Underdog Buildings in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village May Get Landmark Protection

The Ukrainian Village Neighborhood Association is trying to get more properties added to the neighborhood’s landmark district.

Recently, a worker’s cottage at 2047 West Augusta Boulevard was saved from demolition as the demand for housing and pressure for increased density intensifies in some Chicago neighborhoods. 

A number of worker cottages remain in Ukrainian Village, including 2047 West Augusta. the fourth building from the right (Via Apple Maps)

Worker’s cottages sprouted up by the millions in the Great Lakes region just before and after the turn of the 20th century.  Unlike Chicago’s beloved bungalows and three-flats, the cottages can seem just like ordinary houses, and are therefore overlooked by many people.  But as Chicago increasingly becomes a city of four-story LEGO squares, the cottages are becoming rarer, and gaining a following.

In 1910, building your own home from a kit was considered an average skill. In 2010, cereal sales plummeted because millennials found pouring milk into a bowl of flakes was too hard.

Worker’s cottages were sometimes developed en masse by a single builder, similar to the tract homes of the east and west coasts. They were also sold as individual kits through ads in newspapers and magazines.  At a time when Chicago was undergoing unprecedented growth, the cottages were a quick and cheap way to meet the demand for new homes.  The City of Chicago describes them thusly:

The “worker’s cottage” property type developed in response to the grid-like subdivisions common to Chicago as the city spread in all directions across the flat northern Illinois prairie.  These cottages are typically rectangular in overall plan, with the short side of the plan facing the street and the house itself fitting snugly within the confines of the typical narrow yet deep building lot.  The city’s relatively low land costs in many developing neighborhoods allowed single-family home ownership through cottages to be available for striving working- and middle-class families.

Worker’s cottages are typically modest-scaled buildings.  They could be either one or one-and-a-half stories in height and typically had gabled roofs facing the street.  Early Chicago cottages (built before the 1870s) typically were built of wood, while later cottages were more often built of brick, although this varied among neighborhoods and the requirements of City of Chicago building and fire codes.  Although many early cottages were built against the ground itself with only modest piling, it became common for them to be raised above the ground on more substantial foundations, creating basements lighted and ventilated with small windows.  Front doors were typically to one side of the front facade, visually balanced by windows, typically in pairs, that were detailed with wood or (in the case of brick cottages) stone lintels.  Front stoops were usually built of wood with cast-iron railings and posts.  Often a pent roof or porch with wood posts and details sheltered the building’s front entrance.  If a cottage had a second floor or attic, it would be lighted by a single window nestled within the front gable and sometimes also small side dormers.  Early cottages had wooden cornices supported with brackets or dentils.  By the 1880s, pressed metal had replaced wood for most cornices.

The cottages that U.V.N.A. is most interested in are along the two-block stretch of Augusta Boulevard between Damen Avenue and Leavitt Street, near Columbus Elementary School.  

With city government the way it is these days, it’ll be a while before any changes can be made to the landmark district.  But the U.V.N.A. has asked the East Village Association for its support, and perhaps additional numbers will help move the process forward.

Location: 2047 West Augusta Boulevard, Ukrainian Village

Author: Editor

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

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