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Aldine Square

Aldine Square, Vincennes Avenue, Chicago, ca. 1873-1874

Photo: Aldine Square, Robert R. Tufts August 1935 ; southwest view from Vincennes Avenue; Historic American Buildings Survey [HABS IL,16-CHIG, 5-10], memory.loc.gove, accessed April, 2012.

Note: The original homes in Aldine Square were razed in the 1930s and replaced with a public housing project.

19th Century Modern Living [1]

Aldine Square was erected from 1873 to 1874 between 37th and 39th streets along Vincennes Avenue by Uzziel P. Smith. They had red and gray cut stone fronts with side walls and party walls of brick. Roofs were flat and the foundations were stone. The fronts were heavily ornamented with stone carvings and iron work. Interiors had massive amounts of walnut trim.

There were 42 houses surrounding a park, a total area of which was approximately 2-1/2 acres. The houses faced the park on 3 sides forming a "U." The 2- and 3-story town houses were separated by party walls.

It might be said that the style of architecture was of the decadent French character popular in Chicago in the 1870s. Rich ornament in stone and metal was applied to red and gray stone fronts. The houses were considered as a group which presented a certain continuity of design.

The purpose of the square, the people that occupied the homes, and their social relationships are matters of outstanding interest. A reunion in the 1930s of some of the original occupants and their descendants exemplified the spirit in which these people lived.

There was a common stable with push button communication to each home, a gardener that serviced all the gardens and lawns and in general, a spirit of self-contained sociability that prevailed up until the time of World War I. By the 1930s the Square was in rapid decline.

The builder and founder of the Square, Mr. U. P. Smith, came from a Massachusetts family shortly after the Civil War. He had been trained in law at the state college at Middlebury, Vermont. Coming west, he first took a position teaching school and then went into the practice of law. This work was supplemented with promotional and building activity. He erected and built many residences on the south side of Chicago.

The many residents of the early days of Aldine Square were socially prominent as well as industrially and professionally. Such centers as this were very popular in their day, though the spirit in which they were organized and built faded within decades.

Early in 1936 Chicago City Council changed the name to De Sable Square after Chicago's Jean Baptisto Saint de Sable, an early trader.

The original name Aldine is said to have been derived from that of the famous old Venetian Press of the 16th century which published the first editions of Greek and Roman Classics. An anchor entwined by a dolphin — a device of the press, appeared carved in the stone pylons at the entrance of the Square.

Sources: Mr. G. B. Smith, Mr. Robert Rice, Mrs. and T. H. Morse, of Chicago; Mrs. Ben Q. Tufts of Winnetka; Mr. John Drury of the Chicago Daily News.

  1. Text adapted from Historic American Buildings Survey [HABS IL-153]; the original was written ca. 1937;, accessed April, 2012; adaptation copyright © The Gombach Group, 2012.

Aldine Square Map

Street Names
38th Street East • Vincennes Avenue South

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