Posts Tagged 'Northwest Side'

Then and Now, Milwaukee-Pulaski

154-1941-Milwaukee @ Pulaski

1941–Milwaukee Avenue @ Pulaski Road, view southeast

154-2017

2017–the same location

Pulaski Road was originally called Crawford Avenue.  In 1941 the intersection with Milwaukee Avenue featured two buildings combining the street names MILwaukee and CrawFORD.  The Milford Recreation Building, featuring ground-floor stores and second-floor bowling alleys, is seen on the left side of the 1941 photo.  Across Pulaski, on the same side of Milwaukee, is the Milford Theater Building.

In our time both Milford buildings are gone.  Neither of the strip malls that replaced them is named Milski.

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Then and Now, Grand-Armitage

1929–Grand Avenue @ Armitage Avenue, view east

2017–the same location

We are at Leclaire Avenue, 5100 west.  Here Grand Avenue swings off to the right to continue its eastward journey.  If you continued traveling straight east through the intersection, you’d now be on Armitage Avenue.  When pioneer George Merrill built a tavern here around 1850, the junction became known as Whiskey Point.

Once again, in our era, the streetcars are gone, the street paving and street lighting have been improved, and trees decorate the parkways.  Make your own call on whether a donut/ice cream shop is an improvement on a bank.

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Why the Outbound Kennedy Backs Up Past Montrose

If you’ve ever driven the Kennedy Expressway to O’Hare—or to the far Northwest Side—you know about this bottleneck.  You sail through the Edens junction, and suddenly everything comes to a screeching halt. Traffic crawls along for the next few miles, until you pass Harlem Avenue.  Then the highway opens up again.

Why does this happen?  It all goes back to the original design.

No backup? Well, it was a Sunday morning!

In the 1950s, when Chicago’s expressways were being built, they were geared toward moving traffic to and from the center of the city.  Crosstown travel was rarely factored into the planning.  Therefore, there was no ramp from the inbound Edens to the outbound Kennedy.  Likewise, there was no ramp from the inbound Kennedy to the outbound Edens.

The Kennedy-Edens junction was complicated enough, with three railroad lines and busy Cicero Avenue right there.  Building two additional ramps would involve additional land clearance and be wildly expensive.  Therefore, the planners didn’t bother with them.

During the 1960s, a Crosstown Expressway was proposed as an extension of the Edens south along Cicero. This meant that a full Kennedy-Edens interchange would be built.  But the Crosstown was never constructed, and the Kennedy-Edens junction remained as it was.

So today, if you’re on the inbound Kennedy (I-90) and want to access the outbound Edens (I-94), you drive through the junction and take the first exit at Keeler.  Then you turn left on Keeler, drive under the Kennedy, and take another left up the next ramp.  Now you’re on the outbound Kennedy, and can get to the Edens.

You can follow the same procedure going from the inbound Edens to the outbound Kennedy—drive through the junction, then use the Keeler exit/entrance maneuver.  But for this one, most drivers follow a different route.

Inbound Kennedy to outbound Edens, via Keeler Avenue

Want to get from the inbound Edens to the outbound Kennedy? Exit at Cicero-Foster, then drive west on surface streets.  After a mile or so you can get on the outbound Kennedy at Foster, or at Nagle-Bryn Mawr.

Now you have all this traffic getting on the outbound Kennedy at Foster, and at Nagle-Bryn Mawr. Meanwhile, there’s a significant curve in the expressway that slows things down in the stretch between these two entrances.  Result—a three-mile jam back to the Edens junction.

So, how to solve this mess?

1—Eliminate the Sayre exit. This exit was actually meant to serve Talcott Avenue, which was Illinois Route 62 when the expressway was constructed.  The exit is little used today, and is only a few hundred feet from the Harlem exit.

2—Build segregated acceleration/deceleration lanes along the outbound Kennedy between Nagle and Harlem.  Segregated lanes were recently added to the westbound Jane Addams Tollway (I-90) west of the interchange with I-290-IL 53.  Now traffic moves more smoothly there.   The same idea would work on the Kennedy.  There’s lots of space for these new lanes west of Nagle, though the greenery would have to be sacrificed.

OK, this will cost a ton of money.  But what’s a better use of our gasoline-tax revenue?

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Then and Now, Belmont-Parkside

1972–Belmont Avenue @ Parkside Avenue, view west

2017–the same location

It’s 1972 in the heart of the Belmont-Central shopping district.  Electric trolley buses run on Belmont, and the Will Rogers Theater is showing Nicholas and Alexandra.  Across the street from the theater, the Goldblatt’s Department Store has been expanded.  The cars are big, bad, and loaded with chrome.

Forty-five years later, diesel buses have succeeded electric buses.  The Will Rogers has been replaced by a strip mall, and the onetime Goldblatt’s store has been converted into Tony’s Fresh Market.  You make your own call on the cars!

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Then and Now, Central-Montrose

1975--Central Avenue @ Montrose Avenue, view south

1974–Central Avenue @ Montrose Avenue, view south

2017--the same location

2017–the same location

This was the neighborhood where I grew up.  By 1974 I was married and out of my parents’ home, but the old businesses still remained on this commercial strip.  Moving south from Montrose, we have the drug store, the bakery, Mandis the Chicken King Restaurant, Kars Five-and-Ten Store.  At the far end of the block, just past Kars, the old National Food Store has been converted into an Armanetti’s Liquor Store.

Today most of the residential streets in my old Portage Park neighborhood look the same—bungalows are sturdy.  But all the stores in the 1974 photo are gone, their buildings replaced by a giant Walgreen’s.

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Then and Now, Milwaukee-Edmunds

1951--Milwaukee Avenue @ Edmonds Street, view southeast

1951–Milwaukee Avenue @ Edmunds Street, view southeast

2016--the same location

2016–the same location

Our location is on top of the railroad viaduct at the 5000-north block of Milwaukee Avenue.  During the second half of the 19th Century, the Jefferson Park community began growing up around the Chicago & North Western’s station of the same name.   By 1951 both the railroad and the Milwaukee Avenue streetcar provided commuter service to downtown Chicago.  Edmunds Street is just out of the photo at the lower right.

Today the Kennedy Expressway cuts through the area below grade level, with Milwaukee Avenue crossing over the expressway on its own viaduct.  Edmunds Street now dead-ends at the expressway.  The O’Hare Branch of the Blue Line, operating on the expressway median, has a busy station and bus terminal two blocks to the south.  The result has been a number of multi-story apartment buildings.  Commuter trains still run on the old C&NW tracks, though now they’re part of Metra.

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Wide and Wonderful Sunnyside Avenue

Like most kids, I asked my parents a lot of strange questions.  One of them involved a street a couple of blocks from my home, Sunnyside Avenue.

At 4500 north, Sunnyside was supposed to be a side street.  Yet it was just as wide as Montrose, Austin, or any of the other arterial streets in my neighborhood.  The parkway between the curb and the sidewalk was also generous, leaving room for two more traffic lanes, if the city decided to widen Sunnyside even more.

I remember asking my Dad about it.  He didn’t know why Sunnyside was so wide.  Dad suspected that some politician’s relative had a lot of extra paving material he wanted to sell to the city.

Sunnyside Avenue @ Lockwood Avenue, view west

Sunnyside Avenue @ Lockwood Avenue, view west

I later found that there are a few other unnaturally-wide side streets around Chicago—for example, Catalpa Avenue between Western and Lincoln.  However, most of them are only a block or two long.  The wide section of Sunnyside runs for over a mile, from Milwaukee to Austin.

I’ve come up with two possible explanations for Sunnyside’s extraordinary width—(1) Sunnyside is on the right-of-way of a railroad freight line that was never built, or (2) Sunnyside was originally intended to be part of the Chicago Park District boulevard system.  However, these are only conjectures.  I have no proof of either one.

This blog has a few thousand readers who collectively have a pretty impressive knowledge of Chicago.  If anyone knows the reason why Sunnyside Avenue is so wide—and can document it—please let me know.

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