North Lawndale is one of the most architecturally eccentric and socially complex neighborhoods in Chicago. The area has gone through many cultural shifts, beginning with its origins as a largely Italian and Irish population at its inception in the mid-1800s. In, the early 1900s, Lawndale became the third largest Jewish community in the world.
Following World War II, the neighborhood transitioned to become the first African-American community on Chicago’s west side. As a community experiencing frequent waves of migrants and cultures, Lawndale was a testing ground for ideas and activism. Its residents provided important contributions to Zionism, civil rights, housing policies, industrial psychology and scientific management, community organizing and the Black Power movement.
In addition to its significant social and historical assets, Lawndale has an incredible “built environment” that has been celebrated by a number of architectural and historical advocacy groups. Several charter schools have opened in an effort to enhance the community’s educational infrastructure, including the award-winning Power House High School and the Legacy Academy (K-8). North Lawndale’s proximity to Chicago’s Loop, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Illinois Medical District, and other important Chicago institutions makes it a highly desirable location for investment, both residentially and commercially.
North Lawndale is also the “buckle on the Greystone belt”, containing a high concentration of historic homes with limestone facades. NHS has recently launched the Historic Chicago Greystone Initiative in North Lawndale, a project which promotes the documentation, preservation, and repair of these beautiful buildings.
The North Lawndale Cornerstones of Community project focused on the K-Town Historic District in the southwest portion of the neighborhood. K-Town – named for its many north-south “K” streets including Karlov, Keeler and Kildare – covers Pulaski on the east to Kostner on the west and from Cermak on the south and Cullerton on the north. K-Town boasts a unique mix of Chicago residential and commercial buildings, including one of the largest concentrations of Greystones in North Lawndale.
NHS of North Lawndale recognized the unique character of K-Town and commissioned a study of the area’s historic resources. The study resulted in K-Town’s placement in the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. Given this important distinction and K-Town’s long history of homeownership and community stewardship, it was decided that the community needed to further raise awareness of K-Town’s positive aspects. K-Town residents worked with NHS, the National Trust, Arnett Muldrow Associates and Community Design Solutions to craft designs and imagery that call important attention to both the district’s physical and cultural place in North Lawndale. The branding process included touring K-Town, interviewing community residents, presenting preliminary designs at a community meeting, and refining the designs based on resident input.
This information was used to create marketing and branding materials that capture the spirit, history, and unique features of the neighborhood. The final product includes a suite of logos, hundreds of photos, and a variety of collateral materials such as banners, signage, and templates for a coloring book, walking tour brochure, and block party signs.