Thalia Hall was a Bohemian public hall, and some inhabitants never left
This striking venue beneath Dusek’s was commissioned as a public hall in 1892 by John Dusek with the hopes of bringing arts and entertainment to the surrounding Bohemian community. Modeled after the Prague State Opera House, the hall was made into a landmark in the 1980s, but sat vacant from the 1960s till owners Bruce Finkelman and Craig Golden took it over in 2013. The paranormal activity started as soon as the renovation, Finkelman says. “There were these huge, incredibly heavy metal shutters from the original building. We’d walk in and hear them clanging around, but as soon as you’d walk into the theater it’d stop.”
Once Thalia Hall opened, there were a few ghostly sightings and several reports of patrons and staff feeling a cold spot in the middle of the floor. When workers removed the floorboards under that spot for repairs, they uncovered a pile of bones. Despite all the eerie activity, the ghosts of Thalia Hall are supposedly content, Finkelman says. “We brought in a gal who does tarot card and psychic readings to tell us if the presence in here was bad or good. Her vibe was that there had been some real upheaval in this place, but the ghosts seem pretty happy with what’s going on now.”
Green Door Tavern: one of the last post-Great Fire wooden commercial buildings
The year after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, James McCole built this two-story balloon-frame wooden structure with a detached cottage in back just before the city passed a fire code ordinance prohibiting construction of wooden commercial buildings in the Central Business District. It began as a grocery store with the rear cottage acting as living quarters. Vito Giacomo opened a restaurant on the first floor in 1921 (and many of the original fixtures are still intact). Over the years, the restaurant was sold and ultimately renamed the Green Door Tavern in a nod to its past: a restaurant with a green door during Prohibition let patrons know there was a speakeasy inside.
North Pond was an ice skater warming house
Built in 1912, the little structure perched at the edge of North Pond in Lincoln Park initially served as a warming house for ice skaters. Over the years, it spent time as a storage shed, a homeless shelter, a natural foods store, and a hot dog stand before neglect took over to the point where a tree actually took root through the boiler, sometime in the ‘90s. Architect Nancy Warren convinced restaurateur Richard Mott to negotiate with the Chicago Park District for a long-term lease to justify the investment required to renovate the building, which began when he took ownership of the derelict space in 1998. The refurbished design that now houses the Michelin-starred restaurant and its James Beard award-winning chef was modeled after prairie-influenced arts and crafts.
Emmit’s Irish Pub housed a mobster bank and hiding place
Though Emmit’s opened in 1996, the building at Grand, Milwaukee, and Halsted has officially housed a tavern since 1934, the year after Prohibition ended. Built during the 1890s, the site formerly housed a savings and trust catering to Chicago’s mafia, during which time tunnels were purportedly dug from the building to other buildings in the neighborhood to serve as hideaways or escape routes.
Following Prohibition, a series of unsuccessful taverns opened at the site as the once-thriving neighborhood declined. In 1981, three partners bought the building and opened O’Sullivan’s Public House, which became a popular hangout for cops. Two would-be robbers were shot to death in the bar in 1985, not knowing they were up against Chicago’s (off-duty) finest. The bar was also reportedly known for dwarf tossing, though Mayor Harold Washington purportedly shut that down. The colorful O’Sullivan’s closed 1989 and remained vacant till 1993 when current owners (and firemen) Kevin Doherty and Ron Halvorsen bought and rehabbed the bar. Emmit’s has appeared in such films as Ocean’s Eleven, Backdraft, and Uncle Buck.