Sunday, October 6, 2013

West Ridge Architecture, #1

This series is vaguely labeled, but will focus on the architecture of the West Ridge neighborhood that developed during the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.  And not all of it.  As usual, I'll be guided by my own interests and curiosity.  That's the great thing about being self-directed-- nobody is pointing out your gaps in methodology.  The drawback is that nobody is helping you to shape your analysis either.  If you screw up it's entirely on you.

There have been a few posts on West Ridge already, and here they are:

Farwell and Oakley, 1928
Some Chicago Bungalows in West Ridge
Veteran's Housing in West Ridge, 1946-1947
Howard and Washtenaw, c. 1958
Townhouses at Greenleaf and Oakley, 1968

The new series will take a more extensive look at some issues touched upon in previous posts.  These will include:
  1. Subdivisions
  2. Developers
  3. Mid-century site planning 
  4. MId-century styles
  5. Single and multi-family buildings
  6. Commercial development
  7. Whatever else I decide is worth writing about.
There has been some writing on the remarkable commercial buildings on Lincoln, but there are other neighborhood buildings in commercial areas which also deserve some attention.
Howard and Washtenaw, 1958
While early development in West Ridge clustered in the center and east side of the neighborhood, significant undeveloped portions were available to accommodate the post-war building boom, especially to the northwest.  In 1956 and 1957 West Ridge surpassed all other Chicago communities in home construction (according to "Chicago's Far North Side", p.126).
West Ridge Boundaries and Building Footprint Data (Available free online!)

The map above is adapted from City of Chicago GIS data, showing older buildings in yellow and more recent buildings in maroon.  I don't have much confidence in the accuracy for the individual buildings (and there are huge gaps in this data), but it does provide a qualitative illustration of the sequence of development, with mid-century buildings primarily west of California. Which seems like a good place to start.


  1. Of course, the West Ridge bungalows are the most beautiful, but there's some weird attraction with the mid-century houses. On Sunday, we walked down the length of California from Howard to Peterson, and there was something which made me think these were more than just sloppy and out-of-date. I was meaning to try to find some history of the development here, and see that you've started down the same road. Can't wait to see what you learn. Thanks for blogging!

  2. Thanks Steve. West Ridge is one of those neighborhoods that runs the gauntlet of 20th century architecture. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.