Pickwick Lane

22 E Jackson Blvd Chicago

Amy Bizzarri
Written By Amy Bizzarri

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It's easy to miss Pickwick Lane. Though its located in the heart of the bustling Loop at 22 East Jackson Blvd., this nine-foot wide passageway, dead-ended by three-story building, might be short in length but it's long in history. Step onto its cobblestones and travel back in time to Old Chicago days gone by. The city of Chicago grew up around the building, which is actually 19 feet wide, and 19 feet deep, and its small entrance alleyway. Over one hundred and fifty years ago, this lane led to a stable that was destroyed in the great Chicago fire. Post-fire, grocer, and flour merchant Henry Horner and his wife Fannie Abson purchased the lot and built the current two-story building, transforming it into Col. Abson's Chop House, a favorite eating establishment for Chicago's biggest bon vivants, especially post-theatre. They later added the building's upper, third floor and made it their home. After Abson's closed in 1900, a number of restaurants came and went, including the Red Path Inn, Robinson's, Pickwick Cafe and 22 East. The 1970s almost saw the building razed, but thankfully this little corner of Old Chicago survived. A small coffee shop now lives in what was once a small stable. At night, with the tiny lights strung overhead from the two buildings that flank the lane — the16-story Gibbons Building and the 19-story Steger, originally home to a piano company — it's not difficult to imagine the days when horses made up most of Chicago's traffic.

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