does anyone know?

  2. Alan Hoffman November 16, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    Most excellent !!Blew my mind when I saw this…Totally forgot about Florida in Chicago

  3. Jerry Pritikin November 16, 2014 at 11:15 am #

    I used to work for the Patio Furniture store on Petereson(later an Arbey ) Avenue. We sold Tower much of its Redwood furniture ensembles and Umbrella sets. We also had guest passes. I recently played softball about 2 blocks west on Jersey.

  4. Everett Melnick November 16, 2014 at 6:07 pm #

    I used to ice skate at River Park but went to Tower Cabana with a friend. The ice was better & the McDonalds next door sold hot chocolate with tiny marshmellows. Gave up my hockey skates for figure skates. Never went there in the summer though. We always went swimming at River Park Pool.
    I remember my mom trying to keep us from going on real hot days because of the Polio scare. It was a real joy when the Polio Vaccine came out.

  5. len November 16, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

    Tower did have its own hot chocolate, etc. and in the winter membership was not required for ice skating. The Patio became Japan Machine Tool Company, then Arbys, and most recently a credit union. Some years during the Patio era it sold toys during the winter holiday season sort of like the pop up holiday stores that have become common in the last few years as some large commercial real estate cannot attract full time users.

  6. Frances Archer November 16, 2014 at 9:27 pm #

    Hi, Andy! Thanks for identifying the gas tank. I agree it was a major landmark, yet I have no idea when I stopped seeing it.

  7. Frances Archer November 16, 2014 at 9:28 pm #

    Alan, glad you enjoyed the photos.

  8. Frances Archer November 16, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

    Hi, Jerry. I’m glad to hear they supported locL business. We sure could use more of that.

  9. Frances Archer November 16, 2014 at 9:35 pm #

    I remember getting the pup vaccine in sugar cubes at Peterson School. When I skated at Hollywood Park, late 1960s, we get that same hot chocolate at McDonald’s.

  10. Frances Archer November 16, 2014 at 9:37 pm #

    Thanks, Len. I knew the location as Arby’s but not before.

  11. Jerry Pritikin November 16, 2014 at 9:46 pm #

    The Patio was own by Dick and Dorothy Hoffman. His brother Ed owned the one in Highland Park. I knew about the Japan machine exhibit, however thought no one would remember that.
    He tried selling Japanese reproductions of the early Ford cars, and even sold boats on the lawn. I have some great memories of that time. The Rogers Car Wash and Weinstein Funeral home. A great Armenian restaurant on Lincoln called Omars. That whole area was in constant change… a few motels, The Mather High School…

    Once a bird flew into the Patio showroom and kept crashing into the big plate windows trying to get out. Then the bird flew across the showroom and landed on the shoulders of statue of St. Francis. The Patron Saint of animals and birds. It stayed there for about 15 seconds and then flew right out the open door. I would say what I witnessed was a miracle… but I’m Jewish!

  12. Sheila Linderman November 17, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    Hi, Frances,

    I have post here, either in spite of or because of the fact that I never set foot in the Tower Cabana. Like you, I was too young. However, my older brother’s friends always seemed to be headed there in the summer. What a flood of memories!

    My cousins owned the Acres Motel, but we never swam there. I do remember the Peter Pan Restaurant, though, where my mother would take me for olive burgers (hamburgers with chopped green olives on top) and a “green river” soda.

    Thanks for once again evoking a long stream of memories. Your posts are always such a treat!

  13. Ralph November 17, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    The People’s gas tank on Kedzie Ave. was torn torn down sometime before 1972. Here is some additional info on the tanks per J.R. Schmidt’s article, note that ScotterLibby makes a note about the tank on Kedzie.

    Here is a 1962 aerial view of the tank on Kedzie from 1962. I hope this link works.

    By the way, I wish the weather in Chicago today was like that in the photos!


  14. Frances Archer November 17, 2014 at 8:40 pm #

    Thanks, Ralph. Very cool!

  15. Frances Archerp November 17, 2014 at 8:41 pm #

    Thanks, Sheila. Great to hear from you. When I had my Bat Mitzvah, my mother’s large family came in from the East Coast and they all stayed at the Acres. It was late May, so the pool was open and my aunts and uncles all had a wonderful time “sunning” themselves.

  16. Ralph November 18, 2014 at 10:52 am #

    We use to go to the restaurant at the Acres a lot. The Open Oven I believe was its name. The Open Oven was on the northwest corner of Catalpa and Lincoln before it in moved into the Acres Motel sometime around 1978.

  17. Ralph April 1, 2015 at 5:45 pm #

    Isn’t the pool still buried in the park? I read somewhere it was never dug up and removed! It was just filled in! There is a mound in the park where the pool was.

    I know for a fact that making it an ice skating rink in the winter did not do the pool any favors. That must cause a lot of leaks over time.

  18. Frances Archer April 3, 2015 at 12:12 pm #

    Ralph, I hadn’t heard about the pool being buried, but it makes sense.

  19. Barry December 24, 2015 at 8:28 pm #

    Amazing. I was at Tower Cabana one time, at around age 9, around 1955, as I recall. It was the first time I was on ice skates. My cousin suggested that my mother, father, me, and my cousin Charmaine go. I was amazed at seeing the frozen palm trees in the middle of winter. As I recall, they had a Zamboni, a machine which cleans and smooths the ice, which captivated me. I also recall having hot chocolate there.

    Thanks for the historical posting, which includes the view of the formerly ever present tank.

  20. Frances Archer December 26, 2015 at 12:56 am #

    Thnaks for stopping by Barry.

Powered by WordPress. Designed by WooThemes