Houseboats in the Chicago River
Date: December 09, 2014 12:46AM
One of my recollections of living on the North Side is that there were once several old, ramshackle, wooden houseboats in the Chicago river at Irving Park Road, just south of the bridge. As I recall, there were about 3 or 4 and they were on the west side of the river on the riverbank. My Dad told me that they had been there as long as he could remember (that would have been the early 1930s) and they looked awful. They were wood and were well weathered, just raw wood, no trace of paint. I always thought it was amazing that they were still afloat. (I also found it amazing that anyone would choose to live on what appeared to be a filthy, weathered boat in that stinking and polluted river.) Dad told me that people had been living in those boats since the Depression since a houseboat didn't pay property tax.
When I was with my grammar school buddies and we were crossing the bridge, we used to pick up a bunch of stones and pelt those old boats until some rather dirty and unpleasant looking old men used to come out and curse at us, threatening to call the police.(We ignored the threat as we figured that there would be no way to get phone service to a houseboat.)
I recall the boats being there through the mid or late 1960s, then they disappeared. I don't recall any being north of the bridge and there were none at Addison street or Montrose that I can recall.
And, being a north sider in that somewhat insular time, I have no idea if there might have been any in the South branch of the river anywhere.
Does anyone else recall houseboats in the river and, if so, where were they?