The Commission on Chicago Landmarks has approved the final landmark status for the Puerto Rican flag markers along W Division Street in Humboldt Park. Located on the east and west extents of what is known as Paseo Boricua, considered the most-densely commercialized Puerto Rican business district in the US, the flags serve as a visual reminder of the area’s heritage in the recent decades. Originally proposed by community leaders, the markers found at the intersections with N Mozart Street and N Artesian Avenue were designed by local firm DeStefano & Partners, and were unveiled to the public on Three Kings day in 1995.
Humboldt Park wasn’t always the hub of Latino culture it is commonly known as now. Originally it was settled by Europeans and predominantly central Europeans by the time it was integrated into the city in 1869. But in the 1960 through the 1980s, the White Flight movement and those remaining in the city pushed out the Puerto Rican enclave from Lincoln Park to Humboldt Park, the area soon became the main home for those resettling from the lakefront and has thrived since. The architect developed the idea after walking through the neighborhood and seeing the pride behind the flag, it also originally included over 70 planters designed to represent various cities on the island and laser-cut metal light post banners.
Although only the 45-ton, 56-foot-tall flags remain, they represent an engineering feat as they are the largest non-cloth flags in the world. The double-lattice steel tube structures sit on 70-ton concrete foundations, and are meant to last 500 years while withstanding wind speeds of up to 77 miles per hour, fabricated by the Chicago Ornamental Iron Company. Because of all of this, the icons meet at least three of the necessary criteria for the designation including;
- Criteria 1: Value as an Example of City, State, or National Heritage
- Criteria 4: Exemplary Architecture
- Criteria 7: Unique or Distinctive Visual Feature
- Integrity Criteria: Proposed Landmark Must be Preserved
Further details on how they meet each of the above along with the complete final report can be found here.
While this approval marks a big step forward in the long-term preservation of the monuments, the final designation will still need to go through City Council before being fully established. However it also demonstrates the need for dialogue on displacement and the importance of Chicago’s cultural neighborhoods with the looming cloud of gentrification being seen in the likes of Pilsen, Chinatown, and Humboldt Park itself with the Latino population, who helped re-establish the area, now dwindling.
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Am I the only one that thinks the flag monuments are territorial exhibitionism and have in fact thwarted and stopped any viable and thriving non-Puerto Rican businesses from thinking about setting up shop between Western and California? This is literarily one of the saddest commercial corridors in all of West Town.
I, for one, LOVED Julian Reagan, the third “least” known of all the –famous– Reagans, like Ronald, Donald and DiStefano, Jr. Everything he did was what today they call “PRESAGED” by the words laid down by forebearers. All flags are TOTEMS of what will come and what has come before. Five year old TV foretold us. Love is.