Lincoln & Peterson, Chicago
There is a Chicago architectural and cultural oddity not far from where I grew up in Skokie IL. It is the business district extending roughly a mile in all directions from the corners of Peterson and Lincoln Avenues. For fans of the vintage, the unusual and the seedy, the offbeat and out of place style of architecture on Peterson and the unfashionable motels on Lincoln, hold a special place. From the colorful pastel colors and courtyard designs to the postmodern exterior facades and privacy barriers (many with a staggered front construction), these Peterson Avenue buildings can momentarily transport one from present-day Chicago’s North Side to a Southern California, or Florida, beach town in 1960. On close consideration, these buildings are beautifully out of time and place. Informally known as Motel Row, this stretch of Lincoln Avenue was once a chief thoroughfare. These now squalid and crime ridden rest stops (several offering hourly rate options) were once considered family friendly and modern. Several have already been destroyed by the city and replaced by a new police station, park and library. With only nine motels remaining from the originals, it’s just a matter of time before the city or local community groups demand the demolition of more, or the current owners finally sell for redevelopment. I decided to document some of these idiosyncratic structures before the inevitable occurs. For example, just since completing this project the curious neon sign on the Guest House Motel at Bryn Mawr and Lincoln, complete with arrows pointing to the car entrance below it, has been removed leaving only the concrete and brick backdrop that once supported it. I chose to photograph the motels at night, using long exposures, to further capture their melancholy and to hint at the unknown worlds living within them.