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Zoom in: West Lawn 

A Chicago Public Library branch used to house a little person's tavern

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The library that once was Little

The library that once was Little

Zol87 / Flickr

The current site of the West Lawn branch of the Chicago Public Library was once home to the city's only tavern run by and designed for little people. Founded by Chicago native Parnell St. Aubin, a Munchkin soldier in The Wizard of Oz, the Midget Club first opened its doors in 1948 at 6356 S. Kedzie. St. Aubin and his wife, Mary Ellen Burbach, a former Mae West impersonator with the vaudeville troupe Rose's Parisian Midget Follies, abandoned their brief careers in show business to run the tavern.

The club was built for people of small stature: the stools were miniature, and the pay phone was installed just feet above the floor. St. Aubin, who was three-foot-seven, would climb up on a stool to reach the cash register. A large mural of Munchkins marching along the yellow brick road was painted behind the bar.

Richard Reeder recalls delivering bar supplies to the Midget Club for his uncles' company, Veteran Supply, as a 16-year-old in 1962: "It blew my mind. I remember photos of St. Aubin with Judy Garland and Ray Bolger." Veteran Supply typically stocked working-class bars on the southeast side and in northern Indiana, making Reeder's visit to the club all the more memorable. "It was just so out of context," he says. "It was like Oz itself, a place of wonder and fantasy."

The Midget Club later moved to 4016 W. 63rd, where the library is now located; it closed its doors for good in 1982.

Have a particular observation or favorite oddity about a neighborhood? E-mail it to zoomin@chicagoreader.com.

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