An interesting nostalgic tour occurred one day in our rehabbed offices, on the second floor of a seemingly quiet building.
A small group of firefighters came in admiring our recent renovations—we just moved in last November—in a tour led by Chicago Fire Lt. Rick Vega.
Rick, who has been living in Lakeview, near Broadway and Belmont Avenue since he was 3-years-old, came in as we stared confused (and a bit startled) at our computers. He was telling colleagues, all in full firefighter gear, of what our office was in the ’70s: an unassuming rock venue called “The Attic” hosting bands like the “Chicago Transit Authority” before they became Chicago, Bob Seger and Janis Joplin, according to Rick, and punk bands like Rights of the Accused, among others.
Of course, this was a welcome distraction.
What a lot of new residents and business owners in Lakeview don’t know is it’s filled with punk rock history—from Clark Street to Broadway and Belmont to Diversey avenues. Rick remembers this history very well.
Back then, he said, this neighborhood has bars like The Brewery, The Fat Black Pussycat and The Phoenix. But it was The Attic he remembers for being up a long flight of stairs with the same wooden trusses we work amongst now (or as he terrifyingly refers to them now: “firemen killers” for its high rate of flammability and collapse).
This got us searching online for this mysterious The Attic. Searches turned up nothing online so I headed down to the Chicago History Museum to search their building archives—romanced by Chicago restaurant, The Boarding House’s story of how they looked into its building’s history to come up their company name.
With help from the staff at CHM, I searched through old phonebook directories (physical and on microfilm), the Commission of Chicago Landmarks records, the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps (which were used through much of the 20th Century by insurance companies to assess buildings’ tenant history), photo archives of Broadway (which felt like searching an ancient version of Google Streetview) and the Chicago Tribune annals—from as far back as the 20’s.
What we do know from CHM is that in 1923 this building was a bake shop with large ovens, according to the Sanborn maps, and in 1994 was a business called The Furniture Connection. And when we first moved in we learned the previous tenant around 2005 was a True Value Hardware store showroom. Not too exciting. I was about to throw in the towel until the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce put me in contact with historian Patrick Corriere at our local library branch.
Lo and behold, in a book from 1974 called “Sweet Home Chicago, The Real City Guide” by the Chicago Review Press was a blurb about “The Attic” under a north-side blues bar section.
Officially, the address was 3132 N. Broadway, which is next to us in the same building and probably the reason we couldn’t find anything at CHM.
Rick Vega says back then it was the same place. And according to further records, that address became known as music venue, “Broadway Limited” around 1978. A little more complicated then we anticipated but, as they say, if these walls could talk.