I’m so excited to share with you a new seasonal blog series with Oak Park documentary photography: “A Walk in Oak Park.” The idea came about because we moved to Illinois just a few months before the pandemic started and as a result we’ve had nearly no visitors; this blog series will serve as a way for out-of-towners to take a virtual walk through the village and get a glimpse of what things look like!
For this installment, here’s what a fall walk looks like in parts of the Frank Lloyd Wright, Ridgeland-OP, and Hemingway Districts of town – I look forward to sharing new regions of town in subsequent seasons. 🙂
We’re starting this Oak Park documentary photography in the Ridgeland-Oak Park Historic District – what would called a “duplex” on the West Coast is here called a “two-flat,” apparently so-named because the namers thought it sounded swanky and European. Here’s one of my favorites that looks like a castle! There are a surprising number of brown-stone homes like these around town!
This house is probably my favorite in town. Clean lines, well-manicured, cozy. 🙂
Continuing up the street we have a fun Victorian (Queen Anne?) with a square turret. #oakparkil Instagram goes crazy for square turrets.
The houses are SO colorful! There are really specialized painters in town that are experts on doing all this fiddly painting.
Do you spy the keyhole doorway on this home?
Now entering the Frank Lloyd Wright District!
We’ve crossed under the train tracks and are now in the Frank Lloyd Wright District! Continuing north you can see the “El” aka the “elevated train” which was put in so cars wouldn’t have to stop all the ding-dang time a train came through. I like that if you look beyond the stoplight you can see the Chicago skyline about 8 miles to the east.
These homes actually all have shared walls and just really different facades!
Here is the Frank Lloyd Wright Unity Temple. Oak Park is where FLW’s studio is, and he did a lot of work within the town.
Here’s one of my favorite churches – the First United Church of Oak Park! They have a cool stained glass window, a labyrinth to walk, and they host the local food pantry, Beyond Hunger.
More FLW Temple, from the north side of the street.
There are so many pretty colors around town at this time of year!
Heading on up to N Kenilworth…
Continuing the Oak Park documentary photography on the walk up N Kenilworth to see the really, really, REALLY big houses. These babies are a full three stories plus basements, and on Zillow you can see that some of them are split into 3 apartments, all ~2400 square feet. Whoa!
And heading back down along Grove St there are lots and lots of colorful Victorians!
Look at this monster of a home!
Behold, probably the Third-Most-Instagrammed house in Oak Park (behind the Long house and FLW studio in ranking). We call it the Spooky House.
I tried, but even these photos don’t quite do amazingly vibrant colors justice. Imagine, it’s been a hot and occasionally humid summer, then all of the sudden October 1 hits and BOOM, the cicadas are gone, the fireflies are gone, the mosquitos are gone, the humidity is gone, and over the course of two weeks all the bright green leaves turn yellow. Another two weeks and they’re mostly gone.
My second favorite house – it just looks gilded with that trim!
…and it’s a whopper, too! This is the backside of that house with its “carriage house” in the back that’s been converted to an apartment over the garage. Most of the houses in Oak Park have detached garages because they were built before cars. Which means…alleys! Tons of alleys. Which is not at all a thing on the west coast which has attached garages.
Onward to the Hemingway District!
Heading up through the Hemingway District – tape markers on the sidewalk for 6 feet apart spacing during the pandemic, and a dorky sign at The Children’s School.
This is only a tiny part of the southern portion of the District; there’s Oak Park Brewing, George’s Diner, coffee shops, fancy restaurants, pottery studios, florists…
Here’s a glimpse at the Oak Park green El train station. They get local artists to come in and paint murals on the side! My professional profile photos have these murals as a backdrop.
Another spooky house dressed up for Halloween.
Just super leafy, shady sidewalks. The trees are giant here!
A fancy Prairie-style house. Prairie-style means boxy.
I spy a cupola on another carriage house, as well as a very fancy brick building which typically decorates with a giant inflatable Stay-Puft Marshmallow man at Halloween.
All the trees mean tons of leaves in the fall!
…and all those trees mean a LOT of leaves in the fall! Here is my son for scale with one block’s leaf pile, and here is my red-and-gray striped walking companion.
GIANT. LEAF PILES.
Even the old stables have been converted to homes, but they have placards to indicate that FLW designed them.
Seasonal plantings are a big deal here – starting on Labor Day there was a rush to purchase mums, and starting mid-November there was a rush to purchase winter greenery. I happen to like this planting because it includes swiss chard.
So how do they clean up all those leaves? Construction vehicles. That little yellow guy has an attachment to push the leaves, and the garbage truck has a different type of bucket on the front to act as a giant dustpan.
So what’s up with the trees? Oak Park is a municipal arboretum, which means the village (yes, they call it a village rather than a town) is in charge of maintaining all the trees in the parking strips between the sidewalks and roads.
A pretty Colonial-styled home…
…and the Second-Most-Instagrammed-Home in Oak Park behind the FLW studio. This fella is the Frank Long house, notable for its fun “storybook” roof.
Here you can see the Ernest Hemingway birthplace (hence, the Hemingway District), and another cool home that had macrame’d gourds together to hang as decorations.
The Methodist Church in Oak Park looks like a castle!
The zoning in this town is super different from the west coast – apartment complexes will be side by side with old Victorians in the middle of neighborhoods.
A detour through Scoville Park
Now entering Scoville Park! This is a one-city-block-sized park that used to have the Scoville estate in the middle.
Now it has a WWI monument.
Heading back, here are shops along Oak Park Ave, one of the major north-south thoroughfares in town. There’s lots of cool boutiques around here, as well as an ice cream parlor, and lots and lots of Italian restaurants.
Here’s the Green El station. Do you spy the black “Hemingway District” sign with Ernest Hemingway on it?
Now we’re passing by Spilt Milk Pastry, which has delicious cookies and pie. I love their Mexican Chocolate cookies and their guava cream pie is amaaaazing.
One of the quirky things around town is the locks that people have left as decorations under the overpasses! I think it’d be fun to add one on the anniversary of our move in date.
Here we are looking south along Oak Park Ave.
In October there were lots of purple ribbons up all over town to raise awareness about domestic violence and direct those that need help to Sarah’s Inn.
Thanks for joining me on this fall Oak Park, IL documentary photography installment! I’m looking forward to sharing a wintry walk in town in just a few months…I hope this encourages you to come visit Oak Park!
Kristen Hazelton is an Oak Park, IL (Chicago, IL metro area) and Livermore, CA (San Francisco East Bay Area) senior, family, and engagement photographer. She occasionally photographs in San Diego, CA, Tucson, AZ, and Seattle, WA. You can inquire about your own photoshoot here!