Where is Galewood? From Lake Michigan, travel west along North Avenue for about eight miles and you’ll happen upon the southern border of a small neighborhood that's big on architecture.
by Tom Drebenstedt, CAC docent, class of 1986
This Far West Side neighborhood is named for Abram Gale, who arrived from New York and built a home in the area around 1838. About 30 years later, his 320 acres of land were subdivided, forming Galewood. Today, the neighborhood is part of the city’s Austin community area. Its boundaries are Harlem Avenue to the west, Austin Avenue to the east and the Milwaukee District West Metra rail line to the north.
Let’s wander through a little bit of my neighborhood today. It’s a sunny, slightly warm day to look at the beautiful homes from almost a century ago. This is the edge of the “Bungalow Belt” and nowhere is that nickname more appropriate than on my street. In 1920, a developer subdivided the land next to the former Westward Ho Golf Club and named it (not very cleverly) Golf Links Subdivision. The subdivision created deep lots adjacent to the first tee, but beyond that you’ll see classic bungalow after classic bungalow.
What happens architecturally a block away? Galewood Estates reflects opportunities that came about in 1927, as the golf course was converted into lots for new homes and new concrete sidewalks were poured—even though the streets were still unpaved. All of the intersections had street names stamped into the sidewalks, though sometimes with an error or two.
Popular Romantic Revival styles of the time were Colonial, Norman, Spanish and Tudor, with the occasional splash of Art Deco. Attached one-car garages were added to homes as well. The Chicago Tribune held a competition in 1927 to design the perfect five-room house for new city neighborhoods, an open call that made apparent how residential architecture was changing.
These were prosperous years. Dream homes were built with colorful materials (I’ve lost track of the many colors and textures of masonry I’ve seen), artistic stone and wood details. Aside from architecturally interesting homes, the Gale heirs convinced Franklin Mars to build a chocolate factory in the Spanish Mediterranean style at the edge of the Estates in 1928.
You’ll have to visit yourself to realize just how good the neighborhood smells when Snickers are being poured. Maybe it impressed Hugh Hefner’s parents; they moved into the neighborhood in 1930. Another interesting fact: Abram’s son and grandsons were Unitarians and friendly with Frank Lloyd Wright…but that’s another walk and tale to tell.