"Logan Square Boulevards District"
A new Chicago Landmark - designated November 2005
Also a National Historic District since 1985
Congratulations on the recent landmark designation by the City of Chicago!
Logan Square, named in honor of General John A. Logan, the famous Civil War General who rode with Sherman in the decisive Battle of Atlanta and was a U.S. Congressman from Illinois, is a unique neighborhood in Chicago, since it combines historic, residential and commercial elements in a multi-ethnic community. The focal point is the Logan Square Boulevards District (figure above), which bisects the community and serves as one of the important transportation corridors of Chicago. This boulevard system was home to some of the best known families of Chicago, such as Schwinn, Ryan, Wieboldt, Rath and the owners of the Jefferson Ice Company.
Today, the final 2 1/2 miles of boulevards in Logan Square remain as the only vestige of the original system that looks today as it did in 1900. Most of the grand mansions are preserved today as they were 100 years ago. The "Square" (figure below), which gives the community its name, is one of the classic squares in Chicago, with a traditional European circular traffic flow.
On November 1, 2005, the Chicago City Council designated the “Logan Square Boulevards District” as an official Chicago Landmark District. This has been a long and arduous task, but one that will forever preserve and protect a major portion of the famous boulevard system of Chicago for future generations to experience and enjoy as we do today. The District consists of 2-1/4 miles of the northernmost portion of the original 26 miles of the Chicago Boulevard System and includes over 330 buildings. The District comprises Humboldt Boulevard from Cortland on the South, Palmer Square, Kedzie Boulevard, the Square and Illinois Centennial Monument and Logan Boulevard to the Kennedy Expressway.
This process began back in 1980 when members of Logan Square Preservation first conceived the idea of preserving our boulevards. Originally, an annual House Walk was created to introduce Chicagoans to the beauty of the boulevards and to engender preservation thoughts in its citizens.
In 1985, we hired a noted architectural historian to help us prepare a National Register Nomination. The "Logan Square Boulevards Historic District" received National Register status later that year, but despite offering tax and restoration incentives, this designation offered no real protection for its buildings.
In recent years, the increasing popularity of the neighborhood and the trend of tearing down single family homes to build multi-unit condominiums threatened the integrity and historic significance of the boulevards, so we decided to take further steps to preserve them. Our first attempt was to down zone most of the boulevards from R4 and R5 to R3. Although this does restrict the size of new buildings, it provides no protection, whatsoever, to the historic appearances of the buildings.
After many discussions with preservation experts, we concluded that the only real protection was via City landmark district designation. In April 2002, several of us met with our Alderman and the Landmarks Commission to explore this issue. On September 12, 2002 , we held our first community meeting to introduce the subject to boulevard building owners and to allow the Landmarks commissioners to explain the process. Additional community meetings and hearings allowed building owners to fully understand the landmark process and express their opinions.
When our present Alderman took office, he placed a referendum on the general ballot asking whether or not citizens felt the boulevards should be preserved. An overwhelming 89% agreed, and that was the stimulus needed to pursue the idea with vigor. The Department of Planning sent notices to building owners along the proposed district, and many public meetings were held. Although initially there was some opposition, it soon waned as meetings progressed, and at the final two public hearings there was no opposition voiced. The recommendation to present it to the City Council was unanimously approved. Of note, the designation of our Logan Square Boulevards District and the Marshall Field's State Street building were considered side by side. We were in great company!
This was truly a coming together of Logan Square citizens, Preservation Chicago, Landmark Preservation Council of Illinois, the City and our Aldermen. This grass-roots effort which began with Logan Square Preservation soon extended throughout the community and the City of Chicago .
The magnificent boulevard system of Chicago, including the grand buildings along its course, is indeed a work of art. Like the owners of great art, we are merely custodians and have the responsibility to maintain it and pass it along, in as pristine a condition as possible, to future generations. I believe we are fulfilling this duty.
Lewis R. Coulson
President of Logan Square Preservation