Mounted photograph of the South Water Market in Chicago, IL. Image is screened onto a black wooden box frame with a metal wire on the back for hanging. Stuck to the back of the picture frame is a card, which appears to be an exhibition label, that reads "South Water Market, Chicago, IL Photo purchased by the Hellenic Museum from the collection of David R. Phillips". The image depicts a street in between two large warehouses, both sides of which are lined with dozens of trucks being loaded up.
The David R Phillips Collection is one of the world's largest private archives of historically important photographs. This collection of historical Chicago photographs contains more than 2,000 unique Chicago images from the 1860s to the 1970s. Unlike other collections, each of these photos are taken from the original glass or film negatives. Each of these unique and artistic views were taken by the period’s finest photographers. The collection consists of old and rare black and white Chicago images illustrating the city’s street scenes and marvelous architecture.
Along the south side of the Chicago River’s Main Branch, buildings once backed right up to the edge of the water where Wacker Drive now runs. Those buildings sat on South Water Street, which hosted a bustling wholesale produce market. The buildings – many of them grocery distribution warehouses – took in freight from riverboats on one side; on the other, a colorful and crowded scene of horses and wagons, barrels and carts (and later, trucks) picked up loads of fruits and vegetables.
As the Loop began to modernize, city planners prioritized removal of the market to a less central area – someplace where the odors of horses and rotting produce mingled with the noise and congestion of a busy produce market, wouldn’t conflict with the more “civilized” activities of the financial and retail districts just steps away.
The city’s first Plan Commission, led by Charles H. Wacker, set about clearing all of the buildings from the area and drastically reshaping the landscape. It was a multi-year effort, but construction was fully underway by 1925. When it was complete, the grand, new waterfront boulevard was named for Wacker.
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Photograph, 1860 – 1970, National Hellenic Museum, https://collections.nationalhellenicmuseum.org/Detail/objects/10455. Accessed 03/01/21.