Meet Elizabeth Blasius, an enthusiastic historian and preservationist that sees a lot more than meets the Logan Square eye.
Architectural historian and preservationist. I travel frequently throughout the Midwest photographing and researching buildings. A big part of my job is determining if buildings are eligible as historic, so in many cases, I am dealing with buildings built in the ’50s and ’60s. I have to be able to predict the past of the future.
How long have you lived in Logan Square?
Favorite neighborhood hangouts?
Gaslight (@gaslight_coffee, 2385 N. Milwaukee Ave.) for coffee, Tierra Caliente #2 (2556 W. Armitage Ave.) for tacos, Dos Amigos (2320 N. Milwaukee Ave.) for pozole and great cocktails at both Longman & Eagle (@longmanandeagle, 2657 N. Kedzie Ave.) and the Whistler (@WhistlerChicago, 2657 N. Kedzie Ave.). I also love Logan Hardware (2532 W. Fullerton Ave.). I can easily blow an hour looking for records, and an additional hour in the arcade museum.
What drew you to history?
My dad has always been interested in old buildings and history, so growing up in the Detroit area, he would find abandoned building adventures for us to go on together. Old buildings were fascinating from a material standpoint, but I became obsessed with understanding the process of occupation and neglect; how a building could be designed, built, and lived in for decades, and then left to decay. As an architectural historian, I identify the “hows” and “whats” of this process and as a preservationist I analyze and contextualize this information so history can fit seamlessly with the present.
What’s your favorite historical fact about Logan Square?
Despite the fact that Logan Square lost a lot of great buildings when the Blue Line was sunk underground and 90/94 severed the east end of the neighborhood, much of Logan Square has a “trapped in amber quality” to it, like you can almost see a horse and carriage bouncing along Humboldt Boulevard. That being said, I can’t help but think about how different the intersection of Milwaukee, Kedzie and Humboldt would be if the elevated train wouldn’t have been stuck underground during a time in Chicago’s history where great neighborhood buildings weren’t looked at as the assets they are today. There would definitely be fewer infill buildings and Mega Malls, and empty lots for developers to overbuild on in 2014.
What’s your favorite building or historic monument in the neighborhood?
There are so many! How do I choose one? I adore the old service station on California and Altgeld, Liberty Bank (2392 N. Milwaukee Ave.), The Logan Square Auditorium (2539 N. Kedzie Ave.) and Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church (2614 N. Kedzie Ave.). I’m also partial to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (3235 W. Wrightwood Ave.) because it’s got those great mid-century Gothic forms and that spire that looks like you could clean your teeth with it. Last weekend, I was trying to find a good way to photograph the Chase Bank on Milwaukee and Prindville because it’s so unusual.
What do you wish more neighbors realized about the area?
Logan Square has some strong community organizations that have had a history of making a difference at the ultra-local level. Logan Square Preservation is doing a great job fighting against “visual blight” issues such as billboards, and has just introduced an initiative to install LED cattail streetlights along the boulevards that look great, with a bonus energy savings. The Logan Square Neighborhood Association (2840 N. Milwaukee Ave.) is working hard to tell developers that their plan to demolish such a large percentage of the Lathrop Homes is unacceptable in a community where affordable housing is desperately needed.
How do you spend your time in Logan Square?
Loitering in any one of Logan Square’s public green spaces, from the Illinois Centennial Monument to the Boulevards to Palmer Square. I’m a runner, so naturally I’m a fan of the track in Palmer Square.
What are your favorite hobbies?
I always make the joke that I don’t like a lot of other things besides old buildings, which is pretty true. I like Bollywood movies, building things out of LEGO and listening to and discovering new music. I can’t cook particularly well, but I’m very, very good at ordering in restaurants.
What are you most looking forward to this summer in Logan Square/Chicago?
Wearing vintage sun dresses, riding my bike to the beach, Miko’s Italian Ice.
I use Blaservations to identify myself in preservation and architecture. It’s a combination of the words “preservation,” “observation” and my last name, Blasius. A historian can never stop learning, and Blaservations begins when I see something that makes me curious, or gets me thinking. I’m doing fresh research to satisfy my need to know everything I can about the built world, and sharing it so that others can have that eureka moment right along with me. I’m on Instagram as @blaservations if you like pictures, and WordPress if you prefer words.
Any last thoughts?
Johnny’s Grill forever.
“Socializing the neighborhood” is at the core of the LoganSquarist mission, so we introduce readers to interesting and unique residents throughout Logan Square in our Know Your Neighbor column. If you know someone who would be ideal for to feature, let us know.