Friday, November 7, 2008

Howard Street

Howard Street marks most of Chicago's northern-most limit, though the city line jumps a few blocks northward from Clark Street to the lake. Walking down Howard, though, you wouldn't suspect you were on the farthest hinterland of the great metropolis. Howard is fully qualified to be the main street of an entire town, with grand commercial buildings, a magnificent theater, and highrises both old and new.

Howard Street

The catch, of course, is that Howard marks the end of Chicago in technical terms only. To the north lies the great suburban town of Evanston, only the first of many suburban outliers that stretch nearly to the Wisconsin border. In that sense, Howard is not very far from the center, and its compelling architecture merely reflects that fact.

Howard Street

Howard also benefits from its status as a transportation hub. The Red Line, one of CTA's busiest rail lines, terminates there, handing things off to the suburban Purple and Yellow lines. Numerous bus lines arrive here as well.

Howard Street Red Line entrance

Howard has a reputation as a not-so-nice place in general, a reputation which tends to spill over to the rest of Rogers Park. It's a bit inexplicable, given its location. Well-served by rail and bus, sandwiched between tony Evanston and the inevitable northward march of gentrification, only minutes away from the lake, it is only a matter of time before real estate here goes through the roof. When it happens, the architecture will be waiting.

Howard Street

Howard Street

The Paulina Building is just one of many ornate highlights along the strip. Another is the Werner Brothers Fireproof Warehouse, a brick box with a fancy front.

Werner Brothers Fireproof Storage building

Werner Brothers Fireproof Storage building

Werner Brothers Fireproof Storage building

The high point is the Howard Theater Building (Henry L. Newhouse, who also did the south side's similarly-styled Atlantic Theater.) Like so many other Chicago neighborhood theaters, it was built in 1917, in the rush of post-World War I escapism. The auditorium was razed in 1999, but the lobby and commercial portion remain, converted to condominiums, and still spectacular.

Howard Theatre

Clad in shimmering silk

Howard Theatre detail

Heading east, there's a short gap for a public park, followed by another jewel, a massive 1925 apartment building named the Broadmoor. The entrance and the corner shield ornament are both extravagantly luscious.

Howard Street

The Broadmoor

The Howard Street commercial district comes to its eastern end not with a bang or a whimper, but with a delightful profusion of 2- and 3-story flatiron buildings, a reaction to the acute angles cut by Rogers Avenue as it slices through the orthogonal grid.

Howard and Rogers


Like S. Michigan, the district is a sampler of architectural styles and trends, yet totally different in its atmosphere. Its prospects are likewise different; a huge condominium building recently went up, testifying to this area's rising future. The problems will pass away in time; residents may well struggle with the rising costs. But the beauty of the architecture will remain.


David said...

Robert, the new high rise is an "affordable" (i.e. 1200/mo one bedrooms) rental which was heavily pushed by Evanston (which it's in, of course).

My parents remember when the Chicago side was lined with liquor stores, back in Evanston's dry days.

This is one of the weirdest areas of Chicago with a very strange diversity, if you will. Right wing hippies, gentrifiers, long time Jewish residents, poor blacks, slumlords, etc all jostle each other here.

Kofi Bofah said...

I used to live in Rogers Park.. 7400 blk of Ridge.

Let me tell you about Howard Street.

The Chicago line does in fact jump north - east of Clark and towards the lake. This Jonquil Terrace section as referred to as 'The Jungle.'

The corridor has been rehabilitated a lot recently. Years ago, the neighborhood really was a gritty scene of drug pushers, pimps, and prostitutes.

This was before the days of Police cameras, all up and down the street.

snickers workwear said...

This looks like a really interesting part of town with loads of character, well worth a visit

Anonymous said...

Howard St. is also the northern boundry of the city neighbohood of Edison Park, where there is a variety of homes from the 1890s to now. It was one of the first annexed areas in 1889.

From 7200 w to about 7800 w, Howard is boundry between Niles and Chicago.