Chicago Architecture Blog for Curious People

Chicago Artist’s Month Logan Square Art Walk

October 21, 2014 by

We are very excited to again partner with Azimuth Projects for a fun interpretation of a Logan Square art walk as an official event for Chicago Artists Month 2014. A few spots are left for the event, this Sunday, October 26, 11am-1pm. It’s a reinterpretation of our Saturated Landscape special event this past February. This walking tour of the everyday landscape in Logan Square combines an art walk to neighborhood artists’ studios and galleries with a game that includes original art prizes!

logan square art walk

Photo booth installation at Autotelic

We start at Autotelic Studio close to Humboldt Park for “Observable Methods,” an exhibit of a collaboration between artists Kailyn Perry and Traci Fowler. Guests can step into a photo booth installation piece. You will be surrounded by their fragmented pieces of landscapes, which fit with the landscape exploration for the walking tour portion of this special event.

Then we will visit four different art studios where the artists will talk briefly about their work. And in between each studio stop we will play a sort of visual scavenger hunt. It’s not exactly a scavenger hunt but that’s the best word I found for it! Each guest will have a printout with several abstracted and close-up images of features of the landscape. As we walk together through Logan Square, the first to notice the object will win an awesome prize of a small, original artwork from one of the artists at the walk’s featured art galleries.

And then I will share some ideas, writings or stories connected to the everyday object, which could be a something more architectural, like an alley or gate, to something more natural like a tree stump. Keeping with the Chicago Artists Month theme of “Crossing Borders,” we will explore how the everyday landscape distinctly creates both physical and more metaphorical borders between spaces and people.

First stop after Autotelic is to saunter up Sacramento Boulevard to Palmer Square for a grand arrival of Trunk Show, an exhibition on wheels. The 1999 forest green Ford Taurus filled with limited edition artist stickers will roll up to us. Radio jams may be included.

logan square art walk 2014

Architecturally inspired art and sonic piece at Comfort Station.

Then our art-walk-meets-walking-tour of Logan Square will head up Milwaukee Avenue to the Comfort Station’s exhibit, “It Ended with my Putting it On.” Matt Woodward created heavily wrought, large-scale drawings of decorative architectural detail and then Wrekmeister Harmonies composed a sonic piece in response to it. 

braid art art walk logan square chicago detours

Sarah Beth Woods “Bricoleur” at Azimuth Projects

Our last stop is just around the corner at Azimuth Projects’ apartment gallery. We will view “Bricoleur,” a fiber installation and hair braiding experience with Sarah Beth Woods and Fatimata Traore. After the artists discuss how decorating and adornment have been ways for women to assert their autonomy and individuality, guests can choose to get their hair braided for a donation. Woods opened her exhibition “Bricoleur” with an event she described as a “collaborative, interactive fiber installation and hair braiding experience” at Azimuth Projects, an apartment gallery in Logan Square with hair braider Fatimata Traore. Visitors took turns having their hair braided and then accented with shiny door-knocker earrings and colorful tassels.

This Logan Square art walk and tour is two hours long. The $25 ticket includes special presentations by the artists, original art prizes, landscape tour commentary, refreshments, tasting of African rice, and special gifts. Tour starts at Autotelic at 1856 N. Richmond, and ends at Azimuth Projects, 1924 N. Whipple. Reservations are required here to secure your spot. These special events always sell out.

This one will be a lot of fun! Not to be missed.

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Chicago Marathon: History of Dedication

October 8, 2014 by

The 37th annual Chicago Marathon is coming up this Sunday, October 12th and a good friend of mine, Rebecca Rosenberg, is taking the challenge to run in memory of her good friend Angie who died this past year of cancer. She is supporting a fantastic charity called Imerman Anglels, a non-profit whose mission is to provide cancer fighters with one-on-one support from those who have gone through the same so that no one has to fight cancer alone. It’s a pretty great cause so in addition to donating, I thought I’d share the research I did on the history of the Chicago Marathon.

Although known now as the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, back when it started in 1977, the original name for the race was the Mayor Daley Marathon. On September 25th of that year, 4,200 runners came out to participate. Now the race has up to 45,000 runners! That’s a lot of people in downtown Chicago, not to mention all the spectators that come out to support the runners. It reminds me of the video we share on our Loop Interior Architecture Walking Tour of Chicago in 1897. Busy, congested, absolutely chaotic, and completely alive.

chicago marathon race history

Photo Credit: OhioRunning

The Chicago Marathon as we know it today may have began in 1977, but this was not the first marathon in Chicago. The first was actually all the way back in September of 1905. The course began in Evanston and ended in Washington Park and drew world athletes and plenty of spectators, some of which paid for seats at the finish line. The difficulty of the late 1920s brought the race to an end and it wasn’t until the 1960s that interest in the sport bubbled back up. The windy city established the Chicago Marathon as the second big city run, next to the New York City Marathon, which was established only a few years earlier in 1976. By the 1980s, Chicago was one of the big four city marathons bringing worldwide interest back to the event.

chicago marathon 1905

1905 Chicago Marathon; Photo Credit: Courtesy of Wikipedia

In looking into why people would want to participate in such a grueling activity, I found that the Chicago Marathon draws so many runners for some of the same reasons Chicago drew so many people after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The pursuit of personal records and world records. After the fire we had architects from all over the world come to re-imagine this great city and Chicago is now known as the home for records in architecture such as the first skyscraper or at one point the tallest building in the world. And just as the destroyed city created a new canvas for great architecture, the flatness of the Chicago Marathon course facilitated record breaking achievements. Chicago has been home to four world record runs and the record for the 26.2 mile Chicago course is a mere 2 hours, 3 minutes and 45 seconds. This was set in 2013 by Dennis Kimetto, a runner from Kenya who also holds the world record for a marathon run set in 2014 in Berlin. So that means Kimetto’s average time per mile for Chicago was only 4.7 minutes!

In addition to setting records for those that have won the marathon over the years, the race draws many more than those who have a chance at winning. The Chicago Marathon is known as “the World’s Marathon” because you do not have to a qualifying time to participate. It’s open to anyone. That first race back in 1977 drew people of all ages from a 12-year-old kid to a 74-year-old man. Although Ben Mostow, 74, did not intend to win the race that year, he did hope to be in the Guinness Book of World Records for the fastest marathon time for a 74-year-old man. He had already been a long time walker having walked all the way from Skokie, IL to Racine, WI, (about a 60-mile hike) and he had simply always been a walker. He had no doubts that he would finish the race as his own slogan was “rain, shine, snow or sleet, Mostow’s always on his feet.”

In fact, it seems to me that Chicago Marathon is less about winning and more about the pride of finishing. Whether 12 or 74, a marathon runner will spend an enormous amount of time training, running at least four times a week and around 300 miles a month, just to build up the endurance to finish the race. It has made me realize that although I think marathon runners are a little crazy, they are possibly the most dedicated and determined individuals in the world. So few can say they have run a marathon and reading the stories of those who have pushed themselves to this achievement, I have so much more pride and admiration for my friend.

Here’s to you, Chicago Marathon runners!

–Jenn Harrman, Tour Guide

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Chase Tower Architecture: Foto Friday

October 3, 2014 by

On our Loop Interior Architecture Tour, we marvel at the architecture of Chase Tower, originally built for First National Bank of Chicago. On a rainy day the architecture of this skyscraper, and its postmodern sister tower across the street, makes for an other-worldly view of the Chicago skyline.

chicago architecture chase first national

It’s probably hard to believe, but this photo of the architecture of Chase Tower has no filters on it. It’s a color photo! While we are saying goodbye to sunny summer days, it can also be beautiful to see the monochromatic world of cloudy days (though maybe not everyday hopefully). I suppose it does look a little post-apocalyptic…

A beautiful thing that people often say at the end of our walking tours is to remember to “look up” at the architecture and enjoy the beauty of the city that we often just rush through. Hopefully images like this can be an inspiration to appreciate the landscapes around us, even when they seem mundane or gloomy.

– Amanda Scotese, Executive Director

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A History of Chicago Distilleries

October 1, 2014 by

With the recent popularity of craft distilleries, it’s difficult to know who is worth noticing and who is just a flash in the pan of Chicago’s drinking scene. So when I heard that Koval Distillery was the oldest distillery in Chicago, I naturally had to check it out.

On a tour of their distillery, I learned that Koval is not only the oldest distillery currently operating in Chicago, but it was also the first distillery opened since the repeal of Prohibition. And get this–Koval Distillery is merely six years old. Koval opened in 2008, which means that Chicago went 75 years without a single distillery! When I asked our guide why, she responded that there simply was no demand. I couldn’t believe such a dry spell, especially when you consider that there is no shortage of breweries in Chicago, some of which have been around for ages.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Tieri

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Tieri

Koval was started by a husband and wife duo who dedicated their craft to an organic grain to bottle approach. All of their spirits are single barrel and can be traced back to the farmers who grew the great things inside them. My favorite that we tasted on the tour was their Four Grain Whiskey, made from oat, malted barely, rye, and wheat. I also realized on the tour that I had been enjoying their liqueurs in craft cocktails all around town. In addition to distillation, Koval offers classes and guidance to amateurs and professionals alike, even setting standards in the technology of the process.

The tour was a lot of fun for a novice like me, who barely passed basic chemistry. And yet, I needed to know more about the history of distilleries in Chicago and why that 75 year dry spell happened. There is no question that Chicago is a town who loves her whiskey.

whiskeyrow

With the resources of Midwestern grain and the manufacturing and transportation industries rampant, Chicago was a logical location for distillation. In 1860, Chicago had 8 distilleries, including the Shufeldt Distillery pictured below. The number of Chicago distilleries would dwindle instead of grow, however, due to the Great Fire of 1871 and then the bullying of the Whiskey Trust in the 1880s and 90s. At this point Peoria, which is about 160 miles southwest of Chicago, was the whiskey capital of the country. Hard to believe, I know, but it wasn’t in Kentucky. The city of Peoria had 73 distilleries and was the largest corn-consuming market in the world.

Shufeldt Distillery

Then Prohibition happened, which we discuss on our Historic Chicago Walking Bar Tour, and many distilleries are closed or altered to manufacture other things. After Prohibition is repealed in 1933, mostly big name companies dominated the distillery scene and Bourbon County, Kentucky took the crown as the nation’s lead distiller. Smaller distillers had lost their steam and never could quite bounce back. And in the past, liquor laws in Illinois prevented manufacturers of liquor to sell to anyone but a distributor, let alone let people come for tastings. Also in 2013 the amount of booze that a craft distillery could produce and store was doubled, allowing distilling to be a more profitable venture, especially since it has such huge upfront costs.

With the locavore movement, craft distilleries in Chicago are popping up left and right and expanding at breakneck speed. In some ways Chicago is returning to its historically boozy roots, and brings with it the creativity and technology of today.

– Elizabeth Tieri, Tour Guide

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October Events in Chicago: Architecture and History

September 30, 2014 by

Celebrate architecture and history with some spectacular October events in Chicago. Each week we feature our favorite happenings in the windy city and this week includes a look at the historic Palmers during the Great Chicago Fire, an evening at a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece, and a spectacle on the Chicago River.

potter palmer house chicago architecture

Photo Credit: Jenn Harrman

1. Love Under Fire: The Story of Bertha and Potter Palmer - FILM SHOWING

Chicago Cultural Center, Claudia Cassidy Theater, 78 E. Washington St. - Tuesday, September 30th, 6:30pm-8:00pm

FREE

The story of the Great Chicago Fire cannot be told without the stories of the people that lived through it and this week the city shares that history during the Great Chicago Fire Festival. To kick things off this Tuesday, the story of Chicago’s fire of 1871 comes to life in film following the story of Bertha Honoré and Potter Palmer, one of Chicago’s early great families, and their passion for the city. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with Executive Producer Lori McGunn, Director Amelia Dellos and notable Chicago historians.

2. After Hours at Robie House – EVENING EVENT

5757 S. Woodlawn Ave. – Fridays, starting October 3rd, 5:00pm-8:00pm

$30 members/$35 non-members

Fall is the perfect time of year for a house party and what better setting than Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House. This month the famed south side Chicago residence will open every Friday after hours for an evening of light music, appetizers, drinks and exploration in the atmosphere of the Wright masterpiece. After Hours includes access to the Robie House balcony, which opened last spring, and is a unique opportunity to see the house in a new perspective… as a party guest.

3. Great Chicago Fire Festival – FIRST ANNUAL CELEBRATION

Chicago River between State and Columbus – Saturday, October 4, 8:00pm (activities begin 3:00pm)

FREE

This Saturday experience a spectacle of fire on the Chicago River. The first ever Great Chicago Fire Festival celebrates Chicago’s epic resurgence and strength after the Great Fire of 1871 and the people that toiled at pushing forward. Fiery cauldrons will be lowered from the bridges, hundreds of kayakers will pull flaming buoys and prairie gardens, and three floating sculptures resembling pre-1871 homes will be set ablaze. Each of the homes are also staged to reveal a dramatic and symbolic interior core. Naturally the event will include a fireworks display, which will be set to music that pays homage to our diverse Chicago neighborhoods.



 

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Fall Events in Chicago Architecture and History

September 23, 2014 by

Each week we try to bring you three events for your social calendar that are all about Chicago architecture and history. This week we feature fall events in Chicago including an exhibition talk, an exclusive tour of Frank Lloyd Wright, and a day of free museums.

1. Exhibition Overview of “Chicagoisms” – EXPRESS TALK

Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave. – Wednesday, September 24th, 12:00-12:30pm

FREE – with museum admission

This brief guided tour gives you a closer look to learn more about the Chicagoisms exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. Being known throughout history for its architectural innovations, Chicago is still a place of inspiration for architects, urbanists, and enthusiasts alike. As said best by the museum, “the exhibition surveys Chicago’s rich urban history and explores contemporary approaches to five Chicagoisms–key historical principles that have powered the city’s distinctive evolution.” The tour is free and meets in Griffith Court.

2. Wright Around Oak Park – EXCLUSIVE IN-DEPTH TOUR

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Gift Shop, 951 Chicago Ave., Oak Park – Wednesday, September 24th, 9:30am or 12:00pm

$65 members/$70 public – reservations recommended

For all of you Frank Lloyd Wright fans, this tour is a great opportunity for a comprehensive look at the iconic architect’s work in Oak Park. The tours are limited to only ten people, so guests get a personal experience with the architecture and the history while exploring expanded versions of both the Home and Studio tour and the neighborhood tour, and an interior and exterior look at Unity Temple. The tour offers a look at the development of the architect, the evolution of his architectural ideas, and a comparison look at Wright versus other grand Oak Park homes from the period.

chicago architecture farnsworth house mies

Photo Credit: Jenn Harrman

3. Museum Day Live – FREE MUSEUM DAY

Locations vary - Saturday, September 27th

FREE

Take part in the Smithsonian Magazine’s Museum Day Live with a whole day of free admission to select museums, including one of our favorites, the Farnsworth House. There are over 20 museums across the greater Chicagoland area that are taking part in the event, which means there are over 20 museums to choose from. From the DuSable Museum of African American History to the Smart Museum to the International Museum of Surgical Sciences, there is a museum for just about everything and everyone and its all free this Saturday.

 

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Day Trip to Chicago Botanic Garden

September 22, 2014 by

When you need to shake the city off your big shoulders, I recommend a day trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden. I had never been until recently, when a girlfriend and I hopped on our bikes and headed north. The Chicago Botanic Garden, located in Glencoe about 25 miles north of downtown, is easily accessed by car and public transportation as well. We chose to ride the North Branch Trail through the Forest Preserve District of Cook County to be fully immersed in the nature of our city in a garden.

Photo Credit: Ash Turner

Photo Credit: Ash Turner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In order to navigate the 385-acre garden, we got a personalized itinerary from my friend Phil, who works at the visitor’s center. At the top of his must-see list is the Japanese Garden, and I fully agree. The Sansho-En is a garden of three islands, two of which mere mortals may stroll. The islands were designed by Dr. Koichi Kawana, who designed Japanese gardens in St. Louis and Devner as well. In my research of his work, Chicago Botanic Garden executives discuss how Kawana didn’t draw plans for the placement of plants and rocks; instead he studied them individually and placed each stone based on which side or texture he thought should face the point of view of visitors to the garden. These composed views are so masterful, one must be reminded that they are intentional. This is the philosophy of a Japanese garden, to interpret nature in a stylized presentation, as opposed to letting nature run wild. The effect is contemplative and ideal.

Leave the worries of the working world behind as you cross the Arched Bridge to Kaiunto, the Island of the Auspicious Cloud. The same theory goes back to 17th century Sansho-en, intended as a retreat for feudal lords. More specifically, the Shoin House was an escape for samurai to focus on meditation and poetry. This was by far my favorite aspect of the garden, and I hope to have one of my own someday. The 23-tatami-mat house, which is how you talk size in Japanese construction, was first built in Japan, as were all the wooden structures in the Japanese Garden here. Then it was dismantled and sent to Chicago. This was facilitated by the fact that no nails were used to construct the house, true to its Middle Age origins. The house’s walls are open to allow views of the surrounding nature, and the samurai’s desk–my favorite aspect of the house–is built into one of these walls looking directly onto the moss garden for inspiration.

Continue to Seifuto, the Island of Clear, Pure Breezes, across the Zigzag Bridge, reminiscent of our Chicago Detours logo.  The zigzag design is intended to force the flaneur to slow down and consider new views of the garden. On Seifuto, you get a closer look of Horaijima, the Island of Everlasting Happiness. This smallest of the three islands is intended to represent paradise and is reserved for the gods and the nature they have given us. Considering the beauty evident on the first two islands, I can only marvel at what must be reserved on Horaijima.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Tieri

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Tieri

So as not to discuss the garden without mention of the flowers, pictured above is the Victoria Regia waterlily, a flower rarely in bloom.  Its life cycle is just two days; the pink color seen here denotes this flower is in day two, the male stage, of its life. These lilies are found in the Heritage Garden. Other highlights of the Chicago Botanic Garden include the Waterfall Garden from which the above view of the Japanese Garden is taken, and the deck of the Garden View Cafe, where you can sit beneath the willows and enjoy not just the view but also sustainably produced and seasonal items.

– Elizabeth Tieri, Tour Guide

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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

FREE

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.

bridgeport-art-center-chicago-tour

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.

zhou-brothers-art-center-chicago

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.

architectural-details-chicago-factory

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.

ed-mar-lumpen-chicago-tour

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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