Sometimes, one needs to get away. During the pandemic, traveling a few miles toward my old Chicago neighborhood felt like a trip to Mars. I found inspiration and memory while tracing steps I’ve walked thousands of times. Most trips these days are hyperlocal. In Chicago, there is snow on the ground now, but this was probably the last warm day we had in 2021. It was only a few weeks ago, but in pandemic terms, that feels like a lifetime. Despite all that, I discovered a local walk was exactly the pandemic escape I needed. I tried first to head out in my own neighborhood, down the streets that are my everyday escapes and found inspiration lacking (even if beautiful, just all too … usual). This trip, however, started as recon for a current project proposal and instead became a trip down memory lane. I lived in Logan Square when I returned to Chicago, after being gone for nearly eight years. I did a lot of growing up there during college, in the twilight of the new millennium. And now, 20 years later, it’s somehow both the same and completely different. I miss the people, the places, the restaurants, the neighborhood. It feels good to travel again.
I will travel to the end of the earth for Intelligensia Coffee, and while this trip was no mission to Mars, it felt like it. One day we’ll get to go to the theater again.
Centennial Monument at Logan Square. The center of it all. The monument defines the neighborhood as an icon. Usually the meeting spot, in more “certain” times.
CTA Logan Square Blue Line Station. Most people would describe their public transit system as a necessary evil they contend with every day: easy and efficient, terrible and broken. It’s all of those things but, deep down, we love it. This subway station is what gets us home and takes us to work. That iconic blue is defended and degraded in the same breath. Like family.
Logan Boulevard Courtyard Apartments. There are dense courtyard unit buildings throughout the city. They allow ample light and create active neighborhoods. This example on Logan Boulevard was used as Sandra Bullock’s home in While You Were Sleeping (1995). Chicago’s film history is everywhere. But for some reason, a lot of it is Sandra’s. I often joked about hosting a Sandra Bullock Tour of Chicago. Someone would pay for that, right?
Chicago Bungalows. Famously, Chicago is the “City that Works.” The bungalows are another part of that DNA: single-family residences that were part of the early 20th century expansion of the city. They are representative of Chicago’s working class and get-to-it spirit.
California Avenue greystones. The Chicago greystone is an urban stalwart. Found in most neighborhoods, it’s especially abundant throughout this one. It often comes in multiples and is cited as part of the chain of Chicago DNA.
Murals off Milwaukee Avenue. A newer mural I found on my tour (this is just part of it), the artwork celebrates the Mexican heritage of the neighborhood, many of its landmarks, and connections to the Mexican immigrant community. It was so well composed and well done that I studied all the smaller parts and kept discovering something new.
Pigeons on Milwaukee Avenue corner. Spy cameras recharging their solar batteries?
Dentist office signage, Milwaukee Avenue. While I cannot fully explain why I love the signage for this dentist so much, I just know that I do. I think it’s the exuberance and the dedication. That’s really Chicago for me, in a nutshell.
Top: Hairpin Arts Center, Diversey Parkway and Milwaukee Avenue. Chicago’s diagonal avenues create plenty of flatiron building opportunities, however, very few seem to exist. Above: Hairpin Arts Center, facade detail. The camel detail must mean something. Illuminati, probably.
Logan Square Theater marquis, a neighborhood icon. Someday soon, we will all meet up here for a good meal and good times with friends.
All photos by the author. This is the second in an occasional series of photo essays on how people have rediscovered their cities in a time of pandemic. We invite you to share images of your neighborhood. Contact Martin C. Pedersen at email@example.com.