The Logan Square Preservation kicked off their monthlong exhibit “Picturing Logan Square: An Exhibition of Rare Images” on Aug. 3 with an opening reception at the Comfort Station (@Comfort_Station, 2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) where they are displayed.
Sandwiches from The Radler (@DasRadler, 2375 N. Milwaukee Ave.) and 100 servings of Italian ice from Miko’s Italian Ice (@MikosItalianIce, 2236 N. Sacramento Ave.) were gone within the first hour of the reception as hoards of people poured through the Comfort Station. Nearly 400 people showed up to peruse the 128 vintage photographs of Logan Square spanning from the late 1800s to the late 1960s.
Exhibit Started Out of ‘Curiosity’
Logan Square Preservation president Andrew Schneider began curating the images in 2006 out of “curiosity.” His collection has mostly come through eBay and donations. Members of a postcard collection society gave 30 of the photos in the exhibit.
Schneider says he eventually wants to put the gallery online, but having an exhibit allows Logan Square neighbors to interact in the presence of the images.
“The cross section [of people present stretches] way back. So we’ve got this tremendous depth of memory here,” he says. “People coming through [see] not only the photo exhibit, but each other as well.”
Photos Show Evolution of Logan Square
Joe Kopera, 65, has lived in Logan Square since 1961 and now has an honorary street name on Bingham. As he attended the reception, he freely told stories about growing up and watching the neighborhood change. From 1966 to 1969, he worked the counters and made the sodas on Sundays at the Walgreens that used to be at Spaulding and Milwaukee. At that same Walgreens, his mother was a waitress, his brother-in-law was a stocker, his brother-in-law’s brother was also a stocker, and his wife and her sister worked at the cosmetic counter.
“It was a family affair for us in the sixties,” Kopera says.
Kopera also mentioned the clothing stores that used to inhabit Milwaukee Avenue just south of Diversey Avenue.
“When I was working at Walgreens, when I’d get my paycheck, I’d walk across the street on Friday and buy myself some clothes for school—which my mother forced me to do,” Kopera says. “[It was] polyester back in the days. It was before John Travolta … Then a couple years later when the music started changing—the Beatles came around—it was mop heads and things like that.”
As the clothing and the hairstyles were the changing in Logan Square, so was the landscape. In 1968 the construction of the El caused some upheaval, taking down 27 buildings, and many businesses, in its wake. One of two 40-foot by 50-foot aerial shots in the exhibit features the neighborhood mid-El construction. It was this photograph that first jumped out at Logan Square resident Michael Langhoff.
“I really didn’t have any expectation as far as what I might learn, but after viewing all of the photos of familiar structures alongside ones long forgotten, I was surprised to see how much of the area hasn’t changed all that much, and how close I felt to the captured history,” Langhoff says. “I was happy to see these photographs displayed within a historic landmark.”
Schneider says many of the landmarks and “bones of buildings” are still here, but he wishes the city was a little less heavy-handed with demolition.
“I’m not against development. I think that I want everything to be its best,” Schneider says. “I think that, if I have a frustration with development, it’s that far too often it’s the lowest common denominator development. And I think our neighborhood deserves better than that – which is why I often push for historic preservation. Because I think that, many times, what we have already is superior in its durability, its original construction in every way superior, than what we will get. Not of what we could get, but what we will get.”
Logan Square Got Worse Before It Got Better
Kopera noticed more change in the tone of Logan Square after the El was constructed. He says the neighborhood “deteriorated” and he didn’t feel comfortable walking down Milwaukee Avenue. But in the early 2000s he saw the neighborhood “coming back,” and he enjoys walking around again. In the change, he says the bars have turned into “restaurant-bars.”
“Bars like in the old days, we got drunk. I’m sure some people still get drunk, but it’s more of a social atmosphere,” Kopera says. “You don’t go to a bar to get drunk, you come to socialize. Back in them days, you’d talk to the bartender and you drowned out all your sorrows. Now you come and enjoy yourself with all your friends and family.”
Some of Kopera’s favorite spots are Revolution Brewery (@RevBrewChicago, 2323 N. Milwaukee Ave.), Logan Arcade (@LoganArcade, 2410 W. Fullerton Ave.) and Masada (@Masada_Chicago, 2206 N. California Ave.).
Langhoff has been a resident of Logan Square for more than 10 years, but last September, he and his wife planted roots in the neighborhood and bought a home.
“I hope to see a greater participation and engagement across cultures, and that as Logan Square develops, residents will be equipped to listen to the actual needs of the community as a whole,” Langhoff says. “Ideally, the exhibit would bring together new members of the community with long-time residents to help Logan Square grow while being conscious of its important history.”
Schneider says the intersection of old and new residents has been happening so far at the exhibit.
“New people in the neighborhood are able to glean,” he says. “[Not only might they] take their own perspective away, but they learn something, hopefully, about …the staying power of the neighborhood.”
Check It Out
Next Sunday, Aug. 31 from noon until 3 p.m. will be the gallery’s last open hours.