Playing the Flâneur in My Own Neighborhood

Before moving to Chicago four years ago I’d always lived in areas that required a car to get around efficiently; growing up in my hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas I dreamt of living in a more densely populated area where coffee shops, the grocery store, neat little vintage stores and cafes would all be within walking distance. After moving here from sprawling Los Angeles (where I went to USC), I moved into a 1920s apartment in the Ukrainian Village and haven’t wanted to live anywhere else. Chicago is a city of neighborhoods and each has its own character, history and subculture. While I identify myself as a Near West Side girl (Ukrainian Village/Wicker Park/Bucktown/West Town/Logan Square) I’ve made it a point to explore the far reaches of the city from the first week that I lived here.
During fair weather, ie above 20 degrees Fahrenheit, I roam the streets in search of intriguing urban art and 19th century architecture, often stopping along the way to pick up an iced coffee and to browse through thrift and vintage shops. At least 3 times a week I’ll make the 3-mile round trip jaunt to Wicker Park, the artsy/hipster neighborhood bordering mine. Usually these are solitary walks but last weekend my friend and fellow blogger Sara joined me for a photographic adventure. I’m inspired by bloggers like The Hummingbird Girls, Sally Jane Vintage and Ashley Ording who make their respective cities a prominent subject of their photographs.
Only a few blocks from my apartment is a century-old church and school that has now been shuttered and boarded up. As you can see from the photo above it was built in 1905. It’s been standing empty for several years now, what happens to churches after they close?
The gates of the church were locked up tight so we didn’t get to explore it as much as I’d like. There are many Ukrainian Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches in my neighborhood and I can hear the bells tolling every Sunday throughout the Village.
Ukrainian and Eastern European families live side by side with a younger generation of artists, musicians and students in my neighborhood thus colorful urban murals crop up next to 19th century brick 2-flats and the aforementioned churches. Sara and I were particularly drawn to this large mural on Damen Avenue that depicts a slice of the city (notice the elevated train in the background).
The art piece on the left was made out of some sort of vinyl that had been stuck to the brick wall and is located near Division & Damen.
We didn’t end up taking pictures in the actual park that Wicker Park is named for but instead poked into the backyard/playground of an elementary school. There’s a picnic table and seats hewn out of rough logs there that is an unexpected rustic touch in the middle of the urban environment.
Mexican Sterling Silver Star Bracelet (1970s?): Scooped up for $5 at a Chicago estate sale
1960s resin bangles: Various Chicago thrift stores
1970s sterling silver ring: Private Estate Sale, Chicago
1940s smoky topaz silver ring: ?? Bought in Chicago 4 years ago, maybe Buffalo Exchange?
Does anyone have an idea how old this bracelet might be? The purple stones are cut glass and it’s a heavy piece. It’s marked 925, sterling and Mexico. Before this summer I rarely wore bracelets and steered clear of silver jewelry but now wear both– this bracelet was only $5 at an otherwise boring and picked over estate sale.
My mini market bag, made of straw and leather, is the perfect purse for summer jaunts. It’s roomy enough for a novel, a bottle of water and any goodies I might pick up along the way. After searching for a vintage market bag for years, I found this one at the Salvation Army for $3.
How rad is that gold tooth? As you can probably tell from the color scheme and style the man and the tree from my first photo are part of the same mural in Wicker Park.
1950s dress: Squaresville Vintage, Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles
1950s pink bow fascinator: Antique store in Evanston
1960s sunglasses: Antique store in Chicago
1980s leather belt: N & K Vintage, Wicker Park
Espadrille Wedges: Shoe village of Liliw, Philippines
Thanks again to Sara of It’s About the Look for taking all these wonderful photos! She’ll be posting images & details of our walk over on her blog soon. I’m also linking up to Spunky Chateau’s Thursdays are for Thrifters Roundup.
What is your neighborhood like? Do you often explore on foot or do you drive?

Comments 0

  1. I can tell ya what they do with old boarded up church around where I live. They have convert one such church into a sleazy nightclub/concert venue. It's been around for years and it still looks like a church from the outside. So crazy!!!

    I love that bracelet. So unique!! It kinda has an atomic flare to me. When I first saw it I thought 50s-60s, but that's just an inclination. Whenever its from, its fabulous!

  2. Your cityscape makes such a great backgrounds for pictures; I love seeing real street shots showcasing quirky local culture! I guess it's because I'm stuck in the country and I like to live vicariously through all you city folks, hehe.

    That dress is gorgeous; the violet color is so pretty.

  3. I LOVE the Mexican vintage bracelet and market bag– and a bit jealous you're in a community with excellent public transportation. Florida will catch-on one day, for now lots of driving! LOTS!

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