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Upper Bluff National Register

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Boundary Justification

Site Description

The Upper Bluff Historic District includes approximately nine full blocks and seven half blocks of predominately single-family residential buildings leading to and located atop the upper bluff west of the Des Plaines River in Joliet. The district is located on a gently sloping site which is actually a second succession of dolomite limestone bluffs which overlook the western bank of the Des Plaines River. Western Avenue is an east/west arterial street which links the area to Joliet’s downtown by way of the Cass Street bridge, one of five trunnion bascule bridges spanning the Des Plaines River in Joliet. The sloping topography results in a curvilinear pattern throughout much of the district. This street pattern creates a number of wedge-shaped lots primarily on Whitney and Buell Avenues. The majority of lots in the district are long and rectangular in shape. Most of the lots are large (60’ x 180’) relative to lots platted in adjoining neighborhoods (50’ x 125’). The large lots graciously accommodate the stylistic grandeur of the homes which comprise the district.

Often, wedge-shaped lots have steep grades leading to the sidewalk. The houses on these lots, many of which are towering Queen Anne residences, are located atop the grade, adding to the picturesque quality of the architectural style. Some of the original large lots in the district were divided in the twenties. The smaller lot sizes reflect the downscaling of domestic architecture of that time. Although dolomite limestone was indigenous to the area, only one house in the district was constructed entirely of limestone. A majority of the homes in the district do, however, have limestone foundations. Homes in the district are primarily frame construction and clapboard sided dating from 1850-1930. The buildings which comprise the Upper Bluff Local Historic District represent a range of architectural styles including the following: Italianate, Queen Anne, Neoclassical Revival, Classical Revival, Dutch Colonial, Prairie, Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival, and Craftsman Bungalow. Brick and stucco homes are located in the district as well as several homes utilizing brick veneer. A public grade school and apartment buildings are also located in the district. Major features of the proposed district which have changed over time include the street and alley surfaces which have changed from brick to asphalt and the street lighting which has recently been modernized.

Most of the houses within the district are intact and contributing buildings to the district. There are 337 contributing houses (95%), 180 contributing garages, 18 non-contributing houses (5%), and 81 non-contributing garages in the proposed district. Contributing resources are significant to the district because they possess historic integrity and reflect the character of the district during the period of significance circa 1850 through 1930. Non-contributing resources either lack architectural integrity or were constructed after the period of significance of the district (post-1940).