Like many Logan Square residents, I’ve spent many a sunny day lounging in the grass along Logan Boulevard or wandering up and down the sidewalks on a leisurely stroll with my dog. While I’m familiar with the houses lining the street, I’ve never had the opportunity to admire the architecture until now.
This past weekend, I had the pleasure of joining a walking tour of Logan Square guided by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. It was hot outside, and we sought solace in the shade as much as possible, but the tour guide, Pam, marveled us with facts about the history of the boulevard and the makeup of Logan Boulevard architecture in particular. Turns out, the boulevard’s architectural origins are all over the place.
The West Park Boulevard System
As I learned on the tour, Logan Boulevard was initially built as part of a vision to live up to Chicago’s motto, “Urbs in horto,” meaning “city in a garden.” The idea for a park boulevard system came about in the mid-1880s, with the goal of having green parks and enticing neighborhoods snaking through the city. Logan Boulevard was part of the West Park system, along with Humboldt, Garfield and Douglas Parks. Architect and engineer William Le Baron Jenney designed the West Park system.
The homes along the boulevard — considered the outskirts of the city at the time — were built from the late 1880s to the early 1900s largely by German and Scandinavian immigrants with new money.
The fascinating part about these homes is that their design aesthetic is not comprised of any one specific style; each home design was pieced together with ideas the owner admired in other’s homes. One particular area of inspiration was the affluent Prairie Avenue on Chicago’s South Side. While homes do have some similarities, such as a mixture of bedstone in the front, brick in the back, the elemental design varies from house to house.
There are a ton of other interesting facts I’d like to share from the walk, but it’s best to let the pictures do some of the talking, and then to experience the walk firsthand.
The Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church (2614 N. Kedzie Ave.), also known as the Minnekirken (“memorial church”), is currently one of only two Norwegian churches in the United States. When it was first built in the early 20th Century, there were 20 Norwegian churches. The Logan Square Preservation society helps raise funds to have the stained glass windows restored over time.
This house is possibly one of the more well-known homes along the boulevard, at the corner of Whipple Street and Logan Boulevard. You can see from this angle that the house followed the style of using bedstone, a specific limestone from Indiana that was popular at the time, in the front and brick along the side and back.
We stopped at this house on the tour to admire the mason work lining the front door. The flowers etched around the doorway are poppies, which were popular at the time of construction.
This church was originally built as the Eleventh Church of Christ, Scientist. It is now the Iglesia Adventista Hispana Central de Chicago (2840 W. Logan Blvd.), and I never noticed before the architecture tour that you can see the original name of the building peeking out from behind the new sign above the columns.
The guide did not have a lot of information on this house, other than it has what looks like the original bedstone front, but the new modern siding is covering it on the top half of the house. This is one of the few houses that stood out as very unique amongst multi-story brick and bedstone.
This is the Rath House (2703 W. Logan Blvd.), which was designated a landmark in the early 1990s. Built in 1907, this house has architectural significance as the architect was George W. Maher, known for his Prairie-school style that was popular with architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
One of the facts that stuck with me the most is that these two homes, next door to the Rath House, were built only two years earlier in 1905. The difference in architecture and design is vast, yet fitting for Logan Boulevard’s anti-cookie cutter look.
The Logan Square Auditorium (2539 N. Kedzie Blvd.) was built in 1915 as one of the main social venues for neighborhood residents at the time. Our tour guide Pam pointed out the eagle at the top of the building, facing in the direction of the Illinois Centennial Monument (which also has an eagle at the top).
The Chicago Architecture Foundation offers Logan Square walking tours about once a month. For more information, visit www.architecture.org.