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Chicago's nearly 150 year dominance of the United States' railroad networks is written on the city. Since the mid-1800s railroad infrastructure has played a role in constituting communities through commercial activities, resident transportation and physically defining neighborhood boundaries. Even the city's most celebrated contemporary park, Millennium Park, sits atop active railroad lines.

Yet what happens when the infrastructure is no longer economically viable?

One such stretch of track is the Bloomingdale Trail, a former elevated freight line on the city's near northwest side. Jutting 2.7 miles through residential neighborhoods, it was all but abandoned between 2001 and 2013. During that dozen years, it remained the property of Canadian Pacific Railroad but became an increasingly unregulated home to the city's flora, fauna, and human residents, all of whom somehow found their way on to the elevated line. In 2013, the city of Chicago, encouraged by a decade-long campaign led by the Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail, started the conversion of the elevated line into a linear park connecting a new group of neighborhood parks.

But before then, I spent many nights walking along the tracks, stopping at campfires, and talking with others who climbed to its top. In 2009, I started this project in earnest, intending to understand the place as it was, how it was used, and how it affected the city below. At the beginning, it wasn't clear what would happen to the freight line, but by the end of the project, its redevelopment was certain. To that end, this series memorializes the previous life of this once-hidden place and how it connected with the neighborhoods that surround it.

A selection of photographs from The Bloomingdale were on display as part of the exhibition Reimagining Open Space in the Inner City at Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois.

Photographs from The Bloomingdale have been exhibited as part of America: Now and Here and exhibitions at sites including Comfort Station, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and Chicago City Hall.

Supplementary aerial photographs of the Bloomingdale and its surroundings are available upon request.

Prints from The Bloomingdale are available directly from David.


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