Casa Bonita condominiums

Casa Bonita Condominiums

The U-shaped apartment building is a very standard 1920s Chicago development scheme, allowing a tall building with lots of rental units, while still providing each with plenty of natural light. The resulting courtyard can also become an amenity, providing a slice of nature to the residents.

These buildings are decorated in a wide variety of styles, but far and away the most elaborate one I’ve found to date is the Casa Bonita, on Ridge Avenue just north of Touhy.

Casa Bonita Condominiums

Designed in 1928 by Alexander Capraro and Morris Komar, it’s slathered in glazed white terra cotta ornament. Sculpted faces, spiral pilasters, brackets, medallions, and floral decoration are only part of the list.

Casa Bonita Condominiums

The building is well-maintained today, having been converted to condominiums. Plantings surround a small reflecting pool with a sculpture in the center.

Two trees near the open end of the courtyard ensure that it’s almost invisible from Ridge (and unfortunately make photographing the building as a whole impossible.)

Casa Bonita Condominiums

But those trees also provide a screen from the street; a grade change allows the courtyard to be sunken half a flight down from the street, further sheltering it from the busy traffic on Ridge. The entire building as it stands is a testimony to how wonderful controlled outdoor space can be, a literally shining example of the wonderful power of architecture.

Casa Bonita Condominiums

More detail photos may be seen at my Flickr space.


Something funky in Rogers Park

At first glance, it’s nothing special, just another dull 1960s apartment block, sandwiched between other buildings older and newer, larger and smaller.

Funky apartment building

But… what’s that stuff on it?

Funky apartment building

Glorious! A wall of cream brick, broken by a perfectly proportioned band of darker brown flecked with a grid of the cream brick, and with an assortment of inset abstract sculpture in concrete.

So… did somebody just have some sculpture laying around, or what?

Funky apartment building

Funky apartment building

While these creative little bits of abstract sculpture are no doubt the highlight the building, there’s also…

Funky apartment building

…one heck of an entryway, combining more of the checkerboard brick pattern from the front facade with concrete pattern blocks and a pair of demarcating brick piers. It’s a tiny celebration!

It’s at 1618 W. Sherwin Avenue, just off of Clark Street. It was built around 1962; the architect is N. S. Theodorou.

"The Shame of it All…"

Oh, the shame of it all!

I never saw what was here before; it was gone by mid-2005 when I first saw the sign. Whatever it was, it was nice enough to inspire this protest from the neighbors:

The shame of it all…

1830 West Lunt was an 1890s single family farmhouse SOLD and DEMOLISHED to be replaced with TWO houses

“May those who love us, love us
And those that don’t love us, may God turn their hearts.
If he doesn’t turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles,
so we will know them by their limping.” — an old Irish saying

Pleaes let us know if you see any developers, realtors, solicitors, or profiteers limping about.

Contact Alderman Joe Moore at the 49th Ward Office…with your opinions about zoning that allows this type of development to continue.

Neighbors for Responsible Zoning (“The Zoners”)

Oh, the shame of it all!

The new houses aren’t much to write home about, at least from the outside. They’ve got stagefront brick facades, with vinyl siding behind (because no one can see the side of the house. It’s invisible, don’tchaknow.) Why brick? I don’t know!! None of the houses around them have brick. I guess brick automatically equates to “quality”, and who can argue with quality?

They’re not out of scale with the neighborhood or anything; in fact they’re a bit too small to stand comfortably alongside the three-story older houses that surround them.

What makes the whole thing even more darkly hilarious is that the two new houses have sat empty for over two years now. One isn’t even finished — it only recently got its front porch, which still hasn’t been painted. One of the houses finally sold a month or two back, and the builder’s sign now reads “Only one left!” Yeah, better hurry there, folks.

The larger issue, of course, is how one should handle the eternal flux of city neighborhoods. This particular block is immensely valuable, because it’s right next to a Metra stop. 20 minute access to downtown? That’s an irresistible pull for developers. It’s amazing this hasn’t happened to the rest of the block.

Cities are always changing. Sometimes it happens slowly, in small bits and pieces like this. I don’t always like the results, but I have my doubts about the alternatives. Can you really constrain a city, tell it where to grow and where not to? Should the city remain physically stagnant? Where should growth be allowed? At what point does a building have enough architectural and historical merit to be worth curbing that growth?

All are questions with no fixed answer, but as I see endless protests and complaints about the supposed scourge of condominiums (people with money are moving into the city?! OH NOEZ!!), I find myself wondering just what people do want to happen in their city. Should it remain the same forever?