Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Montrose & Clarendon, Now & Then

via Library of Congress
via Google Street View
Only one building in the top photo (the building on the SW corner) is still standing today on the corner of Montrose and Clarendon. Check out the single family home that once stood where 4343 Clarendon now stands (click photo to enlarge). The top photo was taken sometime in the early 1900's, the bottom is the view most of us are familiar with. Check out even more photos from this area here.


  1. So much history connected with these photos - I'm writing a book on Buena Park's history (technically, these were over the Montrose border of official Buena Park) that will delve into more, but a few interesting points:

    1. For the observant walker, there is still a little piece of sidewalk on the north side of Montrose near the tennis courts that seems to go no where - it was once part of a walkway to the pumping station.

    2. All of Clarendon park was once part of the vast Clarendon Beach, one of Chicago's earliest public beaches. The ground under the ball fields of Clarendon Park is still very sandy.

    3. The only vestige of the original large Clarendon Beach facilities once located here - including two vast wings housing male and female bathing/changing facilities, and a boardwalk along Clarendon N. of Montrose - - is the Clarendon Park field house. FYI - this is the origin of the names "Boardwalk" used for two different Buena Park buildings.

    Although the part of the Beach House that remains has been altered to an almost unrecognizable state, the central structure is built using the foundations and walls of the original center portion of theClarendon Beach House. This is, despite its current appearance, a significant unprotected historic structure in our area.

    2. When representatives of the developer hoping to build high-rises, etc. at the Montrose-Clarendon site gave a public presentation of their proposals, I discussed several points with them that they would prefer no one brought up:

    a. There is still a huge infrastructure of piping and closed off tunnels under the location where the pumping station once stood. I queried the developer as to how an underground garage could be built directly east of the proposed towers along Montrose where tunnels, massive piping and other structures of the old Pumping Station remain- some of which may still be intricately connected to our water systems.

    The developer acknowledged that the infrastructure "could" require them to instead erect a garage that was totally ABOVE GROUND along Montrose.

    What a nasty entrance to our neighborhood from the lakefront a parking garage wall along Montrose would create. It would block views of Clarendon Park from Montrose and create a tunnel-like roadway into what has become a major focal point of our community - the commercial development at Montrose-Sheridan-Broadway, including Target...

    b. Most of us believed that all of Clarendon Park was protected from development. Not so. In a typical Chicago slight-of-hand, years ago, the Water Department made a (temporary) arrangement with the Park District to put parkland over what remained of the water works underground infrastructure. This is why the Water Department still has a right-of-way, which they were considering selling to the developer to erect a parking garage, on the south end of Clarendon Park along Montrose is.

    It seems that residents need to keep several steps ahead of the plans of developers and their attorneys. I think having a new alderman who believes in transparency and public meetings should make this more likely.

  2. [A Digression:

    Another site in our Ward that few know about is the former restaurant and boxing arena that was part of the Bismarck Beer Gardens on Grace just West of the IHOP. Prohibition forced the conversion of the Beer Garden kitchen into a boxing arena. Today, much altered, this structure is the Faith Tabernacle Church on Grace. The vast parking lot south of the church and the IHOP were all once part of a beautiful Beer Garden grounds where the elite (and the crooked) mingled.

    Many famous singers and performers got their start in the early 1900s at Bismarck Gardens, owned by the Eitel Brothers of Buena Park who also built the Bismarck Hotel. For a while, because of anti-German sentiment during WW I, this was renamed as the Marigold Gardens (thus the old Marigold Bowling alley, etc.). During its life as a boxing arena in the 1920s, 30s, etc., the boxing venue in the building that is today the church hosted even more famous celebrity fighters (Demsey, Joe Louis - someone can check me on these) who participated in major events there.]

  3. I LOVE these historical 'then and now' photos. So amazing, and quite often sad.
    Thanks for this.

  4. Apparently, this photo was taken on 11/21/1912 (date is visible on lower left of photo when it is highly enlarged).

    The single-family house visible on the left was 745 (earlier addressed 747) W. Montrose - originally the home of Charles Hoffman, but by 1928 it was owned by Max and Nellie Stern.

    By the 1960s this single-family house was the residence of well-known Chicago artist John Kearney, founder of the Contemporary Art Workshop at 542 W. Grant Pl. and an organizer of earliest Old Town Art Fairs. Kearney was the artist of several of the sculptures around Lakeview that are made of chrome car bumpers (such as those on Elaine Place and elsewhere).

  5. So much of Uptown's original beauty and connection to nature have been destroyed by thoughtless development and political arrogance.

    Clarendon Park, our one precious block of park land, has been cut up and taken over with the vacant DCSF building and the Department of Water managment building.

    The Clarendon Park local advisory council requested Wilson Yard TIF money back in 2005 as part of the Clarendon Park master plan to restore the decaying fieldhouse using green sustainable practices.

    Even though Clarendon Park has always been eligible for Wilson Yard TIF money (same boundaries as Millenium Park & the Loop TIF boundaries)--the alderman and the City ignored our request.

    Now that we have a new, enlightened alderman who believes in an open and fair community planning process--perhaps there is hope for Clarendon Park.

  6. What can folks in the neighborhood do to help preserve Clarendon Park? We are very concerned about the future of this land...

  7. Hi Buena Parker
    That little piece of sidewalk on the north side of Montrose that you mention I believe went to the entrance of the cottages a branch of Stewart school. When I went to that school I remember that fire hydrant that's just a couple of feet to the east.
    And to the west of that sidewalk was a driveway that went all the way back by the pumping station coal storage building and turned west to Clarendon. If you look at that 1936 Aerial photo of lincoln park north of Irving on the uptown history blog it shows the driveway all though the cottages had yet to be built. for that photo see http://www.encyclopedia

  8. Preserving and protecting architecture goes hand-in-hand with so many of the City's sustainable priorities today! It's tragic that sustainability as a crucial economic driver and huge source of funding is not being championed in the 46th ward development process.

    The current proposal at this historic location is going to overshadow neighbors forever changing the energy profiles of those buildings. Both public and private neighbors will lose daylighting potential & no longer be able to utilize the solar gain or energy-producing potential of their properties. The beautiful mural and gathering places along Clarendon Park's front will be cast into afternoon darkness, the building will become more expensive to heat, and water issues in the playing fields may be exacerbated. Almost 700 parking places will be added to Clarendon Avenue, which will put continuation of its existing excellent pedestrian/bike/transit-friendly character. Clarendon is ideal for its many schools and schoolchildren—in many ways a street just like CDOT is trying to create all over Chicago via the Complete Streets model.

    The transit connections in proximity to the inner park on the historic land fill combine to make a perfect setting for creative "green" funding to address Clarendon Park renovations. Everything from stormwater management dollars from the MRWD-EPA 2011 consent decree to Tiger federal transportation innovation funding to SunShot grants for solar feasibility and non-hardware costs would get serious consideration if grants were proposed in a coordinated way. These other funding mechanisms could vastly optimize any TIF moneys spent. But no one in the ward development process is championing sustainability & spearheading this kind of collaborative funding.