Viewing all posts from the Old Town neighborhood

Beautiful 19th Century Homes on Borrowed Time

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Gingerbread Gothic home at 1944 N Sedgwick will likely be destroyed [John Morris/Chicago Patterns]

In Chicago, as it is nationwide, demand for housing is outstripping supply. Speculators and wealthy individuals are eagerly rushing in to meet the top-end demand, leaving a trail of destroyed historic housing stock in their wake. Meanwhile, the supply of low and mid-range housing stock remains largely unaddressed.

This is often evident in real estate listing descriptions that say “the value is in the land,” for properties that exceed a million dollars with the implicit understanding that the home will be razed and replaced. This is playing out heavily in North Side neighborhoods like Lake View and Lincoln Park, where blocks of mostly new construction mega-mansions dot the landscape.

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Edgar Miller, the Designer


Glasner Studio [Eric Allix Rogers/Chicago Patterns]

Imagine a neighborhood near downtown Chicago. The buildings are solid, high quality, “Old World” craftsmanship – but they’re also getting shabby and worn.

Now imagine that you’re the young scion of a wealthy family with a successful business. You dropped out of art school and went to Paris to find yourself for a couple of years – and came back with a vision to make money by renovating cheap old buildings into spaces for artists.

This isn’t a story about Wicker Park in the 1990s, or Pilsen or Logan Square today. It’s Old Town, circa 1927 – and the person with that initial vision was Sol Kogen. Call it arts-based community development or call it gentrification, his business model was not all that different from what many developers do today. What set that vision apart – what gave it an unmistakable style – was the artistry and craftsmanship of Edgar Miller.

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Wins and Losses for Chicago Buildings in 2016


Every year brings new buildings and the demolition of others–it’s the continuous cycle that transforms inanimate structures into the growing and evolving organism of a city. In times of wealth and prosperity the number of construction and demolition permits grow, and in times of recession they dwindle.

Last year this cycle repeated largely as it has in years past. But there were a few themes in the destruction of Chicago’s architectural heritage: late 19th century Worker’s Cottages, grand South Side homes, Italianate row houses, and a few sparkling Victorians on the North Side.

It wasn’t all losses in 2016–there were a few wins, particularly neglected or damaged churches that will live on through adaptive reuse.


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Twin Ys by the Door in Old Town

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[John Morris/Chicago Patterns]

Second Renaissance Revival entryway with the Chicago municipal device atop each cartouche. On Concord near Sedgwick. You can learn more about this style and the neighborhoods where it is most common at Chicago Architecture Data – 
Second Renaissance Revival.