Chicago Architecture Blog for Curious People

Architecture and History: Chicago Events In September

September 2, 2014 by

Each week we bring you our favorite events in architecture and history across the windy city. This week’s Chicago events in September include a lunchtime lecture on architectural acoustics, a block party on historic Prairie Ave, and a unique tour of one of Chicago’s most diverse neighborhoods.

1. The Aural Realm of Architecture – LUNCH TALK

224 S. Michigan Ave., CAF Lecture Hall – Wednesday, September 3rd, 12:15pm


As part of Women Building Change: Chicago Women in Architecture Celebrates 40 Years, the Chicago Architecture Foundation hosts Dawn Schuette, FAIA and LEED AP at Threshold Acoustics, for a lunchtime lecture on architectural acoustics. Every aspect of architecture effects our human behavior and this goes beyond the visual built environment. Light, space and sound are factors in how we act and react in a space and Schuette discusses how this other level of architecture–acoustics–can positively impact the aural realm people experience in their everyday lives.

prairie ave chicago architecture glessner hous

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance Website

2. Festival on Prairie Ave – BLOCK PARTY

Prairie Ave. at 18th St. – Saturday, September 6th, 12pm-6pm

$7 suggested donation

School is officially in session and summer is coming to a close, so why not round out the season of street festivals on one of the most magnificent streets of historic mansions in the city, Prairie Avenue. The festival includes all the typical affairs of a Chicago street festival and in addition there are tours of both the Glessner House and the Clarke House. The festival is sponsored by the Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance.

3. Albany Park Walking Tour – NEW WALKING TOUR

Southeast corner of Kimball and Lawrence – Sunday September 7th, 12pm-2:30pm

$15 – reservations required

This Sunday enjoy a unique tour of one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the U.S with ForgottenChicago. The different ethnicities, cultures and religions that have called Albany Park home have shaped, and reshaped, the built environment on the Northwest Side of Chicago and the tour takes guests to visit a wide array of the architecture in the neighborhood. Highlights include former synagogues, the ornate terra cotta facade of the elaborate former L. Fish Furniture Store, and some oddities in the building stock.

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Six Corners in Chicago Neighborhoods

August 29, 2014 by

I recently moved to the Portage Park neighborhood on Chicago’s far northwest side and was surprised to find that my zip code change not only gave me a new address, but also somehow gave me a new identity. Chicago neighborhoods each have a unique character that seems to attach itself to you once you become a resident. People in Chicago really have neighborhood pride. Often the affect of your neighborhood on you manifests slowly, perhaps without notice like the adoption of a colloquial accent, yet in my recent case it came on abruptly and without warning.

I heard a friend and colleague use the term “Six Corners” in reference to Wicker Park and even though I hadn’t even heard of Portage Park until my Craigslist apartment search landed me here a few months ago, strangely, I was offended. Six Corners isn’t in Wicker Park, it’s in Portage Park, I thought. There are banners proclaiming so all over the place. And, more so, the history proves it. So why were so many people calling the intersection of North, Damen and Milwaukee, “Six Corners?” I decided to look into the debate and find the history behind the “real” Six Corners.

First of all the “real” Six Corners is in fact the intersection of Irving Park, Cicero and Milwaukee. In the heart of the Portage Park neighborhood, this intersection developed as a business district starting all the way back in 1841 with Dickinson’s Inn. The inn or tavern was owned by Chester Dickinson, who later became the town’s first supervisor, and has some legendary history from rumors of Abraham Lincoln staying there to stories of drunken town planning. Sadly in 1929 the Dickinson Inn, then Chicago’s oldest brick building, was torn down to make way for a commercial block.

portage park dickinson's inn chicago neighborhood

Photo Credit: Courtesy of John. R. Schmidt and WBEZ

After annexation to the city in 1889, the area began its long history of commercializing. Major retail development came along with the Irving Park and Milwaukee Avenue street railway lines and businesses included Brenner’s grocery, Bauer’s bakery, Fabish’s restaurant and D.D. Mee’s general store. By 1914, the increase in transportation to the area had helped to create a booming retail center. The Portage Theater was built in the 1920s and was the first commercial movie palace in Chicago built specifically for movies, and not for vaudeville. The Art Deco Sears, Roebuck & Co. was built in 1938 and quickly became an anchor for the area. Taking a cue from retail giants like Marshall Field, whose history we share on our Loop Interior Architecture Walking Tour, the store claimed the largest store windows in the Midwest, which helped draw more than 99,500 customers on its first day. By the 1980s there were a whopping 150 stores populating Six Corners of both national and local origin.

Recently, however Wicker Park has succeeded Portage Park in claiming the title of most visited commercial district in Chicago outside of downtown and in fact has its own intersection of six corners at North, Damen and Milwaukee. The booming retail industry in the trendy west side neighborhood is certainly reminiscent of the “real” Six Corners past history, while Six Corners itself has met a substantial decline in its own retail economy. Not surprisingly though, the two neighborhoods bear other striking similarities to one another especially in their built environment. Both have dominant bank buildings on one corner of the six, the Noel State Bank Building in Wicker Park and the Bank of America Building in Portage Park. They even each have a historic People’s Gas Light & Coke Co. building.

chicago six corners landmark buildings

Left: Wicker Park; Right: Portage Park. Photo Credit: Jenn Harrman

Despite this recent economic shift, its nice to know my gut instinct to defend the Six Corner’s name is backed by some impressive roots. Chicagoans have a strong sense of pride, so it is no wonder that long time Chicago natives in Portage Park are in a tizzy over the recent adoption of “Six Corners” by the young transplant residents of Wicker Park. To me it is clear this is a debate less over a name than it is over identity. And since I now consider myself a Portage Parkian, let us keep Six Corners and the Wicker Parkians can keep its other nickname: “the Crotch.”

–Jenn Harrman, Tour Guide

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Bridgeport Neighborhood Tour Recap

August 20, 2014 by

This past Saturday we had our sold-out “detour” of the summer season. “Bridgeport History of Creative Production” brought together a group of mostly locals to explore the inner workings of art centers, factories and an artisan bakery in Chicago’s oldest neighborhood.

bridgeport art center elevator history

We had a beautiful day for our walking tour, starting at the Bridgeport Art Center, one of many buildings used by Spiegel before it closed up shop in Chicago in the early ’90s (and eventually filed for bankruptcy in 2003). Mike of building management took us around, and first we got to ride in this massive freight elevator. A friend of mine had a wedding here last year, and the elevator made for a very interesting entrance.


Photo Credit: Amanda Scotese

We checked out their special events space on the top floor, which has the angled skylights you find in lots of older factories in Chicago. Then we toured through the art studios and exhibition space before looking at the very cool marble entrance in front.

Walking down the block we got a mix of the area’s industry. We past Schulze Biscuit Company, most known as makers of Toast ‘Ems, an old-school competitor of Pop Tarts. Then we passed another former Spiegel’s building now owned by Tripp-It. A reflection of a new era in manufacturing in Chicago, Tripp-It manufactures cables and the like for the IT industry.


Photo Credit: Amanda Scotese

We stopped into the Zhou B Art Center, another warehouse-turned-art-center founded by contemporary art duo the Zhou Brothers. One brother’s son Michael showed us around. Currently an exhibition of the Zhou Brothers was in their primary gallery space.

Then we walked down an alley as a short cut to our next stop at Decorators Supply Corporation, a 100+ year-old maker of hand-crafted architectural details. Our exclusive visit here was particularly the featured stop for our tour experience in Bridgeport.

tour of bridgeport neighborhood chicago history architectural

Photo Credit: Amanda Scotese

Bill is third generation in his family working at Decorators Supply and he graciously came in on his day off to show us around. Here he talks about the technique of using a material called “composite” to craft architectural details like corbels, capitals, and all kinds of ornamentation.


Photo Credit: Amanda Scotese

If you look very closely in these images, you will likely find the White Sox in all of them! We were on the South Side of course.

South side chicago history tour

Then we had a great walk down Morgan Street. Johnny O’s is a little slice, or casing, of hot dog history in Bridgeport. They are well-known for their “mother-in-law sandwich,” a South Side specialty of a beef tamale in a hot dog bun that’s covered in chili and peppers.

Though Morgan Street had its streetcars taken out in the 1950s, it still retains a lot of clues to its more retail past. We past an old theater, a former pharmacy with gold lettering still on the glass of its covered up windows, and ended up at Co-Prosperity Sphere.


Photo Credit: Amanda Scotese

Ed Marszewski told us the story of getting his space from a Chinese mafia slumlord and cleaning it up into a cultural center for Bridgeport. In addition to having art shows and concerts at Co-Prosperity Sphere, Ed published Lumpen Magazine, one of the few independent arts magazine in the city.

Lastly we wrapped up the tour over drinks at Maria’s Packaged Goods with savory pies from Pleasant House Bakery next door.

Thank you to all the above businesses for partnering with us for this special event of the creative side of history and the present in Bridgeport. Also thanks to Jeremy Parker for the photos, to Stephanie Jokich for having moved down there which initially inspired me to have a special tour in Bridgeport, and to the random trucker who patiently explained to me how flour is sucked through tubes out of giant trucks into the Schulze factory.

– Amanda Scotese, Executive Director


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Chicagoland Architecture and History Events This Week

August 19, 2014 by

Get outta town! This week we bring you our favorite events in Chicagoland architecture and history that get you out of the city, or kind of, before fall is upon us. Our events this week feature hanging out mentally escaping after dark at the Art Institute, an Illinois history road trip, and a tour of a mid-century home in Park Ridge.

1. After Dark at the Art Institute – SPECIAL EVENT

159 E. Monroe St., Modern Wing entrance – Friday, August 22nd, 9:00pm-12:00am

$30 adults; $20 members and students – reservations required

Although this event is still in the city, it will get your mind adventuring to new places. See one of Chicago’s best museums, the Art Institute of Chicago, in a rare setting after dark. The museum is open late night in the Modern Wing this Friday with special tours of the new exhibit Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938. In addition to the special and regular exhibits, guests can get their dance on with DJs and will enjoy performances by acclaimed theatrical ensemble Collaboraction. Nibble on the complimentary appetizers or enjoy an end of the week libation at the cash bar as you meander the museum.

2. Canal Caravan Weekend – ROAD TRIP EVENT

Various Locations – Saturday, August 23rd-Sunday, August 24th

Prices vary – reservations required

Go for a trip and still get some Chicago history along the way with the Canal Caravan Weekend. The Canal Corridor Association is celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the nation’s first Heritage Area, the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor, with a number of inexpensive and free events throughout Illinois. This weekend kicks off a year of celebration chock full of Chicago and Illinois history from a canal boat ride in LaSalle to a tour of the Prairie just next door in Will County. Both enjoy our local heritage as well as take a short vacation from urbanity.

chicago mid-century modern park ridge architecture

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Bauhaus and Beyond Website

3. Fabulous 60s Mid Mod Split-Level in Park Ridge – HOUSE TOUR

1832 Prairie Ave., Park Ridge, IL – Sunday, August 24th, 2:00pm-4:00pm

FREE for members – reservations required

Don’t want to take a whole weekend away from our great Windy City? Perhaps a mid-century-inspired day trip? The Chicago Bauhaus & Beyond is taking a limited size group to tour a historic mid-century modern home in Park Ridge, IL, just outside the city. The architect, Louis Huebner was a graduate of the Illinois School of architecture and designed a number of homes and commercial buildings in the North Shore area of Chicagoland. The well preserved 1960s home is currently up for sale and this tour offers a unique opportunity to geek out about mid-century modern architecture with like-minded individuals. And from the photos, viewed here, this home looks wonderfully, immaculately maintained.

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Bridgeport Neighborhood Creative Production “Detour”

August 13, 2014 by

We are getting pretty excited for Bridgeport History of Creative Production,” a one-off “Detour” on Saturday, August 16th that’s currently almost sold out. I’ve been wanting to do a tour of the Bridgeport neighborhood ever since I got the special opportunity to step inside the Decorator’s Supply factory a few years ago. Chicago’s oldest neighborhood has a great mix of historic warehouses, contemporary art galleries, and regular working class Chicago homes. For this special one-time-only tour, we will visit artist studios, a factory, a warehouse, a church, an artisanal bakery, and more. The overall idea of this walking tour is to explore how Chicago reflects the shift in cities as traditional industrial centers to being hubs of cultural production.

architecture chicago factory bridgeport

Photo Credit: Amanda Scotese

A highlight of the tour will be exclusive entrance into Decorator’s Supply, which manufactures ornate architectural details out of plaster and resin. They started business with the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, and stepping into their factory is like a step back in time. When I got the rare chance to tour Decorator’s Supply a few years ago, I went a little crazy with my camera. Afterwards I made a video of the images. I embedded the video in a holiday email to our subscribers, and the subject line was “Getting Plastered for the Holidays?” It had a very high open rate!

bridgeport neighborhood tour

Photo Credit: Amanda Scotese

I initially became familiar with Bridgeport years ago through art shows and music performances at Ed Majerski’s Co-Prosperity Sphere gallery, and also his mom’s neighborhood taproom a couple blocks away. Then a good friend of mine moved to the Bridgeport neighborhood, and from our wanderings I got to know this South-Side neighborhood a bit better.

While I’m no expert on the neighborhood, I have dug into some interesting architectural details along our walk. Really the focus of this tour will be our stops, and the various people there who will share their stories. At Bridgeport Art Center the tour guests will explore hidden nooks and crannies of this former department store warehouse. Down the block at Zhou B Art Center, we will hear about how two  brothers catapulted to the top of the contemporary art world and came to call Bridgeport home.

A highlight and significant portion of the tour will be at the factory of Decorator’s Supply, a virtual white wonderland of cornices, pilasters, corbels, capitals and mantles. Then we will take a walk and look closely at details in the industrial and residential architecture of Bridgeport to better understand this shift from a working-class neighborhood with industry to the hipper place of artistic creation that it has become. We’ll pop into a historic church, and at Co-Prosperity Sphere gallery owner Ed Marszewski will share his story as an artist, publisher and entrepreneur with many creative projects in the Bridgeport neighborhood.

bridgeport bakery

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Pleasant House Bakery

Lastly we will conclude with a light lunch from Pleasant House Bakery (included) and beverages (on you) at Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar.

 Guests meet at the Bridgeport Art Center at 1200 W. 35th Street at 10:30am this Saturday and it works out great to come early for the farmer’s market that takes place out front. The $30 per person ticket includes tour guide commentary, exclusive entrance into historic buildings, and a savory pie and treat. Currently just six spots are left, and all past Detours one-off events have sold-out. Make your tour reservations here.

– Amanda Scotese, Executive Director 

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Architecture and History Chicago Events For Summer

August 12, 2014 by

Looking for some Chicago events for summer with an architecture and history twist? Here’s our pick for the week featuring a special tour of an all-in-one campus skyscraper, and exclusive tour of Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood, and a community place-making event.

roosevelt university chicago architecture tour

Photo Credit: Courtesy of VOA

1. Roosevelt University’s Vertical Campus – SPECIAL TOUR

425 S. Wabash Ave. – Thursday, August 14th, 4:30pm-6:30pm

FREE – reservations required

A new look for urban universities, the Student Life, Academic and Recreation Building at Roosevelt University is an all-in-one campus skyscraper. Hosted by AIAChicago, Joe Dietz and Al Migon of VOA will offer a short presentation before leading a tour of their recently completed building, which incorporates a 15-story academic, recreation and student life complex that is capped with a 18-story residence hall. The building houses everything from the college of business, general academic classrooms and science labs to a recreation center and student union; plus, there are over 600 student residences.

bridgeport neighborhood chicago decorator's supply

Photo Credit: Amanda Scotese

2. Bridgeport History of Creative Production – EXCLUSIVE TOUR

Bridgeport Art Center, 1200 W. 35th – Saturday, August 16th, 10:30am-1:00pm

$30 – reservations required

Only from yours truly, this special one-off “Detour” of Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood you’ll explore artist studios, a factory, a warehouse, a church, and an artisanal bakery on a 2.5-hour-long tour that considers the shift in cities as traditional industrial centers to being hubs of cultural production. Tour stops include contemporary art galleries, such as Co-Prosperity Sphere, and an exclusive visit to Decorator’s Supply, a historic manufacturer of architectural details that started business with the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition and is a virtual white wonderland of intricate plaster and resin ornaments. Tickets include engaging tour guide commentary, exclusive entrance into historic buildings, and a savory pie and treat from Pleasant House Bakery. The tour is limited and capped at 20 guests.

3. Old Place, New Tricks Placemaking Challenge – COMMUNITY EVENT

Dorchester Community Garden, 6956 S. Dorchester Ave. – Saturday, August 16th, 10:0am-5:00pm

FREE – registration recommended

Be a part of Chicago’s history and get together with friends and neighbors this Saturday for the annual Metropolitan Planning Council‘s challenge to activate a public space in the community for one day. Hosted by the Rebuild Foundation, volunteers will be charged with the creation of place that is the vision of neighborhood members, young and old, by constructing a picnic table, garden sculpture and signage for the Dorchester Community Garden.

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Things To Do In Chicago Architecture And History

August 5, 2014 by

We feature our favorite events each week of things to do in Chicago architecture and history. This week we highlight events that will get you enjoying Chicago out of doors including an overlooked historic house tour, a live jazz performance with picnic, and a unique bike tour of historic demonstrations.

1. Tuesday’s on the Terrace: Jason Stein Quartet – JAZZ PERFORMANCE

220 E. Chicago Ave., Museum of Contemporary Art – Tuesday, August 5th, 5:30pm-8:00pm

FREE – $25 for buffet option with table, reservations required at 312.397.4034

Every week during the summer months, the Museum of Contemporary Art celebrates the history of jazz in Chicago with a free jazz concert on their terrace. This week they bring in the Jason Stein Quartet who promise to bring torrid, bop-rooted synchronicity. Make the evening into a picnic with a blanket and munchies to enjoy on the garden. Or for a fun date idea in Chicago, enjoy the Wolfgang Puck catered dinner buffet for $25 that features fresh, locally grown produce from the MCA Farmers’ Market. Cocktails via a cash bar are served on the lower terrace as well.

louis sullivan frank lloyd wright chicago architecture tour

Photo Credit: David Schalliol

2. Charnley-Persky House Museum – FREE TOUR

1365 N. Astor St. – Wednesdays, 12:00pm; Saturdays, 10:00am & 12:00pm

FREE Wednesdays – first come, first served; $10 Saturdays

Chicago has incredible architecture and legacy of architects. So when two of Chicago’s architecture greats combine forces, you get a pivotal piece of architecture known as the Charnley-Persky House. Louis Sullivan designed the house with the collaboration of his draftsman at the time, Frank Lloyd Wright, in 1892 and it is now part of the Astor Street Historic District in the Gold Coast neighborhood. Tours every Wednesday at noon are free as is a self-guided walk around the ornate neighborhood with historic homes dating from the 1880s.

3. Chicago in Revolt – SPECIAL BIKE TOUR

1601 N. Clark St., Chicago History Museum – Sunday, August 10th, 9:30am-12:30pm

$25 non-members/$20 members – reservations required

With so few months of nice weather in Chicago, a bike tour is a unique way to take advantage of above freezing temperatures. The Chicago History Museum is offering some special bike tours this summer and this Sunday will take you to sites of Chicago’s best-known demonstrations, from the Haymarket Affair of 1886 to the 1968 Democratic National Convention to the more recent Occupy Wall Street movement. This is for the more active Chicago enthusiast as it is an exhilarating 10 to 15 miles of biking.


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Swimming in Chicago Part Two: History of Public Pools

July 24, 2014 by

When I want to go swimming in Chicago and I don’t have time for a trek to the lake, I head to the public pool. Chicago has 49 outdoor pools in its park system. These public pools are free and offer a respite from the sand and the sunbathers, as the vast majority of pool patrons are children eager to swim. In part one of this swimming in Chicago post, we explored the history of Chicago’s beaches, of which there are many. So if Chicago has such a vast lakefront, why are there also so many pools?

While Chicago offers 26 miles of beach, the rest of Chicago is 200 square miles that is not so literally on the lake. In the late 1800s, many of the western neighborhoods were densely populated by the working and poor classes in less than desirable conditions. The majority of Chicago homes did not have electricity or even indoor plumbing for many years. Though West Side Chicago neighborhoods lacked lakefront access, they did have parks.

Thanks to the park commissions established in the 1860s, large-scale parks had been carved out of city blocks and were increasingly connected by boulevards and commuter lines. The parks offered much in green spaces for healthy recreation. Free public swimming pools in Chicago would add the benefits of hygiene while combating the high temperatures of summer in industrial Chicago. A park commissioners report furthers this importance of the public pool by stating, “A clean body usually makes for a clean mind.” And goodness knows with our history of corruption and crime, Chicago was in need of cleanliness on both accounts.

Though the reformers make a great case for godliness, the wave of public pools in Chicago really gained momentum with Chicago’s German-American athletic community. Turnvereins, or turner clubs, focused on gymnastics with a twinge of morals and intellect. Their petitions for outdoor facilities resulted in the first of Chicago’s public pools at Douglas Park. The earliest reports of the natatorium–the building built to house the swimming tanks–rave about the crowds, averaging almost 3,000 swimmers a day! A Chicago Tribune article from the pool’s first months of being open discusses a man who drowned, explaining it took almost 20 minutes to find his body in the crowd of swimmers. Now I’ve seen some crowded pools in my day, but I can’t imagine losing a corpse among the live, swimming bodies.

At most swimming pools in Chicago at the time, pool schedules were regimented to segregate the sexes. Often a mere two days a week were reserved for women and girls; sometimes only mornings were set aside for them. These practices would continue for decades. Douglas Park, however, had two separate pools. In addition to having shorter times for swimming, women even had shorter pools as the women’s pool measured half as long.

swimming in chicagoSwimming at Douglas Park was allowed free of charge after a “shower bath” for which soap and towel were provided. Swimmers were admitted on the batch plan of a new group every hour to be kicked out for the entry of the next, which accounts for the high numbers reached each day and the lines pictured below. The original natatorium no longer stands, though there is still a swimming pool at Douglas Park. The current field house dates to 1928, when architects Michaelsen and Rognstad were sweeping across the West Park Commission constructing a dozen buildings.

Entering Natatorium swimming in chicago

My personal favorite of the public pools in Chicago is at Portage Park. This Olympic-sized outdoor pool also has a separate, extra deep part for diving. Few things make me feel as much like a child as standing atop the high dive: too scared to jump into the pool, too embarrassed to climb down the ladder. Then that rush of wind in descent before you crash into the water.

So whether you’re looking for a quick dip in the lake or a dramatic dive into a public pool, Chicago offers respite from the heat so many of us anticipated all winter long. And a great part about either option? Both the beach and the pool are free. Enjoy!

– Elizabeth Tieri, Tour Guide


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Residential Architecture in Chicago’s Lincoln Park

July 16, 2014 by

From greystones and H.H. Richardson to bungalows and Frank Lloyd Wright, residential architecture in Chicago really runs the gamut. One Chicago neighborhood with a great variety of kinds of homes is Lincoln Park.

A long Georgian-revival style building stretches down the little neighborhood street of Arlington Place. It was originally designed as an “Eleanor Club,” which were female-only boarding houses in Chicago. A progressive philanthropist named Ina Robertson founded the Eleanor Women’s Foundation to aid working women in the city, and part of their program was to provide housing for Chicago women. This historic organization had residences in Chicago all the way until 2001 when the last Eleanor residence quietly closed its doors. Edwin H. Clark designed the boarding house and he is also known for other buildings in the Lincoln Park neighborhood such as the Lincoln Park Zoo’s Reptile House and the Lincoln Park Cultural Center. Today the building houses the Chicago Getaway Hostel, which gives a great chance to stay in a historic building in a happening neighborhood.

chicago getaway hostel

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chicago Getaway Hostel

The hostel building is today part of the Arlington-Deming Historic District. Another interesting building in the neighborhood is at 546 W. Deming Place. It is another style of apartment building but from a more modern era. This piece of residential architecture is known as the infamous “four-plus-one.” Jerome Soltan invented this economic style of apartment building in the 1960s and 70s. It consists of a five-story building with the bottom floor as a parking lot and lobby and the other four floors above as apartments. While the four-plus-one sounds basic and familiar in many American cities, this style is uniquely Chicago as it is designed around the unique city zoning codes and lot regulations to essentially be the most bang for your buck. The parking lot and lobby level is designed to sit below grade and is only 7′ in height. This makes the level classifiable as a basement and allows the five-story building to be considered four-stories, useful for sneaking around city zoning areas. These buildings exist primarily along the lakeshore, a.k.a. prime sections of real estate. This particular four-plus-one in Lincoln Park has 24 apartments upon the site of what used to be just one single-family home.

Another unique piece of residential architecture and part of this Lincoln Park historic district are the Newman Brothers Houses at 2424, 2430 and 2434 N. Orchard St. Designed by the nephew of Chicago’s first architect, John Van Osdel II, these Châteauesque homes are an interpretation of a style popularized in the 1890s with S.S. Beman’s Kimball House on Chicago’s historic Prairie Avenue. The Newman Brothers Houses were completed in 1895 and include one of my favorite architectural features, a curved glass pane window, something which simply isn’t manufactured these days. The three homes are almost identical with the same exterior design and details. You will see, however, nuances with the different-colored stone of the facade.

From chateau-inspired mansions to efficient profit-making design, the Lincoln Park neighborhood has more than a handful of interesting examples of Chicago’s distinct residential buildings worth a jaunt down the pretty, tree-covered side streets.

–Jenn Harrman, Tour Guide

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July Chicago Events In Architecture And History

July 15, 2014 by

Architecture and history of Chicago are the focus of our weekly events listings, and this week we share with you July Chicago events including a special event on forgotten movie theaters, an architectural bike ride, and a special tour of Prairie Avenue.

portage park chicago movie theater

Photo Credit: Jenn Harrman

1. Movie Theater History Event – SPECIAL LECTURE

Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave. – Tuesday, July 15th, 7:00pm

$5 suggested donation at door

The recently reopened historic Portage Theater hosts this Forgotten Chicago one-night-only event on the history and legacy of more than a century of movie theaters in Chicago. The 1920 movie theater originally sat 2,000 eager film goers and is now the perfect spot for a night of reminiscing in Chicago’s cinema house history. Ward Miller, Executive Director of Preservation Chicago, hosts the evening which includes photographs and images from the Forgotten Chicago database not seen in decades while Bill Savage, acclaimed author, editor, and Northwestern University’s Distinguished Senior Lecturer, offers insight.

2. Guided Bicycle Tour of Oak Park – BIKE TOUR

105 S. Marion St., Oak Park – Friday, July 18th; Saturday, July 19th; Sunday, July 20th, 9:30am-11:30am 

$30 members, $35 non-members – reservations recommended

This is an architecture tour for the more active enthusiast. During the summer months this year the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust is offering this two-hour bike tour around the picturesque Oak Park every Friday, Saturday and Sunday where you’ll explore over 22 Wright-designed buildings. Sites featured include the Home and Studio, Unity Temple, Frank Thomas House, Heurtley House, Cheney House, Furbeck House and more. The Trust has partnered with Greenline Wheels, where the tour begins and ends, so you can either bring your own bike or use one of theirs at no extra charge.

3. Prairie Avenue Walking Tour - SPECIAL TOUR

1800 S. Prairie Ave. – Sunday, July 20th, 2:00pm-4:00pm

$12 members, $15 non-members – reservations recommended, call 312.326.1480

Executive Director of the Glessner House Museum and author of Chicago’s Historic Prairie Avenue, William Tyre, leads guests around none other than Chicago’s historic Prairie Avenue on this special tour. As the end all be all of the street’s history, Tyre is the ideal guide to share everything from Fort Dearborn to the neighborhood’s resurgence as a residential hot spot in Chicago. During the tour you’ll also see images of grand homes that have been lost, walk by the eleven remaining mansions, and step inside both the Wheeler Mansion and the 2nd Presbyterian Church.


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