I’m fascinated by the addition of wood chips (or bark bits, tree shreds, whatever they might be called) to the short stretch of Logan Boulevard greenspace that plays host to the Logan Square Farmers’s Market on Sundays. I can’t stop thinking about trails.
The little reading I’ve done on the history of Logan Square reveals an emphasis on the role of Milwaukee and Elston Avenues as commercial conduits that grew from so-called Indian trails. In the mid-nineteenth century these routes were paved with wood, becoming the plank roads that ferried goods into the emerging Chicago metropolis (in this case the North West Plank Road). The plank roads were reported to be notoriously dangerous, the wood rotting after only a few seasons of traffic. As the story goes, they were upgraded to more durable surfaces, then came the railways, expressways, and airways (if you take account for the endless chain of flights between O’Hare and New York). These arrived in sequence, all along the same northwesterly corridor.
Logan Boulevard itself is part of, or was incorporated into, the (awe-inspiringly grand) ‘Emerald Necklace’ designed by Daniel Burnham for the master plan of Chicago. The wide boulevards with flanking streets and wide medians are a beautiful vision of never-quite-realized urban ideals. Walking around at twilight I can sometimes glimpse the ghostly image of a phaeton on its leisurely weekend ride. One of these days I want to bike every extant (and unrealized/non-extant) yard of the boulevards, camera (and maybe voice recorder?) in hand.
Today we have the phenomenon of the farmer’s market. What I’m fixated on is the idea of recursivity. The market pops up every weekend (late May to October) at the juncture of Logan Boulevard and Milwaukee Avenue, the meeting place of these two historical threads. If the farmer’s market creedo is about (re)introducing local produce and goods into urban markets (or, alternatively, food deserts), then the use of Logan Boulevard’s wide greenspace is an imaginative hack of Burnham’s plan, a creative subterfuge of early twentieth-century notions of leisure. It also loops back to the former uses of Milwaukee Avenue as a route for the transport of local goods.
But beyond that I see something poetic in the foot-worn trail that kills the short green grass. The footsteps of market goers who’s flip-flops and strollers tame the manicured lawns of master plan-Chicago. One hundred years of concrete and iron infrastructure peeled away to the sinews of (so-called Indian) trails. While I adore the idea or recursivity, there is something more tangible at play, and the addition of wood chips seems to make it all the more real.
I love it when my brother blogs.