A Brief History of Milwaukee Avenue, Part 1: an Indian Trail Becomes Dinner Pail Avenue

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Milwaukee/Kimball/Diversey

Milwaukee/Kimball/Diversey [John Morris/Chicago Patterns]

Outside of Downtown, Milwaukee Avenue is likely the fastest growing and changing thoroughfare in the city, and it isn’t the first time in history it’s had this position. Since the early beginnings of Chicago, it’s been a busy commuting path and one of the most bustling commercial centers.

The beauty and lore of this avenue was captured over a century ago in a book by a Jefferson Park resident:

What Soho is to London this diagonal avenue is to the Garden City. By turns the Greek, Italian, German, Scandinavian, Russian, Lithuanian and Pole monopolize the street signs, the corner news-stands, the sidewalks and the cars, or proclaim to the passing nose one aspect of their national delicacies.

Every half-section line exhibits in its ganglia, as the crossing of the thoroughfares, a sharp-angled picturesque frontage, akin to Seven Dials or Five Points in their palmy days.

Alfred Bull, amateur historian describing Milwaukee Avenue in 1911

In the first part of this series, we’ll look at the early history of Milwaukee Avenue, and follow it until the boom years of the 1920s. Next we’ll cover the Chicago School of architecture, and later, the transition to the Machine Age and Art Deco.

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Redevelopment In Sight For An Overlooked 151-Year-Old Former Factory

Gabriel X. Michael 6 comments

154 - 166 North Jefferson Street, viewing northwest.

154 – 166 North Jefferson Street, viewing northwest. [Gabriel X. Michael/Chicago Patterns]

My last work on Chicago Patterns looked at “post-Fire” commercial buildings in Chicago’s downtown area erected in the aftermath of the 1871 Great Chicago Fire. But a recent demolition permit led me to discover an alternate side of the catastrophe: a company’s former factory headquarters west of the Chicago River which avoided the Fire, stepped up and tirelessly restored the city’s damaged water supply, and still stands today.

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Chicago’s Forgotten Turner Halls: Turnverein Vorwaerts

John Morris 7 comments

John Morris/Chicago Patterns

[John Morris/Chicago Patterns]

At Roosevelt and Western is Vorwaerts Turner Hall, a castle-like structure which stands as one of the few remnants of a former German neighborhood on the Near West Side.

There were once dozens of Turner Halls all over Chicago, but Vorwaerts is one of only two that remain in the city. This mysterious looking building is a living artifact of a group that began in Chicago 164 years ago, and continues the same traditions today.

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The End of McGaw Hall

Rachel Freundt 2 comments

[Rachel Freundt/Chicago Patterns]

[Rachel Freundt/Chicago Patterns]

Last month DePaul University demolished McGaw Hall on their Lincoln Park campus for a new brick and glass building from Antunovich Associates that will house the university’s music school.

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