On Saturday Sept. 14, Logan Square Preservation held its 31st annual House and Garden Walk. The walk highlighted seven houses in Palmer Square and Old Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Church where it began. For $30, visitors toured each building and received a booklet detailing each’s history and architecture. A map on the back directed walkers to spaces open to the public. Participants could visit them in any order they liked. Logan Square Preservation members served as docents who met gatherers at the entrance of each location to explain the residence’s exterior architecture. Groups later moved inside where other volunteers guided them through the interior areas. When the walk began at 10 am, eager visitors already were walking down Palmer Square with booklets and coffees in hand. By the day’s end, more than 700 people completed the walk.
The tour began at Old Holy Resurrection Serbian Orthodox Church (3062 W. Palmer Square), the only non-private residence on the itinerary and location whose interior could be photographed. The building, established in 1910, was severely damaged by a fire in the 1960s. After purchasing it in 1970, the Serbian Orthodox Church began renovating the structure, which explains the original Gothic exterior and rebuilt interior filled with Byzantine features. Elements of the Christian Orthodox faith fill the sanctuary: candle stands for flames that burn in prayer, icons of saints acting as windows into another world, a bell tower beckoning worshipers and a holy altar through which only priests may enter. The church holds the Divine Liturgy each Sunday at 10 am.
Of the seven private dwellings, more than half displayed “American Four Square” or “prairie-style” architecture, with wide, boxy porches. The others were Chicago two-flat and cottage-style homes. Each house retained antiquated elements, such as push light switches and original light fixtures once lit by gas. In several instances, swinging doors separated dining rooms from kitchens, which created private space for hosting guests free from distracting kitchen noise.
Docents often described Logan Square’s architectural style as “eclectic,” which characterizes the neighborhood’s historical development. Wealthy merchants began to buy land when it was plotted out in the late 19th century. Many came from bustling areas, such as the Gold Coast, looking for more space and quiet. These merchants borrowed architectural elements of their old neighborhoods as they built new homes: Greek columns, Victorian trim, bay windows, stained glass windows and beautiful interior wood work.
Many houses fell into disrepair in the decades that followed. However, in 1985 the Logan Square Boulevard, and houses that lined it, were added to the National Register of Historic Places. Homeowners soon took an interest in restorative projects, some of which were daunting. In one instance, a kitchen floor lined with linoleum destroyed the original wood underneath it, which had to be replaced. At 3104 W. Palmer Square, workers broke through a layer of plaster, two of tile and another of drywall in order to expose the original kitchen tile. In the case of 2048 N. Humbldt Blvd., one owner covered the prominent woodwork with white paint, which had to be removed. At 3071 W. Palmer Square, the entire building was reshaped. The second owners converted the single house into a two flat, and subsequent owners built it back to a single house, converting bedrooms to living rooms and bathrooms to kitchens. This concern for meticulous restoration has created breathtaking homes that preserve their original features.
A few items emerged from hiding during this restorative period: a 1922 report card from Lane Tech discovered in the walls of 3080 W. Palmer Square (with good marks!), a Texas 3-cent stamp from 1945 found under a door plate at 3071 W. Palmer Square, and most interesting of all, a 1912 Cubs program found in the walls of 3104 Palmer Square. It sold for a nickle. The center of the program displays an add for Chicago’s Old Style Lager, and words in the right hand corner boast of the team’s then recent achievement: “Champions of the World 1907-1908.”
Each tour ended in a backyard garden where guests could relax before visiting the next house. Although most garages were not open to the public, docents pointed out how they were designed for horse-drawn carriages. A large circular area sits in front of the garage at 2026 N. Humbolt Blvd. where carriages were able to turn around. Only the garage at 3080 W. Palmer Square was open to the public. The current owner built it into a man cave that contains refurbished clocks, radios and a working CTA fair box from the 1940s.
Cyclists on Palmer Square
During the walk, Andrew Schneider, president of Logan Square Preservation, stood on the corner of Palmer Square and Humboldt Boulevard offering brief lectures to those who passed by. He used old photographs to illustrate the original oval shape of Palmer Square. North Humboldt Boulevard and Kedzie Boulevard did not cut off the east and west ends of this oval until a much later time. The ovular dirt road attracted cyclists whose bikes were then difficult to stop. The track was also used to host cycling events where people came to see “wheelmen” ride around the track in different colored outfits. The second page of the House and Garden Walk guidebook notes: “In one particularly descriptive Chicago Tribune article, dated May 25, 1896, the writer calls the Associated Cycling Clubs Annual Run—where clubs chose specific colors and patterns as riding emblems—a “kaleidoscope of color.”
Schneider explained how the popularity of cycling in Palmer Square led Ignaz Schwinn, the creator of the Schwinn bicycle, to purchase an entire block and build a house on its corner. He left his house to St. Sylvester Catholic Church (2157 N. Humboldt Blvd.), which demolished it in order to build the school that stands there today. He also bought a house across Humboldt Boulevard where his workers lived.
About Logan Square Preservation
Logan Square Preservation is a nonprofit community organization dedicated to educating citizens about architecture, history and beautification. They refurbished the Comfort Station into a community-focused arts space in 2011 and recently hosted a month-long photo exhibit displaying more than 125 historic photos of Logan Square. They are currently seeking grants to illuminate the Illinois Centennial Monument, as well as install energy efficient models of the historic “cattail” streetlights to all sections of the boulevard. They have secured two grants to plant 30 trees along Humboldt Boulevard, which will take place on Saturday Oct. 4.