LOGAN SQUARE — Neighborhood group Logan Square Preservation has hosted a September house and garden walk for nearly 40 years, giving neighbors a peek inside historical homes along and around Logan Boulevard.
But this year, with the coronavirus pandemic, the organization canceled the walk and launched a self-guided history tour that allows residents to learn about neighborhood landmarks and historically significant homes safely and on their own time.
The Pillars & Porticos tour, which doubles as a membership drive, launched online this weekend. It is only available to members of Logan Square Preservation. A membership costs $20 annually.
Neighbors can pull up the map — on their phone or computer — and travel to any of the 22 curated sites they want to visit. At each site, there are accompanying “stories of those who have built, lived and worked in these places” over the years.
Group member Shana Liberman, who helped organize the tour, stressed that while the house and garden walk served as inspiration, the self-guided tour has grown into “so much more.”
A group of Logan Square Preservation volunteers spent hundreds of hours compiling historical facts, anecdotes and photos for the tour, creating a “downloadable reference people can keep forever,” Liberman said.
“The value the docents provide [at the house walk] is they can point out things like the moldings and the architects … the appeal of this guide is it gets into far greater detail than a docent would ever able be able to go into,” she said.
Participants can find a range of sites on the map, from the Illinois Centennial Monument to an early 1900s mansion designed for the founder of an ice company.
Half of the tour went live this weekend. The other half will be rolled out in the coming weeks, Liberman said.
With the tour, Logan Square Preservation is looking to boost membership at a time when community engagement is limited.
“The house walk is one of our greatest opportunities to enroll new members and that’s what we’re really missing by postponing the house walk,” Liberman said.
“We don’t have our meetups; we don’t have our in-person meetings to invite folks to on a monthly basis. So, it’s kind of hard to grow your membership when everything is virtual these days.”
Logan Square Preservation put up signs around the neighborhood to get people thinking about Logan Square history in the lead-up to the tour launch.
The signs — which read, “Are you square aware?” — call on neighbors to answer historical trivia questions such as “How tall is the monument and what is it made of?” Neighbors can scan a QR code for the answer.
Liberman said she’s witnessed many neighbors stopping to read the signs and scan the codes, which bodes well for the self-guided tour.
“Based on the posters, I think there’s a real strong appetite for this kind of history,” she said.
“It’s for anyone from a longtime resident to a recent transplant. If you’re really trying to get your head around all of what Logan Square represents, I think it’s a really valuable resource.”
Liberman said Logan Square Preservation “has every intention” of hosting a house and garden walk next year if it’s safe to do so. The popular event, held every two years, draws thousands of people.
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