May 31, 2011

Leland, between Kenmore and Winthrop

Bill Matteson
Uptown Chicago History Correspondent

Winthrop was on my newspaper route and a few of my friends lived there. Winthrop was all Black on both sides of the street from Leland Ave south to where it bends around and dead ends into Kenmore Ave.

I don't know who was in charge there, but I always figured they had their own secret mayor.
The community seemed to take care of it self and never gave any trouble.

Now, the rumor was that back in the 20's the rich Jewish people that lived in Rogers Park bought all the buildings on Winthrop so their domestic help didn't have to travel all the way to the south side.

The buildings on Winthrop consisted of two or four or six flat apartment buildings,
and were not cut into single one, two, or three kitchenettes, like the ones we lived in.

When a building would be razed, play ground equipment would appear.

I remember at least two basement Churches, and in one of the two flats there were two regulation-size pool tables. There were a few black-owned businesses, Colliers chicken, Coleman Brothers Movers, and Dave the painter.

In my early teens, I worked for Dave the painter. He payed good and taught me how to paint. This was in the day before rollers and spray guns.


At the S.W corner of Leland and Kenmore was a large apartment Building that ran from Kenmore, west to the Alley. From there on west to Winthrop was an empty lot. On one edge of the lot was a small structure. A carry out chicken store. Now this was in the late 40'S, way before fast foods, KFC, and Browns Chicken, and it was a whole lot better.

Colliers Chicken was Black-owned and operated. They also delivered and took phone orders for those who had phones. Their delivery cars were 1949 Crosleys (love to have one of those today). The biggest treat we could come up with was an order to go from Colliers. Crisp southern fried chicken. I always thought Colliers started the fast food craze and carry out restaurants.

There were restaurants for people with money, and for the rest of us there was the Ritz Grill or a hot dog stand. When Colliers came along, we all thought it was great because we could afford it.

I don't Remember what happened to them or when they went out of business.

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