For longtime Chicago residents the Green Mill is so well-known it’s almost an afterthought. But the bar’s story—its place in Prohibition lore, its importance to Uptown and the local music scene, and more dramatically, its own rebirth after decades of neglect—make it a singular piece of Chicago history.
Opened in 1907 as Pop Morse’s Roadhouse, it was first a bar and beer garden for mourners spilling over from the nearby Graceland and Saint Boniface cemeteries, eager to quench their thirst and toast the dearly departed. The bar was purchased by Tom Chamales, a real estate developer and tavern owner, in 1910 and renamed the Green Mill Gardens. The new name referenced Paris’s Moulin Rouge (Red Mill), but opted for a different hue so as to avoid association with a nearby red-light district. Chamales expanded the venue (the current bar is only a small portion of the original). Along with other nearby spots like the Uptown Theatre, which took the space occupied by the gardens themselves, the Green Mill Gardens helped the area become a nexus for entertainment and boozing right before Prohibition. Supposedly, Chamales was once offered $1 million for the bar and turned it down.