Thursday, March 9, 2017

Last night we had...

...a confirmed South Sider, Jake, come along on the Hike and I wanted to show him one of the North Side's hidden gems (as far as I'm concerned), Alta Vista Terrace.

But first we -- Bradon, John, Jake, Jack and I -- had to fortify ourselves with cheeseburgers and fries at BIG & little's Restaurant on Belmont, just west of the Red Line station. (That's the right spelling, by the way. Get it? BIG & little. Clever, huh?)

After dinner we walked up Kenmore, past the townhouse where Julie and I lived from 1987-92, and on up Clark Street to Wrigley Field. Jake, who wore his Sox hat, wasn't too crazy about having to look at WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS on the neon sign at Clark and Addison. Oh, well.

We turned off Clark at Waveland and walked beyond the outfield wall to Sheffield. The park was all lit up for some reason (working round the clock to get it ready for the season?) and I paused at the corner to take this picture. Since Wrigley has often been referred to as the "cathedral of baseball," I thought it was appropriate to have what looked like a crucifix atop the center field bleachers.

We then walked down Grace Street to Alta Vista Terrace, which runs only one block north to Byron. A tiny, one-way street, Alta Vista was built by Samuel Eberly Gross in 1904 and designated Chicago's first historic district in 1971. Inspired by a trip to London, Alta Vista contains two sets of twenty small, single-family row houses facing each other. Designed in a variety of styles, all are two-story buildings of Roman brick except for a quartet of three-story graystones in the center. But what really makes Alta Vista unique is that the designs of each row house are mirrored diagonally across the block. If you've never seen it it's really worth a look.

We then crossed Irving Park into the Buena Park neighborhood of Uptown. While Uptown is often thought of as Lakeview's poor relative, it's actually a treasure trove of Chicago architecture. (I wonder if that's because there's been less renovation in the traditionally down-at-the-heels neighborhood.)

For starters, we all stopped at the boarded-up structure at 4015 N. Sheridan, scratched our heads and wondered aloud, "What do you suppose this building was originally?" A little digging revealed it was the former Marmon Hupmobile Showroom, built by Paul Gerhardt in 1920. Its Egyptian Revival style reminded us all of the Reebie Storage and Moving Co., built in 1922, at 2325 N Clark. All things Egyptian were very popular at that time, culminating in the opening of King Tut's Tomb in 1922. (I know, I know: I just said that the Marmon Hupmobile Showroom was completed in 1920, which is before 1922 -- just go with it, all right?)

Farther up Sheridan Road, at Buena Avenue, is St. Mary of the Lake Catholic Church. Built between 1913-17 by Henry J. Schlacks in the Italian Renaissance style, it borrows from several major fourth- and fifth-century Roman churches. The facade resembles the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, while the freestanding bell tower is a replica of the campanile of St. Prudentiana Church, also in Rome.

Next is the neogothic Uptown Baptist Church, located at Wilson and Sheridan, which was built in 1906 as the North Shore Congregational Church. You might recognize it from the large sign atop its bell tower that reads "Christ Died for our Sins." I always thought it was neon but it wasn't lit up last night.

The crown jewel for me, though, was this gigantic building at the corner of Sheridan and Lawrence. (This picture doesn't do it justice.) Originally a four-story structure built for the Mutual Insurance Company by Fugard & Knapp in 1921, an additional four stories were added in 1926. The Chicago School-styled building with Beaux Art ornamentation is clad entirely in white, glazed terra cotta. Now home to the Institute of Cultural Affairs, it was officially landmarked in 2013. (I want to go back in the daytime and take some more, and better, shots.)

We then turned right on Gunnison Street, walked to Marine Drive, and up Castlewood Terrace. This street, along with Hutchinson a little farther south, is one of my favorites: lined with beautiful single-family homes, you would never even know it was there if someone didn't tell you.

On our way to the Lawrence Red Line stop we passed the Lorali Hotel, at 1039 W Lawrence, which I believe is an assisted-living facility. I was surprised I couldn't find out much about it; it's a beautiful old structure. Formerly the Wilton Hotel and Viceroy Hotel, I think, it was built in 1926. It's not in the typical 1920s Art Deco style, though -- I have no idea how you would describe it. But those arches over the windows are certainly interesting. Apparently, it had much unique terra cotta that was lost over the years. As I said, there are a lot of neat buildings in otherwise overlooked Uptown.

Now, in case you were wondering, I didn't write a post on last week's Urban Hike with Mike.

Since it fell on Ash Wednesday we took the Ashland bus up to Diversey and explored the Jimmy Thomas Nature Trail along the North Branch of the Chicago River behind the all-but-abandoned Lathrop Homes.

Completed in 1938 by the Public Works Administration and named for social reformer Julia Clifford Lathrop, the three and a half square block development was one of the city’s first public housing projects. The buildings were designed in a Prairie School, Arts and Crafts style with details in a range of styles from Art Moderne to Colonial Revival. Lathrop Homes was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2012 and is currently undergoing restoration.

We had a few spooky moments, I have to admit, but survived to tell about it.

What's in store for next week? Who knows.

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