Introducing Flashback Friday, with the Receptory in Humboldt Park


Receptory Postcard front

A few years ago on our sister publication Goodnight Raleigh, I started a weekly column (that continues today) featuring vintage postcards, history, and transcribed conversations written in decades past.

I’m excited to announce the addition of this column to Chicago Patterns, which will follow in the footsteps of our sister publication. Most Fridays we’ll feature a postcard with a handwritten letter and history related to the message or subject of the card. Our introductory article in this new column features the Humboldt Park Receptory.

The building featured here was once the office of the superintendent, a post held by landscape architect Jens Jensen at the time of its construction. It was designed by Frommann & Jebsen, who also designed the Schlitz Tied House in Lake View where Schubas is today.

The Golden Age of Postcards

Postcards gained popularity in 1907 when the law was changed to allow handwritten messages on the back of a mailed card, which allowed the photo to take up the entire front portion of the card. With postage being less expensive than a mailed envelope, they rapidly overtook sealed envelopes as primary long distance communication.

Related trivia: the maximum length of a text message (160 characters) was in large part a result of analysis of postcard correspondence length.

Humboldt Park Receptory

Chicago 7-8-10
Dear Cousin

I have forgotten who’s turn it is to write but I will send you this card any how to let you know we are still alive we are just getting over bad colds now I have a ear on the bum. hope this will find you folks all well.


When are you coming up?

Robert Marshall
240 W. Park Ave.
Aurora Ill.

The Receptory Building has a unique design, featuring a Queen Anne-styled turret but with styles of a German county house. The result is a blend of prevailing architectural trends of the late 19th century and a nod to the ethnicity of the local immigrant population. Humboldt Park itself was named after the renowned German naturalist Baron Alexander von Humboldt.

It is now home to the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture.

Tune in next Friday for a glimpse into Chicago’s past with a short letter from a previous generation.

Related articles:

Further reading:

2 responses to “Introducing Flashback Friday, with the Receptory in Humboldt Park”

  1. Karl Larson says:

    ‘Receptory’ — Now that’s a word you never hear any more. I had to look it up! This tinted postcard shows a delightful depiction of the park receptory. Glad to know the building is still standing and in use. Congrats to CP on your first Flashback Friday post!

  2. Andi Marie says:

    This was way cool John!

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