The tiled stop sign, embedded in an alley in the 600 block of South Kenilworth, is just one example of several such simple mosaics scattered throughout Oak Park, according to Village Engineer Jim Budrick.
Budrick said he believes the signs were installed at various places in the village in the 1930s and 1940s to make people aware of the cardinal rule of alley driving: stop and look before you exit.
So why not put up your more common stop sign, a la post?
Budrick said the only right of way the village officially can make use of is the alley surface itself. “The pavement is the only place the village owns,” he said.
Many of the tiled signs were covered over during a capital improvement campaign in the 1970s, he said. When the village resurfaces alleys now, the tiles are simply torn out and tossed out.
“They’re not in the best of shape. They’ve been in the ground so long that the iron all around them has rusted and fallen apart,” he said, adding that they’re not replaced in part because “most people are now attuned to the law.”
Frank Lipo, director of the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest, said he’s not aware of any interesting story behind the alley mosaics, and Budrick said he’s never had a resident express deep attachment to one.
On if the tiled stop signs are common in the Chicago area, or just unique to Oak Park, Budrick said: “I tend not to drive in other people’s alleys.”