"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


The Hidden Side of Chicago's Bike Routes: Essanay Studios

A major thoroughfare for Chicago cyclists to and from the Northside is Clark Street. Affording a direct route to downtown or easy access to the Lake Front Trail, more bikers use this route than almost any other route in the city.

Built over an existing Native-American trail (as were many streets in Chicago, such as Milwaukee Avenue and Broadway), Clark Street runs the gamut of Windy City Existence. From gritty Howard Street at the Evanston border, it meanders diagonally down through the emergent neighborhoods of Rogers Park, Edgewater and Uptown, becomes clogged with cargo-shorts, summer dresses and spilt beer in the arrested-development paradise of Wrigleyville, Lakeview, and Lincoln Park, then straightens out to soak in the ritzy and well-established glamour that is The Gold Coast, before hulking up and heading down past City Hall and the Man On Five, through Southloop, and finally ending back in the grit and dust of the public housing and warehouses just east of Chinatown.

Obviously, there is quite a bit of history to be found on Clark Street’s trajectory. From former speakeasies to mob hits, landmark buildings to famous homeruns, Clark is a time-capsule of Chicago’s life.

As I mentioned in the last installment, Edgewater, in particular, attracted its fair share of celebrity during the far-Northside’s early years, and not-at-all due entirely to the aforementioned Edgewater Beach Hotel. Amazingly, one the most prodigious movie producers during the Silent Era was set right in nearby Uptown, just east of Clark Street, at 1333-45 W. Argyle Street.

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Essanay Studios is probably most famous for making the films that turned Charlie Chaplin into a star, including “The Tramp,” “Shanghaied,” and “Police.” It also, however, produced the first American “Sherlock Holmes” and the first-ever film version of “A Christmas Carol.”

Essanay is formed out of the two letters, S and A, after the company’s founders, the George K Spoor and Brocho Billy Anderson. These two men lured Chaplin away from the Keystone Studios and gave him the boost that launched his career. In addition to the 14 movies Chaplin made with Essanay in 1915, the studio made over 1400 movies from 1907 to 1917. This included almost 300 Broncho Billy Westerns, and the usage of addition studios in Niles, Colorado, and California.

Chaplin left Essanay after only one year for a larger contract on the back of his newfound fame, and the emptiness left by his departure caused a rift between Spoor and Anderson that eventually led to the studio’s closure in 1917.

Today, the building is home to St. Augustine College.

Sources: wikipedia, IMDb, Totavid.com

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