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On Presidents Day, Follow the Lincoln Trail

By Patty Wetli | February 18, 2013 8:04am
 Honest Abe is ready to celebrate Presidents Day in Lincoln Square.
Honest Abe is ready to celebrate Presidents Day in Lincoln Square.
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Allison Felus/Flickr

LINCOLN SQUARE — When you live in a neighborhood called Lincoln Square, celebrating Presidents Day can be as simple as walking out your front door.

Lincoln Avenue, originally called Little Fort Road, was renamed after Honest Abe after the 16th president's assassination in 1865. What better place for an impromptu Lincoln Square Presidents Day Crawl?

The tour technically starts in North Center, at the Lincoln Restaurant, 4008 N. Lincoln Ave., where the kitschy diner's decor leans toward Civil War memorabilia. Get there early for an omelet named after Generals Grant, Sheridan or Lee, stay late for Monday's weekly Banjo Night.

Next stop: The Grafton Irish Pub & Grill, 4530 N. Lincoln Ave. On first blush, an Irish pub would seem to have little connection to Lincoln, but hear us out.

Nearly 150,000 Irish-born soldiers served in the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War. Lincoln would no doubt approve of a pint of Guinness raised in their honor, especially the version of Lincoln portrayed by Irishman Daniel-Day Lewis in Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln."

Speaking of "Lincoln," its run at the Davis Theater, 4614 N. Lincoln Ave., has, alas, come and gone. But, like Ford's Theatre, where Lincoln was shot, the Davis also shares ties to a deadly crime: "The Case of the Ragged Stranger."

It may sound like the title of a Sherlock Holmes mystery, but the ragged stranger is the real-life story of Carl Wanderer, who took his pregnant wife, Ruth, to a movie at the Davis (then called the Pershing), on June 21, 1920. Little did Ruth suspect that her husband had hired a hitman to murder her as they walked home. 

Just like our tour has gotten off track, so does Lincoln Avenue when it hits Lawrence Avenue. Take care not to lose the trail as you head to Lincoln Square Lanes, 4874 N. Lincoln Ave.

The bowling alley was founded in 1918 and recently underwent an extensive renovation. Despite all the changes, the owners made sure to retain a giant mural featuring Abraham Lincoln. The artwork was uncovered by the owners in 2003 during a previous construction project, and some suspect it dates back to 1930, likely an effort of the Works Progress Administration.

Finally, our Lincoln Square Presidents' Day Crawl comes home to roost, along with the pigeons, at the statue of Lincoln that stands watch over the Walgreens plaza, 4810 N. Lincoln Ave. It's no match for the Lincoln Memorial, but it does put the president up on a pedestal.

Dedicated in 1956, the sculpture was created by Avard Fairbanks, better known for designing the Dodge ram symbol. If the rest of our tour has been less than inspiring, these words, carved into the statue's base, should compensate: "Free society is not, and shall not be a failure."