Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Meet David Witter, Author of Oldest Chicago

What qualifies journalist and Renaissance man David Witter to write our upcoming book Oldest Chicago (fall)? How about...

· David Witter was born in Miller, Indiana, across the lagoon from the former Summer home of Nelson Algren and Simone de Beauvior.

· As a teen, Witter grew up in the old Lincoln Park, and was briefly associated with the street gang, The Insane Unknowns.

· Witter worked as a lifeguard at the Raddison Hotel, now the Intercontinental Hotel. During this span he was responsible for protecting famous swimmers including playwright Tennessee Williams, who lived in the hotel while working with the Goodman Theater, and author Sara Paretsky, who swam there every day.

· Witter has worked as an extra, stand-in, and stunt-person in over 15 films and TV shows including Hoffa, Natural Born Killers, While You Were Sleeping, and Class.

· Witter has one degree of separation from Kevin Bacon, as Bacon’s feature film, Stir of Echoes, was partially filmed in his house.

· Witter is an amateur blues musician and songwriter who performs in small clubs and bars across the North Side.

· Witter is a graduate of the Chicago Public Schools (elementary and high school). He has been an English and Special Education Instructor in the CPS system for over 16 years.

Oldest Chicago is about the places that have survived the passage of time.

Oldest business: Peacock Jewelers (1838); oldest apothecary: Merz Apothecary (1875); oldest tavern: Schaller's Pump (1889); oldest theater: the Biograph Theater (1914), and oldest drive-in restaurant: Superdawg (1948). In Oldest Chicago, journalist David Witter highlights dozens of the oldest local treasures in Chicago and its suburban and exurban areas. Remarkable for having survived demolition and extinction for decades, these beloved landmarks have also helped define our city's landscape, offering continuity and civic identity across generations.

Rather than celebrate the past, many of Chicago's business and political leaders have risen to power by tearing it down. Chicago has lost, and continues to lose, many great civic and cultural landmarks. In recent years, Marshall Field's and Carson Pirie Scott have vanished from the city's landscape. Other structures like the Uptown and Ramova Theaters are also in danger of being permanently lost. Oldest Chicago is a reminder of the value of these familiar places and a call to preserve them for a future sense of place.

Everyone tries the newest...have you tried the oldest?

Visit the oldest house. Worship at the oldest church. Get on your soap box at the oldest park. Party at the oldest nightclub. Try some herbal remedies at the oldest drugstore. Taste the foods that generations of Chicagoans have savored at the oldest hot dog stand, pizza parlor, soda pop maker, ice cream parlor, diner, chili parlor, Italian restaurant, liquor distributor, soul food restaurant, and bakery.

Don't just read about Chicago's history--experience it!

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