Subdivided by John Lewis Cochran in the 1880s and 1890s, Chicago’s far north Edgewater neighborhood grew rapidly after 1900, as single-family homes filled the area west of Broadway and handsome apartment buildings sprang up just west of Lake Michigan. In 1916, architects Carpenter & Weldon designed the enormous Winter Garden Ice Skating Rink as a recreational amenity for the thriving community. It is unclear whether the ice rink, located at Broadway and Thorndale Avenue, ever opened for business. By the end of World War I, however, the State of Illinois had modified the new structure for use as an armory. For years, the Illinois National Guard used the building for drilling and training. The Broadway Armory simultaneously offered various recreational opportunities to the community, including ice skating, roller skating, and tennis. After World War II, Edgewater became increasingly crowded, as large homes and apartments were carved into smaller units, and a long string of high-rises rose up along the lakeshore. There were few recreational facilities in the densely-populated neighborhood. In the mid-1970s, the Edgewater Community Council began advocating the development of an indoor recreation center at the Broadway Armory. In 1979, the Chicago Park District signed a 25-year lease with the state for the use of a portion of the structure. After obtaining more than $2 million in state and federal funding for capital improvements, the park district opened the new Broadway Armory indoor recreation center in 1985. The facility soon offered many popular programs, including pre-school and pre-kindergarten classes, performing arts, photography, and aerobics. Late-night basketball leagues began making use of the enormous drill hall, large enough to hold five gymnasia. The Chicago Park District purchased the Armory in 1998, after the state decided the facility was no longer needed for military purposes.
ABC7 News on the Armory's History
Read about the Armory's rich 95-year history and why Black Watch is a perfect fit.
Chicago Tribune on the Armory's History
Theater critic Chris Jones reflects on the Broadway Armory and the Edgewater neighborhood.
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