Uptown Theater

See a 1920s era theme in today's blog posts yet? Well while we're on the subject, the Uptown community area on Chicago's North Side was once the hopping place to be when it was developed in the roaring '20s. The L had been extended north, and the neighborhood became a haven for nightlife. Today it retains historic character, with a couple unique pockets of notable works of architecture.

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First stop is a calm, shady street called Hutchinson. On this residential street, in the Uptown neighborhood of Buena Park, you will find historic homes that make this a designated Historic District. Built in the late 1800s and early 1900s, these elegant houses display a variety of architectural styles.

On the west end of the street, you'll see a Queen Anne-style house with its asymmetrical form, gables, wooden details, and overall, a mishmash of ornamentation. This building was designed by architect George Maher in 1896, and you can see from another one of his houses down the block how styles changed over a short period of time. Seventeen years later, in 1913, he designed the Claude Semoure House at 817 W. Hutchinson Street. This large home is Prairie School style, with its hipped roof, flat horizontal lines, and planters on the balustrades that further integrate the architecture with the natural environment. Looking at this house, we have to remember that Frank Lloyd Wright was not the only Prairie School architect. Maher became famous for his genius, yes, but also the mere fact that he had an eclectic character and lived a long life.

Next let's go to the hub of Uptown, Broadway and Lawrence. You've got historic cinemas (the Riviera Theater and the closed Uptown Theater), the long-time jazz mecca of the Green Mill, and the Aragon Ballroom. Many of the buildings, including the curved corner building of the Sheridan Trust and Savings Bank, come from the 1920s. You'll see lots of terracotta ornamentation, such as in the spirals of the columns of the Aragon, or on the cream-colored facade of the Uptown Broadway Building. Located at 4707 S. Broadway, the Uptown Broadway Building is fun to look at with its shields, columns, faces, animals, and foliage in the terracotta.

Green Mill

The Green Mill Jazz Club has its original 1940's light-bulb sign, and a historic interior with giant red-vinyl booths. While the Riviera has been transformed into a concert venue and the Uptown Theater is closed, the Green Mill still offers live jazz seven nights a week and the Aragon Theater holds concerts, primarily of either latino bands or rock n' roll acts. Concerts are spare today, but up through the '90s they housed top bands of the era like Smashing Pumpkins or Violent Femmes.

Uptown is a large community area so its architectural highlights extend beyond the scope of a single post, but a few other notable places are the US Post Office at 4850 N. Broadway, with murals inside of significant Chicago cultural figures, and the '50s Jetsons-style glam remodeling of the Myron Bachman House at 1244 W. Carmen Ave. The Marine Drive Apartments, designed in 1939, have a blocky form with wide windows that was really progressive for its time. Find them at 5040-5060 N. Marine Drive.

To get to Uptown, simply take the redline from downtown Chicago for an architectural experience of the city. While you're at it, perhaps also check out some jazz and think about the jazzy heyday of Uptown.