When I moved to Chicago from Columbus, Ohio, I was dead set against bringing my car. After all, one of the perks of being without a vehicle is that I get to wander about. While exploring my neighborhood in Edgewater the first week I was here, I walked right into Andersonville’s Midsommarfest happening on North Clark Street. Andersonville boasts a pretty interesting history of Swedish influence and is now home to an eclectic array of antique stores — about 24 of them can be found lined up, down and off Clark Street.
Woolly Mammoth, one of the more peculiar antique stores that calls Andersonville home, specializes in “oddities.” When they say oddities, they mean it. Having read about the Woolly Mammoth prior to moving, it was safe to say I was a little more than excited to find its location was within walking distance of my new pad. Naturally, a visit to the store followed soon after I arrived. I took my friend, Abir, along for the ride. I figured she’d be a little thrown off by the place and I was looking forward to that, so I failed to mention exactly where we were headed.
I was right in thinking she’d be thrown off her groove because, upon entering the store, the first thing we noticed (because it’s impossible not to notice) was the bust of a giraffe. This giraffe was wearing black reading glasses and a big red tie. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t fall in love with that giraffe right then and there. Apart from our long-necked friend, there were plenty more animals (and their heads) lining the walls and shelves. This place was like a lifeless menagerie. Because it’s already on the smallish side, it seemed to grow smaller when considering the sheer amount of artifacts packed in. They even have items hanging from the ceiling — like an antique children’s sleigh and a richly colored stuffed peacock, whose tail flows strategically down the wall.
No more than 10 steps in and to the right, is a fox wearing a gas mask. Displayed on the shelf underneath Foxy lies a hippopotamus skull priced at a mere $2,500 — chump change, right? To the left was a glass table full of crustaceans and other ocean creatures. It was hard not to be impressed by this place, though some parts of the store may not be for the faint of heart. The pickled, conjoined baby pigs and various other animals in jars made me a wee bit queasy. Truth be told, though, pickled piggies were only the half of it. Though this store clearly has a soft-spot for taxidermy, they have a pretty wild variety of other items that litter every nook, corner, and cranny: Vintage teeth, antique medical and dental tools, dentures, vintage toy soldiers, medical baby dolls, hearing aids and old gun casings, just to name a few.
Out of all the interesting things in Woolly Mammoth, I’d say the three tiny mice — dressed in tiny outfits — slowly spinning on a tiny plate were my favorite, by far. Believe me when I say that if I didn’t share my home with a killer cat, I would put those three little spinning mice right in the middle of my coffee table. They happily reminded me of Steve Carell in Dinner for Schmucks. Though I didn’t buy anything, Abir, who’s a lover of all things science and medicine, bought herself a fourth edition First Aid textbook printed in 1957 by the American National Red Cross. She said she wanted to see how much first aid had changed since then — typical, but in the best way possible.
The Woolly Mammoth is eccentric, to say the least, but that’s what makes it so awesome. It’s not every day you can walk into “a motionless zoo and touchable museum.” Words and descriptions, however, just don’t do it justice —it’s a place to see, touch and experience. Luckily, it isn’t the only place worth seeing on Clark Street. An entire day can be spent antique hopping and the Woolly Mammoth certainly makes for a dishy addition to the other Clark Street stores.