The Federal Writers' Project - a New Deal program during the Great Depression - produced what amounted to sophisticated travel guides for all the states. The Illinois guide was published in 1939, and it provides a unique way to measure what places and things have endured, and what have not, over the past 75 years. Here we take a look at some long-familiar sites in Lakeview, the North Side neighborhood best known for a century-old landmark: Wrigley Field.
From the 1939 Guide: "Wrigley Field, Clark and Addison Sts., home of the Cubs, Chicago's National League baseball team, seats approximately 45,000 people."
Today: Given the hoopla over the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field that was celebrated this past season, the ballpark might have merited more than this one sentence in the 1939 Illinois guide. Perhaps the writer was not much of a baseball fan, or the stadium - then just 25 years old - was not considered especially historic.
Wrigley now is the only vintage ballpark of its era besides Boston's Fenway Park to survive into the 21st century. And while the Cubs' legendary struggles have denied it a World Championship - the team last won a World Series in 1908, when it played on the West Side - the ballpark has for a century been the anchor of a Lakeview neighborhood that has gone through repeated transitions.
When Wrigley opened in 1914, Lakeview was largely working-class and had a fair amount of industry: A coal plant sat adjacent to the ballpark for decades into the 1960s. The ‘60s and ‘70s were a rough patch as those blue-collar jobs declined and Lakeview was plagued with empty storefronts and gang-related crime. But a turnaround in the 1980s was sparked by three major factors: the rise of "Boystown" as a thriving gay community, the real estate industry's invention of the term "Wrigleyville," and a marketing blitz by the Cubs that helped turned the aging ballpark into a national tourist attraction. Within a short period of time, Lakeview became one of Chicago's most affluent and stable neighborhoods.
Now Wrigley Field itself is generating Lakeview's next big transition. The Cubs' owners have begun the first major renovation and modernization of the stadium in generations, one that will also include major developments, such as a large hotel, in the areas nearby. Their plans are not without controversy: Opposition from neighboring property owners stalled construction, and some purists worry that updates such as a big video scoreboard will ruin the old-timey charm of the ballpark. But the owners moved ahead immediately after the 2014 season ended, tearing out the old bleachers, which are scheduled to be replaced by Opening Day next April.
From the 1939 Guide: "The William Booth Memorial Training College, Brompton Ave. at Broadway, occupies the former Joseph E. Tilt mansion, built in 1914. One of the four colleges of the Salvation Army in the United States, it trains young men and women to be officers in all branches of the service; the seventy students are taught orders and regulations, doctrine and Bible. Designed by Holabird and Roche, the Tudor Gothic structure, with pitched roof and buttressed chimneys, stands in grounds enclosed within a 7-foot wall and has the air of a secluded English country home."
Today: The Tilt Mansion - which coincidentally was completed for occupancy at almost the same time in April 1914 as Wrigley Field - today remains the centerpiece of the Salvation Army's regional teaching campus. The grand home, which would not look out of place in a tony North Shore suburb, was built for wealthy shoe manufacturer Joseph E. Tilt. But Tilt not long after was lured by California's boom and moved his family to Pasadena. The home went on the market and was bought by the Salvation Army, with Tilt later donating a substantial part of the sales price back to the organization.
The Salvation Army maintains a history of the house that includes reminiscences of Tilt's son, Ned, who recalled how Lakeview grew quickly from a suburban, even semi-rural, environment to a densely populated adjunct to downtown Chicago during the family's short time in the mansion: "When I was a boy, there was only one apartment building on Broadway on the east side near Brompton, and you could see the lake through the trees across Sheridan Road, which I remember was or is only a couple of blocks away. Then gradually, everything filled up with apartment houses all around. We were kind of an oasis."
From the 1939 Guide: "Temple Sholom, Lake Shore Drive at Cornelia Ave, an impressive modern Romanesque structure of ancient-looking Lannon stone, designed by Coolidge and Hodgdon, with Loebl, Schlossman, and Donnuth as associate architects, was built in 1930 for the North Chicago Hebrew Congregation, a reform Jewish congregation organized in 1867. The temple has a seating capacity of 1,500, which can be doubled on holidays by moving a huge sliding partition separating it from the Frankenstein Memorial Center."
Today: Temple Sholom remains a very well-attended center for Lakeview's and greater Chicago's Jewish community. While shadowed to its south by newer apartment high-rises, it is surrounded to its north and west by more vintage residences, providing a good visual feel for what this corner of Chicago looked like in 1939. A recently discovered film produced for the Chicago Board of Education contains some excellent views of Temple Sholom in its 1940s context, not long after the Illinois guide was published.
Totem Pole and Waveland Fieldhouse in Lincoln Park
From the 1939 Guide: "Facing Addison St. is the Kwa Ma Rolas, Haidan Indian totem pole from the Queen Charlotte Islands. Beyond is the Waveland Fieldhouse, with the Wolford chimes which announce the quarter-hour. Athletic fields and tennis courts adjoin the building, and a 9-hole golf course lies to the north.
Today: Many visitors to Lakeview must have asked, "Why is there a totem pole in Lincoln Park?" According to the Chicago Park District, the original version was carved by Haidan Indians in British Columbia around 1900 and was obtained by James L. Kraft - the founder of Kraft Foods and an artifacts collector - who donated it to the city in 1929. The wear and tear of Chicago weather caused deterioration that prompted the Canadian government to request the totem pole's return. Chicago agreed but had another Native Canadian carver create the exact replica that was installed in 1986 and remains astride Lake Shore Drive to this day.
Just as 75 years ago, the English Gothic style Waveland Fieldhouse serves as a clubhouse for what is now the Sydney R. Marovitz (formerly Waveland) Golf Course, and sits amid playing fields, tennis courts and beautiful lake views.
Signal of Peace Monument in Lincoln Park
From the 1939 Guide: "Across the bridge [at Diversey Harbor] is a Signal of Peace Monument, depicting a mounted Indian with upraised hand, by Cyrus Dallin (1894)."
Today: The bronze Signal of Peace statue, now green from the patina of age, remains on a small rise just north of Diversey Harbor, to which it was moved from an original location farther south in Lincoln Park in the mid-1920s. According to the Chicago Park District, sculptor Dallin grew up in Utah and created a number of pieces sympathetic to Native Americans. This statue was completed in 1889 and was exhibited at Chicago's famous 1893 World Columbian Exposition before being put on permanent public display the next year.