Not long ago, I received an email from my friend Paul in NY. Paul, among many other things, is an enthusiast of great beer and was writing me for some assistance with a recent discovery.
Apparently, Guinness is testing a Black Lager beer in the Chicagoland market. Paul, knowing my passion for good beer, knew this would piqué my interest, and it would take very little coercion to get me to track it down. Sure enough, I did. However, the only place where it’s available for purchase that isn’t a bar was located in Blue Island, Illinois. Just south of Chicago. Seeing as I’d never been there before, I figured this would be a good opportunity to explore and photograph.
I hopped on I-94 and briefly followed signs to Memphis and made my way there. My first impression of the town upon my arrival was that it felt like a city lost in time. Much of Blue Island has a beautiful 1950’s charm to it, the downtown area (along Western Ave – yes, the same one) is filled with historic buildings. It would be easy to imagine it bustling with people going to the local Woolworth’s back in the day.
Sadly it seems time and the economy have not treated Blue Island especially well, and many of the buildings are empty. Despite that, Blue Island’s charm shines through in its decay. Maybe it was just the light on this particular day, but the sun seemed to shine on these old buildings and give them an air of urban friendliness.
In some ways, Blue Island feels eerie with its charm. Like the dinner party scene in “The Shining”, almost as if the ghosts of what once was here were still hanging around inviting me to join them. I felt drawn to the area, wondering to myself: “Could I live here?” The answer, of course, is no but, something made me want to ask.