Today's victim of "progress" is an old mixed use commercial/residential building along Milwaukee Avenue between Leavitt and Oakley, a few blocks from our home. The area has been undergoing a transition from mostly industrial and commercial uses as demand for housing in Bucktown has increased. As empty lots and industrial buildings have been replaced by new commercial residential buidings, Milwaukee between the tracks and Western Ave has become an interesting amalgam of 19th and 21st century styles. It's been a fairly successful mix, redevelopment of what had been a fairly forlorn stretch of road being spurred on by the establishment of a couple of fine restaurants, Cafe Matou and Irazu. I had hoped that buildings such as this one would find new uses and continue to grace the block with their presence. With new, modern glass storefronts on the first floor, the building could have fit right in to the new look of the neighborhood:
One of the reasons I am so concerned about the destruction of these buildings is that the quality of workmanship and detail that went into their constrution is missing from most modern buildings as old skills such as metal stamping and terra cotta work have been lost from the building trades. Look, for example, at the kind of detail that was put into the decorative trim of this workaday building:
Compare that to the stripped-down, geometric detail on the block's new buildings:
In this case I am fairly confident that something suitably urban and appropriate will go in on the block, because developers have such high hopes for the area. But it seems sad to me that so much that has survived so long is being destroyed so quickly in the name of redevelopment. I actually rushed to the scene with a camera because I was so concerned that the 1894 commercial/residential building next door would be torn down as well, but it looks to me like the demolition crew is being careful to leave this neighborhood marvel intact.
For that I am grateful. Although the building will lose some of its historical value deprived of its original context, the new build environment of Milwaukee Ave will still be functionally close enough to the old one that the strength and practicality of the building's design will still be evident, along with its beauty.