Widened Ashland Avenue. Intersection of Ashland Avenue and Lawrence Avenue

Most of the new diagonal avenues called for by the Plan of Chicago were never constructed. Unlike in Paris, the City of Chicago lacked the legal authority and political support that would be necessary to seize the many parcels of private property needed to create new public rights of way (see next image). Several major thoroughfares on the existing grid were widened in accordance with the plan. Ashland Avenue, a north-south artery through the center of the city was one of these. In all, twenty miles of the street were widened from Arthur Avenue on the north to 95th Street in the south. The avenue was paved in asphalt concrete, rather than macadam or brick, creating a smooth surface suitable for automobiles. This photograph, from a commemorative album celebrating the accomplishment of many of the improvements inspired by the Plan, shows the widened Ashland Avenue looking south (not north, as incorrectly stated in the photo’s caption) from its intersection with Lawrence Avenue. The photograph proudly features the width and smoothness of the new surface—apparently before it encountered its first Chicago winter. In order to accommodate the street widening, the City of Chicago seized seventeen feet from property owners on each side of the street. Our Lady of Lourdes Church, located on the corner of Leland Avenue, is visible in this photograph. The church posed a major challenge to the Ashland Avenue improvement project as it stood within the seventeen-foot buffer zone that would be paved over. The City of Chicago gave the church the option to have 10 feet cut from the edifice or to relocate the building across the street where it could maintain its current size. The church chose relocation and in the summer of 1929 the building was cut in half, placed on stilts and moved across the avenue where it stands to this day.

 

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City of Chicago, Board of Local Improvements. A 16 Year Record of Achievements 1915-1931. Chicago: Buckley, Dement & Company, 1931.

City of Chicago, Board of Local Improvements. Chicago Plan by the Board of Local Improvements. Chicago: Servinghaus, 1922.

Condit, Carl W. Chicago 1910-29: Buildings, Planning, and Urban Technology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973.

Foster, Mark S. From Streetcar to Superhighway: American City Planners and Urban Transportation, 1900-1940. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1981.

“Widened Ashland Avenue. Intersection of Ashland Avenue and Lawrence Avenue,” from Sixteen-Year Record of Achievement by Chicago Board of Local Improvements (Chicago: Buckley, Dement & Co., 1931), p. 34. The Newberry Library, J 7896 .1516