Postcard Collection: Chicago

by Derrick Bostrom


I haven't been to Chicago in over a dozen years, but I still have my memories. Unfortunately, most of them involve trying driving around the club trying to find safe legal parking for two vans and a trailer. So the next best thing for me are these postcards from my grandfather's collection, some of which date back a hundred years, to the 1893 World’s Exposition.

Aside from the postcards, the closest I've been to Chicago recently has been through a book and DVD by "This American Life" host Ira Glass and illustrator Chris Ware, "Lost Buildings." The DVD tells the story of a kid who's love for the work of architect Louis Sullivan led him into the orbit of photographer Richard Nickel. Forty years ago, Nickel traced an ever-shrinking circuit, documenting the progress of urban renewal as it consigned more and more of Sullivan's buildings to the wrecking ball. Increasingly frustrated by the loss of these historic monuments, Nickel finally met his end inside the old Chicago Stock Exchange building. Seems he'd been trying to rescue an ornate specimen of staircase railing from demolition when the floor above him collapsed.

No doubt, many of the older subjects of these postcards are long gone as well, and the ones remaining are not long for this world. Who knows? One day, I might actually get back to Chicago, create a circuit of my own, and find out.