My New Book: Chicago’s Historic Irish Pubs

Mike Danablog(of theFirst Draft Krewe and a guestblogger here in these parts) and I spend a lot of time in Irish bars. He’s at least Irish, and so can make it out to be some kind of cultural obligation, whereas I just like drinking somewhere not infested with halter tops and hair extensions, which has decent liquor, good stories and music that doesn’t involve the word “booty.” And sometime last summer, we started talking about finding a way to put all that experience into some kind of permanent record.

This is what happened:


From Mike’s storyin the Irish American News:

The idea for this book came from hanging out with Shay and Traci Clarke, and a good part of it is their story. See, my parents left me to the Clarkes when they wisely moved out of state, and the Clarkes took me in like the middle-aged orphan I am. The Clarkes got an Irish Fest started in a town with a Scottish name and German roots. Now that’s America.

So is the tale the Clarkes tell of coming to Chicago, hitting Kitty O’Shea’s in the Hilton, at the suggestion of friends back in Ireland, and asking for Eamonn Brady, who still runs the place. That was the Clarkes’ entry in Irish Chicago, which they now call home.

I thought we’d end up with a lot of drinking stories, and honestly, while they’re in there, what we have in abundance instead are family stories. Stories about people’s grandparents, who ran bars back before Prohibition and earlier, and the ways in which they made homes for their relatives in the city. Stories about weddings and funerals, about births and childhoods and friendships and love, centered on a place that just happened to be a tavern.

The series of books in which this one appears are photo-heavy, and so we spent a lot of time asking people to pull their albums out of attics and basements, and what we found were some incredible images ofthe city’s history and the people who built it.

From dancing at Hanley’s House of Happiness to raising pints at Kelly’s Pub on St. Patrick’s Day, the history of the Irish community in Chicago is told through stories of its gathering places. Families are drawn to the pub after Sunday church, in the midst of sporting events, following funerals, and during weddings. In good times and bad, the pub has been a source of comfort, instruction, and joy–a constant in a changing world. Based on interviews with tavern owners, musicians, bartenders, and scholars, Chicago’s Historic Irish Pubs explores the way the Irish pub defines its block, its neighborhood, and its city.

Official release date is Feb. 28, but you can pre-order now, from the publisher above and fromAmazon andBarnes and Noble, andyou can “Like” us on Facebook in order to stay up to date with all the pre-release press and such.

There will be a party here in early March, it WILL involve music and beer, and I’ll bepimping it relentlessly keeping you updated as we get closer to the actual date. As always, you readers support the work I do, both on and off this site, and I couldn’t have gotten this done without you all.Sláinte.


17 thoughts on “My New Book: Chicago’s Historic Irish Pubs

  1. Huzzah! You should email a press release to Maddow. She’s fascinated with alcohol’s place in America and Prohibition.

  2. Oooh, will make sure to do so. In the bar in the cover photo there’s an old “ghost door,” which used to lead into the hallway of the apartments above it. During Prohibition times people would come to the apartments and then enter through that door to get to the speakeasy.

  3. Hmm. I see a thinly-veiled excuse for hanging out in bars.
    Naturally, I have no problem whatsoever with that.
    Where’s the party?

  4. Party will be on the north side, probably, and then we’re working on getting other signings set up in bars around St. Patty’s Day. Maitri, mark down March 11 on the calendar, that’s our tentative date.

  5. I’ve always loved this series of books. Some years ago, I always thought how great it would be to have everything like this in a library from all the places around the country. There is always so much wonderful, local history and knowledge in these. Now, to actually “know” about the authors and background of one makes it that much more interesting. Thanks for the work, and all best wishes for success with this.
    And, by all means, do follow thru on Virgotex’s suggestion.

  6. Is it safe to assume the party will be in an Irish bar? BC the Irish hubby and I have not invented a single trip to Chicago since we moved several hours closer last year, and an Irish bar book party in an Irish pub might well be an excellent excuse.

  7. emptywheel, it will not only be in an Irish bar, it will be in an Irish bar adjacent to an Irish dancing school adjacent to an Irish band concert that night. There will be so much Irish my German relatives just might start picking up a brogue.
    You know you wanna come.

  8. Maybe the headline on the post would be better if it said “our new book”?

  9. The Images of America books are somewhat spotty in coverage but really good in the areas that they do cover. I’m glad that you could add this valuable book to their collection

  10. Speaking of Chicago’s Irish Pubs, very excited to see that (relatively) recently we’ve gotten Kilkenny here in the U.S. Without a doubt, my favorite beer. Drank it all over the world while in the Navy, only to discover it wasn’t sold in the U.S. due to some diabolic marketing agreement. Now it’s finally here!
    I know they have it at Fado’s. Paddy Long’s website indicates they have it, and I saw a sign in the window of Lizzie McNeil’s indicating they have it. Anyone know where else you can find it here in Chicago?

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