Credit: Courtesy of Julia Shell

It was like a dream. I came home to find two guys checking names at the front door. They found me listed on a clipboard, gave me a lanyard with a credential showing I belonged, and waved me upstairs.

On a wet, cold night last week, when few were interested in paying to see the Cubs play the Padres from across the street, Wrigleyville Rooftops opened its space to a media junket atop the six-flat I lived in for a few years in the mid-80s, at 3643-45 N. Sheffield.

Living in a Wrigley Field rooftop apartment undeniably had an element of boyhood romance. Bleacher tickets, then $3.50, were sold only on the day of the game. Crowds would begin lining up at six or seven on a weekend morning outside the gates at Sheffield and Waveland, especially on beautiful days in that halcyon summer of 1984. In the winter there was nothing quite as beautiful as the sun setting behind a snow-covered Wrigley.

Yet it was also bohemian squalor. The building was infested; we’d set off an insecticide bomb to chase the roaches upstairs, then the woman above would set off one of her own and chase them back down. The door handles were loose and sometimes came off entirely. I once jimmied my way through the front door only to find a snowdrift had crept two yards into the living room off the porch.

The landlord was squeamish about letting people on the roof and only permitted it when he was around. (The landlord’s pals claimed someone got too drunk on an opening day a year or two before and fell off, impaling himself on the fence below.)

Now, of course, the building—one of three owned by Wrigleyville Rooftops—is a cash cow because of its roof, although people still live in the apartments on the first two floors. The doors—and handles—have been replaced with steel models seen in office stairwells, and the whole main stairway has been reinforced with concrete to support the traffic. The third-floor apartments have been stripped to their brick walls and turned into a sports bar, albeit with numerous support posts spoiling the sight lines to the flat-screen TVs.

The sight lines from the rooftop, however, remain wonderfully clear. It’s no more remote than the corner seats in the upper deck at White Sox park—a part of the whole Wrigley experience and yet also separate from it. When it’s cold one simply watches outdoors for a while, then goes downstairs to get warm and watch on TV, same as we did.

A fan will pay $75 to $250 for the luxury, depending on the time of year and the Cubs’ opponents. Even with food and drink included that’s a chunk of change, topping out at what I first paid as my share of the rent. No one’s clamoring for roaches for nostalgia’s sake.  

—Ted Cox