Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Land of the Courtyard Apartments

I came across a number of areas in Rogers Park with high concentrations of courtyard apartments, but take a walk on Estes between Sheridan and Glenwood to see the clear winner.  Most of the buildings below were constructed between 1923 and 1924, creating an instant neighborhood and bringing hundreds of new residents to the block.

Now and again I like to resort to oblique angle aerial photos as reference imagery to better convey massing and context.  These photos used to be found only in city planning departments but now you can find them online for free.  Maybe they're not the most up-to-date, but good enough for my needs.  The drawing below is adapted from a bird's-eye photo found on the Bing search engine.
Estes between Sheridan and Glenwood.  To the left is the Red Line Elevator.  Click for larger version.
I like how the courtyards themselves read from above as geometric English gardens.  I was going to try and show the rooftop structures  (HVAC, skylights, elevator overrides, etc.) but it made the drawing too complex and difficult to read.  The white lines on some rooftops represent the bearing walls between units.

As much as I like courtyard apartments I have to think that maybe this is too much.  This block has lost some of the interest and variety you find in most of Rogers Park.  It doesn't help that nearly every one of these buildings is securely fenced.  The building at 1345-1359 W. Estes actually has curved and spiked fencing, which gives it a feeling of being under siege.  And it's likely that they're fenced in for good reason.  This is unfortunate, and it wasn't always the case.  Below is a Tribune blurb about this building when it was under construction as luxury rentals.
Chicago Daily Tribune: Feb. 18, 1923, pg. A13.
It's easy to forget that these buildings had so many amenities.  They attracted residents with higher-than-average incomes, those that might have opted to find a single family home further  towards the edge of the city.

I would be surprised if any of these buildings retained their entertaining rooms and playrooms.  For the most part they're now laundry and storage rooms.  If there are any courtyard apartment buildings in Rogers Park that still have elaborate communal facilities I would love to pay them a visit. 

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