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Wins and Losses for Chicago Preservation in 2017

Chicago Patterns Staff 1 comment

1436 W. Berwyn faced demo, but now owned by preservation-minded buyer [John Morris/Chicago Patterns]

2017 brought the usual bag of heartbreaking losses in Chicago’s housing and building stock, but there are several notable wins too. In our annual retrospective of historic preservation, many themes of years past continue: 19th-century Italianate homes and flats in hot neighborhoods are replaced with new construction, one-of-a-kind landmarks in or near the city center are lost in the name of progress, and demolition by neglect continues.

As the race to capitalize on this current real estate cycle continues, landmark status is often the only effective tool to preserve historically important structures. Preservation-minded real estate buyers also continue to affect real change in preservation efforts.

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Goodbye to a Victorian Cottage

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2430 W Moffat [John Morris/Chicago Patterns]

Built in the early 1890s, 2430 W Moffat’s construction coincided with the arrival of the Metropolitan West Side Elevated Railroad a few blocks away. Today it’s the Western stop of the CTA Blue Line.

Sadly, the end draws near for this little cottage as there is an outstanding demo permit for the property.

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The Emergence, Demolition, and Preservation of Italianate Cottages and Flats

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2429 W Augusta (center) facing demolition [John Morris/Chicago Patterns]


As Northwest Side neighborhoods along the Blue Line experience glowing hot growth in real estate values, original homes and flats are getting erased in favor of expensive new construction. While this trend has long been an issue in older neighborhoods near the lake or the Loop, this rapid expansion of teardown construction in these neighborhoods is a more recent phenomenon.

In years past, as successive waves of people moved into these neighborhoods, existing housing stock was a source of pride and buildings were rehabbed and improved. The change in neighborhood demographics this time is different as wealthy newcomers often opt for large single-family homes often built after tearing down an existing home.

The loss of housing stock in these areas is particularly painful as the homes getting destroyed are well over a hundred years old, many of which were erected in the aftermath of the Great Fire.

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

John Morris 2 comments

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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