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Learn About Uptown's History at Society of Architectural Historians Tour

By Mina Bloom | March 3, 2015 5:36am
 Tour-goers will learn about 5050 N. Broadway, among other historic places.
Tour-goers will learn about 5050 N. Broadway, among other historic places.
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Courtesy/American Terra Cotta and Ceramic Company Records

UPTOWN — Did you know land and building values in Uptown were once some of the highest in Chicago outside of The Loop?

That's according to historian Patrick Steffes, who, with fellow historian Jacob Kaplan, will lead an upcoming history tour put on by the Society of Architectural Historians.

"When people talk about [Uptown's history] they talk about some of the challenges and vices of the past, especially related to prohibition, but there's so much more to talk about," said Steffes, who writes for Forgotten Chicago, a website that chronicles lost and unseen architecture in Chicago. 

The Uptown tour is among 30 tours offered as part of the society's 68th annual conference in Chicago. It'll be held April 18 from 1-5 p.m. Tickets cost $20 and can be bought online.

Expect to learn about overlooked or perhaps forgotten remnants of Uptown's past, but not about buildings that have been demolished for years.

Steffes said they focus on historical remnants you can still see—"something where you can go up to it and see signs of the past," he said.

For example, tour-goers will learn about 5050 N. Broadway. Buried underneath the building is a private parking garage circa 1926. In the 1960s, the building became home to Aon Insurance, one of the city's leading insurance companies, he said.

"You don't think of these very large private parking garages so far from The Loop," Steffes said.

Tour-goers will also learn about the significance of the neighborhood's auto dealership row and see an old street name inscribed in stone, among other things, Steffes said.

Since its heyday in the 1920s, "Uptown has evolved into a veritable menagerie of people and cultures," according to the society's website.

Today, there are "elaborate, terra cotta-clad movie palaces and commercial buildings, grand houses and apartment buildings, as well as vestiges of post-World War II urban renewal," the website said.

Forgotten Chicago is also planning a history presentation at Bezazian Library, 1226 W. Ainsle St., within the next months.

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