Twisted Spoke was where mobsters came to socialize… and enforce

West Town

Twisted SpokeIn 1994, when Mitch and Cliff Einhorn signed the lease for what would become stalwart biker bar the Twisted Spoke, they learned that the owner of the worn-out building with Flintstones-esque stone façade was retired, reputed midlevel mob enforcer Frank Covello. Built most likely as a garage in the early 1900s, the building was a gas station and market before becoming a near West Side social club. “It was a place where city workers could go for a beer while they were allegedly still clocked in,” says Mitch. The Einhorn’s suspicions about the building’s gangster past only grew when they began demolition.

“When we opened the floor to install new drain lines, we found an 18in concrete slab underneath, which would normally be about 4in,” he says. “It took us days to break up that concrete. We think somebody might be buried there. Why else would you need an 18in slab?”

Trenchermen was a working-class bathhouse

Wicker Park

TrenchermenOpened in the 1920s as the Luxor Russian Baths, 2039 W North Ave was a respite for hard-working immigrants to come for a steam, a nip of vodka and a bowl of borscht after a long workday (since the old transit station — now the Bloomingdale Trail — was just a few blocks away). The building remained a bathhouse until the 1960s when the neighborhood fell on hard times and it ambled from transient hotel to brothel. By the ‘90s the city of Chicago pushed in the courts to demolish the then-boarded-up building, but it was purchased and converted into apartments on the upper floors and Shawn McClain’s lauded Spring restaurant downstairs. Trenchermen opened in 2012, maintaining the original white tile and other pieces of the building’s past within the space. Though the baths have long stopped running, the drinks still flow like… borscht.

River Roast housed a wholesale grocer and humidor

River North

River RoastThis riverfront temple to all things roasted sits inside the historic, sprawling Reid Murdoch Building. Commissioned by George Simmons, it was built in 1914 for Reid Murdoch & Co., one of the country’s largest wholesale grocers. It housed corporate offices and warehouse space, with several floors dedicated to manufacturing and processing cheeses, coffee, ketchup, sugar, fish, bread, and pickles, plus a humidor where tobacco was rolled for cigars.

The riverfront location enabled shipping through a supply chain that connected steamers on the south side to railroad spurs on the north side. Beneath LaSalle St, the building’s shipping platform was used to load trucks that delivered to merchants all over the city. It also connected with the city’s Downtown freight tunnel system. The City acquired the building in the 1950s, where it housed the traffic court, the State’s Attorney’s office and other municipal offices until Friedman Properties bought it in 1998.

TO BE CONTINUED ….

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