unearthing 19th and 20th century remnants of chicago's forgotten infrastructure

a photographic study of excavated utilitarian objects and architectural artifacts from chicago's past. four of the images show building ornament, layers of ash, and common brick "in situ". the fragments were discovered at dig sites across the city prior to being lightly cleaned and photographically documented.

site of the former howard johnson hotel (downtown chicago). demolished by heneghan wrecking. several terra cotta fragments and joliet limestone of past buildings that occupied the site were used as fill when "hojo" was built there in the 1960's. much of this was discovered during "potholing" the cleared site.

remnants representing 19th and early 20th century chicago remain deeply buried beneath our feet; each and every excavation offers a rare opportunity to identify and document these objects. "portals" to the past, these subterranean locations they dwelled in for so many years will once again be quickly forgotten when new construction further disrupts the site. so much history, frozen in time beneath our feet, will be forever lost unless urban archaeologists like myself take the time and effort to uncover it.

layers of chicago's past dating back to the 1850's, where an iron-pontiled soda bottle was discovered - likely from a cottage that stood on the site.

19th and early 20th century granite and clay pavers are found across the city.

common brick from demolished buildings was a popular "fill" material before rules and regulations required any and all building materials to be trucked off to the landfill.

iron-pontiled soda bottle and pavers (the middle one dates to the 1860's) from the crane factory site.

the city sits on an ungodly amount of rubble from demolished buildings.

clay sewer pipes (most were fabricated in akron, ohio) are commonly found in both residential and commercial dig sites.

this connector sewer pipe was pulled from the ground were the john kent russell house (1855) once stood.

brown brothers sidewalk vault lenses.

cedar pavers are becoming increasingly hard to find.

grey and pink granite cobblestones are heavily concentrated under downtown chicago streets.

several early 20th century terra cotta balusters accentuated with acanthus leaves were found at the "hojo" dig site.

unusual neoclassical terra cotta lunette fragment discovered around six feet below grade (grand avenue and halsted street) on the near west side of chicago.

insulators of all kinds are commonly found across city excavation sites - especially long-forgotten landfills.

amazed to discover this glazed ceramic insulator with copper wire draped around it. the wire's sheathing succumbed to the elements early on.

this three-sided exterior commercial building capital was discovered near desplaines and randolph, possibly from a building predating the haymarket produce district. the fact that its comprised of brownstone is highly unusual. very few buildings utilized this material. most 19th and 20th century chicago commercial buildings were dressed in joilet/lemont limestone, bedford limestone, and in some cases, ohio sandstone. the stone may have been quarried from michigan or the east coat.

indiana limestone ornament, likely dating to the late or early 20th century. several fragments were located near on the near west side of chicago (chicago and milwaukee avenue).

cold-rolled porcelain enameled signs are mostly found in forgotten dump sites across the city.


Leave a Reply

Sorry, you must be logged in to post a comment.

From the blog