The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

New Lakeview Book Shows Neighborhood's History Through Residents' Photos

By Serena Dai | February 4, 2014 7:41am
 A new "Images of America: Lake View" book shows the history of the neighborhood through the eyes of its old-time residents.
'Lake View' History Book
View Full Caption

LAKEVIEW — Ever wonder what vintage Lakeview storefronts looked like to residents in the 1930s?

Now there's a new history book from the Images of America series for "Lake View," with photos taken by regular folks from the neighborhood's days as a mecca for German-speaking immigrants to the "gritty"-era after the middle class left for the suburbs in the '70s.

The book's author, Matt Nickerson, who works at the Tribune, has always been interested in researching the history of Lakeview. As a 20-something recent graduate of the University of Chicago in the '90s, he moved to the neighborhood along with many other "yuppies," he said.

Nickerson was fascinated when he learned that just a few years before he and his young cohorts flocked to Lakeview, a completely different set of people lived in the 'hood.

 Matt Nickerson wrote a book on the history of Lakeview.
Matt Nickerson wrote a book on the history of Lakeview.
View Full Caption
DNAinfo/Serena Dai

For years, mostly German-speaking immigrants lived in Lakeview west of Sheffield, the primary area Nickerson studied. 

"I knew that underneath all the yuppies like me, there was a neighborhood history waiting to be discovered," he said.

Without a budget for professional photos, Nickerson couldn't use newspaper archive photos or history museum photos. Instead, he started knocking on doors to find photos from Lakeview's old-timers — from longtime businesses like Dinkel's Bakery, 3329 N. Lincoln Ave., to churches like St. Alphonsus Catholic Church, 1429 W. Wellington Ave.

It ended up being "a blessing in disguise," he said.

"A lot of them are not exactly Life magazine-quality photos," he said. "On the other hand, they're kind of grassroots. They're real. They've never been seen before."

There's a photo of Merz Apothecary when it was in the 2900 block of North Lincoln Avenue in the '70s, with a sign saying it no longer sold narcotics due to robberies. The uptick in crime ultimately prompted the pharmacy to move in 1982 to its current location at 4716 N. Lincoln Ave. in Lincoln Square, where many Germans had moved.

The book also contains photos from the Haderlein family, which split a real estate business into two after a quarrel in the early 1900s. Now, the family still owns separate offices at 3049 N. Ashland Ave. and 3413 N. Paulina St.

"A lot of the places I went to, they hadn't even seen the photos," Nickerson said. "They were just sitting in boxes, literally gathering dust."

"Images of America: Lake View" ends up painting a picture of the neighborhood through the eyes of its community members, with a focus on the Southport and Lincoln corridors. 

Most of the businesses from the early 1900s left with the exodus of people to the suburbs. The ones that survived — like Dinkel's or Paulina Meat Market, 3501 N. Lincoln Ave. — are "grinders," Nickerson said.

Back in the German era, places like Dinkel's and Paulina Meat Market "weren't anything unusual," he said.

But older businesses struggled in the '70s, once Germans left and gangs became more common. Jerome Lekan of Paulina Meat Market said he even advocated to move to suburban Barrington in 1982 to follow the market's customers, but his father wanted to stay.

"They didn't have a magic formula," Nickerson said. "They stuck it out. Well, now they really stand out."

Jerry Haderlein, of Haderlein Real Estate, told Nickerson of how gangbangers would climb on the roof of his father's business to try and ride the "L" for free. His father had to confront them.

"We've gone from having to chase gangbangers off Lincoln Avenue to having good problems like too many strollers," Nickerson said.

Modern day Lakeview may be million-dollar homes and families, but old-timers left a mark on the neighborhood, Nickerson said. Besides the old businesses that used to cater to Germans, much of their architecture remains.

The current Lincoln Park Athletic Club, 1019 W. Diversey Parkway, sits right at the border of Lincoln Park and Lakeview and used to be a famous German club called Turner's Hall. And many vintage buildings have German names etched into their sides, Nickerson said.

"Lakeview was built by these people," Nickerson said. "We should appreciate what they did for us."

Nickerson will hold a launch party for the book at Dinkel's Bakery, 3329 N. Lincoln Ave., from 3-5 p.m. Feb. 23. Copies of the book will be for sale.