As far as Chicago icons go, it may not be the Water Tower or Merchandise Mart. But the Morton Salt Shed is familiar to anyone who has spotted it just off the Kennedy Expressway on the Near North Side.
Now it is home to the city’s newest concert venue, appropriately called the Salt Shed, which just celebrated its opening day Tuesday.
Along Elston Avenue, the familiar rooftop sign is back with a fresh coat of paint.
Inside, photographs detail the rebuilding and painting process on the structure built in 1929. But the real attraction is the new outdoor concert venue on a four-acre site along the Chicago River across from Goose Island.
“I’ve been driving by this all my life, you know, and when we had the opportunity to take a look at this we came up with the idea of maybe we can repurpose this into a venue,” said Craig Golden, founder of Blue Star Properties and 16” On Center.
The initial work started about three years ago and picked up over the last two years.
“It took us almost a year to just clear the place out and get the structure safe and true, and for the last year we’ve been kind of putting it all back together,” Golden said.
Upcoming performers include Fleet Foxes, Mt. Joy, Jason Isbell, Andrew Bird and Death Cab For Cutie.
Outdoors at the site there is a kind of fairground atmosphere with shops and bars along the midway. Many of the details that make the site unique have also been kept.
“We tried to keep as much of the — let’s call them relics — as we could. Behind me is the old conveyor belt that used to bring the salt in off the river and then into the sheds,” Golden said. “And then all the structure and the walls and everything else. It’s more of an archeological viewing of what’s happened here and a little bit of the history of the property.”
One thing the workers did encounter was a lot of … salt.
“We do get a lot of salt here,” Golden said. “I think we got most of it out but it even seeps through the floor sometimes.”
For golden, the project was a chance to work on an iconic Chicago structure.
“It’s been really a great opportunity for us to convert it into something that has more of an appropriate use in today’s world,” he said.
Golden and his partners at 16” On Center also run the Promontory in Hyde Park, Thalia Hall in Pilsen, Space in Evanston and many other venues, bars and restaurants in the area.
The Salt Shed will be all ages and cash free. For a list of upcoming performers, visit our website.
For a full list of upcoming performaces, visit saltshedchicago.com.