CHICAGO (CBS) — An unusual estate sale took place Saturday in the South Side Pullman neighborhood. Items once belonging to the owner of the legendary folk bar “The Earl of Old Town” were put up for sale.
Earl Pionke was a great barkeeper and a shrewd judge of talent, but he was also a world-class pack rat. The three story building, which has 13 hotel rooms in the third floor, two apartments on the second floor and a bar and restaurant room on the first floor, was jammed with items ranging from The Earl of Old Town’s signage and business records to old cigarette vending machines, sewing machines, console radios and tattered bar furniture.
Biggerstaff has sold the building for $80,000 to a group of California investors, whom Pionke’s son Joe Pionke said, have ties to Pullman. He’s heard they intend to turn it into a bed and breakfast, and have plans to gut most of the building.
Easier said than done. Joe Pionke said garbage trucks have hauled away six loads while the local metal scavenger has made 23 trips from the building.
Joe Pionke said his father had hoped to run a neighborhood bar and restaurant on the first floor, one that would offer occasional folk music concerts, although not the nightly concerts that were a staple of The Earl of Old Town in its heyday.
“Times have changed,” Joe Pionke said. “Drinking is not as popular as it used to be back in the ‘60s when The Earl was in its heyday, so you can’t have people driving this far south, having a few drinks and then driving back north or wherever they may come from. But I thought the plan was actually quite good.”
Those most likely to be disappointed were those who came looking for relics from The Earl of Old Town. While a number of items from the Landmark Inn were for sale, as well as a 1904-vintage upright piano from the old Sieben Brewery, Biggerstaff said she is not selling the signage from The Earl or another prominent Chicago folk bar, Somebody’s Else’s Troubles, or The Earl’s business records.
She said she hopes to contact the Chicago History Museum to see if it is interested in any of the artifacts Earl squirreled away. She said she also hopes to give posters and old contracts back to some of the artists who once performed at The Earl.
Closing on the Landmark Inn building is set for June 16, and Biggerstaff said she will be working until the last hour to get the building cleaned out. She will be moving to another building that she and Pionke once owned, several blocks away.