The Flat Iron Arts Center

The Flat Iron Arts Center is located in the Flat Iron Building at the corner of Milwaukee, North Avenue and Damen in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. It has been an artists colony since the 1980s and houses studios for visual arts of any type, musicians, hair design, etc. The building is open 24 hours a day/ seven days a week for viewing the art in the hallways. And artists studios open houses are held on the first Friday of each month.

Wicker Park at the CTA Damen Stop

The heart of the Wicker Park neighborhood in Chicago is at the intersection of Damen, Milwaukee and North Avenue. The locations shown below are all at this intersection, which is just steps from the CTA Blue Line Damen stop. The Damen stop (and this vibrant community) is just minutes from Downtown Chicago. Hip Wicker Park has been a residential community since Chicago was incorporated as a city in 1837.

The Blue Line Lounge and Grill
Lodge Hall
Stan’s Donuts
The Robey Restaurant in the Northwest Tower Building – Damen Avenue was previously called Robey Street
The Northwest Tower, aka the Coyote Building
Noel State Bank Building
Flatiron Arts Building – Holabird and Roche architects

Polish Triangle – Chicago

The Polish Triangle (or Polonia Triangle) is located in the West Town neighborhood of Chicago. It used to be referred to as the Polish Downtown area of Chicago. It is located at the intersection of Milwaukee, Division and Ashland Streets.

The Polish Downtown is the city’s oldest Polish settlement. It dates back to the 1800s in Chicago history. The area is still home to numerous Polish institutions such as the Polish Museum, Polish National Alliance and the Polish Daily News. It’s also home to the Chopin Theatre and Podhalanka Polish restaurant.

The area near the triangle has two beautiful Polish Catholic Cathedrals: St. Stanislaus Kostka and Holy Trinity Polish Mission. Pulaski Park is also nearby.

The triangle is conveniently located right at the CTA Blue Line Division stop. The actual triangle is a park around a fountain called the Nelson Algren fountain. It was named after the famous poet/writer because he lived in the area and wrote about the Poles.

I really enjoyed visiting the Polish Triangle, because to me it represents everything Chicago was in the past, is currently and will be in the future. I attribute this to the area’s architecture with buildings from the 1800s and tall futuristic looking buildings. What a special place!

James R. Thompson Center, a.k.a State of Illinois Building – Chicago

The Thompson Center (as it is mostly referred to) is located at 100 West Randolph Street in Downtown Chicago. It houses State of Illinois government offices. It was completed in May 1985 and was designed by architect Helmut Jahn in the postmodern style. The building has 17 stories and takes up an entire block in Chicago’s Loop. It is bounded by Randolph, Lake, Clark and LaSalle Streets. The sculpture in front of the building is called Monument With Standing Beast, by Jean Dubuffet.

The building hs been called both outrageous and wonderful in its open-plan design. All 17 floors can be seen from the building’s large skylit atrium. The open office plan was meant to convey the message of an open government.

In addition to the sculpture in front of the building, it also houses many specially commissioned artworks funded by the State. The Illinois Artisan’s shop is also housed in the building.

The spot was previously the location of the Sherman House Hotel until 1973.

Amid controversy, the building is expected to be sold, because the State says it is too expensive to do the needed renovation and maintenance. It is hoped that it will be sold to someone who will maintain it rather than destroy this beautiful “work of art” building!

Klaus Department Store – Chicago’s Past

Klaus Department store was located on Milwaukee Avenue near Diversey in the Avondale neighborhood. Today, the Kay Shoe store is in the location where Klaus once stood. Klaus was kind of an upscale store compared to the nearby Goldblatt’s. It was like a small Marshall Field’s or Macy’s. I remember there were a lot of stairs right away when you entered the store. When I was growing up we lived a few blocks from the store and my mother and I would always walk there and shop. Those were some great times!

Photo from the 1960s

Photo today

Boulder Hill Playhouse

The Boulder Hill subdivision was developed by Don Dise in the early 1950s. Boulder Hill is an unincorporated area near Montgomery and Oswego Illinois . The Boulder Hill Playhouse was built on the former stock farm that was previously owned by John Bereman (described in my last post on The Bereman House). One of the largest barns of the former stock farm was developed into a playhouse that had a revolving stage. The revolving stage allowed for quick scenery changes and enabled three stages to be built at a time and rotated. It was a 500 seat theatre located right off Illinois 25/ River Street. The debut performance on June 5, 1958 was “Teahouse of the August Moon”, starring Boulder Hill residents Hal Anderson and Jack Goring and Oswego High School senior Rita Lantz. Other performances during that opening season were: “Janus”, “Darkening Shore”, “The Reluctant Debutante”, “I Found April”, “Ladies in Retirement”, and “See How They Run.” Shows generally ran every evening except Monday and Tuesday during the summer season. People came from all around the Chicagoland area to see the plays. They used local talent and it was a very popular place for entertainment, often playing to a full house. The playhouse is no longer in existence. It was destroyed by fire in 1967.

The Bereman House – Montgomery Illinois

The Bereman House is located on Fox Mead Circle in Montgomery Illinois in The Reserve subdivision of Season’s Ridge. The house was built in the colonial style in 1905 by John Bereman. The house really stands out in the area because the rest of the homes in the subdivision were built in the 1990s. The house sits on a hill overlooking the Fox River from Route 25 (River Road).

The Bereman estate consisted of hundreds of acres of farmland. It was called the Boulder Hill stock farm. It contained farms and parks where deer roamed and a private golf course. They were famous for their thoroughbred draft horses and prize cattle.

John Bereman made his fortune manufacturing and selling freckle cream, also known as vanishing cream. Freckle cream was very popular at the time, because during Victorian times ladies wanted to have flawless even skin-tone.

Developer Don L. Dise bought the stock farm in the early 1950s to develop the Boulder Hill Subdivision.

Today, the Boulder Hill subdivision is a large unincorporated subdivision between Oswego and Montgomery, east of the Fox River. There is a street named Bereman Road after John Bereman and the Bereman family. However, the house itself sits in The Reserve subdidivion of Montgomery across the way.

Below are some photos of The Bereman House in the early 1900s and today.

Back of the house in the early 1900s
Front of the house today
Back of the house today

The Aurora Roundhouse

The Aurora Illinois Roundhouse opened in 1856. It is located at 205 North Broadway (adjoining the Aurora BNSF Train Station). It was designed by architect Levi Hull Waterhouse and built with limestone from Batavia. At the time it opened it was a railroad car building and repair shop owned and operated by the Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad. At completion it had a total of 40 stalls forming a complete circle. In 1925 the original Roundhouse was replaced by a more modern Roundhouse that remained in service until the 1970s. In 1995 the Roundhouse was bought by an investing group that included former Chicago Bear Walter Payton. They transformed the roundhouse into a brewing company, entertainment venue and Walter Payton museum. In 2011 it was sold to craft brewer, Two Brothers Brewing. It now operates as a brewery, pub and restaurant and is connected to the Aurora BNSF Metra Station.

The building is the oldest limestone roundhouse in the United States and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was the first railroad to provide a link between Chicago and the Mississippi River. The Pullman Hotel Car was built at the Roundhouse in 1866. The Roundhouse had a profound effect on the development of Aurora into the second largest city in Illinois. It was the largest employer in the area. In 1857 about 350 people worked there. About 250 locomatives were produced there from 1871 – 1910.

Harry Alshuler House – Aurora Circa 1891

The Harry Alshuler House is located at 142 South Lincoln Street in Aurora Illinois. It is a historic home located in the City of Aurora’s Near Eastside Historic District. It was built in 1891 in the Queen Anne gable style.

The Alshuler family: Harry, Charles and Louis established Alshuler Brothers Clothing Store in Aurora in 1885. It was the first store in Aurora to have electric lighting.

Harry Alshuler later became a Director at First National Bank.

The house is beautifully preserved and maintained. It’s important to note that the City of Aurora provides grants for the repair of designated historic properties.