Stories From The Road Part 2 "Chicago's Gritty South Side"

I am changing gears a little bit for this blog entry.  I decided to make my second story more about a certain area of a city.  This time I will be telling stories of my visits to Chicago's South Side.  I consider the South Side as anywhere East of Halsted Street and South of 31st Street. Everyone from Chicago, which I am not, would probably have their own version of what is considered the South Side but for telling my story this is the South Side.

Within the city of Chicago, there are multiple types of neighborhoods that have their own culture to them and the South Side is no different.  If anyone decides to visit some of these filming locations never do it alone as within the areas of U.S. Cellular Field, The Museum Of Science And Industry and the University Of Chicago you will also travel through some neighborhoods that have lots of gangs.

I am going to tell my stories as if I am a tour guide.  I will start on the far south side and work my way north talking about the hot spots of can't miss filming locations along the way.  I hope you find the south side of Chicago as fascinating as I do!  Overall, most of the locations are from a small mixture of movies so don't expect a lot different movies mentioned this time.

As I mentioned in my section "Hello And Welcome To My Site" there was a family that we visited all the time when I was a kid that lived on the South Side so I felt like I had a feel for the area.  Yes, they may have been on the south side but just because I got familiar with their neighborhood I quickly learned that each neighborhood had their own nuances on learning where to go and what route was the safest way to get there. When you are in an area where you deal with gangs you must not get cornered and always have two different ways out of an area.

Because of that family, we always got to travel over the 95th Street Bridge on the way to their house.  This is the same bridge The Blues Brothers jumped near the beginning of the movie.  I figured this is the perfect place to start the tour.  Even though I have been over this bridge countless times it is always a thrill to be in this area.  I always laugh that after they jump the bridge there is no traffic to be found anywhere.

The next place we will visit is the church seen in The Blue Brothers where Jake And Elwood are told to visit.  The church is just a few blocks from the 95th Street bridge.  Every time I have been to the church I have never felt comfortable but it is such a memorable location for any Blues Brothers fan.  A few years ago the church sustained a small fire but luckily there was minimal damage.  "Do You See The Light?"

Just a few blocks away is the home where Harrison Ford hides out in its basement soon after he makes it back to Chicago in The Fugitive.  This was the house where he thinks he will be caught as he sees the police surrounding the house only to learn the guy living there was being arrested for being a drug dealer.  When I went by the house taking my pictures, I had a man come up to me asking why I was staking out the house.  I told him I was there to take pictures for "The Fugitive" and believe it or not he said "What! A Fugitive Lives There?"  How do you respond to a question like that when all you want to do is get the pictures taken before the residents of the house come out and ask me why I am taking pictures of their house.  Taking pictures of a house especially in the South Side makes me very nervous but once I am done and on to my next location I feel like it was totally worth it.  Also real close to the house is the thrift shop where Harrison Ford is seen leaving.

Another location from The Fugitive that was real close by was the house where Tommy Lee Jones shoots the other fugitive as his woman is screaming the whole time.  In the movie, the house looks to be in a real run down area and it definitely was.  I went to this house with our family friend, from the south side, before I owned a digital camera.  This place is where I learned my first hard lesson of how to properly go to a filming location.  As we were driving toward the house, we passed a few people that were standing right in the middle of the street conducting a drug deal.  When my friend saw that he even got a little nervous and told me I was only going to get the picture from inside the vehicle.  As we pulled up to the house, we heard shots being fired behind us where the guys were in the street so the picture ended being a little blurry for good reason as I freaked out a little bit.  My friend booked it out of there and luckily we had an alternate route to get back to where he lived.  Unfortunately, even if I had the nerve to go back there the house and literally the whole area has since been torn down.  After that experience I am not that surprised.  

Since I am on the subject of scary encounters I figured I will post my scariest moment of my location adventures.  We are now up to 79th Street.  I visited this location in the winter of 2008 and didn't have any problems but hated how the pictures turned out, because of the snow, so I went back this past year to redo my pictures.  I guess I really pushed my luck as visit number two almost got me killed.  The scene was from the movie U.S. Marshalls where near the beginning of the movie Tommy Lee Jones is dressed in a chicken costume waiting for the fugitive to come home and then went to bust him.  I took a couple of pictures in one direction and as I went to take some of the house I lost track of what was behind me and it was a man with a gun to my back telling me it was time I moved along and that I need to get out of there.  I almost made the mistake of my life when I actually mouthed off to him and said I will leave after I finish taking my pictures.  Yes, I really said that to him.  So I actually took my last picture and said I was leaving and as I was walking to my car a van pulled up behind to where my sister was parked waiting for me.  The van had tinted windows so I could not see who or what was in the van so it made for a very slow and scary walk back to the car.  I remember getting into the car and telling my sister to drive and not look back and after a few blocks the van quit following us.  My sister did not know what happened to me until about an hour later but she knew I was upset a little.  I found out later that night there was a murder real close to that house from the night before and it was a drug deal that went bad. I was very lucky that day!!!

Now we are going to head east down 79th Street to visit the Barbershop from the movie Barbershop.  I am only adding this location to the blog as it ended up being one of my biggest letdowns of all of my location visits.  I saw there was a chance the barbershop had been torn down but I still had to go there myself to confirm that and unfortunately it was torn down.  I consider this as one of the places that got away for me.  I had not seen the movie until recently and because of that I went there too late.  

The next location I visited after my near death experience was a cemetery called "Oakwoods Cemetery."  This cemetery has had a lot of locations filmed there but the one I was most interested in was from the movie Stir Of Echoes.  One of the nice things of visiting a cemetery is that it is so serine there and kind of like a oasis from all of the gang activity.  I really needed that time to regroup and remember that this is still a hobby and that safety is most important especially for the people that came with me like my sister.  

One of my favorite locations is the South Shore Country Club and Cultural Center.  This is on 71st Street real close to Lake Michigan. The exterior of the building was supposed to be the Palace Hotel Ballroom where the Blues Brothers performed their big concert near the end of the movie.  Don't go looking for Jake and Elwood's escape tunnel as it is not there.  Also seen at this location was a scene of fireman training from Backdraft and a scene where the female baseball players were at Charm School from A League Of Their Own

Just north of the South Shore Country Club is the Museum Of Science And Industry.  In the back part of the museum there is a small lagoon where a memorable scene from The Blues Brothers took place.  It is where the Illinois Nazis were protesting on a bridge and Elwood said he hates Illinois Nazis and drives up onto the bridge and makes them all jump into the water.  As he approaches the bridge, you can see the backside of the museum.  If you do get a chance to visit the museum make sure you take a look at this area too as it is a neat place.  Not sure where the Blues Brothers were going after they crossed the bridge but that is part of movie magic.

The final location from The Blues Brothers is Ray's Music Exchange which is located up on 47th Street.  When my father was still alive he would never allow us to go there for pictures as he called this part of Chicago the most dangerous in the city.  I had seen pictures from other Blues Brothers fans from this location so one day I was with the same friend and we ventured over there so I could get my pictures.  He is a jail officer for the city of Chicago and was allowed to carry a firearm.  When I got out to start taking pictures, I look over at him and he is flashing his gun to the people that were watching me.  Overall I didn't think it was as bad of an area as my father had suspected so I made it back there again this past year to take more pictures.  Real close to this location is the memorable ATM location from the movie Barbershop.  This was the scene where Anthony Anderson is dragging that ATM along the sidewalk of 47th Street when a police car comes up upon him.  He drags the ATM over to the building and pretends it is an operating ATM and before he knows it there is a line of people behind him waiting to use it including one of the police officers.  The officer gets a call and leaves the scene so J.D. ends up not getting caught.

Moving over to Drexel Blvd.  This is the scene where the man gets blown through his car window from the movie Backdraft  This was a neat location because there are some nice homes in this area so the whole time I was researching the movie I figured it was somewhere else in Chicago instead of on the south side.  If you remember, the graduates see the firetrucks go by the bar and they run after the truck to visit the scene of the fire.  The bar is on the north side so that would have been a very long run for them to make.  

The last location on this South Side tour is the building seen in the flashback at the beginning of the movie Backdraft.  This was another one of those locations I was worried about as I approached it.  Surprisingly, this building is just a few blocks west of the house I just wrote about. This is one of those examples of how the neighborhoods can change. Once I was there I had a lot of fun taking pictures there and never had any problems.

Again, I hope you will leave me a comment if you are enjoying these stories.

This  blog is dedicated to my late bowling teammate and friend Gale Estep.  


  1. Wow!! The things we do for our hobby!! I get scared doing this also because I have a fear of any property owner coming out and yelling at me for taking pics of their homes, and/or something worse!! Very interesting read Chas!! :o)

  2. Yikes! Please continue to be safe in your journeys, and know that us readers appreciate and enjoy your work! Thanks Chas!

  3. Thanks for this,
    My girlfriend and I are off to Chigs for the NY and were after film location ideas. Funnily enough a guy at work recently said "Watch out when you goto the South Side'.
    How does the danger compare to New York? prob not much as all cities have bad areas.
    I'll never forget the time I went to see the 'Ghostbusters' fire station in the Tribecca District in Dec 2001. Amazing! it even had 'Ghostbusters' written in chalk on the wall.

  4. Thanks for the South Side Blog Chas, it really took me back. I attended the Institute of Design (then on the Illinois Institute of Technology campus, now in the Loop) and later lived in both Bridgeport and Hyde Park, all on the South Side. I agree the South Side takes some getting used to (especially certain areas) but I loved it and have nothing but good memories.