Ever wonder how a blizzard of plinking pinball machines ended up behind the sign for a hardware store? This weekend, get the secret password and sneak into Logan Arcade (2410 W. Fullerton Ave.) early to find out: You’ll learn how preservation-minded owners kept neighborhood roots alive at this century-old building.
Behind the Scenes
The event, the first Logan Square Preservation (LSP) meetup since the COVID-19 pandemic began, happens Sunday, Oct. 2, at 2 p.m. Guests will get the “behind-the-scenes” story, straight from Logan Arcade owner Jim Zespy, of the 1920s hardware store turned indie record shop turned No. 1 pinball destination in America. The presentation will also have tales of Chicago’s pinball history, including illicit games amid police raids when the pastime was banned.
Register for a free ticket here. (Organizers note that walk-ins may be accepted, but the event is filling up.) Your secret password gets you entry an hour before the arcade’s official opening time, along with snacks, including pizza from fellow old-school Logan staple John’s Pizzeria (2104 N. Western Ave.). (Another reason to register: organizers want a head count so everyone gets a slice.) The event also promises “an appropriately decadent and discounted Sunday drink special.”
Meetup guests can expect a rare peek at “parts of the building that people have never seen, like the hidden office that used to be the glass-cutting room” of the hardware store, said LSP events chair Marcy Marzuki. Organizers additionally plan to turn up the lights, usually kept dim to optimize gameplay, and give attendees an exclusive glimpse of the space.
100 Years of a House on Stilts
That rare, illuminated peek will reveal a unique old building, wonderfully preserved by an owner dedicated to the neighborhood, Marzuki said. “It’s kind of a crazy building,” she said. “It’s a brick store that’s built in almost a square around a house that’s now up on stilts … And it’s all kind of that strange, do-it-yourself construction that’s been done really well by the [Kosiba] family,” which opened Logan Hardware in 1922.
The LSP meetup will even take visitors through some of the oddities of that unique construction, including “back where the stairs go to this house on stilts,” Marzuki added.
Owner Zespy, who worked at the building during its first posthardware incarnation as a record store (which also went by “Logan Hardware”), converted the business to “an arcade with a bar in it” in 2014, Marzuki said. The original hardware store opened in September 1922, almost exactly 100 years ago. Polish immigrants Anton and Katherine Kosiba came to Chicago in 1907 and bought the building in 1920 They opened the hardware store two years later. The business stayed in the family until 1997.
Members of the Kosiba family may also be on hand at the meetup to share stories of the building and the neighborhood.
Restored Piece by Piece
Zespy has stayed close with the family and worked hard to maintain their original construction while adapting the site to new use. His efforts offer a prime example of what LSP aims to promote, Marzuki said. (The group works to educate the public about architecture and preservation in the neighborhood.)
The owner “did a lot of the fixing it up and restoring [the building] himself,” including “piece by piece restoration of the tin ceiling,” which the city had said to demolish, Marzuki said.
“He just really loves the building and the history, and one of the reasons it still says hardware on it is he loves the building so much that he can’t change the name,” she said. “It’s a really great illustration of adaptive use of a historic space.”
Today’s Logan Arcade, with saved tin ceiling. Photo: Logan Arcade
Logan Arcade: A Pinball Destination
At the meetup, Zespy will also recount the history of pinball in Chicago, long the No. 1 manufacturer of the machines. That will include tales of games amidst the threat of police raids. Various cities, including Chicago, banned the pastime in the mid- to late 20th century because of a supposed link to gambling and the mob, according to Slate.
Zespy’s dedication to preservation extends to the pinball machines themselves, Marzuki said. “He has rare, vintage pinball games,” Marzuki said, and “hoards original parts for them so that when they’re reconditioned, they’re not just reconditioned, they’re actually in original [condition], all their original parts in working order.”
Flapper enthusiasts have recognized Zespy’s pinball bona-fides, naming Logan Arcade the country’s “Favorite Pinball Location” three years in a row (2018-2020) in the “people’s choice” TWIPY (This Week in Pinball) Awards.
Logan Arcade boasts more than 70 games, including retro and new pinball titles and, for those turned off by analog games (and possible mob connections), plenty of video games. The bar also has a healthy selection of beers on tap and hosts pinball tournaments and other events.
Preserving the Neighborhood
Sunday’s meetup brings LSP’s neighbor events back to life after a pandemic hiatus. In the before times, the group did three to four such meetups a year These happened “either in historic venues or good examples of adaptive reuse,” Marzuki said. “We like to recognize when people do creative things with old spaces or maintain historic spaces.”
Past meetups have taken preservation enthusiasts to beloved Logan Square staple Whirlaway Lounge (3224 W. Fullerton Ave.) and to Bungalow by Middle Brow (2840 W. Armitage Ave.), “which is a great use of an old warehouse space,” she said.
Along with the events, LSP researches and writes up each featured site’s history, posting that information and photos online.
Look for rare gems from Logan Arcade, including never-before-seen pics from the Kosiba family, both at Sunday’s event and on the LSP archives.
Logan Hardware’s original storefront, 1922. Photo: courtesy Kosiba family.
The organization’s preservation efforts with Logan Arcade include working with Zespy to raise awareness and funds to restore that ’50s-era “Logan Hardware” sign that still stands out front.
Logan Arcade makes an ideal spot for the return of LSP’s events, as the group and Zespy share an affection for preserving the neighborhood’s past, Marzuki said. When Zespy got the building, he took old photos from the family and toured the neighborhood, looking for what used to occupy today’s businesses, she said.
“It’s just that strip of Fullerton, people remember the old candy store, the old fish store, the old pet store, all these things that have been lost that are this huge part of people’s childhoods,” Marzuki said. “We’re just trying to get those stories, get those pictures, get it preserved while the people are still here.”
More to Come
As LSP gets back into the swing of things, look for a winter meetup, which the group will be setting up soon. You can register for Sunday’s event here.
Featured photo: Logan Hardware, as an actual hardware store, in 1953. Photo: courtesy, Kosiba family