The Worker’s Cottage

This piece is derived from a collection of historical records related to working-class structures in my Chicago neighborhood, Pilsen. This material was submitted in 2019 as a proposal for Pilsen’s historic landmark status. Included there is a listing of all the buildings’ addresses that would be in the historic area. Each listing had the building type, and date of construction. I particularly became interested in the cottages, which my block is almost entirely composed of. I started looking up each address, collecting an image of the house, and arranging them according to when they were built. Next, I did some research into this type of housing, which came to represent Chicago’s working-class after the Chicago Fire in 1871. I’ve incorporated this background information into a long line of text that spans the entire timeline, along with my own questions: Is a working-class home historic? Who decides when vernacular architecture is worth preserving?

I think it is an interesting time to document these homes, while some are pushing to preserve and protect them, many others are being demolished and replaced, resulting in an erasure of this working-class history. The final piece is 18 feet long, and includes 36 different worker’s cottages

The Humble Worker’s Cottage, 18’ printout, 2019.

Kristin Smith    ︎︎    Chicago, IL