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My Kinda Thursday August 5, 2010

There was just enough time yesterday to get some buttons.

The only thing was, there were no buttons where I was: the Loop.

Or so I thought.

Then I remembered a fellow SAIC friend telling me about someplace downtown that had fabric and buttons and even yarn. So off I ran, starting from Washington & State St and lucky me, they’ve taken down a lot of the scoffolding that was covering the old Carson’s Building (now the new Sullivan Center) and you could once again GLORY! in the Chicago Phenom that was Louis Henri “Form Follows Function” Sullivan. This block long building, constructed in 1899, sprouted up in the Loop in the heady heady days of the Birth of the Skyscraper in Chicago, but there is something that sets it so far apart, and that something is Inspiring:


Sullivan became famous for his intricate facades and ornamentation that in spite of being made of iron, were delicate and organic looking.


I stopped and stared and stared some more. But there was work to do…

I went one block east of State St. to Wabash.

Now that’s what I’m talking about: an area that in many parts, seems like time stood still. While some modernization pops up here and there more likely than not, the farther you go south of Madison St. (yes! Our primary streets are named after the first Presidents and it’s the first time in my life I know the order of their terms) the more the clock moves backwards, past the Palmer House, past many storefronts and that’s where I found my buttons:


Chicago-Fabric-Yarn-Button-2-P1000832This is Chicago Fabric Yarn & Button Sales (222 South Wabash Avenue) and it is so reminiscent of the New York garment district in flavor and service I had deja vu all over again. Packed to the walls & ceilings with bolt after bolt of fabric, notions and buttons behind the counter, this is no big box self-serve mega store. This is the real deal with a real counterman, who asked what color buttons I was looking for and dug out a thick loose-leaf binder full of the most wonderful vintage and current types of buttons, all of the highest quality. My Cerisara now has a wonderful design point in addition to its basic look and I picked up some suiting-type brown buttons that were incredibly plain yet incredibly wonderful.

As I left, I was not surprised to see one of my other all time favorites a couple of doors down:


THIS. Most definitely is one of those places where if the walls could talk, it would be a flashback of the most significant history of the Windy, unfolding through the thousands of shots made by press photographers (including me) through the years. Thousands of students from SAIC and Columbia College cut their teeth on film with their used vintage cameras — you can see them in the windows, you can play with them with yes, a counterman at your service, in the store at 230 South Wabash Avenue.

This is Chicago.


From the signage that’s never been updated since it was hung to the fire escapes criss-crossing the front of the building, it’s all there.

For the first time, I saw above the door “Since 1899” in neon stripes: “The 1893 Columbian Exposition put Chicago on the map as an international city. By 1899, downtown Chicago already had staked its growth on vertical construction with the first generation of skyscrapers such as architect Louis Sullivan’s Auditorium Theatre Building at 430 S. Michigan Ave; and the Elevated tracks already defined the “LOOP”…

The year of Central Camera‘s founding marked the 60th anniversary of the invention of photography. George Eastman had revolutionized the market with easy-to-operate Kodak box cameras, first introduced in 1888.”

So I walked a path that Sullivan and Burnham and Potter Palmer (love that name) walked at the turn of the 19th to 20th century. The Elevated Train was already running; the Loop was born.

15 responses to “My Kinda Thursday August 5, 2010”

  1. Laura K says:

    I was in the loop last week and did a double-take when I saw the Carson building again. A beauty! And Central Camera is a favorite of mine–love the feel of the place. I stock up on slide and photo protectors of all sizes to use for organizing my roving colors and fabric samples.

  2. Angela says:

    I think that fabric store used to be on Adams (that might be wrong) near the Art Institute. I used to work at 218 S Wabash over 12 years ago and the fabric store wasn’t there then. Good old Central Camera was, though! If it is the same one, you are so right about the NY vibe. Actually, it reminded me of a totally old school fabric shop I used to go to in Boston. Need to check out that button book!

  3. yarnsnob says:

    I can’t believe that button place is still open! When I was at SAIC we all thought the business was a front for some mafia/mob thing because the guy was always in a suit and very creepy. Glad to know Central is still open, I went there a lot too. I need to get downtown more often.

  4. Anna says:

    Once again, we’ve failed to make it up to the Windy for the July family shindig. But I love to see one of my favorite cities in your photos! I adore the Loop; and I’m going to that fabric store next time I’m in town. Thanks so much for the pictures.

  5. Meg says:

    Oh, hope someday I can make it to Chicago. Been to NY, but not much of the garment district. Strange.

  6. Colleen says:

    You are so lucky to be living in such a beautiful cultured city! I had the pleasure of visiting Chicago in May 2009 and I swear it is the most beautiful city. Even the people are beautiful. I love living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, but I always tell my friends to make a point of visiting Chicago before they die.

  7. mkonieczki says:

    Thanks for this! I had NO IDEA fabric and button store was there! I usually haul down (or up) to Vogue Fabric, but this gem will save me some major trips and time…. oh, my… the time I will gain.

  8. Peggy says:

    How I miss getting to the loop. – and I live in Chicago!

  9. Amy N says:

    Drooling over the texture in the first 2 pix. Would LOVE to have rubber stamps with the images to use in my art work.

  10. Karen B. says:

    Love how Central Camera is crammed chock-a-block with all manner of materials photographic. With its narrow aisle, you’re always begging someone’s pardon. Worth it though. So is a stop into Kramer’s next door, if you’re into healthy smoothies and snacks. They’ve been there quite some time – I mean since I was a youngin’.

  11. Kay says:

    Ya know, Eastman started Eastman School of Music…..because he thought photography wasn’t going to remain a popular hobby. Just sayin’ He did something with his $$$!!!

  12. Pam says:

    Thank you for such a beautiful tour of Chicago this morning!

  13. Jane says:

    I have lovely memories of Central Camera. I went there a lot as a kid, because my aunt, a wonderful photographer, worked there. All the kids in my family have portraits she made of us in front of her famous backdrop – a chenille bedspread. She met the man she would marry there, too. There used to be a nut store next door. Mmmm, hot peanuts!

  14. Rhonda says:

    Oh, you know how much I miss Chicago… Thank you so much for the pictures and the words. All my memories are there.

  15. sil says:

    Thanks for the tour! I love visiting Chicago, so much fun. I’m not missing the humidity though :)

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