Auburn GreshamStephen J. Serio

Aural Neighborhoods
Auburn Gresham Sound Trail

2.75 miles, about one hour and 30 minutes

IMAGE: Auburn Gresham Neighborhood Looking North
Image Credit: Photo by Stephen J. Serio

LISTEN to the complete Auburn Gresham Sound Trail

Audio Credit: Christophe Preissing

Directions to Auburn Gresham and Route Overview

To get to the Auburn Gresham neighborhood from the north, take I94 or Western Avenue South to 79th Street and then West (or east) to Racine Avenue. Street parking is available on Racine or on the block surround Saint Sabina Church. On public transit, take the Green line to Ashland and 63rd, then board the 9 Ashland-95th bus to 79th Street. From there walk east along 79th to Racine. On the Red Line exit at 79th and take the 79th Street bus west to Racine.


Auburn Gresham Sound Trail Route
The Auburn Gresham sound trail begins at Saint Sabina Church (1210 W 78th Place, Chicago). If possible, start your walk at noon or 3pm to hear the church bells ring. Walk around the block of the church before proceeding south on Racine Avenue to 79th Street. The sound trail heads east along the north side of 79th to turns north on Halsted Street. At 78th Street it turns east to Emerald Avenue and St. Leo Campus for Veterans. Head south on Emerald back to 79th and proceed east to Fielding Avenue where you will notice Auburn Park. At Fielding follow the trail north to Winneconna Parkway and around the lagoon to Normal Avenue. The trail follows Normal south to 81st Street and west past the industrial corridor and Calumet High School before heading north on Racine Ave back to Saint Sabina.

Let’s Get Started – Breathing Exercise

When you get to Saint Sabina Church, take some time to slow down before beginning your walk. Relax your body, feel your feet firmly on the ground and let your arms hang loosely at your sides. If you are comfortable, close your eyes. Breath in through your nose for five counts, hold it for five counts, and breath out of your mouth for five counts. Repeat three to five times, until you feel yourself slowing down and relaxing.

Continue breathing and listen to the sounds all around you. Listen to the sounds closest to you. Are they constant or sustained, or are they intermittent? Next listen for the sounds farther away from you. Again, ask yourself are they constant or intermittent? Finally, listen for the sounds farthest away from you, ones you can barely hear. Are these sounds constant or intermittent? Are any of the sounds you are hearing unusual? Are you hearing things you don’t expect?

Take a few more breaths as you have been doing. When you are ready, open your eyes and begin the Auburn Gresham Sound Trail. As you proceed, it is best to walk in silence. A soundwalk is intended to be a personal listening experience. If you are walking with someone else, save your thoughts to the end of the walk before having a conversation. The sound of your footsteps becomes part of the walk, listen to the leaves, gravel, and pavement under your feet. Pause at each of the following sonic points of interest. Listen to the sound around you, read the description, and listen to the brief recording.

Sonic Points of Interest

Saint Sabina Church

1210 W 78th Pl, Chicago, IL 60620
(bordered by 78th Place, Racine Ave, 78th Street, Throop Street)

IMAGE: Saint Sabina Church
Image Credit: Christophe Preissing

Audio Credit: Christophe Preissing

St Sabina ChurchOne of the most well-known and diverse Catholic churches in Chicago, Saint Sabina is home to Rev. Michael Pfleger. The community of St. Sabina began on July 9, 1916, when the first Mass was celebrated in a storefront on South Racine Avenue. Toward the close of 1931, in the midst of the Great Depression, the parish took on the formidable task of constructing a cathedral-like Upper Church, and on Sunday, June 18,1933, the current St Sabina church was dedicated by George Cardinal Mundelein. St. Sabina has received both national and international attention for its spirit-filled worship and impact on social justice issues. The Church and Academy occupy the block bordered by 78th Place, Racine Avenue, 78th Street, and Throop Street. The greater campus—including St Sabina Elders Village, The Ark of St. Sabina, St Sabina Convent, and St. Sabina Employment Resource Center—extends out into the surrounding neighborhood.

For more information visit:

Walk around the Church and Academy and LISTEN to vibrancy of the neighborhood: children playing, the flag whipping in the breeze at the narthex entrance of the church, conversations through windows, traffic on Racine, and the fountain next to the photo memorial to community members lost to violence. The bells at St. Sabina ring daily every three hours from 9am to 9pm. On Saturday the 6pm bells are moved to just before the 5pm service, and on Sunday the noon bells are omitted because of the service.

St. Leo Campus for Veterans

7750 S Emerald Ave, Chicago, IL 60620

IMAGE: St. Leo Veterans Garden
Image Credit: Allen Moore

Audio Credit: Christophe Preissing

St Leo GardenThe St. Leo Campus is comprised of the St. Leo Residence for Veterans, the VA’s Auburn Gresham Community-Based Outpatient Clinic and Resource Center, the St. Leo Veterans Garden, and the Pope John Paul II Residence, which provides apartment housing for families with an adult family member who has a physical disability. The residence provides long-term housing in 141 studio apartments for Veterans as well as onsite case management services. The Veterans Garden is a secluded and beautifully landscaped garden and fountain that remembers Illinois veterans who served in all branches of the military.

The Campus is located on the site of the former St. Leo the Great Catholic Church, which was founded in 1885, and was once one of the largest Catholic Parishes in Chicago. In the late 1800s streetcar tracks were extended into the neighborhood, and as the Parish grew, other churches—including St. Sabina—were carved out of its boundaries. By the early 2000s, however, attendance was down to about 200, and with St. Leo over a million dollars in debt, Cardinal George closed the parish in 2002. The church was subsequently demolished and opened by Catholic Charities and the VA as the St. Leo Campus in 2005. All that remains is the bell tower.

For more information visit:

LISTEN to the fountain and the birds and insects in the Veterans Garden. The street sounds from 79th and Halsted are more distant in this quiet neighborhood. The bells in the old St. Leo the Great Church tower ring every three hours. The Chicago Police Department’s 6th District is located at the southwest corner of 78th and Halsted.

Auburn Park and Lagoon

406 W Winneconna Pkwy, Chicago, IL 60620
(between Felding Ave, Winneconna Pkwy, and Stewart Ave)

IMAGE: Auburn Park looking west from Normal Ave
Image Credit: Christophe Preissing

Audio Credit: Allen Moore

Auburn ParkStretching diagonally across three city blocks in Chicago’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood, this eight-acre linear park comprises sinuous paths tracing the edge of an irregularly shaped lagoon. Laid out in 1872 on land that was formerly owned by Chicago’s first mayor, William Ogden, the surrounding neighborhood developed through the 1890s. Today, iron fencing delineates the park’s irregular boundaries while the lagoon is edged with hand-hewn rock retaining walls. Two roads traverse the lagoon and its islands via Beaux-Arts-style stone bridges with carved balustrades.

For more information visit
The Cultural Landscape Foundation:

While walking along the perimeter of the lagoon, LISTEN to the natural environment, the water lapping at the edges of the lagoon and the sound of the fountain, the geese who frequent the park, and the birds and cicadas. Traffic on 79th Street and the occasional sound of the Metra or freight trains punctuate the sound environment.

Quality Car Wash (optional)

7936 S Vincennes Ave, Chicago, IL 60620

IMAGE: Quality Car Wash Looking Southwest
Image Credit: Christophe Preissing

Audio Credit: Christophe Preissing

Quality Car WashThough Though technically in the Chatham neighborhood, the bright red and white painted Quality Car Wash is a throwback to another time. The animated balloon beckons motorists on Vincennes Avenue, formerly the Hubbard Trail, a trading route between Chicago and Danville established by Gurdon Hubbard in 1822. With the 1893 Columbian Exposition encouraging development of Chicago’s south side, Auburn Gresham’s population was growing, and Vincennes’ horsecar line became a streetcar line. Today, Vincennes is a heavily trafficked four-lane thoroughfare separating Auburn Gresham from the Chatham neighborhood to the east.

For more information visit:,6416?

LISTEN to the machinery of the car wash, the hot air blower animating the balloon character, the sounds from Vincennes Avenue, and the music emanating from across the street to the east where local vendors are selling food. You may hear children playing at the school across 80th street, and if you listen carefully, crickets in the empty lot west of the car wash.

Industrial Corridor—Meyer Industrial Container and Aabbitt Adhesives

(81st Street and Wallace Street)

IMAGE: Industrial Corridor looking north from Mahalia Jackson Park
Image Credit: Christophe Preissing

Audio Credit: Christophe Preissing

Industrial CorridorAlong the Union Pacific and Chicago Metra line between 79th and 83 lies an industrial corridor with Meyer Industrial Container and Aabbitt Adhesives straddling 81st Street. Founded in 1967, Aabbitt Adhesives develops and manufactures a broad spectrum of water based and hot melt adhesives that are used in graphic arts, laminating, envelopes, and bottle and can labeling. Now part of Industrial Container Services, Meyer Industrial Container specializes in steel drum reconditioning, steel drum manufacturing, and closure manufacturing.

During the week, LISTEN to the sounds of Meyer Industrial Container and Aabbitt Adhesives. While walking west on 81st Street you may hear the trains overhead as you pass under the rail lines, as well as the sounds of nature in this otherwise quiet neighborhood.

Calumet High School

8131 S May St, Chicago, IL 60620

IMAGE: Auditorium Entrance, Calumet High School Building looking northeast
Image Credit: Allen Moore

Audio Credit: Allen Moore

Calumet High SchoolCalumet High School is located in a beautiful residential neighborhood in the heart of Auburn Gresham. While not officially part of the Auburn Gresham Bungalow Historic District, which includes bungalows built from 1918 to 1932, the area north of 83rd Street between Racine Avenue and Halsted Street is brimming with prime examples of well-maintained Chicago bungalows. The high school opened as Calumet Township High School in 1889. It became a Chicago Public School in 1900, and the current building at 81st Street and May Avenue was completed in 1926. It closed after the 2005–2006 academic year due to poor performance and low–enrollment, and today houses Calumet–Perspectives Leadership Academy and Calumet–Perspectives High School of Technology.

Notable alumni: Grammy Award Winning R&B singer Chaka Khan, Hall of Fame Professional baseball player Kirby Puckett, Democratic member of the Illinois House of Representatives Monique D. Davis.

For more information visit:

LISTEN to the people and music in the neighborhood, students, conversations from open classroom windows, sounds from the gymnasium and outdoor basketball courts.

At the end of the Auburn Gresham sound trail, take a few moments to relax before getting back in your car and driving away. Take a few deep breaths as you did before the soundwalk and think about what you have heard and witnessed. Think about the sounds and sights of the neighborhood. What is unique about the sound of the Auburn Gresham neighborhood and how does sound reflect or give the neighborhood its character? If you have walked or if you will walk the Southeast Evanston sound trail, does it or would you expect it to sound different? How is it different and why? How does economic investment or de-investment affect the sound of a neighborhood?

We welcome your thoughts and reflections on these questions and on your soundwalk experience. If you would like to share them with us and with others, you may comment below or on the Aural Neighborhoods blog page. If you would like to share audio, video, or still images from your soundwalk, please contact us.

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