1927 photo shows Milwaukee Avenue shortly after it was widened in Jefferson Park, Gladstone Park; 1949 photos show celebration for traffic signals installed at Milwaukee, Central & Foster avenues
by BRIAN NADIG
A 1927 photograph that was recently donated to the Northwest Chicago Historical Society shows Milwaukee Avenue right after the street was widened from approximately Carmen Avenue in Jefferson Park to Devon Avenue in Gladstone Park.
Frank Suerth, a researcher for the historical society, said that the photograph ran in one of Chicago’s daily newspapers and shows banners celebrating the widening of the street. The picture appears to have been taken from a railroad viaduct in the 5000 block of Milwaukee, looking north.
The picture also includes a sign on a lamppost promoting a “new subdivision” with “large lots.” The 16th (Jefferson Park) Police Station, 5151 N. Milwaukee Ave., including its parking garage, is now located on the east side of Milwaukee Ave., where a series of buildings, including the former location of Vaughan’s Pub, were demolished just north of Carmen about 20 years ago.
In the 1920s, the city widened or extended more than 100 miles of major streets as part of its implementation of Burnham and Bennett’s 1909 Plan of Chicago, according to the 2017 Gladstone Park Commercial Corridor Study, which is posted on the city’s website at www.cityofchicago.org.
It’s not clear how much width was added to Milwaukee, but the picture indicates the widening appears to be a significant amount, probably around one or two traffic lanes as considered by today’s standards.
“This widening was relatively easy because most of the private property along this segment of Milwaukee remained undeveloped,” the study stated.
In some instances a building, or possibly just the front portion of it, may may been demolished or moved, Suerth said.
At the time a street car operated on Milwaukee from Devon to Downtown Chicago, providing convenient access to the Jefferson Park and Six Corners shopping districts, according to the study.
“In 1932 … Whealan Pool became a summertime destination at the end of the Milwaukee streetcar lines,” the study states. “Superdawg opened in 1948 as a summer only establishment to serve those going to the pool and became a year-round operation starting in 1950. Both Northwest Highway and and Elston Avenue has trolley buses: electric buses which draw power from overhead lines.”
The city started dismantling its streetcar lines in the 1950s, Suerth said.
Three other recently donated pictures show portions of the Milwaukee-Foster and Milwaukee-Central intersections in 1949 during an apparent celebration of traffic signals being installed in the area, Suerth said. In one of the photographs a crowd gathers around two trucks, one of which has speakers on it.
A triangular parcel just north of Foster Avenue in one of the pictures includes a business that sells hamburgers, barbecue, cigars, cigarettes and Coca-cola. About 40 years later the city acquired the parcel and had the building there demolished because it was considered an obstruction to motorists.
A milk and cream shop, a used car lot and two Texaco gas stations also can be seen in the pictures.
One of the pictures shows the numerous vacant lots on Milwaukee a little north of the Milwaukee-Central intersection, where a Crest Pharmacy was located, Suerth said.
Much of Milwaukee in Gladstone Park was not developed until around 1960, according to the corridor study.