Saturday, February 21, 2015

John Coughlan House
 by: chicago designslinger

 [John Coughlan House (ca. 1872) Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The John Coughlan house sits at the corner of Lytle and Lexington Streets on the Near West Side of Chicago. In 1871, the year before the businessman bought the property and built his Italianate, two-story with basement, single family home, the Great Fire had started just blocks away on DeKoven Street.

  [John Coughlan House, 1254 W. Lexington Street, Chicago /Images & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

The house sat on what was then known as Macalaster Place overlooking a small park. In the 1850's Philadelphian's Charles Macalaster and Henry Gilpin bought large tracts of land at the western edge of the 20-year-old city. They laid out a street grid, placed a park at it's center, and donated the small greenspace to the city in 1860. The street bordering the southern boundary of Vernon Park was called Gilpin Place, and at its northern border, Macalaster Place. Coughlan purchased lots 24 and 25 of Block 5 of Macalaster's subdivison of the Vernon Park Addition in 1872.

  [John Coughlan House, Chicago / Image & Artwork: chicago designslinger]

In the intervening years as the population soared, the neighborhood became one of the city's larger Irish immigrant enclaves. Macalaster morphed into Macalister, Coughlan's address changed from No. 41 to number 1246, the neighborhood became primarily Italian speaking, and the street name was changed to Lexington. In the late 50s and early 60s, Leonard Currie, Dean of the School of Architecture and Art at the nearby University of Illinois, Chicago Circle Campus purchased the old Coughlan house and renovated the 80+ year-old building, which he sold in 1981. Vernon Park was renamed Arrigo Park in honor of  life-long resident and Italian-American activist Victor Arrigo and the old Italian neighborhood is now dominated by residents affiliated with the ever expanding university, or by people who just want to live in a thriving urban community.

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