Thursday, March 24, 2016

Garage Pass-Throughs in 1920s Apartment Buildings

I've written previously about the large courtyard apartment buildings that were built in Rogers Park throughout the 1920s. During that same decade there were also smaller buildings constructed, similar in style but closer to single family homes in terms of their size and amenities. Many of these buildings accommodated a family on each floor, including a live-in housekeeper.   But an increasingly important perk for middle-class urban dwellers was parking for the family car. 
A. 1518 W. Greenleaf (1930),  B.7058-60 N. Greenview (1927),  C. 1535 W. Estes (1927)
Rear garages with alley access have always been important in Chicago, but when an alley wasn't available a driveway pass-through would allow residents to park their cars behind the building. These tunnels were especially common in dense areas where side yards had been eliminated in an attempt to maximize value.  With tunnels going through the building, all floors could continue to benefit from windows facing the street to bring light into the units. In the case of the three examples here, all were constructed on a block which lacked an alley.

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These buildings use a Georgian Revival vocabulary, including quoins, cornices, ornamented pediments, balustrades, urns, and a strongly emphasized main entrance. A primary characteristic of the Georgian Revival is symmetry. But it's hard to maintain symmetry when you have one big opening for cars and a much smaller opening for people. The building on Greenview solves this problem by doubling the design and having two tunnels.  This wasn't possible for the smaller buildings. Instead, they use sidelights, windows, and door surrounds to try and balance out the size difference. It doesn't work entirely, but I can appreciate the effort.

I also like these buildings because they physically memorialize the size of cars in the 1920s, which were somewhat narrower than today's cars. I don't envy the drivers who have to squeeze through these garage pass-throughs today...on their way to vintage 1920's garages.


  1. Used to play in same at 707 W. Junior Terrace.

  2. I'm sure there are some good examples of this building type in Edgewater and Uptown! Especially close to the lake.