Monday, June 25, 2012

Infrastructure #4

I thought I would repost this (from Feb. 2010) since CTA is actually starting to repair these stations.

This is the underpass for the L tracks at Lunt and Glenwood.  I seldom see one of these viaducts which isn't falling apart.  Instead of repairing them CTA (and Metra) tends to slap together elaborate steel supports.  Over the years water has seeped through every seam and creates little calcium formations underneath.  I wonder how long it will be until they need to replace all of these.  It would be a good opportunity to make these areas a little less creepy.

And why can't they can't get tenants for most of those little stores under the tracks?  Sure they're dark and cramped, but isn't that a selling point for some businesses?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Clark and Estes, northwest corner 1900 and 2008

Combined Police Headquarters and Fire Department, c. 1900
In sad recognition of the recent closing of The Washing Well I'm reposting this from December of 2008.

The drawing to the right is adapted from a collection of historic Rogers Park photos published by the Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society.  I've done a number of these "then and now" pairings, but this is one of my favorites.

The police and fire station at Clark and Estes also operated as the Rogers Park Town Hall prior to annexation to Chicago in 1893.

The Washing Well Laundromat, 2008

Monday, June 18, 2012

North side of Lunt, between Clark and Ravenswood

Another reprint from the 2003 booklet:
For this project the streetscape was the basic unit of information, but that wasn't really enough to understand how the buildings relate to the space around them.  For that I needed some panoramic images, but not so large that the street would be distorted beyond recognition.
This image shows the relationship of the building on the far left to the metra tracks and overpass just to the west.
And this shows the alley beween the car repair shop and the second building from the left, along with a glimpse of the taller building to the right, which has frontage on both Lunt and Clark.  Nowadays I might have chosen to add streets names for clarity.
Above is some of the information taken from the ancient permit files and the criss-cross directories I found at the Chicago Historical Society.  Sometimes I was lucky enough to find a business description on the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps.

And I couldn't leave out this auto repair shop.  Here's what I wrote about it at the time:

This repair shop and filling station was built adjoining a large horse stable to the north.  For a while you could fill up your gas tank or have your horse groomed at the same place.  The stables were later converted to light industry (screen manufacturing) and eventually demolished.  The shape of the stables explains the oddly shaped parking lot behind this building.

Later I read John Jakle and Keith Sculle's great book, The Gas Station in America, which has a chapter analyzing the transition from horse-based service buildings to car-based. I wish I had read that first, but I'll come back to it some day.

The building on the far right (the Doland Block) was saved for a page of its own.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

1254-1256 W. Albion (from 2005)

As promised, here's my entry for an apartment on Albion and Lakewood, reprinted and reformatted from Doors! Of Rogers Park! .  In this booklet I tried to start with a small detail and expand the scope out from the building into the neighborhood.

1254-1256 Albion

Date: 1925
Architect: R. J. Johnson
Owner: G. E. Halberg
Permit: A100426
File: 96890
Ledger: North 33 Page 48
Cost: $60,000
Size: 27'x116'x40'

I love the shape of this building. Faced with a triangular lot, the architect created a triangular building with a key-hole courtyard to give sufficient natural light and ventilation.

The details of these large apartments are generally not surprising, but the layouts always fascinate to me. There’s a lot to be said for not depending on air conditioning and artificial lighting. Urban architects created some great spaces to comfortably accommodate the tenants in a large multi-unit building.

Of course there are failures, too. Anyone who’s been in enough apartments must remember looking across a dim light well into a neighbor’s living room, bedroom, or bathroom. Or maybe just a blank brick wall where everyone dumps their cat-litter.

Usually the architects who designed these buildings are little known, so it’s a  pleasure to track down their names in the permit files. I feel like I’ve done some small good just uncovering that bit of history. And who knows? It might lead to the R.J. Johnson Apartment Renaissance.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Doors! Of Rogers Park! - 2005

The next Ultra Local Geography booklet published was in 2005.  It focused on a somewhat random assortment of apartment buildings doors in the neighborhood.  But it had a pleasant introduction, which I'm inserting below with a few minor edits:

I’m sure you’ve seen these. Maybe in an airport gift shop, or at a poster shop… maybe at a museum? They’re fairly predictable—Doors of Dublin, Doors of Philadelphia, Doors of Berlin. And of course, it’s exactly what it claims to be- doors. Sometimes there are dozens of them, usually arranged in a grid pattern. They’re old, or architecturally distinguished, or representative of a particular regional style. And I have to admit, they’re fascinating. Sometimes the images are so appealing that they’re shrunk to the size of a postcard and the details approach illegibility.

But they seem to promise more than they deliver. I wonder why they look the way they do, how old they are, what their neighborhood is like… But they’re still fascinating. Maybe it’s the sheer creativity of applying unique solutions to the same problem again and again.

But there was another element about these posters that I began to resent. A door can be a work of art, but it’s also an example of the functional beauty that surrounds us every day. What would it be like to treat these elements as relevant aspects of our everyday life? Basically, this booklet is an alternative to those posters.

[I'll be posting some of the booklet pages in the future.]

Monday, June 11, 2012

West side of Clark, between Lunt and Greenleaf, 2003

My first Ultra Local Geography publication was a xeroxed 'zine that I sold in Rogers Park for $3.  It was a history of the block bounded by Clark, Lunt, Ravenswood and Greenleaf.  I still think it was a good idea, but the drawings and organization could have been improved.  At the time I remember thinking how great it was.
I doubt anyone has seen this image for a while.  And it doesn't exactly lend itself to the vertical format of a blog.  And the last time I printed up new copies of the booklet was in 2006. 

It's interesting to see how much the block has changed since 2003.  Businesses have come and gone, facades have been repair or altered, signs and awnings have gone up (and down).  A severe fire resulted in new storefronts and brickwork for a portion of the strip.  Maybe I need to do an update on this block every 10 years or so...