'The City to See in '63': Vintage film showcases Chicago of 50 years ago

February 6, 2013

Here's another gem from our friends at the Chicago Film Archives: The City to See in '63, a 12-minute, 16mm color film touting the places, spaces and other virtues of Chicago.

There is some good stuff here. You can see Marina City's residential towers under construction and neon signs blazing at night--nothing said "big city" like neon back then. There are glimpses of long gone places such as the Chicago Sun-Times Building, demolished in 2004; White Sox Park, which was bulldozed in 1991; Riverview amusement park which was wrecked in '67 and the first McCormick Place, which burned down the same year.

I like that neighborhoods were included. Logan Square, Garfield Park and old Maxwell Street made the cut. So did the modernist, backswept North Avenue Beach chess pavilion, which was only about five years old at the time.

The purposely deadpan narration--written like Carl Sandburgesque poem to the city--is also amusing. "You pride yourself in gangster lore and brutal frontier politics," narrator says at one point. "Yet...how do you explain [the] Art Institute and your...how many...universities and colleges?"

The City to See is the work of the late Chicago filmmaker Margaret Conneely and was done when the amateur film movement was big here. According to the Chicago Film Archives' website, Conneely shot the movie in 1962 "to encourage Photographic Society of America members to attend their 1963 conference in Chicago." The society awarded her a special prize for the film.

You can see more of her work at the CFA website.