East Side Historic District
The East Side Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. [1, 2] Text below was adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. Adaptation copyright © 2008, The Gombach Group.
The Joliet East Side Historic District occupies approximately a 100-acre site directly southeast of the city's central business district and adjacent to the Union Station Depot and the Will County Courthouse. Roughly bounded by Washington Street, Union Street, Hickory Creek, Fourth Avenue and Eastern Avenue, the district invariably displays the picturesque texture of a once well-to-do neighborhood. The boundaries were determined on the basis of historical development and visual cohesion. On the north, elevated tracks along Washington Street form a physical boundary that separates the district from the central business district. The presence of vacant property, dilapidated structures, and recent construction adjacent to the elevated railroad tracks on the west validates a boundary drawn along the western property lines of residences fronting Eastern Avenue. Beyond these tracks to the west, and to the east south of the districts are predominantly residential neighborhoods which developed after 1900, principally after World War I. The homes in these areas are typically more modest in design and scale than those found in the district, and generally lack the district's interesting architectural detailing. In addition to the difference in housing styles and settlement, the areas adjacent to the western and southern boundaries accommodate inconsistent land uses. Numerous abandoned commercial structures, a large manufacturing plant, and a low-rise public housing project all lie just outside the district's boundaries.
Within the district there exists the great diversity of architectural styles prevalent during the Victorian era. Although the district contains structures dating from the early 1850's, the majority of buildings were constructed between 1870 and 1900. The richness of details, sensitive use of building materials, and contrasting forms among structures weave the cohesive fabric of a virtually intact 19th-century neighborhood.
Land use within the district is chiefly residential. Several architecturally distinguished churches, a school and an 1880 commercial row are among the exceptional uses that continue to serve neighborhood residents. Recent construction is negligible. There is no federal property and no industrial land use within the district.
The significance of the East Side Historic District lies partially in its role in the development and settlement of an urban community, and partially in its physical integrity in all buy a few respects, it exists today as an intact 19th -century urban neighborhood. Its character is derived not from a large number of truly superior structures, but from the strong and clearly visible relationships among unassuming extent structures. Original limestone curbs and street names emblazoned in sidewalk tiles combine with turrets and gables, shingles and stones, columns and arches, and even Eastlake spindles to define the picturesque eclecticism of the district. Decorative streetlights, modern but "Victorian" in character, enhance this historic texture. Indeed, the district is akin to the fanciful Queen Anne structure: an amalgam of styles pieced together to form a distinct whole.
It is one of the city's oldest neighborhoods, and was once the city's most prominent neighborhood, attracting the wealthy and influential citizens of Joliet. In fact, in the late 19th-century, Eastern Avenue was referred to as "Silk Stocking Row," boasting a high concentration of any of Joliet's notable politicians, industrialists, doctors, and lawyers. Although the complexion of the district has begun to show signs of degeneration, intrusions are far from posing a threat to its visible character. What has come down to the present then, is a nearly intact 19th-century section of a northeastern Illinois city, rich in local historical and architectural significance.