Old Chicago

Old Chicago
Bolingbrook, Illinois
The Mall

Old Chicago Shopping Mall & Amusement Park, Bolingbrook, IL

Most trips to Old Chicago started out with a view like this while heading to Bolingbrook on Interstate 55.  It's a little hard to see the dome but you can see how Old Chicago filled the skyline and was a memorable landmark. 

My in-laws who used to live in Berwyn while my father-in-law was going to college said that they always knew they were getting close to home after heading down state to visit family when they saw Old Chicago filling the horizon.

Old Chicago, Bolingbrook, Illinois

After exiting on Route 53 you pulled into Old Chicago's parking lot a few minutes later.  When you left your car behind Old Chicago's memorable lions greeted you as you entered the building.  The lions were actually replicas of the same lions that sit outside of Chicago's Art Institute.  The only difference was that Old Chicago's lions have tails that are tucked in so that they wouldn't brake off from the thousands of kids, like myself who made it a point to climb on them.

Old Chicago, Bolingbrook, Illinois

Old Chicago was just a magical place especially to a child like I was when it was open.  There was this impressive building that just kept getting bigger and bigger the closer you got to it filling all of your vision.  Then there were the lions that you climbed on top of to pose for one of the countless photos taken of kids doing the very same thing.  You pushed the doors open with excitement building up more and more with every step and finally you were inside where you were surrounded with the sounds of people having fun, smells of good food and the sight of these hanging gardens above you.

Old Chicago Amusement Park & Shopping Center

There was always a festive atmosphere at Old Chicago in it's early years.  In this postcard there's the Chicago Cub and Old Chicago Bears costumed figure as well as a balloon vendor.  Behind them is the Columbian House restaurant which only lasted a year before they closed down.

Old Chicago, Bolingbrook, Illinois

Old Chicago's Shopping Center was made not to look like a mall but to make you feel like you were walking down the streets of Chicago at the turn of the 19th century.

Old Chicago Amusement Park and Shopping Center

When it was full there were all sorts of stores in Old Chicago from a Hallmark Cards shop to other various stores.  Most of the stores were specialty shops with a few chain stores like Fayva Shoes.


The Old Chicago Shopping Mall was sectioned off into different streets like this area which was the Water Street Market.  

Old Chicago, Bolingbrook, Illinois

This is the Biergarten Restaurant.  It was a fantastic place to eat and if you got one of the good tables you could look out over the Old Chicago Fairgrounds. 

I have many fond memories of eating here.  My family would go every once in a while and one year for our T-Ball end of the season party was held here. 

If you ever watched the Brian DePalma movie "The Fury" this is the restaurant where the Paratrooper gets flung through.  To see that bit from the movie check out my Old Chicago Videos page.

Old Chicago, Bolingbrook, Illinois

Old Chicago went at great lengths to give the mall a nice atmosphere including getting replica streetlights of the ones that Chicago had at the turn of the century. 

Old Chicago Amusement Park & Shopping Center

Here's a photo of one of the shops that was in Old Chicago.  Yes it's a head shop filled with bong's, hookah's, pipes and other stuff that's supposed to be used for tobacco but let's be real here this stuff was used to smoke weed.  Do you know how I know this?  Well one of the gentlemen kneeling down and looking into the cabinet emailed me.  He was quite into pot back then but he turned out ok as he is now an accountant.

The shopping center part of Old Chicago was nice but looking back I wonder if it was not a huge mistake not to have any anchor stores like a Sears to bring in more people.  It was like they expected the amusement park to bring in the people to keep the mall going instead of visa versa like the wildly successful Mall of America or West Edmonton Malls who took the concept of Old Chicago and corrected this mistake.

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Paul B. Drabek