Thursday, September 19, 2013

House Walk! 2013!

Pratt East of Ridge Looking West
Since the Spring of 2012 I've been a board member of my local historical society.  Which has mainly shown me I don't have as much time as I thought I did.  A few months ago the members in charge of the annual house walk (a major fundraiser for the society), announced the homes they wished to feature.  It included many nondescript frame houses, which is totally up my alley.  The idea was to contrast the modest homes of early Rogers Park residents with the homes of some established greenhouse farmers in West Ridge. So I volunteered to provide some research and illustrations.
1830 W. Pratt
I've always been interested in the possibilities of neighborhood tours, even though I haven't organized many.  I'm especially interested in tours which can tell a story not immediately apparent from a casual walk through the area.  For me this often means focusing on the non-beautiful, overlooked buildings more important for their type and context than their style.

But when you're part of a local organization that has to pay the
6836 N. Ridge
bills while recruiting new members it's easy for a house walk to try to expand its appeal.  After all, there's a good chance the owners of the homes featured in the program may become active members of the society.  And there's nothing wrong with that.
6815 N. Wolcott

My own participation in the project was scattershot.  I started to get interested in mapping the changes in the area, and then I was distracted by the right-of-way
abandonments that occurred as a nearby industrial area expanded.  I did put together some illustrations of the participating homes, and I did a bit of research on the original subdivision of the area and the dates of construction.  But when people are paying $20 for a house tour it's not enough to stand outside and talk about a dozen homes.  They want to explore, compare, look at the yard, and ask questions.  Getting people to open up their home to a troop of strangers is not my forte.  This  was done the old fashioned way, with the organizers walking door-to-door.  I'm assuming with clipboards and name tags.

1901 W. Farwell
Owners aren't always excited to have dozens of people swarm through their house.  I wouldn't necessarily want a bunch of strangers in my condo wondering why there are so many toys scattered about or why we haven't repainted.  So, unsurprisingly, several of the homes initially identified were dropped from the schedule and replaced with others.   Which changes the story of the tour.  And incidentally, made several of my illustrations unusable.

Still, it was a learning experience.  Generally, if you want to appeal to a broad group you need to broaden the tour.  And my idea for a tour focusing on Rogers Park infrastructure?  That may need to be done with a select group of attendees.

Click for a larger version.