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Added Mar 06 2014

Does anyone else hear that loud, deep humming sound that turns off and on at night? We live in The Windermere on 56th St. near the Metra tracks and it sounds like a train idling but there is no train on the tracks when we look out the window. It started last Fri. night. It was really bad last night (3/5). This was reported on DNAInfo Chicago in Jan. by many people near the Metra tracks who heard it. It went away and now it's back.

  • Lauren K. Neighbor on Cornell

    Mel K., I was JUST about to post that article and you beat me to it, haha!
    I used to live at the Algonquin Apts at 50th Place and we used to hear a revving up hum and it turned out to be the generator in the building. We now live by the tracks near 54th St. and they do have idling freight trains some times, but certainly not all the time. It's still a mystery!

  • Hi Mitchell & Bob, what times have you heard it?

  • We mainly notice it in the evening, often starting around 9:30 p.m. Although, we have noticed it during the day. I think I am hearing it right now but it is hard to tell with the traffic noise at 6 p.m.

  • Patrick Emeritus professor

    I live at 1700 E 56th Street, on the 33rd floor, overlooking Windermere. Lots of people in my building hear this noise and are bothered by it, but all those who have complained live on the west side of the building and are on the 28th floor or higher. In my case, it's not just a noise, my windows also vibrate. The latest session started around 4PM on February 27 and it's been going on and off every day since then. We were having the same problem back in January but it stopped towards the end of January.

    In January, I went on the roof of our building (40th floor) and, when the noise came on, it was clearly coming from somewhere west of our building. I thought that if I could go on the roof of Windermere I could get a better fix on where the noise is coming from. I talked with the manager of Windermere (he had "Robert" on his shirt) and he told me nobody there has complained about a noise and that he wouldn't let anyone other than his employees on the roof because of liability concerns.

    Management of my building got a city inspector to come out but the noise wasn't on when he came. Here's what the manager wrote to me: "The city inspector on-site today, Mr. Kenneth Scott states that residents that are disturbed by the noise contact 311 and make a report. Mr. Scott is also available to meet with residents during daytime business hours to verify the noise. Mr. Scott can be reached at 312-745-3175."

    I haven't contacted him but somebody should. I just think that he's not going to find the source of the noise unless he can get on the roof of Windermere with someone who knows what the noise sounds like.

  • Hello, I went walking around this evening and think I found the source. With a spectrum analyzer I could see a distinct peak at just about 85Hz that would sometimes lower a few hertz, and would turn on and off. The intensity varied greatly depending on location, showing deep nodes and antinodes. Eventually I ended up finding it the loudest in the alley between Cornell and Hyde Park Blvd and concluded it is coming from the chimney of the Poinsettia Apartments, 5528 S Hyde Park.

  • Thanks everyone. Patrick, that is interesting that Robert in The Windermere said nobody had complained to him about this. We complained to him in Dec. and he came up to our apartment and heard the noise himself. We will talk to him on Mon. We will also report this to 311. Dean, thanks for locating the sound as coming from the Poinsettia Apts. I wonder where we go from here? The noise was especially loud today, shutting off and on all afternoon.

  • AndiJ Hyde Parker since '78

    Maybe this is what the mystery noise is:

  • AndiJ Hyde Parker since '78

    Here's more sciency stuff:

  • AndiJ Hyde Parker since '78
  • Thanks for the info AndiJ. We don't think it is transmission line noise since it sounds like an engine that periodically shuts off. We hear it strongest in the bedrooms facing west, facing the Metra tracks. It sounds like a train idling on the tracks but we can see from our windows there are no trains out there.

  • Thanks to Dean Armstrong for taking the time to isolate the noises' source. Where , or to whom, does one report this?

  • Gene Barth UC employee. Long time Hyde Park resident.

    Awesome piece of trouble)shooting/detective_work, Dean Armstrong. Thanks!

    I first noticed this sound in the mornings last summer. I leave near the corner of 55th and Cornell Avenue, just down the alley from the Poinsettia apartments. It did not bother me. I enjoyed it as a subtle sound of a great city, kind of a distant (?) fog horn, or train whistle.

    As a some time technical trouble shooter, I am curious about why this apparent 85Hz pipe resonance started within the last year.

  • It's a good question Gene. I watched the condensate plume that evening and couldn't see any difference when the tone was on vs. off. I suspect it is a high harmonic and the sound that is shaking windows and buildings in the area is below the frequency response of that microphone (ipad 2 with n-track tuner). The harmonic roughly matches the 20th of a tube about the height of the building. I have a laptop with better software that can do long integrations and show infrasound but I haven't dragged that out there yet. Up at the 55th street you can see and hear the restaurant exhaust fans.

  • Jay

    I'm at 5479 S Hyde Park and this sound is rattling my windows at night as well, and I find it really annoying. I can't imagine being subtly vibrated for long periods of times is great for anything or anyone, and I would really like to help get this thing fixed or eliminated.

    Has anyone given any thought to organizing our efforts? I'd be happy to help.

  • I just got off the phone with 311. They said this is something for the EPA to handle so they switched me over to the State EPA Office. The clerk there told me this is to be handled by the local police district so she switched me over to a number at the 2nd Ward Police District. The clerk there told me she doesn't handle complaints, she only dispatches cars. I called the 5th Ward Alderman's office. The clerk there said she had already received complaints about this. She said all she could do is to send out a patrol car to try to find the source of the sound. I told her to check the alley between Cornell and S. Hyde Park Blvd. between 55th and 56th St. I also forwarded to her the links to EveryBlock and DNAINfo Chicago so their office can see the coverage this story is getting. If anybody wants to meet about this, let us know.

  • Gene Barth UC employee. Long time Hyde Park resident.

    For individuals whose windows are "rattling", you might obtain some relief by asking your building maintenance to service your window seals and runners.

  • Jay


    Thank you for the suggestion, but in my opinion that's an unwise approach that benefits only the party responsible for the vibration.

    In my case, I'm a homeowner, and I refuse to make expensive and previously unnecessary modifications to my home for this reason. Nor should rental property owners have to do the same. The problem is being caused by another party, and the responsibility for mitigating it rests solely on them.

    The only solution is to find the source of the vibration, and make it stop.

  • AndiJ Hyde Parker since '78

    Things have been rattling and shaking since I moved here in 1978. Vibrations from trains, buses, reverberations from trains that went by earlier, and now there are so many electric and power lines from cable companies and cell towers, who knows where the noise is coming from. It could be bouncing off of the other side of the street - sound and tremors carry down alleys, too.
    Before Hyde Park got cable TV, we'd spend all so much time and energy fixing the tv antennae just in time to watch a favorite show, the picture would be perfect (in other words, one of everything ) and a bus or truck would roll by, shaking the whole building, and reducing the tv picture to a visual rubble of four of everything. I'd hold onto the tv antennae, hoping I could keep the picture intact. Even tinfoil flags couldn't prevent the rattling and shaking from ruining the picture.
    There might not be anyone company or person responsible, unless maybe it's the street that needs resurfacing.

  • Patrick Emeritus professor

    This afternoon I went and stood beside the chimney at the back of Poinsettia Apartments. I could hear the noise there, but only just; it was much softer there than in my apartment (33rd floor of 1700 E 56th St). Later my wife and I were on 56th St opposite Windermere and we heard the noise there; it was louder than in the alley behind Poinsettia. Then we walked south on Stony Island and it was even louder there, south of 57th Street, in line with MSI, a bit south of the bus stop.

    Since Poinsettia is hidden behind Windermere when one is opposite Windermere on 56th Street, and since the noise was very soft behind Poinsettia, it doesn't seem to me that the noise can be coming from the chimney of Poinsettia. Also, the fact that the noise is stronger higher up (in my building, it only bothers people on higher floors) makes me think that the source is high up, such as the roof of a tall building.

    Gene: My windows don't "rattle", the seals are fine, it is that the glass vibrates, which it must do for sound waves to pass through.

  • Thanks Patrick. We also walked up the alley behind the Poinsettia this afternoon and heard the noise but not as strongly as we hear it in our 12th floor apartment in The Windermere. It makes sense to us that it could be coming from the area around 57th St. and Stony Island. The tenants on the lower floors of The Windermere don't hear it. We are wondering if it might be coming from the U of C Plant Facility on the corner of 56th St. and Stony Island. The first time we noticed the sound was Fri. night, Dec. 20, 2013. It was a very rainy day and that evening the streets were flooded. We thought it was a pump running to drain the water out of 56th St. at the Metra overpass. If it continues, we will call Hairston's office again. I think we will call the MSI, also, to see if they installed something in Dec. that could be making that noise.

  • Gene Barth UC employee. Long time Hyde Park resident.

    The mystery is afoot and will be solved by steps .... literal and figurative .... .

    Patrick and Jay: I admit I had in mind ancient windows with dried caulk and dilapidated seals :)

  • Patrick Emeritus professor

    I don't think the noise is coming from anywhere south of 56th street for these reasons:

    1. Although my wife and I heard it as 57th and Stony Island, the sound there seemed to be coming from the north-east.

    2. I've listened to the sound while leaning over the roof of 1700 E 56th St (40th floor, above all the surrounding buildings) and the source seemed clearly to be somewhere to the west, not south or south-west.

    3. I live on the north-west corner of 1700 and I get the noise in all the rooms of my apartment. But my neighbor who lives on the south-west corner of the building, and who seems at least as sensitive to the noise as I am, doesn't hear it in her bedroom that faces south. She sometimes sleeps on the couch in this second bedroom to escape the noise in her master bedroom, which faces west.

    4. My wife tells me that the noise is fairly strong on 55th street, near the intersections with Cornell and with Everett. She says it's as strong there as it was at 57th and Stony Island, and stronger than in the alley behind Poinsettia.

    All these facts are consistent with the noise coming from somewhere high up near Windermere.

  • For what it's worth, I live on the second floor of a building just north of 57th on Dorchester, and I now clearly hear this every night from west-facing windows. I suppose it's possible there's more than one noise, but the descriptions above are very consistent with my experience -- something like a train idling. Just to say that I'm not convinced this only effects high floors and I'm a bit further west than some of the other locations. Last year I loved on 59th just east of the Metra tracks and never heard anything like this.

  • The noise is not affecting only high rise residents. I live on the second floor on hear it quite clearly. However, my windows aren't rattling.

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Posted to East Hyde Park

This was posted to East Hyde Park

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