If Harry Potter lived in Chicago, he'd find his way to the world of magic not through Diagon Alley but along tiny cobblestone Pickwick Lane in the heart of the Loop.
Each day, hundreds of office workers, shoppers and tourists walk past the gated entrance to the 9-foot-wide lane, never realizing that, at the end of its short length, lost in constant shadows, is a three-story former stable that may be a century and a half old. Its address is 22 E. Jackson Blvd.
Court records show that in 1857, Pickwick, a private alley, led to a stable where the owner's 4-year-old son often played.
In the 1860s, the property was owned by Henry Horner, a grocer, flour merchant and grandfather of an Illinois governor of the same name. It's not clear if he kept the original stable or replaced it with a new one, but the stable he owned at that site survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
For the next three decades, it was Col. Abson's Chop House, a favorite hangout for bankers, politicians and actors, extremely cozy given its 19-by-19-foot floor plan. During those years, it may have only been a two-story structure. According to one account, the third floor was added in 1907.
In the 20th Century, it was a variety of eating and drinking establishments, including the Red Path Inn, Robinson's, Pickwick Cafe and 22 East. It came close to being razed in the late 1970s.
Today, John Meyers of Grand Realty Group Inc. in Grayslake is in the process of buying the property from the Aurora-based Continental Community Bank, hoping to resell it as an office building with character or even as an office/residence.
Meyers went looking for the former stable as a possible investment property about two years ago but had trouble, even though he had the address in hand.
"I couldn't find it at first," he says. "I must have walked by two or three times."
The alleyway through time
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