WICKER PARK — The person behind a popular Chicago Instagram account is launching a series of walking tours of historical homes and landmarks in Wicker Park.
Doorways of Chicago is run by Ronnie Frey. He posts photos of houses, buildings and other architecture highlights in the Chicago area.
Frey has run the account for several years and started thinking of it as more of a job when he was laid off at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In August 2020, the account hit 10,000 followers. Now, it has almost 26,000 fans.
As Doorways of Chicago’s popularity grew, Frey developed a walking tour featuring workers cottages in Old Town for eAtlas, an app that allows users to take self-guided tours. Frey has also partnered with the app to design tours of Pullman, Northalsted and other neighborhoods.
“I had been thinking about possibly doing walking tours anyway, so I just thought, ‘Oh, let’s start here and see what happens.’ I did a couple tours for them on their app. … And I just said to myself, ‘Hey, I can do this in person,'” Frey said.
Frey said he’d gotten requests to expand his tour to Wicker Park, and he’s often in the neighborhood taking photos. The self-guided version is available on eAtlas, and dates for the in-person version have been scheduled for April and May. Tickets can be bought here.
The tour will be about a two-hour, 3-mile walk, featuring dozens of workers cottages and neighborhood landmarks around Wicker Park, including the Robey Hotel and Rainbo Club, Frey said.
Frey said he was captivated by workers cottages and their history when he began learning more about the city’s architecture.
“The first one I ever saw was in Old Town, and [I] didn’t know what they were,” Frey said. “I started researching them, because there were so many of them, and just discovered the history of them in the development of the city of Chicago.”
Frey began a feature on his Instagram page called Workers Cottage Wednesday, posting different homes each week.
Part of the appeal is aesthetic, but Frey said he also sees it as a way to draw attention to the houses that are often at risk of being torn down for developments.
“A lot of times, they’ll be one sitting empty for 10 years and then … the one next door is sitting empty for a year, and then a developer will buy both lots, both buildings, and tear them down and build an ugly McMansion on that property, which has no relationship to the buildings next to it,” Frey said. “I’m a big advocate for preserving our history.”
Frey is designing a similar tour of Ukrainian Village, which he expects to debut in April.
“There’s just so much Chicago history that people don’t even know about. It’s just fun to see the looks on people’s faces and to get their reactions when they hear some of the history,” Frey said.
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