Chicago two-flats in all shapes and sizes



In January 1929 Chicago real estate developer Erick Nelson Linn put on the market 50 Hollywood Park duplex homes, more commonly known as two-flats. It must not have seemed like much of a risk. Linn had been putting up the same buildings in the area for nearly ten years:

[Linn] completed forty apartment buildings of similar size last year [1928] and in the last seven or eight years has built up fifteen square blocks in bungalows and apartments representing an investment of some $5,000,000. (Chicago Tribune)


These two-flats on the 5700 block of Bernard may or may not have been Linn-built but the ones he did build were identical.

The 40 two-flats Linn built in 1927 were located on St. Louis and Bernard between Foster and Bryn Mawr and were priced at $15,900. From a distance you might think all Linn’s buildings look alike but, no, architect Carl Johnson came up with seven different designs and six different colors.

The apartments were described as having five or six rooms and hot water heating. All Linn’s North Park and Hollywood Park real estate ads emphasize the paved streets, clearly in efforts to dispel concerns about the area being undeveloped.

Of all the selling points in this ad for two-flats in Hollywood Park, this is the one I find most fascinating:

“Highest spot IN CHICAGO”

News to me. Besides unpaved streets, water must have been another major concern of home buyers. Was there any truth in Linn’s claim of high ground in Hollywood Park?

Linn’s office was located at 5200 N. Kimball, the northwest corner of Kimball and Foster. He also must have lived in the community because he served as the Republican 40th Ward Committeeman. I wonder whether he was the only Republican elected to office from the 40th. In my time, the ward voted straight-ticket for the Democrats.

Linn’s sales figures for the month of July, 1929 — $100,000. He must have felt confident about his $5 million investment in Hollywood Park going into the fall of 1929. His company survived the Depression and was still in business after World War II, though it’s not clear whether he built any more two-flats in Hollywood Park.

In the years following the war different types of housing went up–single-family homes, 4 +1’s and block apartment buildings–but to my eye these Johnny-come-latelies didn’t have quite as much impact on the look and feel of Hollywood Park as did Linn’s two-flats, in seven different designs and six different colors.

Source: Display Ad 8 — No Title. (1929, January 31). Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963),9.  Retrieved January 23, 2011, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers Chicago Tribune (1849 – 1987). (Document ID: 479736542). Display Ad 39 — No Title. (1927, March 27). Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963),p. B3.  Retrieved April 4, 2011, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers Chicago Tribune (1849 – 1987). (Document ID: 433392672).  ERICK N. LINN TO ERECT 40 FLATS IN NORTH PARK. (1927, September 25). Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963),p. b4.  Retrieved April 4, 2011, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers Chicago Tribune (1849 – 1987). (Document ID: 649138622).



14 Responses to Chicago two-flats in all shapes and sizes

  1. Jerry Pritikin April 4, 2011 at 11:46 am #

    Right after the end of WWll, my dad was offered a 3 flat on the block of 4800 N. Troy Street for $9,000. However on the corner of Troy and Ainslie there was a 68 unit 1 bedroom apartments for $68,000. Of course, looking back that was a lot of money. Rents in 3 story 2 bedroom and kitchen with a dinning room in Court yard buildings average $45 to 60. a month. Few apartments had garages and most streets were 2 way traffic becuse so few people had cars. Public transportation was reasonable, as well as dependable. It was a different world. No air conditioning, ice boxes and coal burning furnaces to heat them. At the same time, it was considered modern housing. Neighborhoods were really neighborhoods. Given a choice, I liked the good old days, we used our imagination listening to the radio, and created games that didn’t need electricity. Librarys provided the latest books,and a choice of 4 daily newspapers allowed us to keep up with the times. Each neighborhood was different, and business franchises were unheard of. Chances are your cousins and aunts and uncles lived closed by,too.
    Web-sites like yours remind us of our yesterdays, while letting the younger generation
    know what they missed. It was a world without charge cards, and banks and local merchants that knew you by name. I’m thankful for growing up at a time when milkman delivered the milk, and our parents cared about making choices for us, and provided us with a safe inviorment.

  2. Frances Archer April 4, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

    Jerry, they were exciting times, even without today’s entertainment options. I recall my first year of high school I would get $5 to cover a week’s worth of school lunches and bus fare (both ways) and I usually had change left over. That’s probably more than it cost in your school days!

  3. Bonnie McGrath April 5, 2011 at 12:07 am #

    great post, frances. as far as being the republican committeeman in the 40th ward back then, it was probably–in reality–like being the head of a “faction” of the democratic party; what today might be known as a rino–a republican in name only. on the other hand, he was a rich real estate developer, so who knows????

  4. betty April 5, 2011 at 7:02 am #

    If you have a passion for home histories, I invite you to visit It’s an online community dedicated to the research and sharing of home histories. Even better, add a home or two from your family tree.

  5. Carol Barstow April 5, 2011 at 7:33 am #

    My grandparents (mother’s side) and aunt, uncle and cousins shared one of those two flats on Bernard, though I’m forgetting the exact address. I thought they looked pretty cool, and I used to love walking down their street. Thanks, once again, for bringing back fond memories!

  6. Frances Archer April 5, 2011 at 8:02 am #

    Carol, the buildings in the photo are on the 5700 block of Bernard. thanks for visiting, always nice to hear from you.

  7. David S. Criz April 5, 2011 at 6:14 pm #

    Do you know the address of the center building in the photo ? My parents lived at 5725 N. Bernard from late 1945 until Aug 1960 with my grandmother and uncle for part of the early years. An aunt, uncle and 3 cousins were living downstairs of us. The whole family now follows your wonderful postings and we love to relive the memories. Thanks and keep up the good work !!

  8. Frances Archer April 5, 2011 at 7:05 pm #

    I’m impressed. It was 5749 N. Bernard. And if you read the posts about Marty Marcus, who wrote the novel Hollywood Park, well, this is where is family really lived, so your parents were his family’s neighbors at some point. There were a lot of people I knew on Bernard, but not until after 1963. See the comment just before yours–Carol Barstow was my neighbor on Central Park, and her grandparents lived on Bernard. I think the Millers lived on Bernard in the early ’60s but I’m not sure of the years. Also the Sterns but maybe it was the 5800 block.

    Thanks for writing. It’s nice to hear from you.

  9. David S. Criz April 5, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

    One of the cousins I mentioned responded to me that he knew Marty Marcus in the days when his literary skills consisted of trading comic books with him. The only posting name that seems remotely familiar to me is Jerry Pritikin. I think there was a warehouse furniture company called Pritikin in the South Loop at one time. I was only about 4 when we first moved in on Bernard and a freshman at U of I (Navy Pier) when we moved out to Lincolnwood at 6424 N Trumbull Ave. (same as Bernard) only a short distance away near Hollywood Kiddyland ! Thanks again for the quick response to the previous posting.

  10. John Erickson April 6, 2011 at 8:39 pm #

    I am very impressed at the quality of those 2 flats and of the care they have received through the years. I today viewed 5631 N. Kimball and 5436 N. Spaulding on They were my homes from 1932 until 1939. They look as good today as ever…….. There were many, many Republicans in North Park in the 20s and 30s.

  11. Frances Archer April 6, 2011 at 9:11 pm #

    John, it is amazing how good the buildings look. It is still a very attractive neighborhood. Bryn Mawr hasn’t held up as well though.
    Hard to imagine Republicans in Hollywood Park. Every election we’d get a visit from the precinct captain, making sure my parents knew how they were supposed to vote.

  12. John Erickson April 7, 2011 at 6:16 am #

    In ’36 there were as many Landon-Knox sunflower buttons as those for Roosevelt worn on the popular Ace caps at Peterson.

  13. Michael Povlo May 10, 2011 at 3:32 am #

    This is a wonderful site.. I was 10 years old when my family moved into Hollywood Park in 1956.. we lived at 5719 N. Bernard.. the picture of the Two flat on Bernard looked just like our building.. I have a picture of our building.. I remember our apartment was on the second floor.. and it was a very nice apartment.. we moved out in 1959.. I went to Peterson Elementary and then Von Stuben for 7th grade and would have graduated in the class of 63.. it would be great to hear from anyone whom I might have gone to school with or lived in the neighborhood..


  1. Chicago homes: The history of Linn’s Hollywood Park two-flats - April 4, 2011

    […] Frances looked back at the history of Hollywood Park’s two-flats, built in the years immediately prior to the Depression. In 1927 alone, developer Erick Nelson Linn […]

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