All posts tagged Development

4800 North Ravenswood Avenue

Early Human Settlement

The State of Illinois is an outgrowth of the history of many peoples. Many of their influences have vanished, sealed beneath the foundation of homes and the construction of roads. Here, in Ravenswood, Native Americans lived for thousands of years prior to the first European explorers.

Pause a moment here, on the train platform and have a look around. In your mind’s eye, can you remove the buildings and roads to imagine what this place was like 500 years ago?

This area lies about a mile from Lake Michigan and about a mile from the Chicago River. Prior to European settlement the area was a mix of marsh and low sandy ridges, one of which formed the Green Bay Trail.

Today we call the Green Bay Trail by a different name: Clark Street.

Mound people, called Mississippians, probably established a settlement about six miles from here in Chicago near Wolf Point. The collapse of the Mississippian culture coincided with the ravages due to the introduction of Euro-Asian diseases, the beginning of the Little Ice Age and the introduction of horses to North America.

We are not aware of any Mississippian culture locations in the Ravenswood area.1 2

Sometime around the collapse of the Mississipian culture in 1500 C.E. the Neshnabek tribe migrated from what is now Western Ontario to an area on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. In 1634 Jean Nicolet, a French explorer, met members of the tribe at Red Bank, Door County, Wisconsin. It is during this encounter that the Neshnabek tribe first became known as the Pouutouatami.3

The rage of the Iroquois forced Eastern tribes to flee into the the Midwest. Attacks by the Iroquois in the Ontario Peninsula against the Potawatomi, Sac, Fox, Kickapoo and the Miami temporarily ended European exploration of the Midwest. As a result of the Iroquois attacks, the Potawatomi relocated across Lake Michigan to Green Bay and Door County in Wisconsin.4 By 1667 the French and Iroquois had agreed on peace terms allowing French coureurs de boid to search further into the Midwest for fur.5

Chief Illiniwek, a modern interpretation of the tribe that once lived in the Chicago area.

Chief  Illiniwek, a modern interpretation of the tribe that once lived in the Chicago area, was once the mascot of the University of Illinois. The school was criticized for what many people, including Native Americans, considered a racist depiction of the Illiniwek tribe.

The native people around the tip of Lake Michigan called themselves the Illiniwek. Their tribe gave their name to the state through the French: Illinois.6

Their tribe spoke a language shared by many other tribes, Algonkian. Those tribes included the Cahokia, the Kaskaskia, the Michigamea, Moingwena, Peoria, Miami and Tamaroa.

Despite their shared language, the Miami were considered a separate tribe from the Algonquin confederacy.

French influence in the area increased with a key moment being the first European use of the Chicago portage by Rene’ Robert Cavelier de LaSalle in 1670.7 In 1671, in a ceremony held at Sault Saint Marie, the French laid claim to the lands of the Illinois.8

The population of the Illiniwek were estimated to be about 6,500 by Father Louis Hennepin, OFM, a French missionary about the year 1680. de La Salle, in 1684, states about 1,200 Illinois warriors gathered at Fort St. Louis in that year.

The Illiniwek and the other tribes encountered by the French, were not settled people. Some of the older members of the tribe, along with slaves, would plant fields of maize, gourds and pumpkins. These fields would be left for growing as the tribe engaged in hunting elsewhere.

Winter quarters may have consisted of long arbors covered with mats of reeds.

The Illinois Confederation of tribes could not resist the Iroquois invasion of the Midwest. Many of the tribes crossed the Mississippi River to settle in Kansas, Missouri and other western states.

In the years that followed the area around the mouth of the Chicago River changed hands several times. The Miami, the Potawatomi, a French garrison, the Potawatomi and the Chippewa, the French again and finally the British, who took control of the area in 1763.

The Potawatomi remained a force in the area, allying against the US and with the British, even after the Treaty of Paris gave the US sovereignty of the area. In 1812 a Potawatomi band ambushed the garrison of Fort Dearborn as it attempted to march to Fort Wayne.

The total defeat of the US forces temporarily ended US administration of the Chicago region. US forces militarily defeated the Potawatomi, being led by Tecumseh, at Moraviantown, Ontario in 1813.9

The US rebuilt the destroyed Fort Dearborn in 1816. You can see its outline today at the corner of East Wacker Drive and North Michigan Ave.

The US defeat at Fort Dearborn had unfortunate long-run consequences for Native tribes. Remembering the ‘massacre’, European settlers demanded the removal of all native tribes from the new state of Illinois.

In 1832 the last major Native American effort in Illinois ended in disaster as the local militia, regular US Army units and Sioux nearly exterminated Chief Black Hawks followers of Sac and Fox at Bad Axe in Wisconsin.10

A treaty signed in Chicago in 1835 (the Chicago Treaty of 1833) caused the evacuation of the Potawatomi from Illinois. According to Ron Grossman, writing for the Chicago Tribune, 500 warriors gathered in Chicago to conclude the treaty, dancing in full dress and brandishing tomahawks.

It was the last recorded war dance in the Chicago area.11

Continue Reading

1713 West Sunnyside Avenue

An interesting design contrast with the other churches in the neighborhood.
This church, designed by N. Max Dunning and Clarence A. Jensen, takes inspiration from Greek temple forms found in the Pantheon and elsewhere. Classical architecture was quite typical in Christian Science churches in Chicago and many cities. What is not typical is the very high quality of design present here. Note the Superb proportions of the east facade, which express vertical thrust through the Ionic
columns and horizontal breadth through the width of the portico. This facade’s proportions, the monumental scale of the building, the skillful use of terra cotta ornament, the stained glass, and the copper lanterns flanking portico, all set this building aside as one of the city’s finest classical structures.
The building was extraordinarily expensive by the standards of its time, when Ravenswood’s largest and finest houses sold for only $6,000 or $8,000. Taking inflation in house prices into account, this building’s cost of $175,000 is equivalent
to about $10 million in 2000 dollars.
N. Max Dunning (1873-1945) was one of Chicago’s ‘most prominent architects, the designer of the American Furniture Mart, American Book Company Building also known as the Lakeside Press Plant #3 at 330 E. Cermak, and, with E. E. Roberts, the Oak Park Baptist Church. In this case, Dunning collaborated with Clarence A. Jensen, a lesser-known architect.


The original Christian Science congregation moved out in the early 1980’s. A succession of other congregations have followed, the most recent of which, prior to the Philadelphia Romanian Church, was the Lakeshore Family Church. in the late summer of 1993. The church, which owned the building and adjacent parking lot, signed a contract with a Lincoln Park real estate developer for the purchase of the
three-quarter acre site and its building. He proposed to tear down the church and construct some 32 apartments and townhouses on the site, using setbacks and density levels inconnsistent with norms in the neighborhood, and which would require zoning change.
1713 W Sunnyside Ave, Philadelphia Romanian Church. Credit: Wikimapia

1713 W Sunnyside Ave, Philadelphia Romanian Church. Credit: Wikimapia

In the course of the following several months, community opposition grew. A few days before Christmas, 1993, at a community meeting, residents by an overwhelming vote rejected the proposed zoning change and recommended that the City Council also reject it. Shortly thereafter, the Lakeshore Family Church decided to nullify its contract with the developer and sell the site instead to another church, the current owners, who restored the building.


Continue the tour to 4500 North Paulina Street.

  1. Cross the street, about 33′ north from you.
  2. Click the ‘Continue the Tour’ button below when you’ve reached your destination.