How Chicago Gained a Park and a Strip Mall, but Lost a College

Mautene Court

A recent series of articles in the Chicago Tribune highlighted the fact that much of Chicago lacks adequate parks and greenspace.  One way to deal with that problem is through the creation of pocket parks.  One such park exists along Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park.

Mautene Court (1260 North Milwaukee Avenue) is unfortunately mostly paved, but it’s at least a small chunk of public space slightly away from the noise and commotion of the area known as Polonia Square.  “Mautene” isn’t Polish in origin.  The street was named for a local Indian.

In 1983 the City of Chicago designated this space as a means for the public to get from the surface parking lot to the southwest to what would become a giant strip mall development bounded by Blackhawk, Ashland, Milwaukee, and Pulaski Paulina.  Back then this was more neighborhoody and there were several streets running through what is today mostly a surface parking lot.

Interestingly, a year earlier the Illinois College of Optometry submitted a proposal to the city to use that land for a new college campus, complete with laboratory and classroom buildings.  Somehow the strip mall won.

Here’s a map of the area before it was developed into what we see today:

Map of the area near the intersection of Ashland and Milwaukee

Map of the area near the intersection of Ashland and Milwaukee

A plaque on the site of Mautene Court reads:

During the first half of the 20th century, Mautene Court served as a staging area for deliveries to the thriving retail and garment manufacturing district along Milwaukee Avenue.  In the 1980s Mautene Court was converted into a public space for all to enoy.  Redesigned in 2008, Mautene Court is being dedicated in memory of Jan Metzger community leader and avid supporter of public and green spaces, this 21st day of May 2011.

Plaque at Mautene Court

Plaque at Mautene Court

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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