Old Chicago

from wikipedia:

Old Chicago opened to great fanfare and over 15,000 visitors on June 17, 1975, with an enormous building that housed major rides, such as a roller coaster and a Ferris wheel, as well as a shopping mall. Only six months after opening, however, the complex ran into financial troubles due to construction cost overruns. Despite management changes, the center continued to lose money. By 1978, the mall began closing on Mondays and Tuesdays and in early 1980 the entire amusement park shut down and the rides were sold, only five years after opening. Efforts to find alternative uses for the huge building failed, and the structure was demolished in the spring of 1986.

We went here for my brother's birthday in 1977. The building was designed in such a way that the amusement park was in the center of the complex with the mall encompassing the perimeter, and you had to walk the entire mall circuit before reaching the park. And you know how everything in the 70's was all turn-of-the-century-olde-timey, but in a sickening burnt orange / chocolate brown / mustard yellow palette? Like this?

So even by the time we finally walked through all of the mall and got to the park itself, nobody was having fun.

Also, imagine what kind of noise levels you could achieve in an indoor space with lots of screaming kids and thrill rides, including a steel looping roller coaster. Even as a seven-year-old my nerves were fried within a minute, so I can only imagine what sort of hell my mom was going through. I can't say I enjoyed the experience, but it was impressive and memorable.

Criticisms aside, this place should have succeeded. Weather in Chicago is miserable all year round, so you'd think an indoor park would be a no-brainer. It sounds like its downfall was due to more to bad construction estimates than attendance.

Negative G is a site about the park which is impressively detailed, considering how short-lived the place was. The video page contains a non-embeddable clip of the Ramones playing a concert there in '79.

Also, for the ultimate Old Chicago video which is not on youtube for proprietary reasons, rent Brian DePalma's The Fury from 1978. It has a long sequence of destruction within the park, and anyway, the movie is worth seeing for its overall absurdity. I already spoiled the ending for you a few weeks ago, but so what.

Then there's this guy who built motorized scale replicas of rides from the park, which is really obsessive and weird.

see his other models on his youtube page.

Finally, some home movies shot on (aaahhhh....) super-8, with the only appropriate soundtrack for 70's amusement, ye-olde-timey Scott Joplin.

No comments: