The Claremont Cottages are a distinctive part of Chicago’s architectural history—the collection of 19 Queen Anne-style workers cottages reflects the city’s admiration for the Victorian era. The homes have remained since they were built in the 1880s and now they’ll be protected under a landmark district.
In Chicago, workers cottages are part of the city’s vernacular. They are one-and-a-half story homes with gabled roofs and front staircases. However, these particular workers cottages in Tri-Taylor were crafted with unique Queen Anne flourishes. There were dramatic carved wood brackets, oriel windows, witch’s hat additions, and carved stone.
The homes were designed by architect Cicero Hine and built together as a speculative development by Turner & Bond in the late 1880s. The designs for the cottages were advertised in the newspaper and a catalog which featured illustrations of seven styles.
Neighbors and homeowners were surprised to learn that the cottages were not protected, despite existing in a historic district. They banded together to learn more about the properties and formed a grassroots effort for preservation, according to Block Club. In October, the Landmarks Commission recommended landmark status, and in November the proposal was submitted to City Council which means the protections are nearly a done deal.
“The worker’s cottage was a common building type in the context of Chicago working- and middle-class neighborhoods that were developed in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. However, the cottages in this district are distinctive for their design and detailing. No two cottages in the district are identical,” according to the city’s preliminary report. “The district also stands out as a largely intact speculative development, built as an ensemble 125 years ago, that has managed to survive the ravages of time, economic downturns, and extensive urban renewal projects nearby.”
The Tri-Taylor neighborhood was known as a “second settlement,” according to the city’s landmark report. The area was a blend of first and second generation immigrants. First, in the early 1900s it was home to German and Irish residents, then after World War II it was mostly Italians until the 1940s when African Americans and Mexican immigrants began to settle in the neighborhood as well.
There were more changes nearby like the construction of the Eisenhower Expressway built between 1949 and 1961 and the expansion of the University of Illinois at Chicago which displaced thousands of residents around Jane Addam’s Hull House and in parts of Greektown.
Even with all these developments, many of the Claremont Cottages remained. When neighborhoods can be gentrified or demolished in a matter of a few years, this is particularly impressive. After the landmark district proposal moves through City Council, these homes will be protected from exterior changes or alterations and demolition.