Wednesday, March 4, 2015

1716-1718 W. Morse and 6947 N. Clark, c.1905

On Morse just east of Clark there are two greystone 2-flats built around 1905.  Greystone refers to the Bedford limestone quarried in Indiana and installed as decorative veneers on the front of these buildings.  Greystone facades became common in many Chicago neighborhoods, but are actually a bit rare in Rogers Park. 

Although they present a solid appearance, the stone is only thick enough to allow the level of ornamentation required.  A greystone building may embody a variety of styles, but the most common treatment is a pared down Classical Revival, which is what you see here.

At the corner is a two-story bank building which has seen some extreme changes. Only when you look at the building from the east can you see some of the original details and brickwork.  I'm guessing the mansard roof and red brick cladding were put on in the late 1970s or early 1980s.  I'm fascinated by the mansard treatment.  Why was this popular?  Was it just a cheap way to drastically update a building, or did the mansard roof have some forgotten significance?  Some historians have proposed that it had its roots in the environmental movement of the 1970s (simple geometric shapes, natural wood shingles), but I just can't see it.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

1905 and 1911 W. Morse, c.1890

These large Queen Anne-style homes represent some of the early suburban development of Rogers Park. By the 1890s Rogers Park had a thriving commercial district near the train stop, its own police and fire station, and even a water treatment plant.  The area east of Clark was being developed gradually (it was pretty swampy), but large picturesque homes were being constructed on land between Clark and Ridge.  This stretch is the highest point of the neighborhood, and a good option to avoid a flooded basement.

The Queen Anne style typically has large wrap-around porches.  These would have been important for surviving the sweltering Chicago summers.  The cross-gable design opened up the floor plan to light and air from all directions.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

1762-1766 W. Morse, c. 1905

1762 and 1766 W. Morse
I'm beginning a project to document the current character of Morse Avenue in Rogers Park. For now I'm picking out some areas and buildings that appeal to me and seeing which direction I feel like heading.  The more I focus on specific buildings the more it seems like this is a project that could be done on any street in any neighborhood to reveal some of the same patterns.

After annexation of Rogers Park to Chicago in 1893 there was almost immediately an economic depression connected to the Panic of 1893.  The country didn't begin recover until 1897, at which time a 10 year period of growth occurred. These frame houses were built around 1905, in the middle of this boom period.   This was cut short by the Panic of 1907.  The next building boom wasn't until after WWI, and it lead to greater urbanization and denser development in the neighborhood.

Parking lots now bracket these buildings on the east and west, but originally the block consisted of modest single family homes with an easy downtown commute.  The Dutch Colonial-style building on the west retains many of its features, while the home on the east has enclosed the front porch and looks to be divided into several units.

Monday, February 9, 2015

900 Block of Fulton Market

This block of Fulton Market is primarily meat-packing buildings constructed around 1910.  I wanted to give special emphasis to the protective canopies which are so characteristic of the area.  Note that there isn't actually a sidewalk on this block.  The entire stretch is at-grade, which makes pickups and deliveries simple.  Walking through is a bit tricky.

This will probably be my last illustration of the pending Fulton-Randolph Market Historic District. The outlines and blacks are done in pen, and the shadows and street tone are added digitally. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

900 W. Randolph, 1908


Back to the Fulton Market.  This 1908 building was a Commission House designed by architect Ivar Zarbell and primarily accommodated wholesale produce. Architects who designed small-scale industrial and commercial structures seldom achieved the name recognition of those working in the Loop or designing luxury apartments, but their buildings define enormous areas of the city.  And although these buildings were primarily intended to be functional, they're not without architectural interest.  For a fantastic analysis of the history and architecture of the Fulton/Randolph Market area see the designation report written by my colleague Matt Crawford.

I've added some grey tones, and I'll probably add color at some point.  But I think this image gives a good sense of the historic character of the area.  This building is already being modified to accommodate an upscale restaurant, which has been typical for the rapid development of the area.

 OK, finally finished the colorized version!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Stone Academy Fundraiser!

Colorized Detail
It's pretty impossible to buy an Ultra Local Geography drawing.  Partly it's because I draw what I want, and that isn't particularly marketable.  The other reason is that it's exhausting to sell things.  You have to find a frame, cut a mat, etc.  And then you have to find someone to buy it.  But sometimes I'll donate drawings for a good cause and let someone else work out the details.

Below is a drawing which will be available for bid to benefit my son's elementary school, Stone Academy in West Ridge.  Opening bid is $45, a steal!  Proceeds will go towards funding enrichment programs within the school.  I haven't found a frame yet, but I'm hoping it will look something like this:



This is a stretch of buildings around 3300 N. Pulaski.  It's basically a group of 1920s commercial/residential buildings overlapping some cottages built around 1905. The online auction begins on January 15th.  The actual fundraiser will be a the Raven Theater on February 8th, and additional items will be on display. 


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Washtenaw-Sherwin Homes, 1946-1953

When the veterans of WWII returned home they came back to a severe housing shortage.  One governmental remedy was to re-purpose housing that had been developed for war workers into inexpensive rentals for the returning soldiers and their families.

During WWII the demand for housing to support the war effort jump-started the prefabrication industry, which had always held out the promise of mass produced inexpensive homes.  In some cases the government created their own instant cities, with homes, schools, shopping centers and recreational facilities appearing practically overnight.  A famous example of this is Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where 75,000 people were housed and employed to process the uranium needed for the Manhattan Project.  To design Oak Ridge the Federal government contracted with the firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), which later went on to postwar success in both modernist city planning and skyscraper design.  At the end of the war some of these homes designed by SOM were loaded onto trucks and sent to Chicago, where they were reconstructed along land next to the Sanitary Canal.
Rogers Park in West Ridge, Showing Temporary Housing Sites in Red.
In the West Ridge neighborhood a 10-acre plot was leased (free of charge) to the Chicago Housing Authority from the Chicago Board of Education, which owned the nearby Rogers School.  The CHA received a loan from the city to prepare the sites and install utilities.  Twenty buildings of panelized construction were located on the block south of Rogers  School, each accommodating 6 families (120 units total).  A Chicago Tribune article at the time notes that these homes were relocated from Seneca, Illinois and Evansville, Indiana. Although I was unable to find any photos of these buildings, the housing at Oak Ridge (now digitized by the Department of Energy and available on Flickr) might give some hints as to its design. In the 1950 Sanborn Map of the area the housing basically looks like 1-story barracks.

The surrounding neighbors were not pleased, claiming that this development would lower the value of their property.  They petitioned CHA to choose another site.  CHA reassured these neighbors that all temporary housing for veterans  would be demolished  in two or three years.  In actuality the Sherwin-Washtenaw homes weren't removed until 1953.  By that time the housing industry had finally started to catch up to the demand.

Memory of the temporary homes seemed to quickly fade.   In 1957 the Chicago Park District awarded a contract to develop the area and the adjacent land to the east into what would become Rogers Park.  A Tribune article notes that the property had been used as a golf driving range, truck gardens, and a site for greenhouses.  But not a word about the 20 buildings that housed 120 veterans and their families for seven years.

Of the 23 sites which were utilized for temporary housing in Chicago very little evidence remains.  But when I was putting together the map for this post I realized that the largest remaining trees in the park are located in the area which was between the north and south halves of the development.  So there's a small nod to history for those who know to look for it.

If any readers have photos of these homes I would love to see them.  You can leave a comment below or message me directly.




Monday, December 22, 2014

6961 N. Greenview, 1904

I have a special affection for the remnants of early neighborhood development, especially when it contrasts with the surrounding development.  It's really not hard to find these examples, even in the most densely built neighborhoods.  And I'm especially fond of buildings which have been enlarged and expanded irregularly and awkwardly.


This gable-front farmhouse at 6961 N. Greenview is sandwiched between a complex of courtyard apartments on Lunt and mixed-use development on Morse.  The assessor estimates its construction date as 1904, which seems about right to me.  I had hoped that the map chronology would show a constant enlarging creep, but the building really only assumed its current form some time after 1951.

The exterior has been redone a number of times, and currently has a stucco finish at the first floor and aluminum siding above.  The oriel window on the second floor and the steel casements on the first both suggest the 1950s.  A rear addition reaches out to attach to a 1-car garage. It sits on a lot that doesn't seem quite big enough to allow profitable redevelopment, so I expect this oddity to stick around for a good long time.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps (historic) and the City of Chicago Zoning Map (current)


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

West Loop Column Capitals

Column capitals were once very functional.  They signified where the structural load of a building was transferred into the column and down to the foundation.  Typically the capital would be broader than the column to make this transfer more effective.  As buildings became larger more robust structural systems were needed and columns became mainly decorative, although still useful (and popular) in a design sense.  But once free from structural constraints what should  a column look like? The West Loop area has an enormous variety of column ornamentation for building types which hadn't even been conceived until relatively recently.  Many column types have been adapted to these industrial and warehouse buildings.

Cast Iron Column Capital at 210 N. Green

To the right is a cast iron column capital found on a former meat packing building built in 1904.  Cast iron is a great material for decorative uses, since it can be molded into almost anything.  Complex elements like this were typically fabricated from separate pieces that were bolted (or welded) together.  This one uses a number of classical details, such as dentils, egg and dark molding, an oddly shaped keystone, and oak twigs bundled together into a fascia.   It also has some strap-work trim in a diamond pattern.  Although many cast iron columns support a portion of the facade to allow storefront openings, this building has a reinforced concrete structure.   The shaft of the column is only a couple of inches thick.  Interestingly, there's a stone version of the same capital on the upper floors.


Terracotta Column Capital at 564 W. Randolph


The column to the left is kind of a masterpiece. It's an engaged octagonal column, with geometric ornamental mixed with classical details.  The radiating brackets are decorated with Greek keys, and over-sized dentils hang from the bottom.  I don't know whether to describe this as Art Deco, Prairie, or Classical.  Which is kind of the point. This column encloses the steel which actually supports the building.  And again, this is a relatively delicate ornamental material sculpted to match the scale and muscularity of this 1930 warehouse building, but without resorting to established stylistic schemes.




Terracotta Capital at 150 N. Clinton




This column is the strangest one yet.  There's a stepped molding at the top of the column, and a bizarre terracotta medallion below.  The column itself is edged with scalloped terracotta bands.  This one doesn't even pretend to have structural pretensions.  I can't really figure out the ornamentation scheme.  Are those classical festoons arranged on a platter?  Perhaps this is a Louis Sullivan inspired design run amuck  Maybe Art Nouveau...  Again, this is found on a large warehouse building from the 1930s.

Some more column capitals to follow at some point...

Monday, November 3, 2014

Rogers Park Roofscape


This is another view from the Rogers Park Metra platform looking to the northeast.  I posted another view to the southeast a few months back, which can be viewed here

I'm becoming more interested in rooftops and alleys, maybe because they reveal design relationships which are more complex than what's viewed from the street, and allowing some investigation into the nuts and bolts that create a streetscape.   Views across the rooftops are like x-rays, revealing service spaces, private retreats, and structural detail all interlocking with each other.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Movie Theaters in Rogers Park and West Ridge, Part 2

The previous entry is this series was posted back in November of 2012 and you can link to it here. It primarily focuses on the small nickelodeons and neighborhood theaters.  This post was begun and then abandoned, although I can't remember why.  At this rate the next entry is due in 2016...

Number of seats are taken from Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps.
Movie theaters in Rogers Park and West Ridge can be divided into types based on their architectural characteristics, but also by number of seats. Nickelodeons like the Casino and the Morse accommodated anywhere from 300 to 750 people.  Neighborhood theaters like the Adelphi and the Ellantee could seat more than 1000.  Movie palaces could accommodate from 1,500 to more than 4,000.  But sometimes you can't beat a graph. 

I think of movie palaces like wooly mammoths or sabre-tooth tigers.  They grew to enormous sizes, yet depended on the perfect environment in order to survive.  Movie palaces provided affordable entertainment in a beautiful surrounding. And in the Chicago summer it didn't hurt that you could enjoy air conditioning long before this was readily available.  But the buildings began to age, and the profit margins began to shrink.  New movie theaters were more likely to open in areas with generous amounts of parking.  Many elaborate theaters went into a long decline that ended in demolition.
 
Howard Theater, 1917.  1621 W. Howard
A major burst in movie theater creativity occurred in the Howard Street commercial district.  This
area was a transit hub between Chicago and the North suburbs, and supported a strong commercial and entertainment district after its annexation to Chicago in 1915. At the time you couldn't buy liquor in nearby Evanston, but the merchants along Howard Street were willing to remedy the situation.
From Heating and Ventilating Magazine, 1919

The Howard Theater was designed by Henry Newhouse and built in 1917.  It was soon acquired by Balaban & Katz. The building contained a row of commercial spaces with residential units above and had a seating capacity for 1,625.   Originally the entire brick and terra cotta facade was illuminated with integral lights, including two domed towers which must have been visible throughout the district.  Its ornamentation could perhaps be described as baroque Classical Revival.  The theater was closed some time in the 1970s.   In 1999 the auditorium portion of the building was demolished and the remainder was converted into rental units.


Norshore Theater, 1925. 1763 W. Howard

In 1925 the Norshore Theater located just to the west of the elevated tracks.  It contained 1,748 seats and also had a facade of brick and terra cotta trim.  Portions of the front facade slanted back from the street slightly.  This had the effect of funneling people towards the theater entrance.  At the marquee there were tall terra cotta piers with large signs, visible from east and west.

The ornamentation of this theater was more restrained than that of the Howard Theater.  One source (CinemaTreasures.org)  identifies this as the work of Rapp & Rapp, and the style as French Renaissance Revival.  It was also noted as being operated by Balaban & Katz.  It does seem odd to have two large Balaban & Katz theaters a block away from each other.  The demand for movies at this time must have been breathtaking.  But it wasn't to last.  This theater was demolished in 1960.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Typology of Chicago Alleys

Primary Alley
Because of its reliance on the grid Chicago has been called one of the most right-angled cities in the world.  This may be true, but it doesn't mean that its development has been simple or monolithic.  Like any urban feature, the grid responds to the needs of those who use it.  Sometimes this is subtle, but there are some examples of grid flexibility in Rogers Park which are worth investigating.
 
The neighborhood of Rogers Park was incorporated as the Village of Rogers Park in 1878, but many of the earliest lots were subdivided in 1872 and 1873 and reflect a more suburban scale and character, with generous frontage and depth.  The area was annexed to Chicago in 1893 and the extension of city services and utilities led to steadily increasing development and density.  Many lots intended for purchase in the 1870s were subdivided to make them more attractive for the modest homes that came to the neighborhood in the 1900s and 1910s.  But the new lots still needed alley access, especially with the increasing popularity of the automobile.

Primary Alley Leading to Secondary Alley
Residential street right-of-ways are normally 66 feet wide in Chicago.  This reflected the length of the surveyor's chain, and established the modular dimensions of a typical residential block, which is 660 feet in length (10 chains) by 330 feet wide (5 chains).  Typical pavements are 32 to 34 feet from curb to curb, allowing for two lanes of parking and two lanes of traffic.  Streets with less than 30' of pavement were converted to one-way streets after 1967.  This was done following a particularly bad blizzard, which I'm grateful to have missed.

Grassy Private Alley
Typical alleys range from 16 to 20 feet.  Rear structures are set back 2 or 3 feet from the alley right-of-way, making the clearance a bit wider. Just like streets, alleys are owned and maintained by the city.

When a platted area is cut into smaller parcels a secondary alley will often become a part of that subdivision.  These are narrower, but are also public right-of-ways.  As fire-fighting equipment has become larger it's no longer acceptable to create these narrow alleys.

Private Alley Resembling Driveway
Private alleys are basically access roads carved out of the lots within the subdivision.  Several properties may own a portion of a private alley.  Because they're privately owned the city has no responsibility to maintain them.  Often these remain unpaved, or paved with gravel.  They can easily be mistaken for driveways.  Or if the owners decide they're no longer necessary they might disappear entirely, existing only on paper.

An easement might provide vehicle access like a driveway, or it might be intended to preserve access to light and air.  These are also the result of a private agreement recorded to the property.    I had no luck spotting the one easement contained in my study area.  But if anyone ever wants to be build a garage on top of it I'm sure it will again float to the surface.

The base maps for this post were developed from 80-acre maps on the City of Chicago's website and the 1937 edition of Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps accessed through the website of the Chicago Public Library.  Information about the public right-of-way reference CDOT's "Street and Site Plan Design Standards," also available on the City of Chicago's website.  All the sketches above are all taken from the study area.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Random Places in Lorain, OH

These images were developed from reference photos taken by my wife as we were visiting my hometown of Lorain, Ohio over the 4th of July.

It's strange to be a tourist where I grew up, but kind of nice, too.  It makes me realize how differently I look at the city.  Some of the patterns start to make sense, revealing things about a place which had once been so familiar that I never really saw it.

Monday, July 14, 2014

200 Block of N. Peoria, Chicago

West side of Peoria, North of Lake
Surprisingly, this lucrative blog does not constitute my sole means of support.  I work in the Historic
Preservation Division within Chicago's Department of Planning and Development.  Since January I've been working with our consultants to develop a document which analyzes the architectural character of a pending historic district and creates some recommendations on how to best retain that character in light of future changes and new developments. 

This illustration is something I put together in my spare time (mostly over lunch) to be placed on the cover of that document.  I've simplified it significantly, but I think it captures some of the interest of this area. The two buildings on the left are 1890s, while the one on the right is c. 1910.  This area has been in constant use by wholesale food industries since 1850.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

2328 W. Touhy, 1932

I've always been fascinated by isolated storefronts tucked into residential areas.  Some of these are very successful, but most struggle away from the major commercial corridors and foot traffic.  Chicago has plenty of these first floor commercial spaces scattered throughout the city, remnants of a time when a corner store was a necessity.  The one-story stucco box at Touhy and Claremont has seen better days, but there it remains, looking for a new tenant after that print shop folded. 

Northeast corner of Touhy and Claremont in the West Ridge neighborhood

Many of these areas you can track to the 1923 Zoning Code of Chicago.  When this ordinance was adopted most major streets received commercial designation, but odd little neighborhood intersections were also zoned commercial.  With adoption of the 1957 Zoning Code these were scaled back, but in places which developed according to the earlier code you'll find a variety of enclaves, ranging from odd little strip malls to elaborate Victorian storefronts. Often several of these will be clustered together.

So why would only the north side of Touhy be zoned commercial?  I'm guessing that the map formalized conditions which existed  prior to 1923 as much as it guided future development.  Want to know where to put commercial?  How about where it's already been built? Who's going to complain about that?

On one hand, it's difficult for these buildings to become the focus for a neighborhood.  On the other hand, sometimes they do. Just take a look at the commercial buildings at a typical stop on the Red Line. 

I would hate to see these little neighborhood nodes disappear.  Sometimes they become perfect incubators for unusual businesses.   Areas which are less desirable often have lower rents, and there's where you might find artist's studios, storefront theaters, used book stores, and coffee bars. These are the things which give a neighborhood texture and variety, and make city living a bit more awesome.

Anyone want to start a grocery co-op in an old print shop?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Metra's 1965 Corridor Between Lunt and Touhy

Metra Overpass at Greenleaf, looking North

I take the UP-N Metra train to work every morning and home every evening.  It may possibly be the best and easiest commute in the universe.  While I'm waiting for the train sometimes I notice things from the platform, like these standard 1960s apartment buildings flanking the west side of the embankment.

Ravenswood is split by the train line, so there's a Ravenwood Avenue on either side south of Lunt.  But at Lunt the west side of Ravenswood ends abruptly.  At that point a series of condo buildings occur between Lunt and Touhy, located in the same strip where Ravenswood would have continued through.


These brick buildings (shown in red above) are nearly identical, with low pitched roofs and simple geometric ornament. Some of them are bigger than others, which basically means that a few more units have been tacked on.   A quick check of the Cook County Assessor's website shows that all of them are dated to 1965. 

I'm guessing it's not a coincidence.  That strip of land had been owned by the railroad (at that time the Illinois Parallel Railroad Company) since its incorporation by the Illinois Legislature in 1851.  Passenger service to Waukegan began in 1854, with service to the North Shore beginning in 1856.  By 1869 there were seven trains each way daily.  In 1896 work began to elevate the tracks above grade in an effort to eliminate crossing accidents.

Sanborn Map above and Chicago Zoning Map below
Public rights-of-way have enormous value, even just from a standpoint of square footage.  Railroad rights-of-way were granted to private industry because they had the capital to develop them for public (and private) benefit.  But what happens when the railroad doesn't have a need for as much land as it was given? Does it return that land to the government?  In this case it appears to have been sold off for residential development.

To the right is a Sanborn Fire Insurance map from 1937, showing the previous ownership structure for the area.  The train platform on the west side of the tracks is clearly outlined.  At first I thought that perhaps the railroad bought this land, but if that were the case the alley would extend through.  Instead, I believe this area was part of the granted right-of-way, and was used to provide access to the Rogers Park station.  It also provided a buffer between the trains and the nearby single family homes.

But sometime after 1937 it was determined that this land no longer served the interests of the railroad.  Perhaps the train platform was reconstructed to take up less space. Or perhaps the railroad needed to raise funds.  Regardless, the areas adjacent to the tracks were developed into multi-unit buildings.  North of Touhy the railroad has retained ownership, possibly because the slightly westward angle of the route made the lots less viable for development. 

To me the front facades look a bit like drunken robots.  The developments also created an uncomfortable relationship between the train embankment and the new buildings.  The area in between is a dark, overgrown strip which frequently fills up with trash.  Perhaps not the best land planning, but a good example of how developers maximum the value of undesirable lots.   As if we needed more of those examples...

Metra posts some history about their train lines here, which provided some of the detail and dates above.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

View from the Rogers Park Metra Platform, 2014

My view from the southbound Metra platform at Greenleaf and Ravenswood, where I wait for the 7:20 every weekday morning.    In the background is St. Jeromes Church and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (former Masonic Temple).  Presented here without further annoying commentary. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

West Ridge Architecture #7, Modest Modernism on Jarvis

In 1945 a group of architects got together at the editorial offices of Arts and Architecture magazine to develop a program of residential housing that they hoped would define the shape and form of post-war living.  The results were the Case Study Houses, which were published in that magazine from 1945 through 1964.  These were intended to make use of new materials developed during war-time, to be easily duplicated, and of course, to be affordable.
Entenza Case Study House #9, 1949 (Eames and Saarinen)
These prototypes generated a lot of interest.  However, high-style modernist variations on the single-family home never filled the new neighborhoods and suburbs of post-war America.  The building industries didn't instantly adopt new materials and construction methods and the American public reaffirmed its long-time preference for traditional styles of architecture.  Some of these modernist homes were built, but generally they were unique, built for a specific site and client.   That's not to say some builders and developers didn't make periodic forays into what is now considered the mid-century modern style.
3128 and 3130 W. Jarvis, 1957
Above are two homes which make a nod towards the steel and glass aesthetic of the Case Study homes.  But just a nod.  Like you might nod to someone at the bus stop who looks familiar.  Take note of the large windows, the off-set canted roofs, the clerestories, the rectilinear orientation, etc.  But also note that nothing is too far out of line from what is seen on the more traditional-styled colonials of the same period.  The picture windows are just picture windows, not floor to ceiling glass.  The flat roofs are just stick-built roofs with projecting eaves, not steel cantilevers.

The building industries did modernize after WWII, but not in the way proposed by Arts and Architecture.  Instead the industry standardized traditional construction elements (roofs, floors, walls), which could be combined like Legos and cheaply assembled block after block.

As much as I admire the Case Study homes they really seem huge compared to what can be fit onto a standard Chicago lot.  Each of these homes on Jarvis are on a 30' x 124' lot.   But I like how they mirror each other, giving the impression of a much larger, symmetrical home. And their alternating use of brick and permastone make them look unified, but not identical. They probably haven't drastically transformed the lives of the people who have lived there, but I doubt the Case Study houses did that either.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

West Ridge Architecture #6, Cottages on Troy

1900 Block of W. Estes
Gable front cottages may be the oldest housing type in Chicago.  You can find them throughout the city, ranging from simple frame buildings to highly elaborate versions covered with trim and brackets.  Builders never really stopped creating cottages, right up to the present. To the right are some frame cottages built around 1905 by a single builder. Frame cottages were well suited to narrow city lots, and could be easily expanded and remodelled.


As styles and materials changed the cottages changed as well.  Generous steps and front stoops became somewhat narrower and less generous.  As air conditioning became more common full-width porches gave way to projecting bays.  But long rows of similar cottages were still being developed by small builders wherever inexpensive lots could be found.

The area of West Ridge north of Peterson and West of California developed primarily after WWII, and the standard cottage design takes on some mid-century modern details.

Some of my favorites are the cottage which incorporate recent materials (permastone) and 1920s design elements (Tudor Revival entrances).  The projecting bay windows are very common on homes of this era, as seen in previous posts about Georgian-styles homes.  They allowed a maximum of light into the living room and created an interior focal point.

I haven't yet found historic floor plans for these cottages, but I imagine the second floor is well suited for children's bedrooms.  A few cottages dormer out this space, but those could be later alterations.

Most of these homes are unaltered, but the multi-pane colonial windows have often been replaced and many have lost the ubiquitous shutters.  The projecting bay is perhaps the most ornamental element, and this has often changed out the standing seam metal roof for standard asphalt shingles.

These lots on Troy were originally subdivided in 1923 and are a bit wider (33' frontage) than the standard 25' Chicago lot.  Interestingly, I didn't find any of these which were able to squeeze a driveway through, or locate a garage in the front.  They're really just a bit too small to make that work.





Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Hot Waters, Lorain, OH


When we were kids we had a limited wandering range, which was basically a half-mile from the house.  Within that half-mile there were certain activities we could do without supervision.  One of those was fishing with our plastic Zebco rods.  This was a thankless task, which sometimes resulted in catching large, inedible fish.  Hot Waters was the best place to do this. 

The waters were “hot” because of the effluent from the nearby Ohio Edison electrical plant, which loomed over the crumbling docks.   In the winter the place surged with fish attracted to the warmth.  We would sometimes go “snagging” which involved  ripping a large tripled barbed hook through a dense mass of fish.  It was not very sportsmanlike…
This is the little bait shop where we would buy minnows and worms. We would scoop our own minnows from a large aluminum tank, which was often the only fish I would catch.  Their real business was probably selling ice and beer to the boat owners who would launch from this area.

With the recent demolition of the electrical plant and the opening up of the lakefront I wonder how this area will be used now.