From the desk of Robert Loerzel

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Sunnyside Stories

Here’s Chapter 4 of my ongoing series of blog posts, The Coolest Spot in Chicago:
A History of Green Mill Gardens and the Beginnings of Uptown. The new chapter is “The Sunnyside, Cemetery Saloons, and the Rise of Ravenswood.” You can read it here.

It covers more of the early history of the area we now call the Uptown neighborhood. But as the chapter title suggests, this history bleeds over into another neighborhood, Ravenswood.

I go off on some tangents about the origins of Ravenswood and the knotty questions about neighborhood boundaries. Chicagoans often argue about what to call neighborhoods—where one neighborhood ends and another begins.

The main story here is about the Sunnyside Inn, the most famous of the area’s drinking spots in the 19th century, as well as some of the other “cemetery saloons” and roadhouses that served people visiting Graceland Cemetery, St. Boniface, and other local graveyards … with a digression about the failed attempts to stop Chicagoans from drinking on Sundays.

I talked about this stuff Wednesday night at Carol’s Pub, during a sold-out event by WBEZ’s Curious City and the Chicago Brewseum. I had fun, and I sure hope audience members did.

WBEZ’s Jason Marck interviewed me and the Brewseum’s Liz Garibay, and we also played my video interview with Mark Guarino, about the Uptown chapter in his great new book, Country and Midwestern: Chicago in the History of Country Music and the Folk Revival — which I highly recommend. (Details about the book are here: We also had three members of the Hoyle Brothers playing some excellent country music.

As I’ve been posting these chapters, I’ve received some interesting comments (and a couple of corrections) from folks like Tim Samuelson, the Uptown Theatre’s caretaker, and a member of the Chamales family. If anyone else has anything to add to the story, I encourage you to email me. The Green Mill’s Dave Jemilo and Laura Castro were at Wednesday’s event, and said they enjoyed it.

Coming next week, the next chapter will focus on the early history of Tom Chamales, in the years before he started Green Mill Gardens.

Great Blue Heron Nests

On Saturday, April 8, I spent the morning at Oak Woods Cemetery at 1035 E. 67th St. on the South Side. It’s a beautiful graveyard, serving as the resting place for many important historical figures, from Ida B. Wells to Enrico Fermi. But on this occasion, I was there mostly because I wanted to see great blue herons.

As in previous years, several of these magnificent birds are nesting at Oak Woods. I counted four treetop nests—three on a small island in the lake just southwest of the main entrance, plus another one in a tree just west of the lake. As I watched, five or six herons were either sitting in the nests or perching in the trees and flying around.

As people often comment, they look a bit like pterodactyls. Their nesting season is typically from March through May, so Oak Woods is probably the best spot in Chicago to see great blue herons right now. I’m hoping to go back and maybe catch a glimpse of some young ones.

You can see my video of the herons by clicking on this link to Twitter (where the thread continues with more photos):
… Or do you hate Twitter? You can also see the video and photos on Instagram or on Facebook.

Meet Finn Falcon

Back in November, I photographed a peregrine falcon on Montrose Pier, and happened to notice an ID band on the bird’s leg.

On Twitter, Jennifer Johnson (@toomanyjjjs) told me: “In case you have not ID’d the bird I sent this to Mary Hennen at the field museum in charge of the Peregrine program. She says ‘You can see enough of the band to see it’s the male, Ford Falcon, who holds the territory around Montrose.’”

A 2018 Chicago Tribune story had reported on this bird’s birth: “Karen, Tango, Lightning Bolt and Ford Falcon are the names of the four young peregrine falcons who hatched this year on the rooftop of an Evanston Public Library branch…”

And so, when I saw a peregrine falcon on Tuesday, April 11, at the Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, I was excited to see that an ID band was visible on its leg, showing the numbers “79” and the letter “V.”

Was this Ford? No. If I’d been more observant, I might have realized it’s a younger bird.

I looked up Mary Hennen, and found her on the Field Museum’s website. I emailed her with my new peregrine falcon photos.

She replied: “His name is Finn and I banded him this past May from Chicago's Millennium Park site. Anytime you see a peregrine with immature plumage at this time of the year you know it was born the previous year.”

As for Ford Falcon, she commented: “He has been photographed at Montrose Beach a lot since 2019. That area seems to be part of his territory though we still don't know which building he may be attempting to nest on. (FYI - I banded him at the Evanston Library back in 2018).”

I asked Mary: “If this is Ford’s territory, is he likely to try chasing away Finn? Or would peregrine falcons share territory?”

She replied: “If Finn were to get too close to the nesting ledge, then yes Ford would chase him away. Territories fluctuate with the season, both in range/location and degree of defensiveness. Montrose is more part of Ford's non-breeding territory. That being the case he's more tolerant of any other adult at that location. It's probably more accurate to say Ford's the nearest residential Peregrine to the beach than to call it his territory.”

If you’re around Montrose Point, be on the lookout for Ford and Finn!

Show-and-Tell at 20x2

On April 4, I was one of 20 people who spoke for two minutes each at the 20x2 Chicago event at the Gman Tavern. We were all given the assignment of answering the rather open-ended question, “What Did You See?”

I took this an opportunity to do a little show-and-tell about the beavers I’ve been watching for the past couple of years around Montrose Harbor.

You can watch a video of my presentation on YouTube here:

And you can see the other presenters—who had a lot of fun and inspiring comments over the course of the evening—on 20x2 Chicago’s YouTube channel.

From the desk of Robert Loerzel

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