On Monday, August 21st, the solar eclipse is making its long-awaited appearance, and Comfort Station has the perfect spot for you to watch.
They’ll be providing CE- and ISO-certified eclipse glasses and opening their lawn to outdoor viewers, as well as screening the eclipse on a live feed inside the station.
The last time a total solar eclipse happened was 26 years ago, in 1991. At that time, Comfort Station (2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.) was 65 years old.
And while Comfort Station is now a spot for multidisciplinary arts and community-driven programs, it was initially built as a literal comfort station for travelers along the city’s park boulevard system.
Urbs in Horto in Action
In the late 1800s, the City of Chicago implemented a 26-mile park boulevard system as a way to connect neighborhoods and spur economic growth as well as housing development. Logan Boulevard was a part of this park system.
A few decades later in the 1920s – before the Chicago Park District was established – Chicagoans had passed legislation to create three commissions that would work in tandem to further promote the popular city motto, “urbs in horto.”
One of the commissions, the West Chicago Parks Commission, decided in 1926 to create a series of comfort stations that would line the boulevard in their respective territory. There were nine stations in total, though only two remain today, one of which is Comfort Station. The stations served as warming areas and had restrooms to make traveling along the boulevard a more pleasant experience.
Due to the Great Depression, many parks initiatives were affected; the majority of the comfort stations were demolished or abandoned not long after they were set up. According to Comfort Station’s history timeline, the Logan Square building managed to escape demolition many times, but it was still mainly used as a tool shed of sorts for the Department of Transportation as early as the 1940s.
From Public Space to Tool Shed – to Public Space Again
This changed in the early 2000s, when the Logan Square Preservation (LSP) took on the project of restoring Comfort Station to its original appearance. Though they were successful in their restoration, they didn’t know what they were going to use the building for.
Jordan Martins, the Executive Director for Comfort Station, said in an email that the idea of making it a community-centered space evolved over time.
“When the renovation was completed around 2010, they had no concrete plans for what should happen inside, and David Keel, who was a member of LSP, asked if he could use it for a group art show,” Martins said. “In a nutshell, that’s how it started, with additional programs and volunteers slowly adding on each year since.”
Just as Logan Square has changed over the years, so has Comfort Station’s programming and audience for art exhibits.
“We’ve seen a steady increase in people coming to all of our programs. A big part of how we expand audience is through our programming being pluralistic,” Martins said. “We hope that someone who comes in for our popular summer film events on the lawn will come back to an art opening, a concert or a lecture. Our identity as a public space is central to what we do. The building is city owned, so every person who comes to an event is also part owner of the space in essence. This is part of why we aim to have nearly all of what happens there be free to the public, as well as having open submission forms for all aspects of our programming.”
Comfortable Space With a View
As for the solar eclipse event planned for the 21st, it’s a free event with more than 150 people RSVP’d to attend on Facebook.
If you’re worried about eye safety for the event, they’ve got you covered. Despite the current drought of eclipse viewing glasses, Raul Benitez, the Comfort Station Film Programmer, said in an email that they have some on hand thanks to planning in advance. They also received a helpful donation from the Adler Planetarium, after meeting the planetarium president, Michelle B. Larson, at a Comfort Station event.
“We got to talking, and I told her about what we do at Comfort Station and our plan to do an eclipse viewing party,” Benitez said. “We really appreciate their donation of eclipse glasses and their support of our little viewing party.”
Benitez said that while there’s no official seats, the lawn space provides great viewing, and local musician Paisley Babylon will be performing “ambient and space type music” during the event.
Visit www.comfortstationlogansquare.org for more information about upcoming events.