Monday, April 26, 2010

This Chicago Landmark is fairly well-known, but it's the first time I've seen it in person. Located at 58th & Lafayette in the Englewood neighborhood, it is a three story brick building. At first glance, and really at any glance, it's a fairly ordinary Chicago apartment building. There are a couple of reasons that it was made a city landmark, though. First of all, it predates the Chicago Fire, though not by much. Property records date its construction to 1869 or 1870. Also unique is that it was built as a country house, on a huge open lot, before Englewood even became a suburb, not to mention an urban neighborhood.

As you can see, though, it is in sorry condition. In 1895, it was divided into apartments and kept that arrangement until its abandonment and decay. The Englewood neighborhood was an extremely vibrant neighborhood up until the 1950s, but since then it has fallen about as hard as an urban neighborhood can fall. It has among the highest crime rates in the city and among its highest rates of foreclosure and abandonment. It has become something of an urban prairie, though not to the extent seen in neighborhoods of some rust belt cities, such as Detroit. The house has taken the brunt of the ravages of the neighborhood around it. Neglect and arson have taken a deep toll. However, it still stands, though mostly gutted. Ironically, though, when it was built 140 years ago, the house stood alone and stands mostly alone today.

An idea that has sprouted from that ironic state is to create an urban park that mostly mimics the old country estate in its form, about eight acres in size. This would require very little eminent domain and demolition. The idea is being actively recruited as part of a plan for a brighter future for the neighborhood surrounding it, though it will probably take many years to actually realize.

Posted by Posted by The Loosh at 7:00 AM