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© The Chicago Bar Project   Created by Sean Parnell
De Luxe Gardens
As described by A.J. Liebling in his book, Chicago: The Second City (1952)

A superb specimen of a Chicago alderman is Paddy Bauler, who represents the Forty-third Ward. Bauler's De Luxe Gardens, at north Avenue and Sedgwick, is as sedate a groggery as you will come upon in the city of Chicago. It occupies the former premises of the Immigrant State Bank, which went under in the crash, and the original lavatory solemnity of the interior's marble décor has never been altered. The high ceilings, the grilles barring the way to the vaults, and all the other accessories designed to nurture unfounded confidence remain to warn of the uncertainty of appearances, and the patrons conduct themselves as discreetly as men about to solicit a loan. It is here that the Alderman, who is also a member of the Cook County Democratic Committee, holds court, like Saint Louis of France under his tree of judgment, from nine to eleven each evening, when he is not travelling in Europe. Paddy travels often, and always in style; he says that trips to places like Rome and Palestine help him to understand the different kinds of people in his ward. The saloon's license is in his brother's name. Paddy has apparently done well at making his aldermanic salary of five thousand dollars a year stretch.

There is no entertainment—not even a dice girl—in the De Luxe Gardens. North Avenue, which begins near lake Michigan and runs straight west through the dimness until it hits the city line, lies only a little over a mile and a half north of the Loop, but it is the axis of an autonomous dreariness. The eastern end of the avenue, which is in Paddy's ward, has a small night life, with a German-language movie house, one or two German restaurants with zither players, and some Hungarian saloons, through which wander, in the course of the evening, a few fiddlers, who say that they are gypsies but that they have forgotten the Old Country music, because they are never asked for it. The favorite request numbers of Chicago Hungarians are "Tennessee Waltz" and "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling." Also, there are numerous bars that use low prices as their chief sales argument. These places seem purposely bare and flimsy, as if to assure the customers that nothing is being wasted on overhead. The liquor-license fee is low in Chicago, and the sheer number of saloons, even in backwash neighborhoods, is amazing. Curbstones are high, often consisting of two steps instead of one, and drunks sometimes take astonishing falls. These are seldom fatal.

~ Have a good story relating to A.J. Liebling? Email us. ~

– created by Sean Parnell

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