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Upscale River North in Grittier Times

Upscale River North in Grittier Times


“Walking around here now is very, very surreal,” says longtime Chicago photographer and filmmaker Tom Palazzolo. Tom and I walk past the Rainforest Café’s giant frog sign at Clark and Ohio streets in the River North neighborhood. He is taking me on a tour of his old neighborhood.

And boy, has it changed since he lived here.

Today, River North offers a trendy mix of restaurants, bars and galleries. But it wasn’t always that way, especially along one stretch of Clark Street, from the Chicago River north to Chicago Avenue.

Palazzolo lived at the intersection of Clark and Hubbard from 1962 to 1972 when he was a student at the School of the Art Institute and captured the area like few others.

“You know, it was colorful, I guess,” he said. “It had lots of bars. Almost every corner, if it didn’t have a greasy spoon, it had a bar. There were at least two, maybe three burlesque houses.”

His photos are now in a book called, simply, Clark Street.