LOGAN SQUARE — It took Andrew Schneider nearly a decade to collect the most comprehensive collection of Logan Square historical photos ever assembled.
The Logan Square Preservation president will put more than 100 of those photos on display in August, within view of the historic Centennial monument at Comfort Station, 2579 N. Milwaukee Ave.
“Picturing Logan Square: An Exhibition of Rare Images” will showcase around 150 photos from Aug. 2-31 at Comfort Station, with an opening reception scheduled for 3-6 p.m. Aug. 3.
The 11-by-14-inch, high-resolution black-and-white images depict a neighborhood from its rural beginnings in the 1800s, through a period of rapid development by 1935, and finally a mature community in the 1960s. A 40-by-50-inch photo of the Blue Line construction gives a particular glimpse into the past — a giant hole can be seen just south of the Logan Square monument where the train now runs beneath the park.
With the arrival of the elevated line in 1895, the neighborhood saw its first glimpse of development. When the line was finally torn down and moved underground in the 1960s, much of what was Logan Square, including its landscape and local business, was destroyed in the process.
The idea for a collection began with co-curator David Keel in an effort to understand the neighborhood’s roots, Schneider said. Within the last three years it quickly bloomed to a collection of hundreds — mostly through help from long-time Logan Square residents with access to family photos and an online community of savvy photo postcard collectors.
“No question this is the biggest collection, but I suppose the biggest collection is scattered among the people who have lived here,” Schneider said from his Logan Square basement, where about 170 of the photos are being stored ahead of the exhibit in groups with labels like "Kimball Farm," "Logan Sidestreets" and "Palmer Square."
“I see a city in a garden” in the images, he added. “I suppose all of that inspired me to collect them.”
Schneider said personal and private donations from Logan Square residents make up the bulk of the collection, but he also scoured the Internet for leads during his hunt for the historic photos. A welcome helping hand from the Chicago Transit Authority, local public libraries and art institutions is part of a shortlist of sponsors and community support, including a hefty sponsorship from Liberty Bank, a Logan Square institution since 1898.
While many of the photos show a changed neighborhood, a surprising amount of the locations can be identified by simple comparison to existing structures. The diverse collection is a snapshot of the neighborhood’s rapid development overall, and Schneider hopes to keep adding photos as the neighborhood progresses.
“They came from every which way” this time around, Schneider said. “And I have no doubt that after this show I’ll get more.”
A self-guided walking tour with an accompanying map and 40-page photobook will be available at the August exhibit from noon-3 p.m. every Sunday at Comfort Station. DNAinfo Chicago will preview a than-and-now photo set each Thursday in the run-up to the exhibit opening.
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