In this episode of 12 for 12, Adam heads to Uptown to answer this question and to find out what makes the Green Mill so special.
The Green Mill is a classic, where both jazz and Prohibition history know no equal, in Chicago, or anywhere else in the world. Legends such as Billie Holiday, Al Jolson, Von Freeman, Franz Jackson, Wilbur Campbell, and Clifford Jordan have all played its hallowed ground. Here their legacy lives on in the weathered hands of seasoned masters, and new generations of young hip virtuosos leaving their mark on the club’s rich history.
That history runs deep. The Green Mill first opened its doors in 1907 as Pop Morse’s Roadhouse, a bar and beer garden for mourners from the nearby Graceland and Saint Boniface cemeteries. In 1910, the bar was sold to a local real estate developer who renamed it the Green Mill Gardens—in homage to Paris’ famous “Red Mill,” The Moulin Rouge—where it soon became the epicenter for Chicago’s pre-Prohibition entertainment and boozing.
The Green Mill prospered until after World War II, when its hay day legacy faded and fell into ruin. The club quickly went from a nightlife hub to a place where day drinking, drug use and passed-out patrons were the norm. And that might have been that. That might have been the end of the era… if not for Dave Jemilo, a Southside Chicago native, bar owner and jazz fan who purchased the Green Mill in 1986.