Chicago’s Glass Block Part I – 1893, Early Glass Block, and Prism Glass
by Joe Sislow » 7.17.2016

Look around when you’re out and about Chicago. Check out industrial buildings. Look at basement windows, look at bathroom windows. It’s hard to miss glass block. This ubiquitous architectural detail got me wondering: where did it all come from? Is Chicago unique in its use (possibly abuse) of glass block? And how did we get this way? Read More »

Program of Progress
Uncovering Forgotten Chicago Through Research and Events
by Patrick Steffes » 11.6.2015



Top: Western Architect, 1926 Bottom: Chicago Plan Commission, South Side Consolidated Railroad Passenger Terminal for Chicago, 1953

Above top, the Illinois Central station project was a largely forgotten scheme by the Chicago Plan Commission to combine all passenger operations of the then-extant Illinois Central, Dearborn, LaSalle Street and Grand Central Stations into a single grand gateway along Roosevelt Road near Michigan Avenue. In 1953, as seen above bottom, another ambitious plan by the same agency proposed the same terminals at a site closer to the Chicago River. Forgotten Chicago is planning a tour of the overlooked area on and around Harrison Street in the South Loop in 2017.

In events, research and articles, Forgotten Chicago is continually striving to discover and share more about the unknown and forgotten history, culture, neighborhoods, and the built environment of our region. To add to our exclusive articles and programs, Forgotten Chicago has gone through more than 700,000 pages of non-digitized and non-indexed periodicals, planning documents and reference works from the 1880s to the 1990s, assembling a vast archive of more than 25,000 articles, images and ephemera on the Chicago area.

Chicago Industry
Chicago Plan Commission Annual Report 1952

Chicago’s outsize contribution to American manufacturing in decades past is dramatically shown in the little-seen illustration above, published by the Chicago Plan Commission in 1952. According to this graphic, Chicago and California were roughly equal in the value of manufacturing by 1947, despite California being 770 times the size of Chicago and with roughly twice as many residents at the time. During events and presentations, Forgotten Chicago explores the complexities of Chicago’s development, planning, and economic history, and the many forgotten remnants of the region’s industrial past and infrastructure that remain visible today.

Forgotten Chicago’s proprietary database includes local and national architecture and business magazines, non-digitized university and library collections in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, telephone directories, trade journals, business directories, and much more. Most of these images have never been reviewed or scanned by any other organization, with thousands of articles and images unknown and unseen in decades, including nearly all of the historic images in this article.

Housing Bubble

Our proprietary research database includes more than 6,200 articles and images from the Chicago real estate and building magazine The Economist / Realty & Building from 1926 to 1994, an invaluable and non-digitized research tool that ceased publication in 2003. We have taken a particular interest in researching and finding remnants of Chicago’s enormous and little-studied real estate bubble in the 1920s.

The Economist was an enormous promoter of real estate speculation, and would publish no fewer than 3,500 pages annually in the second half of the 1920s. Seen above is a portion of an ad for the Bert H. Laudermilk Realty Association encouraging wildly speculative investing at the height of Chicago’s real estate bubble in 1927; Chicago’s almost comical overbuilding in the 1920s is detailed in a popular 2014 Forgotten Chicago article.

Phantom Streets
Master Plan of Residential Land Use of Chicago, 1943

The area around what is now the Edgebrook Golf Course on the Far Northwest Side was notoriously plagued with vacant lots and ghost streets and alleys for decades following the 1929 stock market crash. An exhaustively researched report published by the Chicago Plan Commission in 1943 details phantom developments such as this, along with every neighborhood in the city. Today, streets such as Midas, Mohican and Nonand have all vanished, and residential lots shown in white undeveloped until after World War II. Forgotten Chicago explored the curious neighborhood in the upper right corner of this map in another popular 2009 article.

Sky Harbor Terminal
Sky Harbor 2
Top: Architectural Forum Bottom: American Architect

Forgotten Chicago’s database contains a largely unknown and little-seen record of Chicago history, development and architecture; seen above is the former Sky Harbor Airport in the north suburbs. While the distinctive Art Deco terminal was demolished more than 75 years ago, Sky Harbor’s hanger remains standing today, and was visited during a 2013 Forgotten Chicago tour.

Dreyfuss Truck Haven
Architectural Record

In 2014, Forgotten Chicago discovered a previously unknown mid-1950s Chicago-area project by Henry Dreyfuss that remains extant as of this writing. Henry Dreyfuss (1904-1972) was a leading American industrial designer of the twentieth century, responsible for the design of everything from tens of millions of telephones built by the Western Electric subsidiary of AT&T in Cicero, Illinois to the iconic Honeywell home thermostat and 1930s trains for the New York Central Railroad.

Forgotten Chicago research has also discovered previously unknown & extant Chicago area works by Bertrand Goldberg, Tallmadge & Watson, Paul Schweikher, Monroe Bowman, Minoru Yamasaki and other internationally recognized architects. Forgotten Chicago uses our research extensively in our events and presenations.

Lydy Parking Garage
Top Left: The Economist, 1929 Top Right: Chicago History in Postcards

Parking garages have long been of interest to Forgotten Chicago in research, presentations and tours. Chicago’s municipal parking garage program, the largest such program in the world at the time, was in operation starting in 1955 until being privatized staring in 1979, as examined in a 2008 Forgotten Chicago article.

One of Chicago’s many deluxe privately funded garages was built by Richard G. Lydy on West Lake Street in 1929 as seen above top, and included a carpeted lounge. Visited during several of Forgotten Chicago’s Downtown Confidential tours, this structure was demolished in early 2016.

Manor Garage South Shore
Manor Garage
Top: The Western Architect, 1929 Bottom: Patrick Steffes, April 2016

Another private garage was built by 1928 for a Mr. C. Clemensen in the booming South Shore community, as seen above top in the 1920s, and again above bottom some 90 years later. Designed to resemble an idyllic apartment building in a park-like setting, this structure remains intact, although altered as of this writing, with Manor Garage still clearly visible and carved in limestone above.

Thank you to everyone who have joined us during presentations and during tours over the years. Forgotten Chicago is looking forward to sharing more unknown stories of the development and history of our region in the years ahead!

Previously Conducted Forgotten Chicago Events

Illinois Center TourMatthew Kaplan

For a full list of previously conducted and upcoming 2016 Forgotten Chicago events, click here.

Read More »

Railroads and Chicago Swing Bridges
by Patrick McBriarty » 9.3.2013

While it is easy to overlook the railroads in Chicago nowadays, this city has been a major rail hub if not the most important railroad city in the nation and the world for more than 150 years. Read More »

Shoreline North

092 powerhouse Wash
Cable Car Remnants
by Greg Borzo » 12.28.2012

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