By Mina Bloom
Excerpts from Block Club Chicago Article published on June 15, 2018
There’s nothing that says Logan Square more than the Illinois Centennial Monument, a nearly century-old, 68-foot-tall sculpted column standing proudly in the heart of the neighborhood. Some argue the sheer size of the monument, visible through the trees in any direction, is its defining characteristic, for which we have Lincoln Memorial architect Henry Bacon to thank. But Bacon is not the only talent behind the neighborhood’s most important landmark.
Look a bit closer and prepare to be dazzled by the work of Evelyn Beatrice Longman. The accomplished sculptor is not only responsible for the carved figures along the base, but also for the eagle perched atop the column, according to local historians. Longman went on to become the first woman to make a career of creating large-scale public sculptures — no small feat in the early 1900s.
“In that time period, to have a woman on board, you knew she was very special,” said Ward Miller, executive director for Preservation Chicago.
That got us thinking: What other women helped build Logan Square?
Across generations, a talented group of women have made a lasting impact on the neighborhood, in male-dominated fields no less. They would probably be thrilled to see how many woman-owned businesses, female artists and community leaders now call Logan Square home.
The Logan Square Blue Line station has seen better days. Thanks to decades of heavy use and typical Chicago weather, today’s station is known for its leaky ceiling, crumbling walls and cavernous feel. But when it was built in the late 1960s, the station was considered an architectural marvel, according to Miller.
“When it came time to design, those train stations at Logan Square and Belmont and other stations in the middle of the Expressway, they produced these wonderful steel and glass Mies van der Rohe style canopies — canopies that were meant to be glass boxes … pure white, very airy and lots of glass,” Miller said.
A design team led by Myron Goldsmith at the famous architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, or SOM, is responsible for the modern design. But it was Pao Chi-Chang, an architect said to have worked closely with Mies van der Rohe, who was so passionate about the project that she lost her job trying to maintain its integrity, according to Miller.
The preservationist said Pao Chi-Chang is the one who helped come up with the canopy design with all of the glass and white details. The rest of the team deemed the design too expensive, so they made cost-cutting changes. Convinced those changes would diminish the quality of the design, Pao Chi-Chang snuck into the office one weekend and changed all of the details back, according to Miller. The project went into production without noticing the switch, but Pao Chi-Chang was fired once they found out what she had done.
“She impaled herself for architecture’s sake,” Miller said. “If it cost a little bit more, in her mind’s eye, that wasn’t as important as having a pristine building along these transportation lines that would last several lifetimes, if not more.”
Last it would, but perhaps not as gracefully as Pao Chi-Chang had hoped. The canopy has been painted blue and the glass and steel pavilions have been replaced with plexi-glass. Those changes, coupled with harsh lighting overhead, makes the Logan Square Blue Line feel especially outdated.
But Miller said it wouldn’t take much to bring the Myron Goldsmith, SOM and Pao Chi-Chang bold vision back to life: “If you were to go back to the pure white paint, crystal clear glass, they would look like brand new stations, straight out of the vain of IIT and Mies van der Roe, one of the world’s most recognized architects of the 20th century.”
Miller’s story about Pao Chi-Chang changing the drawings back could not be confirmed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. The firm did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Much has been written about Martin Kimbell, the earliest settler of Logan Square, first arriving in 1836. But unbeknownst to many, his wife, Sarah Smalley-Kimbell, also played an important role in shaping the area that would become Logan Square.
Martin Kimbell built his 160-acre farm where Diversey, Milwaukee and Kimball avenues intersect today, establishing what was then called Jefferson Township. He is credited for opening the first schools in the area, drilling the first well and deeding Wrightwood Avenue west of Kimball Avenue, among other things. But he had some help.
Sarah Smalley-Kimbell, who arrived in Logan Square around the same time, was also instrumental in making sure various food provisions made it to the South during the Civil War, Miller said.
“What’s important to remember about [Sarah Smalley-Kimbell] is she was very much a partner in this with her husband even though her husband, because of the times, he got all of the credit,” Miller said.
Eva Calderon – Longtime community leader Eva Calderon helped shape Mozart Elementary into what it is today….
Ada Sawyer Garrett– Back in the early 1900s, a small baseball stadium known as Callahan’s Ball Park stood along the north side of Milwaukee Avenue from Sawyer Avenue to Diversey and Kedzie avenues. It was a charming stadium…
Sally Levin, Jane Harrison and Diane Scott – Anyone who’s lived in Logan Square long enough remembers the Logan Square Free Press, a scrappy biweekly newspaper that covered six wards on the Northwest Side….
Carrie Gilbert – On the west-facing side of the Logan Square Auditorium building, the name “Gilbert” is etched in big bold letters. But who is Gilbert?…