Stumble upon this little one-block historic district and you may feel like you have been whisked away to a European neighborhood with its harmonious design and small scale.
The residential Alta Vista Terrace District is found on Chicago's North Side, specifically in the Lakeview neighborhood. Developer Samuel Eberly Gross had multiple architects design this set of 40 homes in 1903-1904 specifically to resemble London town homes.
The periphery of Chicago's Northwest and South Sides are clustered with post WWII development of block after block of similar homes all done by one developer. This development is unique in that it is much earlier, even earlier than the economic boom of the 1920s. Gross got involved in the new mass housing industry in the 1880s. Catalog businesses such as Sears had lowered housing costs via the mass production of housing features, like moldings and banisters.
Another unique quality of Alta Vista Terrace is that the lot sizes are unusual for Chicago, about half the depths of a standard Chicago lot. It makes for a more human scale to the neighborhood.
The charming architectural design with its pastel brick colors and stone accents likely stands out as most eye-catching to passersby. The homes have swirling details that reference architecture across history. You'll see a front door topped with a swooping, pointed Gothic arch or a Greek Revival pediment, or a row of windows in a curved bay. While the homes of Alta Vista Terrace look all unique, the facade colors and ornamentations rotate down the block, and each one more directly matches with the building diagonally across the street. As townhomes, the brick facades of all the buildings connect continuously down the block.
You can find Alta Vista Terrace just southeast of Graceland Cemetery. It's technically in the Lakeview neighborhood, and of all things this elegant little street is just north of partyville-central Wrigleyville.
Photos by Eric Alix Rogers