Comfort and Image of Milwaukee Avenue: in its history
The Project for Public Spaces identifies “Comfort and Image” as one of the key attributes of a great place (see diagram below or larger pdf diagram available to download). Much of what I’ve been writing about Milwaukee Avenue, and will continue to write about, has to do with
its comfort and image, or lack thereof at the present. While I’ve so far pointed out mostly the negatives or why it is not comfortable and does not have a good image, Milwaukee Avenue does have a historic quality (as does Logan Square as a whole) that contributes positively to its comfort and image and potential as a great place. Just ask the folks at Preservation magazine who just featured Logan Square in the July/August 2008 issue in “New Life in the Old Neighborhood.”
The Logan Square community has historic ties to some pretty impressive people. The community is named after Civil War General John A. Logan, who also was the founder of Memorial Day. The square and its boulevards were designed by William Le Baron Jenney. Jenney just happened to design the Home Insurance Building in Chicago, which, at a whopping 10 stories then, had the distinction of being
the first skyscraper in the world. The Illinois Centennial Monument in the center of the square was designed by Henry Bacon, who, by the way, also designed the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Logan Square was once called home by Marilu Henner (of “Taxi” fame), Ignaz Schwinn (of bicycle fame), Knute Rockne (of “Win one for the Gipper” and Notre Dame football fame), and Walt Disney (of, Mickey Mouse and, well, Disney fame).
Cycling, football, and a baseball connection too: the Logan Square Ball Park was located on Milwaukee Avenue north of Logan Square proper until 1925.
And the Logan Square Theater may be the last second run movie house in Chicago.
Milwaukee Avenue has always been a commercial way from its early days as an Indian trade route from Chicago to Milwaukee. That original dirt trail became the Northwestern Plank Road in the mid-19th century when heavy wooden planks were laid across stringers on either side of the road and our first “toll road” was constructed. Logan Square was long the streetcar terminus and terminus for the elevated train line as well. Prior to World War II, the Logan Square business district, centered around this stretch of Milwaukee Avenue, was ranked fourth in sales volume in the entire city.
Milwaukee Avenue has always been a panoply of Chicago ethnicities too, from the early German and Scandinavian settlers, to the Poles and Eastern Europeans and Italians and Cubans, and the Puerto Ricans and other Latinos of today. Some of their history is told through buildings and signs that remain today.
Much of the building stock on Milwaukee Avenue north of Logan Square’s square was constructed about 100 years ago, when craftsmanship was rampant and buildings were built to appeal to people walking down the street. The mostly residential Logan Square Boulevards District has been designated an official Chicago Landmark, as has a substantial part of the Milwaukee-Kimball-Diversey intersection with its historic commercial buildings.
One sure thing Milwaukee Avenue has going for it is its history.
Cine en el Parque: películas en español bajo las estrellas, dos miércoles del verano/Movies in the Park: Spanish language films (with English subtitles) under the stars, two summer Wednesdays:
“El Sueño del Paraíso”
at Mozart Park June 25
“Elsa & Fred” at
Mozart Park July 9