The Other Side of Old Town: Remnants of Swede Town and Little Sicily

Gabriel X. Michael 6 comments
Viewing east towards the Near North skyline, from 900 block of Hudson Avenue. Vacant former site of Cabrini Extension South high-rises in foreground.

Viewing east towards the Near North skyline from 900 block of Hudson Avenue. Vacant former site of Cabrini Extension South high-rises in foreground. Gabriel X. Michael/Chicago Patterns

Located just north of downtown and on the eastern side of Chicago’s man-made Goose Island and North Branch Canal, the Lower Near North Side has been called many names, and served as home to Chicago’s poor working class and multi-ethnic waves of immigrants.

It was notably put under a microscope by urban sociologist Harvey Warren Zorbaugh in his highly-influential and precedential book The Gold Coast and the Slum (1929), where he chronicled its notorious living conditions, detailed its socio-economic makeup, and elucidated tangled patterns of dysfunction sustaining this “slum’s” existence, blocks from one of Chicago’s wealthiest communities to the east. Central to his philosophy was the idea of “natural areas” within a city–the unplanned, organic enclaves that emerge out of a coincidence of physical geography and cultural segregration: the Lower Near North Side being a prime example of this urban phenomena.

Continue reading »


Trianon, “World’s Most Beautiful Ballroom”

John Morris 3 comments

This week for Flashback Friday we step back to the era of dancing and luxurious ballrooms with a look at Trianon, hailed as the most beautiful in the world. This phrase was more than just a slogan on a postcard, it was audible on many recordings and broadcasts here.

Continue reading »


Under Demolition: 2821 North Avers Avenue

Gabriel X. Michael Leave a comment
Viewing east towards front facade of 2821 North Avers Avenue house, circa 1880s, under demolition

Viewing east towards front facade of 2821 North Avers Avenue house under demolition. Gabriel X. Michael/Chicago Patterns

After some time on the city’s Demolition Delay Hold List, the review period has ended and demolition will be proceeding for the “orange-rated” house at 2821 North Avers Avenue. I recently visited one late afternoon to check on the site, and photograph the current state of the structure.

Looking into available public records, conflicting information exists regarding the actual age of this building: by all real estate-related and Cook County Assessor’s Office information that can be obtained, this house was built in 1908. However, the City of Chicago’s Historic Resources Survey–a ground-level, detailed effort completed nearly 20 years ago–also indicates this as a significant, “orange-rated” structure, circa 1880s.

Continue reading »


Marked for Demolition in Marktown

Eric Allix Rogers 8 comments

Oak Street, Marktown

Around the turn of the last century, it became a trend among wealthy industrialists to provide planned housing for workers – an effort to Americanize and “civilize” new immigrants and maintain tight control over the labor force. George Pullman famously pioneered the approach in the South Side neighborhood that bears his name today. Experimental cast-in-place concrete houses were built for steel mill workers in Gary, Indiana. And in nearby East Chicago, Clayton Mark sought to create an idyllic and uplifting village for his own mill workers – at least, as idyllic and uplifting a village as can exist surrounded on all sides by heavy industrial plant. That place is now known as Marktown, a verdant postage stamp of a neighborhood just south of the intersection of 129th Street and Dickey Road, and its future is very much in question.

Continue reading »