A gaslight Eden: The forgotten South Side neighborhood of Aldine Square
For a few decades straddling the onset of the 20th century, Aldine Square was one of the city's most fashionable neighborhoods, with its big brick and limestone townhomes that surrounded a wooded park with a lake.
Built in 1874 between 37th and 38th streets bounded by Vincennes to the east and Eden–a street that no longer exists–to the west, Aldine Square was where judges, attorneys and society folk lived. In 1877, the Chicago Tribune called it "the most charming of all the beautiful places of residence in the city."
But by 1938, Aldine Square was gone–razed to build the now-demolished Ida B. Wells public housing project–and is mostly forgotten. Fortunately, just before Aldine Square was demolished, the federal government sent photographers Joseph Hill and Robert Tufts to document the site. Their photographs, taken between 1934 and 1936, are among the few visual records of this spectacular place that looked impressive even in its final days. The photos are available online at the stellar Library of Congress site.
The westward-looking photo below shows the Aldine Square main entrance on Vincennes, marked by two big stone pylons. The 42 homes surrounding the park carried an Aldine Square address. Ragtime giant Jelly Roll Morton lived at 545 Aldine in 1918.
Here you can tell the still-stately homes have seen better days. The simple wooden footbridge in the foreground replaced a more elaborate original one:
Here's another view that reveals the architectural detail and Victorian-era grandeur of the homes.