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Exploring with James

A Winter Day in Pilsen

Published 2013-03-09 · By James Bursa

While I was in Chicago this January, I made a trip to Pilsen, which is a neighborhood south-west of the Loop. I used to live in Pilsen, so I was curious to see what had changed in the 2½ years since.

I started my walk at the Halsted Avenue Orange Line “L” (elevated train) stop. Pilsen is not visible directly from the station, but some landmarks such as the Fisk power generating station (now closed down) are. In the distance are the skyscrapers of downtown Chicago.

Looking towards Pilsen from the Halsted Orange “L” station

I crossed the South Branch of the Chicago River using the Halsted Street Bridge to get into Pilsen.

Pilsen is named after Plzeň (in the present Czech Republic).

Halsted St bridge over the South Branch Chicago River

Here’s the view west along the river.

South Branch of the Chicago River from the Halsted St Bridge

Parts of Cermak Road and Blue Island Ave have been rebuilt as “sustainable streets”. I noticed this device at the corner of Cermak and Halsted.

Solar panel and wind turbine on Cermak Rd

The sign describes material recycling used in construction.

Cermak Street is named after Anton Cermak, who was mayor of Chicago in the 1930s.

Sign describing material recycling on Cermak Rd

I snapped this El Camino car-truck heading north along Halsted at 18th Street.

Halsted St at W 18th St

16th Street, which is the northern boundary of Pilsen, runs along railway tracks on a embankment or viaduct. The wall has many murals on it, so I turned left on 16th to look for new ones.

W 16th St looking west from Halsted St

The first new one was this abstract.

Abstract coloured shapes mural

These are also new. The buildings on the other side of the tracks are former warehouses that are now residential, and part of University Village.

Mural with animal-headed figures

More new murals as I walked west.

Murals on the railroad embankment along 16th Street

Some streets pass under the railway in these crumbling tunnels.

Tunnel under railroad out of Pilsen

This is assembled from 3 photos. The pattern of red stars and blue stripes on the building painted on the right is from the Chicago Municipal Flag.

Mural of colourful flock and faces

This colourful mural is also new. It is on the wall of a ramp from the street up to the railway tracks.

Abstract swirls mural

Here’s the mural from the other side of the street, with the Willis Tower in the background.

Abstract swirls mural and the Willis Tower

This mural shows a soccer game at Toyota Park (Chicago’s soccer stadium) on the left, with various ancient monuments on the right.

Soccer game mural

Still on 16th Street, at Allport Street, there’s a new mural of Mother Theresa. The mural of Mayan figures was there before.

Mother Teresa and Maya mural

Detail of the Mayan mural.

Maya circle mural

This art-deco building was built as the Produce Terminal Cold Storage Warehouse. It’s now the University Station condos.

Produce Terminal Cold Storage building behind railroad embankment

This row of faces just east of Blue Island Avenue is old. According to the Chicago Murals wiki, it is from 1976. On the tracks are engines with different BNSF logos.

Produce Terminal Cold Storage building, BNSF engines, and faces in profile mural