Friday, May 9, 2008

Welcome to the GAP!

It's been almost 26 years since we moved into Chicago's neighborhood known as the GAP. The GAP is bounded by 31st to the North, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive to the East, 35th Street to the South and Michigan to the West. In the last quarter of a century, the neighborhood has evolved from a community that was facing neglect in spite of stately mansions, Frank Lloyd Wright townhomes, Louis Sullivan designed buildings and an eclectic mix of Victorian, Gothic, and Renaissance styled homes. The revival of the GAP began in the mid to late 70"s as upwardly mobile African American professionals seized the opportunity to restore the homes in the GAP and return the neighborhood to its original splendor. The GAP is a small slice of Chicago's larger Bronzeville area that was Black Metropolis and home to Chicago's most affluent African American businesses, entrepreneurs, and entertainers. Bronzeville was the heart and soul of Black Chicago.

When we moved into our rowhouse on Giles, we asked how did the GAP get its name? Some people told us that the GAP referred to the empty lots which at one time were home to sister properties that due to neglect and safety concerns were torn down leaving their mirror image houses to stand alone which created gaps in every block. After further research, I discovered that the term GAP was given to the community as a result of the urban development of the late 1950's and 1960's which saw the construction of the Lake Meadows and Prairie Shores apartment buildings which bounded the community to the East and the prestigious Illinois Institute of Technology which bounded the community to the West. The area, or gap, of homes in between was left out of Chicago's urban development plan and as a result became known as the GAP. In 1988, the City of Chicago designated a three block by four block area in the GAP, the Calumet/Giles/Prairie Historic District, as a Chicago Landmark District. The Frank Lloyd Wright Roloson House, 3213-19 S. Calumet Avenue, were built in 1894 are the only townhouses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright that were ever constructed and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

There are treasures, history and countless untold stories that have never been uncovered, told, or researched. The GAP has been built out and there are few remaining vacant lots in the community. The value of homes has soared with median prices topping $500,000 for vintage properties and upwards of $1,000,000 for larger homes. New construction has filled in many of the gaps and a large development that will complete the greatest expanse of vacant land on Prairie, 33rd Street, and Giles Avenue will be complete in a couple of years.

This blog was born out of a search for information on the GAP which produced almost no information other than an article here or there on real estate listings. Now the Gap and her history has a place online. Please come back and visit often.