Posts Tagged 'South Side'

Then and Now, Halsted-26th

1955--Halsted Street @ 26th Street, view south

1955–Halsted Street @ 26th Street, view south

2015--the same location

2017–the same location

In 1955 the streetcars had been gone from Halsted Street for two years.  Yet the overhead wires remained, for a planned conversion to trolley buses that never took place.  Why the street hadn’t yet been repaved is anybody’s guess.  Perhaps the older photo dates from early in the year, before local resident Richard J. Daley took office as mayor.

Today much of Bridgeport has seen rehabbing and new construction.  A block south and on the right, the old Stearns Quarry has been transformed into lovely Palmisano Park.




Then and Now, Baltimore-133rd

1900--Baltimore Avenue @ 133rd Street, view north

1900–Baltimore Avenue @ 133rd Street, view north

2016--the same location

2017–the same location

In 1883 Adolph Hegewisch opened a factory near the rail yards at 135th Street and Brandon Avenue.  Sub-dividers soon followed.  By 1900 the neighborhood had been annexed by Chicago, and Baltimore Avenue had developed a fledgling commercial strip.

In our time Mr. H’s factory is gone, but Chicago’s most remote community proudly bears his name.  Many of the old buildings still stand along Baltimore Avenue.  Trees, vehicular and pedestrian street lights, decorative signs, and repaving are features of a recent spruce-up.


Chicago’s First Trolley (10-2-1890)

This was the date “modern” mass transit came to Chicago.  The first electric streetcar line began operating on the South Side.

In 1859 the city got its first street railway.  Rails were sunk in the middle of State Street, between Randolph and 12th Street (now Roosevelt Road), and horses pulled the iron-wheel carriages along the track at 3 miles-per-hour.  The service was popular, and soon extended.  Other lines sprang up on other major streets.

One of Chicago’s early electric streetcars

Cable cars came to Chicago in 1882.  First developed in San Francisco, the idea involved having a continuously-moving cable sunk below track level, running in the direction of travel.  Within a few years, Chicago had the largest cable car system in the country.

The later 19th Century was the age of electricity.  Cities were beginning to string overhead wire for street lights and telephones.  Naturally there was talk of running street railway cars using electric power.  After a few false starts, a successful electric line was launched in Richmond in 1888.

A live electric wire was strung over each set of tracks.  A pole on top of the car connected to the wire, gathering power to run the car’s electric motor.  The pole was called a “trolley,” so the new vehicles were often known as trolley cars.

Like most big cities, Chicago had many competing local transit companies in 1890.  The city’s initial electric line ran on 93rd Street, between Stony Island and South Chicago Avenues.  Rival railways tried to sabotage the effort, spreading dark rumors about passengers being accidentally electrocuted while riding the “death cars.”

1940—The pioneer 93rd Street line (at Jeffery Avenue)

But the trolley cars were triumphant.  They were cleaner, faster, and cheaper to run.  By 1906 both horse cars and cable cars were gone from the city’s streets.

The various local street railway companies were eventually unified.  During the 1920s Chicago operated a fleet of over 3,000 cars on 172 routes over 1,060 miles of track.  With 3.6 million fares each day, it was the largest city transit system on earth.

After World War II, in the name of progress, Chicago replaced its streetcars with buses.  The pioneer 93rd Street line was abandoned in 1951.  Seven years later, the last trolley ran on Wentworth Avenue.

Today many cities have recognized that electric transit is green, and rebuilt their streetcar lines.  Chicago has no plans to do this.


Then and Now, Wentworth-Root

1950--Wentworth Avenue @ Root Street, view north

1950–Wentworth Avenue @ Root Street, view north

2017--the same location

2017–the same location

In 1950 the Fuller Park community was thickly-settled.  Wentworth Avenue was a major traffic artery, and the #22 streetcar line was one of the city’s most-heavily patronized.  To the north, two viaducts can be seen crossing Wentworth—the taller one carrying the Stock Yards ‘L’ line, and the other a belt railroad line.

Today the Dan Ryan Expressway cuts a wide swath thru Fuller Park, shrinking the community’s population to less than one-fifth of its 1950 peak.  Here Wentworth has been reduced to a mere frontage road.  Most transit customers now ride the Red Line on the expressway median.  The Stock Yards ‘L’ and its viaduct are gone, but that railroad viaduct remains.



Then and Now, Prairie-32nd

1959--Prairie Avenue @ 32nd Street, view north

1959–Prairie Avenue @ 32nd Street, view north

2017--the same location

2017–the same location

Starting in the late 1950s, great chunks of the Douglas Community Area were cleared for new housing and institutional use.  A few blocks of 19th Century row houses between 31st and 35th Streets were left untouched, and soon became known as The Gap.

In 2017 the vintage row houses here have been rehabilitated, and new construction fills the vacant lots.  The Gap is now an official Chicago landmark, the Calumet-Giles-Prairie District.


Then and Now, Jefferson-14th

1937–Jefferson Street @ 14th Street, view north

2017–the same location

In 1937 the neighborhood around Jefferson and 14th Streets was mostly tired commercial buildings.  Here and there, you might spot an ancient frame cottage—though the Great Fire of 1871 started a few blocks to the north, the flames did not touch this area.  Public transit was provided by the 14th-16th streetcar line.

In 2017 every building in the older photo is gone.  So is 14th Street, with the UPS facility sprawling over its onetime site.  And if you’ve compared as many “then and now” photos as I have, you’ll notice that Chicago streets have a lot more trees today than they did years ago.


Then and Now, 111th-Morgan

1943--111th Street @ Morgan Street, view east

1943–111th Street @ Morgan Street, view east

2017–the same location

In 1943 the area around 111th and Morgan Streets had a few small cottages, but was mostly vacant.  Low population density meant low demand for public transit.  Except for the passing siding in the photo, the local streetcar line was single track.

What a difference 74 years makes!  Repave the street, put in some sidewalks, add street lights, and plant a few trees.  And while you’re at it, cut an alley through just beyond the fire plug.  Now this stretch of 111th Street looks pleasantly settled.