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 »

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

Realty and Building

Chicago’s longest-running real estate and building magazine from 1888 to the early 2000s was Realty and Building, named The Economist until 1946. Only partially digitized through 1922, Forgotten Chicago has photographed and scanned more than 6,500 articles and images from the 1920s to the 1990s, an invaluable research tool on the Chicago area’s history and built environment that is used in exclusive presentations and events.

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 800,000 pages of non-digitized and non-indexed periodicals, planning documents and reference works from the 1880s to the 1990s, assembling a vast archive of 45GB of data and more than 30,000 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.

A Half Century of Chicago Building

Explored in an exclusive tour in 2016, what is now known as Pioneer Court was once home to not only the site of the first home in Chicago, but was a leading industrial area from 1847 to the demolition of the James S. Kirk Company above in 1929. Purchased by Procter & Gamble in 1930, Kirk produced a large number of brands, some unfortunately named.

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 6,500 articles and images from the Chicago real estate and building magazine The Economist / Realty and Building from 1925 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.

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 »

Cable Car Remnants
by Greg Borzo » 12.28.2012

Read More »

Bertrand Goldberg in Tower Town Part 3: Bertrand Goldberg’s Michigan Avenue Project
by Patrick Steffes » 5.18.2012

Bertrand Goldberg in Tower Town is a three-part set of articles detailing this Chicago-based architect’s one-time residence in the 1930s. This article looks at a beauty salon announced as having been designed by Goldberg. While opened, it may or may not have actually been completed by the architect. This beauty salon opened by 1938 at 840 North Michigan Avenue, on the same same block as Goldberg’s former “commune” residence detailed in part one of this series. Read More »

The Bloomingdale Line
by Terence Banich » 5.4.2012


On the evening of July 30, 1939, Nancy Froemming “and her ambition” boarded a train in Milwaukee bound for Chicago. Miss Froemming — who thought that she “could sing with the best of them” — had decided that Milwaukee was too small of a town for her nascent singing career and set her sights on the hustle-and-bustle of Chicago. So off she went. There were only two problems with Miss Froemming’s plan: she was 13 years old, and the train she boarded was a freight line — the Bloomingdale Line. Upon alighting at Western Avenue, instead of booking a gig at the Cloister Inn or the Sunset Cafe, Miss Froemming was booked at Juvenile Hall.0.1

Long before it was ever thought of as a trail, the Bloomingdale Line — as it was sometimes known — hauled freight (and, it seems, one young girl’s ambition) for the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad Company, the storied “Milwaukee Road.” The Bloomingdale principally functioned as a connecting line used by freight trains between the north side of Chicago and the railroad’s yards at Galewood and Bensenville.0.2 But perhaps more fundamentally, the branch was a link to the rest of the country; the trains that traversed the Bloomingdale could access the St. Paul’s sprawling, nationwide rail network.
Read More »

Bertrand Goldberg in Tower Town Part 1: Bertrand Goldberg’s Commune
by Patrick Steffes » 12.31.2011

Bertrand Goldberg in Tower Town is a three-part set of articles, and the first in a series of several Forgotten Chicago features highlighting the Chicago-based architect’s one-time residence in the 1930s, and lesser-known built and proposed projects in the Chicago area. This article examines Goldberg’s former residence on the site of the former Senator Charles Farwell home Read More »

Remnants of the “L”
by Terence Banich » 7.2.2011

Chicago is, as one writer put it, a “city of travelers.”1 The city’s sheer sprawl made that moniker inevitable. It also led to the creation of a transportation system that, at its apogee, consisted of a web of streetcars, diesel buses, electrified trolleybuses and elevated railways and subways. But not every mode of public transportation that once served Chicago is extant today. Read More »

Outlying Banks, 1893-1933
by Serhii Chrucky » 4.7.2011

When Thomas J. Harper, president of the West Town State Bank, opened for business on the morning of May 24th, 1930, he could not have known it would be the last such opening for some time. That day, after spending seventeen years in a two story building on West Madison Street Read More »

Edgewater Golf Club
by Serhii Chrucky » 12.13.2010

Born out of an elitist North Shore sensibility, the tumultuous transformation of the Edgewater Golf Club into the egalitarian Warren Park reveals much about the complicated process of real estate development in Chicago. Read More »

Holiday in Avondale
by Daniel Pogorzelski » 3.22.2010

Chicago historian Dominic Pacyga characterizes Chicago as a snake that transforms itself every generation, shedding its old skin to emerge a new and different creature. Read More »

Drama, Documentation & Discontinuity
by Serhii Chrucky » 10.9.2009

Looking at fiction films shot on location in Chicago as documents of a real place, three prevalent themes emerge. Read More »

Bridge Out For Good
by Serhii Chrucky » 3.6.2009

In Chicago, a disused or demolished crossing of every type can be found. Here we are focusing on vehicular bridges over water where a connection no longer remains. Read More »

Defining the Four Plus One
by Serhii Chrucky » 1.27.2009

The simplest definition of a four plus one is a five story apartment building where the first floor consists of the lobby and a parking lot. Read More »

Michael Reese Hospital
by Jacob Kaplan » 1.18.2009

In true Chicago fashion, a plan has been announced and set in stone before anyone has had a chance to comment on it. Read More »

Tied Houses
by Serhii Chrucky » 1.11.2009

A “tied house” was a type of saloon that originated in England, but gained infamy in pre-prohibition America. Read More »

The Extension and Removal of Ogden Avenue
by Serhii Chrucky » 1.10.2009

Ogden Avenue is an arterial highway in Chicago, running southwest from the near west side. The street was closed to traffic between North Avenue to Armitage Avenue in 1967. Read More »

Our Historic Subway Stations
by Serhii Chrucky » 12.16.2008

The stations of Chicago’s Initial System of Subways; the State, and Milwaukee-Dearborn lines, are unique examples of Art Moderne style architecture. Read More »

Municipal Parking Garages
by Serhii Chrucky » 12.13.2008

The trend towards municipal parking in North American cities began around 1950, and can be regarded as an effect of postwar prosperity and increasing automobile use. Read More »