It took three different designations over the course of 5 years, but now the vast majority of Ukrainian Village is a protected historic landmark district.
As is often the case, the creation of this landmark district was prompted by numerous teardowns that threatened the architectural character of the neighborhood. Former Thirty Second Ward Alderman Ted Matlak held two well-attended community meetings in 2000 to discuss the idea of landmarking the entire neighborhood. After gauging community support and assessing the area most vulnerable to demolition, the blocks bounded by Damen to Leavitt and Haddon to Cortez were designated a landmark district in December of 2002.
Unfortunately, in 2004, when more brick cottages were demolished, Alderman Matlak supported the extension of the district to encompass the 2000 through 2300 blocks of West Walton, doubling the size of the original district. This second extension became law in 2005.
However, with all of Walton Street now off the table to new development, the cycle of demolition continued elsewhere in Ukrainian Village. The loss of a brick 2-flat in the summer of 2005 on a completely intact block of West Cortez caused neighborhood outrage. Long time owners, once convinced they were immune from teardowns, urged the alderman to extend the district.
And so, in the spring of 2007, a landmark district covering the 2200 and 2300 blocks of West Thomas, the 2200 block of West Cortez and West Augusta Boulevard, as well as the 2200 and 2300 blocks of West Iowa and the 2300 block of West Rice was created.
In its entirety, the district is bounded roughly from Damen Avenue on the east to Oakley Avenue on the west, Iowa Avenue to the south and Haddon Street to the north, and is made up of handsome brick two-flats, three-flats, and workman’s cottages constructed from the 1890’s through about 1920. The simplicity of their design, quality of their craftsmanship, and beauty of their materials attest to the working class neighborhood that housed its earliest residents.
Also included in the historic district is St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral. Louis Sullivan’s Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Church is adjacent to the district and has been a Chicago landmark since 1979.
The lesson learned is that without unwavering community and aldermanic support, the district would not have happened; the fact that Preservation Chicago president Jonathan Fine lived in Ukrainian Village and strongly advocated for its creation did not hurt the effort either. Since that time, the landmark district has only enhanced the desirability of the neighborhood. In fact, the neighborhood has never looked more beautiful.