Chicago Workers Cottage Initiative


McKinley Park Cottages Overview

McKinley Park Cottages

Photo by Tom Vlodek

The Chicago Workers Cottage Initiative has completed an analysis of a spring survey of the McKinley Park neighborhood by the Preservation Planning Studio class at the School of the Art Institute. Of more than 4,000 properties recorded by the students, covering the entire neighborhood, almost 1,300 houses were identified as workers cottages.

McKinley Park Workers Cottage Density

Map by Gina Malfatti

The vast amount of data gathered by the surveyors has helped the CWCI better understand the particulars of workers cottages in this area, including their age, construction materials and condition. One surprising discovery was the wide spectrum of heights of workers cottages here, a much wider variety of sizes than had been seen in the survey in Logan Square conducted by the class in 2021.

McKinley Park Cottage Sizes

The surveyors identified a number of groups of cottages with original details and ornamentation. These groups of houses may be good candidates for some kind of historic designation to help encourage the preservation of these unique remnants of Chicago history and the long history of their residents.

3300 S Damen

The survey discovered as well that many cottages in McKinley Park have been modified in recent decades with facade modernizations which remove historic details.

McKinley Park Cottage Sizes

We hope that bringing attention to the historic character of workers cottages will encourage homeowners to preserve the features which connect these houses to the past. In the coming months we hope to speak to neighborhood groups to share the findings of our survey and learn more about the unique history of McKinley Park's workers cottages.

Read more about the McKinley Park survey

A Hermosa Cottage Remodel

CWCI co-founder Tom Vlodek acquired a workers cottage last fall in Chicago's Hermosa neighborhood. The house was purchased as investment property, and Tom and his wife Susan were committed to a strict budget and to not do any more than make the house comfortable, safe, and livable.

Hermosa Cottage Exterior

The house seemed to have "good bones" such as a newer roof, tuckpointing, HVAC, etc., but there was work to be done.

Hermosa Cottage Attic

First and foremost, the house needed a complete electrical up-grade. Since all the wires in the walls were old BX cable and not up to code, the walls had to be opened in order to run new conduit.

Hermosa Cottage Stairwell

Once the old plaster and lath were taken down, there was an opportunity to apply spray-foam insulation over the brick and up in the ceiling. After installing new drywall, sanding the wood floors and painting the walls and ceiling, the house was ready to occupy.

Hermosa Cottage Remodel

Hermosa Cottage Remodel

Hermosa Cottage Remodel

An effort was made to keep all the original doors and woodwork. The original claw foot tub and kitchen "farm sink" were kept intact because, well, they've always been there and Tom and Susan couldn't bear to replace them.

Hermosa Cottage

Hermosa Cottage

Have you remodelled your historic workers cottage? Tell us about how the project went!

Upcoming Tour of Logan Square Cottages

Many visitors to Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood are familiar with the grand boulevards and the grander houses along them. But the side streets of the neighborhood are home to more modest homes. In fact, workers cottages make up about 20% of the buildings in the neighborhood.

Albany Ave Cottage Row

In October, join the Chicago Workers Cottage Initiative on a free walking tour of several streets with a great number of cottages. Come join us to learn about the stories of the residents who once lived here and the importance of workers cottages to the history of Logan Square and Avondale.

The tour dates are October 9 & October 15 at 2pm. The tour will last about 1½ hours and include several blocks of walking. The tour is free but space is limited. Please see tour info page for more details.

If You Lived Here You'd Be Home Right Now

Fanciful Victorian cottage designed by architect Cicero Hine recently listed for $230,000.

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