Chicago, the city of neighborhoods, has no shortage of appealing residential areas. But pedestrians and motorists who first discover the Villa often note that there’s something distinctive about this enclave of 126 early 20th Century homes on the city’s Northwest side.
They probably first notice the rubble stone planters at every corner. These pillars, standing five feet tall or so, were originally constructed as stucco light stands, with globe shaped fixtures on top. In 1923, they were rebuilt as stone planters, possibly inspired by a house at the corner of Avers and Avondale with a rubble stone front porch and chimney.
Every spring the Villa Improvement League buys annuals and volunteers plant them. Recently, some residents have adopted the planters on their corners, replacing heat-battered petunias with mums in late summer, and decking them out with pumpkins in October and pine boughs in December.
The tree-lined medians that run down the middle of Avers and Harding Avenues – the Villa’s “parkway streets” – are another distinctive feature of the Villa.The parkways were the brainchild of legendary Chicago developer SE Gross who in 1902 purchased the property that would become the Villa, and re-platted the streets.
For all their appeal, the parkways do present a challenge for residents battling weeds, untrimmed trees, tire ruts and salt from the snow plows.In recent years, the neighbors have worked together using funds from the VIL, special city programs, and their own money and plants to beautify the parkways and keep them the neighborhood asset SE Gross intended.