Saturday, December 8, 2007

A Mid-Century Cornocopia

Western Avenue long marked the western boundaries of the city of Chicago. And today, it remains something of a dividing line -- an identifiable centerline to the amorphous region where the city's urban environment begins to weaken, falling apart into 1950s suburbia.

This means, however, that streets to the west of it have treasure troves of Mid-Century Modernism.

Most awesome showcase lamps ever.

The whole shooting works

Concrete pattern wall

Peterson Avenue, west of Western, offers one 1960s building after another, with a nearly complete array of the stock design elements and styles common to the period. Delicious details abound, easily overlooked as motorists zoom past at 50mph, but easily found if you make the trip by foot or bike.

Colored glazed brick, raised metal letters, funky stainless steel railings, crazy hanging lamps in the lobby, jagged fieldstone contained in limestone borders on brick walls... it's all here.

Glazed brick

1960s stone and brick

Even the side streets offer the occasional find:

Apartment door

And sometimes, the MCM creeps east of Western:

One day, I'm coming back after dark for this shot.

There's no knockout buildings out here, nothing to make a MCM preservationist stand on the mountaintops and shout; instead, there's a collection of buildings that reinforce each other, crying out the optimism and elegance of the 1960s, achieving far more together than any one of them does alone.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Buildings of Humboldt Park

Humboldt Park -- between North and Division, a bit west of Western -- isn't really hidden, but it's easy to not really know about or visit. I paid it a visit by bicycle a while back. It's in a neighborhood that feels transitional -- old clans and residents still around, but starting to dwindle; newcomers with a bit more money to spare moving in to escape rising prices to the west. People fish in the lagoons, children run wild in the fenced play area, and a fantastic drum jam was going on when I passed through on a Saturday afternoon.

Humboldt Park lagoon

Three of the park's buildings are worthy of special note:

Humboldt Park stables

The old stables building is fairy tale architecture at its best. There are ten thousand photos hidden in those gables and red tiles. It's been under renovation for a long time; it suffered a fire years ago, but looks great today.

Humboldt Park bath house

The Tudor Gothic bathhouse faces an empty lagoon at present.

Humboldt Park pavillion

An open-air pavilion shows a Prairie School influence, echoed in a formal garden court nearby.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Mid-Century Suburbs, Part 1

South Chicago house

South Chicago house

South Chicago house

They cover mile after mile of street grid in the far southern reaches of Chicago and its inner suburbs. They are simple houses, small and modest, one story over basement, shallow-pitched roofs, built for narrow lots -- but they are distinguished by the endless variation of a few simple elements: brick color, horizontal limestone accent bands, three-paneled screen doors, doors with geometric window designs, groupings of single glass blocks, groupings of colored glazed tile.

The colored block

The overall unity of their style and details seems to suggest a single builder -- but could one company have built all this? These houses cover miles of land; there are thousands and thousands of them. Dense concentrations can be seen on the streets around 79th Street and 85th Street, as they leave Chicago and enter Burbank and Bridgeview.

They delight in their tidy, well-kept ranks; they charm with their little accents that suggest individuality even within the confines of a limited design scheme.

They are supplemented by a series of three-flat and six-flat apartment buildings, which share some of the same details -- particularly the colored block. More on those in the future.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Layin' it on thick in Pilsen

This house sits on the 1600 block of W. 16th Street, right across from the magnificent St. Adalbert's Church.

A house....

It's a mini-Parthenon, grandeur wrought on the smallest possible scale. Or at least it wants to be grand. In truth...

....with delusions of grandeur.'s a puffed-up ordinary gabled brick house, with a Classical facade sitting in front of it.

But I love it. It's such an oddball among all the standard brick and wood siding, and it's obvious that whatever else the owner was thinking, they really really wanted it to be special.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church

St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church

Came across this place on a long slow trek across the south side today. It's on a side street near Halsted -- 6954 S. Union Avenue, say the Internets.

What got my attention was the crazy colored glass front elevation, which was clearly a 1960s design tacked onto a much older building. It's a strange, jarring, but colorful juxtaposition.

Yet, looking again, the towers share the same stone crosses as the 1960s building next door, as well as same the square glass block that demarcates so much of far south Chicago's Mid-Century housing. So they appear to be a 1960s job too -- but there's vintage stained glass in their windows, and an older corner stone on that facade. Very puzzling!

St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church

The sign and adjacent office/classroom building look to be of the same vintage as the facade. Check out the engraved stone crosses on the building facade.

This church is deep in the hard-luck neighborhoods of the south side, so I'm sure they've got their work cut out for them on the missionary front. They don't have a web presence, though they do seem to be home to the Illinois National Baptist State Convention Headquarters.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

New City YMCA... demolished.

green.  YELLOW!!

What a shame to have to start off a blog this way!

But I can't help it; something special's been lost, and I'm compelled to document.

This was the New City YMCA, a circa-1981 building on Halsted just south of Clybourn, west of downtown, just north of infamous Cabrini-Green.

New City Y

Not much of a building, but oh, those bricks, those glossy glazed bricks!! 9 shades of rainbow-colored glazed bliss. They're tearing it down right now. There's not much left, just a few partial walls and a huge pile of debris.

New City Y rubble

- YMCA That Served Cabrini-Green Residents to Close
- Redevelopment Planned for New City YMCA

Monday, November 19, 2007

In Search of Chicago

This is A Chicago Sojourn, a Chicago-based photography blog.

View of Chicago

And this is about the only Chicago skyline photo you'll see here.

You also won't find any photos of the bean sculpture in Millennium Park. No Sears Tower. No views from the John Hancock. No shots looking up the Chicago River toward the Wrigley Building. No interior shots of the grand hall in the Field Museum. None of Frank Ghery's titanium nonsense.

Inland Steel

In my years of visiting Chicago, I did all that and much more. As a resident of this city of millions, my interest has expanded beyond all that, to an endless cityscape filled with places wonderful and terrible, famous and forgotten

It's the forgotten parts that fascinate me.

Saint Joseph Hospital Dan Ryan Memorial Chapel

I've always gravitated to the forgotten: in St. Louis, in Milwaukee, everywhere I go. And so it is here.

What IS it?

This blog will be a casual document of my own discoveries, as I continue to branch out and delve deeper and deeper into the guts of Chicago. It will be photo-intensive. It will feature lots and lots of architecture. It will be relatively obscure. And hopefully, it will convey my own sense of wonder and amazement at the endless cityscape around me.

Kenmore Avenue, Chicago

I hope you'll come along for the journey.

Loyola University Chicago