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The Urban Renewal Period in Hyde Park and Kenwood

(Urban Renewal home page. Links to pages up)

A service of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and its website www.hydepark.org and Preservation and Development/Zoning task force. Join the Conference: your dues support our work.

 

Visit next:

A narrative of the Urban Renewal Story and HPKCC role in it
Urban Renewal and Community Renewal
Timelines with essays (I and II)
Urban Renewal & Hyde Park views, drawings and pictorials

Facts and Map of the December 1960 Hyde Park Urban Renewal Plan
Early Alternative Plans
1968 radio transcript- Urban Universities- their Responsibility to Communities
Harper Court Story-the commercial teardown dimension of Urban Renewal
Saving Robie House- a sidebar with Urban Renewal tie-ins
Deco Arts Building--a unique gem at a key corner spared then, renewed at key junctions.
Mural movement
Piccadilly story
Story of Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference in the early years and Urban Renewal: Records and Timeline parts I and II.
Urban Renewal block clubs and HPKCC
Why Block Clubs?

Presentations, links et al

Link to a student video on Urban Renewal in the winter 2014 exhibit at the Gray Gallery in Midway Studios: http://youtu.be/RtBd2VBVn3g (if doesn't work remove the . after youtu)

Thanks to Harry Osoff for the following link to article on Hyde Park Urban Renewal A and B.
http://docomomo-us.org/news/hyde_park_a_b_urban_renewal_project

In 2012 and 2013, Hyde Park Historical Society's summer Stories Share at Montgomery Place focused on memories of the role of HPKCC and SECC in Urban Renewal.

History Fair winners present June 12 2010 at HPHS hq, 5529 S. Lake Park

Herald, June 9, 2010

The Hyde Park Historical society is celebrating the efforts of two teams of high school students whose award-winning entries to the Chicag Metro History Fair centered around Hyde Park subjects. This Sunday, June 12, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., a panel led by Jay Mulberry, former president of the historical society [and retired history teacher and principal[, and Stacy Stewart, a Chicago Public Schools history teacher, whose students' project led to the landmarking of the Carl Hansberry House by the Chicago City Council, will feature the two projects. "Midway Plaisance," a diorama of teh 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, was created by students from Maine South High School in Park Ridge, Ill. "Urban Renewal in Hyde Park/Kenwood Neighborhood" is a documentary created by Hyde Park students who attend Lincoln Park High School. The diorama will be on display and the documentary will be shown.

Historical society board member and program committee co-chair Kathy Huff, who oversees the selection of the Metro History entries for the society, said she was looking forward to viewing the documentary and was blown away by the diorama. "The diorama is something to behold," she said, adding that the projects are in keeping with the mission of the awards. "We give an award every year for the best two projects that exemplify Hyde Park Township," Huff said.

The event took place at the Hyde Park Historical Society, 5529 S. Lake Park Ave. For more information, visit hydeparkhistory.org.

A paper on urban renewal in Hyde Park presented at the 2011 Metro History Fair and at Hyde Park Historical Society June 5, 2011 was called by one knowledgeable attendee the best synopsis of HP urban renewal they have seen.

 

Introductory perspectives

Recommended books: See more:
Background:

Timuel Black Bridges of Memory I(2003) and II and coming III
Jean Block Hyde Park Houses and The Uses of Ivy
Horace Cayton and St. Clair Drake Black Metropolis
Ralph Ellison Invisible Man
James T. Ferrell Studs Lonigan novel trilogy and The Dunne Family and The Death of Nora Ryan
James Fuerst When Public Housing was Paradise (2002)
Adam Green, ...On Race 1940-1985

Max Grinnell Hyde Park Chicago
Loraine Hansberry (play) A Raisin in the Sun (set in Woodlawn. Hansberry's father helped break the restrictive covenant)
Arnold Hirsch Making the Second Ghetto
Rebecca Janowitz Culture of Opportunity
Nicholas Lehman The Promised Land
Wayne F. Miller, Chicago's South Side (photographic study of 2nd migration for Guggenheim Foundation, new release)
Mike Royko, Boss
Adam Cohen and Elizabeth Taylor, American Pharaoh: Richard J. Daley

To see Hyde Park before and during urban renewal:

This U of C website has many old views of Hyde Park and Urban Renewal plans and mock ups from the HPKCC archives in Regenstein Special Collections: http://photofiles.lib.uchicago.edu/db.xqy?show=browse2.xml|117

In memoriam 2010, Jack Meltzer. In many ways he was the heart of Urban Renewal successes and its public face, explainer and mediator, including with the block clubs. A University of Chicago professor, he became director of planning at South East Chicago Commission in 1954. After his work work was done at the Commission, he served for a couple more decades as head of UC Urban Studies and then Public Affairs.

Background but far more than "starters"
Jean Block Hyde Park Houses (with far more than the title promises, this is in part a deep book on urban renewal) and The Uses of Gothic (early years and influence of the University of Chicago)
Muriel Beadle The Hyde Park Urban Renewal Years and Where Has All the Ivy Gone? (Copy at HP Hist'l Society)
Marian Despres, ed. Segments of the Past
Max Grinnell Hyde Park, Chicago
Leslie Hudson Hyde Park in Arcadia's Postcard History series.

New! Culture of Opportunity: Obama's Chicago and the People, Politics and Ideas of Hyde Park by Rebecca Janowitz

Urban Renewal and its players in Hyde Park and in community organizing context:
Julia Abrahamson, A Neighborhood Finds Itself (New York, 1959) (apologia with much of the nuts and bolts that would be hard to assemble otherwise)
and the classics on Hyde Park renewal by Hoffman (UC dissertation)
and by Peter H. Rossi and Robert A.[R.?] Dentier, The Politics of Urban Renewal: The Chicago Findings (1961) (partially to put forth the views and accomplishments of the University and South East Chicago Commission)
James V. Cunningham, The Resurgent Neighborhood (1965)
C. Tjerandsen, Education for Citizenship: a Foundation's [Schwartzhaupt, which funded the Conference] Experience (1980)
James V. Cunningham and M. Kotler, Building Neighborhood Organizations, (1983)
Patricia Murphy and James V. Cunningham, Organizing for Community Controlled Development: Renewing Civil Society (2003)
Center for Public Policy University of Chicago, Occasional Papers: Hyde Park Kenwood: A Case Study in Urban Renewal. Copy at HP Hist'l Soc.
Brian J.L. Berry et al, The Impact of Urban Renewal on Small business: The Hyde Park-Kenwood Case. (Chicago, 1968)
Making of the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago 1940-1960. by I. Arnold Hirsch (1998 ed.) has a famous accusation that Hyde Park's UR "caused" the disasters that followed on the South Side.

Leon Despres, Challenging the Daley Machine: A Chicago Alderman's Memoir (Evanston, 2005)
Timuel D. Black, Bridges of Memory, Part II esp. (2007)
Robert Blakely, Earl B. Dickerson (2006)

Devereux Bowly, The Poorhouse: Subsidized Housing in Chicago. (rev. ed. 2012)
Truman K. Gibson, Breaking Down Barriers (2006)

Academic studies that came directly from the Urban Renewal and HPKCC experience
Herbert Thelen and Bettie Sachet, Neighbors in Action
Stuart Chase, The Power of Words
Herbert Thelen, The Dynamics of Groups at Work. And another important one.

Availability varies widely: Copies of Abrahamson (and Rossi?, Beadle, and Center for Public Policy's) are available for use at the HPHS headquarters; Hoffman (which this writer has not seen), Rossi, Tjerandsen, and the Cunningham studies should be in serious libraries; the rest are widely available. Jean Bloch's books are online in the UC Library-Chicago Public Schools CUIP site, and a copy of Hyde Park Houses is at HPHS.

Resources. Unfortunately, many of the primary resources and documents of the urban renewal era are gone, misplaced, or poorly organized. About 800 structures were demolished or reconstructed beyond recognition, although more than one complete or widespread before-during-after photodocumentation was done. Some is misplaced, some not provenanced and described, much is in Regenstein Library Special Collections (finding aids are largely done for that of Hyde Park Historical Society*, those of HPKCC and others are under consideration), some at Chicago Historical Society or sitting at the Hyde Park Herald offices, or in private residences or collections. Vi Uretz and others did many paintings and sketches of Urban Renewal in progress. An effort is now being made by members of the Preservation Committee of the Hyde Park Historical Society to note and if possible document and gain or note photographs of every address and structure no longer standing in Hyde Park and Kenwood--a very daunting project that could use help.

*The HPHS archive finding aid is completely on line find at Special Collections-about accessing and using- http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/spcl/
The Finding Aid: http://ead.lib.uchicago.edu/uncap_rs3.php?eadid=ICU.SPCL.HPHS and search-browse Hyde Park Historical Collection to the three collections- main, HP Coop Soc., and another or to reach the main directly go to
http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/scrc/findingaids/view.php?eadid=ICU.SPCL.HPHS&q=Hyde_Park_Historical_Collection

Most of the organizations that participated in or had records and photos from the urban renewal period, including HPKCC, SECC and Hyde Park Historical Society have archived them in University of Chicago Joseph Regenstein Library's Special Collections. Unfortunately, quality, organization, documentation vary widely and access is difficult, getting copies very expensive. (All documents that go to Regenstein become in several respects property of the Library.) Hyde Park Historical Society archives and library still have and continue to collect materials, books, etc. of the era, which are available to researchers- and now have a digital finding aid. There is apparently still much including photos at the Hyde Park Herald, old files (be prepared to do lots of searching-- as in much in Regenstein, although most has at least accession lists and Hyde Park Historical Society is working on key finders).

From the Washington Post, October 16, 2008:

When the Supreme Court banned racial covenants in 1948, university leaders feared white flight and an influx of poor blacks from surrounding neighborhoods. They hammered home a 1950s urban renewal plan that displaced thousands. The idea, wrote historian Arnold R. Hirsch, was to generate real estate prices high enough to "regulate both the number and 'quality' of blacks [and whites] remaining."

This prompted the joke that Hyde Park, for all of its pride about racial integration, was a case of "black and white together, working shoulder to shoulder against the poor." Yet the strategy worked as the university had hoped, says Timuel Black, 89, a longtime political activist. Sufficient numbers of middle-class whites and blacks stayed to preserve the community's multiracial core.

"When whites found out that blacks were just like them," Black recalls with a wry smile, "acceptance was very easy."

Drawn from an address by Leon Despres, alderman 1955-75, at a UC Conference on urban renewal then and now, April 2004

In 1948 exclusive (restrictive) covenants were outlawed. Many (in what had become a lily-white Hyde Park surrounded by African American ghetto) were concerned; real estate and the UC were determined to resist. Three clerics led organization to save the community (became HPKCC): developed a goal: "An interracial community of high standards," organized many block clubs and sought code enforcement. Some considered this communistic, others racial removal [but the bulk of low income dwellers, even later, were white]. Hyde Park had advantages that would allow a physical transformation: high level of social concern, ability of UC to get attention- including from Eisenhower, who called it an American Acropolis- [However, it was the Museum of Science and Industry which state legislators wanted to protect], availability of federal money and programs, and helpful and incredibly powerful city administration and lawmakers at the state and federal.

In 1952 a faculty member's wife was abducted. This led to a big Mandel Hall meeting preceded that day by a meeting of Sol Tax with Chancellor Kimpton that convinced the University to get involved, though on its own terms. It's new South East Chicago Commission under Julian Levy was able to marshall forces over the next few years to carry out a physical transformation one of whose design goals [some asserted] was to limit African American [and certainly low-income] presence. [the university had long held veto power over purchasers in southeast Hyde Park.] The University was given control of design and usually outmaneuvered the community groups and even vetoed front-running designers. UC at first sought only a restricted area of demolition, from the IC westward and 55th to 61st. Later it was seen as necessary to expand the area to 47th [but writing off North Kenwood and Oakland--the original boundary of the "demonstration project" was 39th to 67th so also written off was Woodlawn. Both these neighborhoods underwent the pattern of turnover (although short of 100%, followed by disinvestment then depopulation]. Affordable housing even outside Hyde Park-Kenwood was at first on almost nobody's agenda. (Leon Despres said that, embarrassed, by an English sociologist, he did fight for some public housing--originally to be only on or off the edge--and got a small amount inside despite strong opposition in the neighborhood. Urban renewal often flouted rules as to what was eligible as blighted or got the laws changed to allow them to use areal conservation goals rather than localized conditions--even condemning luxury property when the land was wanted, as for Kenwood Academy, and often ignored inclusion of affordable housing in replacement construction.)]

1954 was an important year because of Brown vs Board of Education (which the real estate interest insisted did not apply to housing) and because in that year the city contracted with the University to do the planning and design. In 1958 the final plan was tweaked with much debate and adopted, and implemented over the next several years. Several photo documented or sketched the work in progress. Much can be seen in Regenstein Special Collections but was not well recorded; the city's photo record is thought lost.

(At some point local leaders go to the city and ask for help. Offered is rapid transit and relocation of Appalachians of Central Hyde Park to Uptown, and both new public housing c a mile west and north of Hyde Park and clearance of Central Hyde Park to prevent wholesale turnover and relieve crowding problems. )

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In his address on April 10th 2004, President Randel deplored effect of urban renewal and explained it this way:

At the heart of Urban Renewal was the idea of the university in retreat, according to Randel. "holding at bay the outside world. And that's exactly what this university did [in the '50s and '60s] when it thought, rightly or wrongly, that it was under some kind of threat. Lower the gates. Raise the drawbridges. Dig the moats deeper, maybe spread a little scorched earth around the place. So as to protect yourself from what was seen as a threat on the outside."

Most would agree with Randel that mistakes were made, but also agree with Maryal Stone Dale (Herald, April 21), who noted " the incredibly difficult effort it cost to achieve stability, let alone live-ability, in Hyde Park in the 50s and 60s... It is solely due to the efforts of the people here then that [Randel] now has a city university..." and "the seriousness of the problem we all faced.."

[See Herald's response following.]

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Herald reflections: An acknowledgement of past mistakes [and achievement]

May 12, 2004

We are amused at ourselves to be writing this editorial. It is prompted by our story of April 14 about a speech by University of Chicago President Don Randel, and a letter to the editor we published on April 21.

President Randel was one of the speakers at the university's conference on the past and future of community development. He spoke about the university's increasing engagement with the greater south side communities. He also referred to the past development efforts and commented "terrible mistakes were made."

Our letter writer, Maryal Stone Dale wrote, "It is dangerous to read the present back into the past." She chided him for "Labeling the incredibly difficult effort it cost to achieve stability, let alone live-ability, in Hyde Park in the '50s and '60s 'terrible mistakes'."

This newspaper, in the '50s and '60s, loudly and often complained about mistakes we thought were being made by university and its planners in their work on the neighborhood. And we appreciate hearing that there is recognition that mistakes were made.

And yet it was our letter writer's words that really got us. The 50's and 60s were one of the times when "you had to be there" to understand how hard it was.

And the fact that we are still here to talk about it says a lot about the effort.

The community faced enormously complex problems, the aging of the city and race relations in America and their complex inter-relationship.

The goal was to create an interracial community. It did not matter whether one supported the goal because you believed it was a social good or because you had no choice, the nature of population movements being a given at that time. Needless to say, how to get to an interracial community or even what it was, were subjects of great dispute. (In many areas of our society they still are.)

But most important of all was the idea that it was even possible. Much of the country did not think so since there were not any.

One Hyde Park sociologist then described an interracial community as "a moment in time from the arrival of the first Negro to the departure of the last Caucasian."

But Hyde Parkers wanted to change that and enormous energy was spent seeking ways to a different outcome. In some areas we have been successful and in some not and yes mistakes were made. But what is remarkable is that it succeeded at all. You had to be there.

And we are bemused to find ourselves defending the decisions we fought against.

But we are delighted to see some of them corrected. For instance, without regard to the wisdom of moving the Checkerboard Lounge out of Bronzeville into Hyde Park as proposed, we are pleased to see the University proposing to put a jazz club in Hyde Park. Let's see, we first made this suggestion in this newspaper in the fall of 1955; some things take a while.

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How responsible were the U of C and Urban Renewal for wrecking the jazz scene?

In their brochure for the opening of New Checkerboard Lounge in 2005, and in the book of the 2007 Hyde Park Jazz Festival, the Committee to Restore Jazz to Hyde Park become Hyde Park Jazz Society wrote (research from Deborah Gilaspie, Chicago Jazz Archive):

Many Chicago jazz enthusiasts will remember when the South Side of Chicago was the center of jazz in the Midwest. Hyde Park was a part of this rich history of jazz; during the 1940s and 1950s, jazz flourished here and in our neighboring Woodlawn community. Hyde Park and Woodlawn became the center of jazz for the City of Chicago and arguably the Midwest. It was an era when the great jazz musicians of the day played on 47th and Drexel at he Sutherland Hotel, and the legendary Bee Hive Lounge on 55th Street, along with the Pershing Lounge on 63rd Street. There were many smaller clubs on 51st, 53rd, and 63rd Streets, where you could listen to jazz on any given weekend until 4 or even 5 am in the morning. It was an era when the great jazz musicians of the day, including Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, and many, many others played to huge standing room only crowds who came to Hyde Park and Woodlawn to hear the best jazz sounds of those days. As one "old timer" has said, Hyde Park/Woodlawn was where it all happened...there was nothing but jazz everywhere you went. It was wonderful."

Sadly, the University of Chicago, fearful of what it perceived as a declining Hyde Park community that would endanger the University and its students and faculty, decided to use Urban Renewal, often called "Urban Removal" in the 1950s and removed every jazz site in Hyde Park. This act, along with the economic decline of Woodlawn, brought to a close wonderful music and the rich tradition of jazz with a musical and interracial vitality that thrived for decades in Hyde Park.

To this might be added the absence of effort to keep the Compass Theater, forerunner of Second City, and other live theater in Hyde Park and give them refuge from the wrecking ball: those who called the shots later said they had no knowledge of that scene or would have acted. However, there were plenty of warning cries about turning the neighborhood into a cultural wasteland.

Yet, the jazz scene had greatly declined since the passing of the big band era and the rise of the crooners then the first Rock 'n' Roll, and later Rock. It would have been hard to sustain anywhere near that number of venues, either in Hyde Park-where the clear-out of 55th and of Lake Park hit the biggest concentration of joints there and real estate values were about to rise, or Woodlawn, which by the 60's was undergoing massive deterioration and gang-drug infestation then arson and depopulation. The question of UC policy of elimination of the scene, and what attitudes and determination, explicit or implicit, may have informed it need a new look. They could be as much metaphor or even myth as the "moat" thesis. Jimmy's is said to have been saved because of a petition drive.

So, what was the jazz scene like in Hyde Park as distinct from the 1st and 2nd Bronzeville further north and generally west and the Woodlawn (Cottage, 63rd....) scene. The records and photos are sparse according to Deborah Gilaspie, curator of the Chicago Jazz Archives at U o f C Regenstein Library. Before and through the 1920s and 30s jazz "occurred" in Hyde Park especially at hotels, as but apparently the fist to be mentioned as a jazz-band event per se was one at a 1920 American Legion "smoker" at the legendary Chicago Beach Hotel, 51st and South Shore. There were also the huge crowds at Midway Gardens after it expanded to hold 6,000 in 1924 and during its mid 20's decline into a dime-a-dance joint before UC-backed neighbors demanded it be torn down--Muggsy Spanier, Frank Teschemacher, Elmer Schoebel, Art Kassel, Benny Goodman are recorded in New Grove Dictionary as there. The Trianon nearby featured jazz dancing in the 1930s-1950s, changing with the styles then the demographics. Some clubs were virtually white or black-only, others mixed, with Cottage Grove serving a a rough line of demarcation. There was also concern expressed during the opening of International House about a music-dance-drinking club at 63rd and Stony that might be a "threat to women." But were few if any steady venues in Hyde Park itself in those decades.

Hyde Park's time as a jazz center was from the late 1940s (perhaps marked by the 1948 opening of Sol Tannenbaum's Bee Hive, 1503 E. 55th st. the granddaddy of them all) through the 1950s. The joints on 55th, Lake Park, 47th were packed and the streets actually became safer despite neighborhood physical deterioration. Socialization occurred and the races mixed despite segregated housing enforced by the university and attempts to keep clubs on the east side of Cottage Grove in Woodlawn white. The Bee Hive booked traditional acts--Art Hodes, Baby Dodds, Darnell Howard. But also the younger and bebop stars such as Charlie Parker, Junior Mance, Thelonius Monk, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Stitt, Gene Ammons, drummer Max Roach, trumpeter Clifford Brown. ... and many acts were recorded live and are now available on CD. The Bee Hive had a legendary saxophone battle between Sonny Stitt and Gene Ammons. Studs Turkel often MCd or DJd. Across the street was the Cadillac Lounge, which headlined Ben Webster in September 1955.

Conservative as the University was, Mandel Hall was often a jazz venue: Lovie Austin, Mama Yancey, King Kolax in December 1953, John Coltrane (1959), Sonny Rollins, Johnny Griffin, Ira Sullivan, Jodie Christian, Wilbur Ware, Phil Thomas.

Popular also 1954-55 were acts at the New Trianon at 60th and Cottage, the New Cotton Club 62ndand Cottage, Crown Propeller at 63rd and Drexel (1953 featuring Eddie Williams, Nellie Lutcher, Valaida Snow. In 1953 the Nob Hill Lounge at 5228 S. Lake Park featured Lefty Bates Band. Heyday of the Sutherland 4659 S. Drexel was probably later in its career, late 590s-- Cannonball Adely, Nancy Wilson, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Jaki Byard, Dorothy Donegan, Buddy Rich. Hyde Park High auditorium held a jazz and blues night April 13, 1957 that included 50 emerging recording stars including Ahmad Jamal. Hyde Park's Centennial in May 1957 features jazz, blues, folk at 57th and Stony. And in 1958 Jamal recorded "Live at the Pershing Lounge at 64th and Cottage in 1954.

Despite objections by the Herald, the clubs and others, it was all brought crashing down--and in addition to the willing, the elimination of low rent buildings would have killed it. The Bee Hive closed in April 1956.

Yet, jazz lived on. November 4 1960 Kenny Dorham was at Counterpoint Jazz Supper Club in the Piccadilly (51st and Blackstone). The Sutherland kept on booking until 1972, including Joe Williams, Gene Ammons and Al Hibbler. This became the Hotsy Totsy in 1972 but then left for 26th and Drexel. Ramsey Lewis was at Mandel in 1973 at Count Basie at St. Thomas in 1975.

Hyde Park was the birthplace of the significant Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (free jazz) in the 1960s: it rehearsed at the University, Joseph Jarman at Hyde Park Art Center in 1968, Muhal Richard Abrams ("Plutu" production) 1971. The Art Ensemble of Chicago was a Mandel in 197 and in 2004 in Harper Court. Third World Galleries Fair had Muhal Richard Abrams Sextet 1973.

The 1990s saw Malachi Thompson's efforts to restore the Sutherland with Jazz and his Hyde Park Jazz Festivals including on the south porch of the Museum of Science and Industry.

Some of the old clubs including in Woodlawn:

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A history (and possible future) of Hyde Park nightlife- a suite of memories of a cautionary tale. From Grey City, December 11 2011. by Camille van Horne. [Note, to see the richness of establishments, visit the winter 2011 exhibit "Hyde Park Matchboxes and Menus" at the Hyde Park Historical Society, 5529 S. Lake Park, open Sats and Suns 2-4.]

The year is 1949 and the midnight walk down 55th street is filled with bright light spilling from bar after bar, all busy with the regular weekend hustle and bustle. Students looking for nighttime entertainment can chose from over 30 Hyde Park establishments, from Woodlawn Tap tot he 1750 club. Fast forward sixty-two years and only a handful remain.

"There were 35 liquor licenses from Cottage Grove to Lake Park," according to Woodlawn Tap owner Bill Callahan. "The 1940s and '50s was when Hyde Park was happening."

The "Fight against Blight," a nickname for the infamous urban renewal program initiated by the University in the late '50s, would change Hyde Park's vibrant cityscape forever. "The University wanted to maintain property values and a friendly campus environment," according to Urban Affairs and Planning specialist Derek Hyra (M.A. '00, Ph.D. '05). The University's plan of urban renewal is largely considered one of the first major gentrification projects in the nation. Residential buildings were favored over storefronts on 55th Street--Hyde Park's main drag--for fear that they would attract unwanted sorts from neighboring areas. "The University was surrounded by low-income neighborhoods an there was a fear of attracting crime," Hyra said.

With partiers ranging from thousands of servicemen fresh out of World War II to businessmen en route to Midway airport, the strip of bars along 55th Street was more than just a Hyde Park attraction--it was a Chicago staple. In the Chicago Tribune's obituary for Woodlawn Tap founder Jimmy Wilson, the strip is described asa place "where Nobel Prize-winners rubbed shoulders with workaday South Siders, where beat poets share the mahogany with beat cops." Those bars that weathered urban renewal and its lasting influence on the neighborhood's cityscape serve as witnesses to the rise and fall of Hyde Park nightlife.

Walk into Woodlawn Tap (commonly referred to simply as Jimmy's) on a Thursday night and you'll still see the glimmer of something like a vibrant night in Hyde Park. The scene is alive with students, scholars, and South Siders sharing pitchers and their thoughts on everything from Occupy Chicago to the pros and cons of ordering another grilled cheese. Push through the crowd at teh front of the bar and go around a dark corner to see pinball machines and picnic tables packed with even more people. The bar glimmers with a selection of 10 beers on tap, but Budweiser is forbidden--the result of a feud against the brand led by Jimmy Wilson, who opened the tavern in 1948 [at another location] and operated it until his death in 1999. Jimmy's has historically brought together a diverse clientele, many of whom would later become some of Hyde Park's most notable residents. Saul Below and Dylan Thomas are rumored to have raised their glasses there. ...

The Cove Lounge, located on 55th [near] Everett, is on the farther end of the 55th street drag. A 30s-style cherrywood bar and nautical theme invite a host of characters ranging from your middle-aged man in a red Adidas jumpsuit to worn-out University workers drinking the day's long-awaited beer. Kurt Vonnegut (A.M. '71) was a regular back in the day when there was a piano and the place was called the 1750 Club. Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck would have thrown a few beers and then head to [Station JBD bar or] the Point nearby,w here he would take off his wooden leg and jump into the lake.

"This place keeps me alive," says 90-year-old bartender Daiske Myagaw, who goes by Dyke. Dyke is a fixture of Hyde Park nightlife, having worked at the Hide-away bar (now Kikuya Sushi) and the Falcon Inn before taking a turn as bartender for the Cove in 1997 on Monday and Wednesday nights. In all his years, Dyke has seen, firsthand, the changes Hyde Park has undergone, along with its impact on students. for example, one of the biggest challenges in his career came from an influx of fake IDs from first-year students living in the Shoreland dormitory--something he calls a completely "modern phenomenon." When Dyke lived and worked in Hyde Park in th '50s and '70s, the drinking age for beer and wine was under 19 in Illinois; fake IDs would never have been a concern. But now that the Shoreland is closed, there have been fewer underage students attempting to enter the Cove. In some sense, things have returned to their old ways.

Surprisingly enough, the bar with the biggest draw for students nowadays is the Pub, a private bar owned by the University and located in the basement of Ida Noyes. Beginning as a collaborative effort 30 years ago between the University and [first another then] the Medici restaurant, "the bar is a distinct part of the U of C culture," according to Jake Spicer (A.B. '97), a business consultant for the Pub. The Pub prides itself on it exclusivity. Only University employees, alumni, and students over 21 are eligible for membership. Nevertheless, students find it to be a reliable hangout. "The Pub is awesome because it is a profound place for seniors, especially on Mondays. It brings together a familiar, yet unfamiliar crowd," fourth-year Omar Massoud said.

While the University does provide a little nighttime entertainment of its own*, its involvement in urban renewal is indisputably the leading cause of the lack of options for the Hyde Park community a a whole. "Urban Renewal eliminated the bars, Callahan said. "Sheer luck led [Woodlawn Tap] to survive. Callahan believes that beneath urban renewal's stated goal of creating family-oriented Hyde Park was the subtext that "vibrancy was a bad thing."

[The writer ignores the newer restaurants with bar and sometimes entertainment including Seven-Ten with bowling in a University building, let alone Checkerboard and Park 52 that the University brought in, and non-university Chant and Bar Louis.]

In Making the Second Ghetto, which focuses on the long-range consequences of urban renewal [on broader swaths of the city], author Arnold R. Hirsch makes an even bolder claim. He draws a deep connection between race and blight in the decision process made by former U of C president and chancellor Lawrence Kimpton, "Publicly, Chancellor Kimpton denied that community deterioration was a 'racial problem.' Privately, the goals he stressed for the goals he stressed for the renewal of Hyde Park were clearly racial in nature," Hirsch writes. Urban renewal was a means to protect property value at the detriment of surrounding populations, in addition to creating [price, building enforcement and in some other] barriers to entry for these populations.

However, according to manager of the Cove Todd Sleeper, who has lived in Hyde Park since he was a boy, the change was welcomed. "There was a swing in the neighborhood and people wanted a more residential area," he said.

Hyde Park's wild nights are still present in the minds of alums and older resident. Long-time resident Roger Deschner (A.B. '77) descries the neighborhood's nightlife as recently having gone "from bad to worse." In Deschner's time, "there used to be a rooftop bar on the Del Prado and even on the Hyde Park Bank with great views of Chicago." [In that time period there were also also the bar in the Shoreland, Station JBD in the Flamingo, the Anchorage in the Windermere, Cornell Lounge and Tiki and the Italian place on 53rd east of the bridge, Enrico's (talk about class), the Sutherland, and Morton's et al in the motels that drew politicos to artsies, and the Eagle that drew hosted the strategy meetings of the Left and elite simultaneously. Mellow Yellow is another post-ur created survivor, but many miss Smedley's and Chances R, let alone the Tropical Hut.]

Opened in 1962, right in the midst of urban renewal, the House of Tiki pays testament both to the ever-opresent need for bards in Hyde Park as well as to the struggles bars and lounges faced after Urban Renewal. The Tike was decorated with beaded curtains and blowfish lights--fake "Polynesian" relics of the 1940s--and prided itself on its "Zombie," a drink comprised of seven different shots, complete with an umbrella. The Tike was one of teh few 4 a.m. bars of Hyde Park [and always having brawls, perhaps because there were few other choices for late-owls] and Jimmy Wilson was rumored to head over to the Tiki for a Budweiser after hours. It was also feature in Gene Hackman's The Package. "The Tiki was fabulous; it was just so tacky," Deschner said. Although the Tike survived urban renewal, it closed in 2000, when owners Ted and Bea Ciral sold their bar to make way for another business which never came to fruition.

Those days are all but memories now. "I cannot imagine a fun place to dance in Hyde Park," fourth-year Sarah Mendelsohn said. Massoud usually heads downtown when he is looking for "an actual bar."

But with the recent influx of development by the University, many see a bright future for Hyde Park nightlife. Massoud believes that the University-led development of Harper court may make a difference. "With Hyde park businesses become more mainstream, it is only a matter of time before someone realizes there is a dearth of nightlife options in Hyde Park." [But will they be as adventuresome as those in the past?]

 

Herb Thelen remembered-- one of maybe three who most shaped direction of future Hyde Park (the other two being Julian Levy and planner/mediator Jack Meltzer)

From University of Chicago Chronicle, March 20, 2008. By Steve Koppes

Thelen used group dynamic theories in research as a neighbor

Herbert Thelen, Professor Emeritus in Education, whose work concentrated on the development of a behavioral science rationale for educational processes, died Feb. 5 in Laguna Woods, Calif. He was 94.

Thelen was a pioneer in the file fo group dynamics and created a laboratory to study students on the fourth floor of Blaine Hall at the Laboratory Schools. He use his research to write five books, Dynamics of Groups at Work, Emotional Dynamics and Group Cultures, Education and the Human Quest, classroom Grouping for Teachability, and The Classroom Society [Ed.-besides a more popular book on the Hyde Park block club phenomenon.]

A native of Berkeley, Calif., he received a B.A. in Chemistry in 1934 and an M.A. in Chemistry in 1938 from the University of California, Berkeley. He was high school teacher in Oakland, Calif., ad an instructor at Oklahoma A & M College before coming to the University [of Chicago], where he received a Ph.D in Education in 1944. He joined the faculty in 1945 and retired in 1979. During his tenure, he served as Chairman of Educational Psychology.

Thelen helped organize the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and worked on the development of block groups, which gave neighbors of all races a chance to work together on common concerns. [Ed. documented in this page and in Urban Renewal Timeline part I.] He received the Mayor's Commission on Human Relations annual award in 1951 for his work....

Donations may be made in Thelen's memory to Chikaming Open Lands, a project to preserve land near lakeside, Mich....to 145913 Lakeside Road, P.O. Box 291, Lakeside, MI 49116.

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Mark Rosenberg-Reed remembers integration and Civil Rights era in HP and UC. Memoirs: In Between: Memoirs of an Integration Baby.

Mark Rosenberg-Reed is a former Hyde Parker who navigated what it meant to be black or white in a changing community and university. Since his days in Hyde Park he has lived all around the world. In 2008, he reflected that like Barack Obama he had 50 years ago and since to try to be at home in and communicate with. many cultures. He is now a Unitarian minister in the Toronto area. Not only did he write a memoir but his home movies in Hyde Park have been digitalized and are going into Northwestern University's South Side Home Movie Project archives.

Having grown up in an already integrated faculty family attending then mostly white First Unitarian and, as he says, "running around on campus with white kids," he was at first unaware of and then challenged by the Black Power movement of the mid-60s and on. He says Black Power was in part going into struggle to define and forge "authentically Black." But coming to grips with this helped him develop a stronger self, celebrating heritage and accepting conflict between differing experiences and feelings in his life.

More than a sidebar- looking back on the P Stone Nation

Many remember the terror of gang recruitment and control of some schools, gang marches, efforts to take over streets and sidewalks, smash ups of storefronts, melees on the Point and even the Neighborhood Club, torching of churches and shooting out of windows, arson in the alleys, storage of gang weapons at churches in Woodlawn, the deal with gangs that kept the South Side from going up in flames in 1968and more. However, gangs went back in Hyde Park to before the start of the 20th century.

Here is a short piece by Brenda Sawyer of HPKCC and Friends of Blackstone Library reporting on an author event (Despres Family Lecture Series) in 2011 at the Library. (Natalie Moore and Lance Williams, "The Almighty Black P Stone Nation." (2011).

A discussion of the convergence of government policies, changing societal perceptions, and social upheaval bought a full-house out to the final lecture of the 2010-11 Despres Family Memorial Lecture Series at Blackstone Library Wednesday night. Authors of "The Almighty Black P Stone Nation," WBEZ reporter natalie Moore adn NEIU sociologist Lance Williams were joined by Bayo Ojikutu to discuss the rise and fall of the Blackstone Rangers. Ojikuto, an acclaimed author of urban fiction, asked why Moore and williams undertook the project. Said Moore, "There was no other book on this subject." Moore and Williams described the early years of gang or "club" development and the effect of prohibition on all forms of "trade" throughout the city. Following the second wave of the Great Black Migration more displaced young teens sought avenues to fight feelings of isolation, a niche that multiple gangs began to fill. Strong leaders like Jeff Fort and Eugene "Bull" Hairston provided the blueprint for consolidating these groups into one powerful force. The roles of federal policies such as the war on poverty, the war on drugs and the war on terror all played a part in the rise and subsequent fall of the Stone Nation.

The audience, made of those who lived through the turbulence of the times and those who had only heard the legends, joined in with their own remembrances and questions. Conversation continued during the book signing but everyone agreed that there was much more to be learned from these turbulent times.

Memory of the costs to Hyde Park Center and its stock of historic, small, affordable homes, churches, stores.

Hyde Park Historical Society examines Hyde Park Center. Herald, Feb. 27, Georgia Geis

Blocks south of the Kenwood mansions, in the heart of Hyde Park, there is an enclave of simple cottages -- many made of wood. For the past three years, the Hyde Park Historical Society has been studying these homes, built in the late 1800s for the working-class.

"This is a unique, distinct part of Hyde Park that people don't recognize," said local historian Jack Spicer, who will present the talk "The Evolution of Hyde Park Center" in conjunction with an exhibit of photos taken of the homes between 53rd and 55th streets from Woodlawn to Harper avenues in the oldest section of town at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Historical Society's headquarters, 5529 S. Lake Park Ave.

Spicer said he feared the area he calls "the center" of Hyde Park is especially vulnerable to demolition and redevelopment and decided to find out more about the homes that housed carpenters, housekeepers and railroad workers.

Leslie Hudson, society member and doctoral student in architectural art history at University fo Illinois Chicago, said she looked at building permits, fire insurance maps and early street photos to compile a history of the area. A 1926 Sanborn map of the area was especially useful, according to Hudson. Comparing he map of today, roughly half of the exiting structure then sanding have been demolished, leaving fewer than 300. Many of the single-family homes close to 53rd Street along Harper and Blackstone avenues were torn down in the 1920s to make room for apartment buildings. Many other modern urban cottages were leveled to make room for Nichols Park during Urban Renewal.

The project, sponsored by the National trust of Historic Preservation and University of Chicago's Civic Knowledge Project, will be placed in the special collections at the Regenstein Library at the university.

Local real estate developer Eamon McCauley also sponsored the study. McCauley, who has been working in Hyde Park the last five years. built a new home on Ridgewood Court amidst the historic homes. "It's easy for us to lose touch with the character of the community and that is the importance of what Jack and his group does," said McCauley McCauley said he was striving as a developer to design homes that fit into the existing look of the neighborhood with the modern amenities on the inside.
These are utilitarian, workers' cottage[s] that have lasted a long time," said McCauley.

In 1972, Pamela and Leaman Ames purchased a farmhouse on Ridgewood court. Pamela, who admits that she is not a real "history buff," sid they replaced 22 windows, added insulation, siding and installed central air conditioning and hear. She said the character of the old house has always made it feel like a real home and would not trade living on a block that shares one lawn mower for anything.

Photographer and Hyde Parker David Schalliol took a color picture of the Ames' home, along with 120 other vintage homes and other structures late winter last year so there would be no leaves on the trees to obscure the view. Schalliol, who is a board member for the society and a graduate student in sociology at U. of C., said the project as intriguing.

This project has given us the opportunity to have a closer look at these homes that might otherwise go unnoticed," said Schalliol. "(These homes) are not celebrated in the same way as other, grandiose or high architecture, yet still have aesthetic charm."

The role of the Community Conservation Council (CCC) at the height and in the long wake of urban renewal

The CCC was set up in 1958 to administer land decisions in the renewal-designated sectors over the next 40 years and "sunset" in 1998. The following, from the HPKCC Spring, 2004 Conference Reporter, by Nancy Baum, contains memories by a long-time member, Roger Fross, and some of what he considers its accomplishments.

[Fross] served for 10-15 years on the Hyde Park Conservation Council, which, he regrets, doesn't exist anymore. The Community Conservation Council's role was to monitor the use of properties in urban renewal areas where buildings were torn down or about to be torn down. The CCC provided a forum for local input into what types and structures people wanted to put in to replace them and then provided the mechanisms to deliver on the decisions. When the CCC was disbanded, two decades of experience were lost.

The CCC programs the Roger mentions as most memorable are the following:

1) The DARE (Disabled Housing) development at the corner of 55th Street and Cornell Ave. He credits Rebecca Janowitz for finding a church group to adopt landscaping and find occupants when the sponsor fell short.

2) The athletic field at Kenwood High School, which escaped a developer's high-rise development plan, became the high school's track and field.

3) The transfer of unused properties to adjacent neighbors, such as vacant lots on Blackstone Ave. behind the Blackstone Library.

4) The shopping center where the old YMCA used to be. The developer wanted to develop across the street as well, but the CCC felt that parking provisions were inadequate.

5) The townhouses at 57th St. and Dorchester Ave. that the CCC approved only after the University changed architects to make the design conform with existing architecture on the block.

6) The preservation of park land along 53rd St. at Murray school, saving that part of 53rd St. from becoming storefronts. Roger was also on the Local Development Council and, although the LDC favored stores, Rogers cast his vote for the parks. *

*Ed. of this website: If memory serves, the CCC voted against the park; it was a change-of-heart by Alderman Timothy Evans at the City Council committee hearing that turned the matter in favor of Friends of the Lot. Note that a public referendum was held that voted overwhelmingly for the park--more on this vote and referrenda.

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Winston Kennedy on the real estate perspective, from Urban Renewal (which he says improved it) days to the early 21st century, evolution of real estate in Hyde Park, and what attracts home buyers to Hyde Park. Also Deco Arts Building.

Hyde Park Herald, March 28, 2007. By Brian Wellner

Winston Kennedy has been selling real estate in Hyde Park for a long time, 40 years to be exact. While planning an anniversary celebration, Kennedy sat down with the Hyde Park Herald last week and reflected on how the neighborhood’s real estate market has changed since the 1960s.

He believes it changed for the better, in large past due to Urban Renewal. “It worked very well. It provided a lot of housing and got rid of a lot of eyesores,” Kennedy said. “It put Hyde Park on the map.”

Mistakes were made, too, he admitted. “There was a clearing of Hyde Park, maybe to much.” The federally-funded Urban Renewal project of the 1950s and 60s converted much of the neighborhood’s retail environment to new housing, especially townhomes and condominium developments that Kennedy said catered especially to homeowners affiliated with the University of Chicago who wanted to live near work.

Before Urban Renewal, Kennedy said there was very little code enforcement in the area and the housing stock deteriorated. Kennedy was manager of the university’s commercial real estate department from 1956 to 1967, when Urban Renewal was at its peak. During that time the university created the South East Chicago Commission [sic-SECC was in its heyday then, but was created in 1952] to enforce codes and track crime in Hyde Park.

Kennedy credited the creation of the SECC—as well as the university’s decision in 1952 to stay in the neighborhood and not to move to the suburbs—with improving the area’s real estate market.

The change was gradual “The financial community had written off the South Side and Hyde Park,” Kennedy said. He said banks often would not give mortgages to Hyde Park homeowners. “It was partly a racial thing,” he said.

Urban Renewal, he said, allowed the Federal Housing Authority to become involved in multi-family housing developments in the neighborhood, such as Regent’s Park.

One of the streets hit hardest by Urban Renewal’s block-by-block redevelopment was 55thstreet, once a major commercial strip in the area. In 1978, Kennedy bought on of the last of the old commercial buildings on 555th Street, the Deco Arts Building.

Hyde Park Chevrolet used to own the whole building, which was built in 1928, and the showroom faced Lake Park Avenue. Drawings of cars are still etched into the outer walls above the windows.

Kennedy, who said he was hooked on racquetball at the time, moved his real estate business, Kennedy, Ryan and Monigal and Associates, from 57th Street to the old showroom. He wanted to build a racquetball court on the roof, but plans never materialized. By 1980 he opened a Century 21 franchise in the showroom, where he still has an office to this day.

Kennedy started his real estate business in 1967 out of a studio apartment in the Windermere building. A year later he bought Parker Holsman Co., one of Hyde Park’s oldest businesses, which handles the management of real estate properties. Kennedy, Ryan and Monigal worked out of one part of the office. Parker Holsman continued to work out of another part. Having outgrown the Parker Holsman office on 57th Street, Kennedy relocated to the Deco arts building.

Kennedy is the last of the partners who made up Kennedy, (Edward) Ryan and (Vernon) Monigal still selling real estate. Ryan and Monigal have retired. Kennedy said his is one of the last remaining real estate businesses to have survived the 1960s. “They’re gone. We’re left,” he said.

Jeanne Spurlock joined the firm in 1981 and bought the company in 1997. She said home buyers are attracted to Hyde Park’s diversity and schools. And she said the neighborhood is perceived as less congested than Lincoln Park, which is typically the draw for people moving to the city for the first time. “Often times we win out because of the congestion of Lincoln Park,” Spurlock said. “We’re still a good value in comparison.”
According to Spurlock, the typical home buyer moving to Hyde Park has a family, one or two cars, and is affiliated with the University of Chicago.

Kennedy said he doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon. “I’ve stayed on because I don’t know what else to do,” he said.

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SECC's Mickey Conino retires. Did much to preserve, rescue HP housing, businesses. End of an era.

Herald, June 15, 2011

After 36 years, housing advocate Mickey conino is retiring from the South East Chicago Commission. "It was a wonderful job from the day I walked inhere," Conino said in a interview June 10. "It's wonderful to walk away from a job after 36 years and be able to say that."

Conino started as executive assistant to Julian Levy in 1975 at the commission, and in 1985 took over for Helaine billings as assistant director for housing. In teh new position, it was Conino's job to chase down problem property owners in the neighborhood and convince them to shape up.

"There were lots of buildings that had all kinds of code adn building violations, drugs, gang activity," said SECC President shirley Newsome of the neighborhood when Conino took over for Billings. Without Conino, "we would probably have a bunch of rundown buildings, with who knows what kind of criminal activity in these buildings," she said. Conino said the university created a "captive audience" for rental units and landlords would take advantage of the renters and the buildings. It was her job to do something about it.

"We had just determined that the city was having a difficult time with their program to take action against owners that were not taking care of their property," Conino said. Her job at the SECC was to goad building inspectors to take a look at troubled properties and them follow up in court to make sure the owners fixed the problem. One problem building Conino remembers was on the 5400 block of South Blackstone Avenue. The owner decided to put an addition on his house and instead of going through the city to get permits, he just built it himself. "Persevering in court, we actually got the owner to remove the addition," Conino said. "We were stunned we were able to accomplish that."

Conino was also instrumental in cleaning up West Hyde Park, which was plagued with rundown buildings in the mid-80s. With the city backing them up with targeted prosecutions, Conino and the SECC dragged problem owners into court in droves. Faced with the raft of owners at once, the judge could not deny the pattern of disinvestment, ruling against the owners. It was a big victory for Conino.

She admitted those victories came at a different time in th city, back when residents had more time to help her chase down the problems of Hyde Park. "When I came to work here, society was just different. Now, everyone's working. We used to be able to have community meetings. Now it's hard to get a community meeting going because people don't have the time they used to," Conino said. "I can still communicate with people about buildings when they're at work adn I can go to court and represent their concerns and report back to them."

"I don't think anyone cand o [Conino] justice going forward," Newsome said. "She's just an all around ideal employee -- we're going to miss her terribly." Conino will be moving to Springfield, Mo., to spend more time with her family. "We owe her a debt of gratitude," Newsome said.

Artisans 21 closes, will try to move- rent 7 times higher than subsidized rent in Harper Court

Herald, June 15, 2011. By Sam Cholke.

Artisans 21 will close at the end of the month when its lease ends. "I'm hopeful we'll reopen in three months," said Ann Arnas, president of teh cooperative gallery, adding that the store is considering leaving Hyde Park for the first time in 48 years. "It's a chang in times, there's a lot of space available, but it's so expensive," Arnas said. "We're not opposed to being in Hyde Park-- believe me, I love Hyde Park-- but right now, we can't support ourselves with the rent they require."

Arnas said she has five real estate agents scouring the neighborhood, but is finding that moving downtown might be the cheaper option, where there is more foot traffic and retail rents are similar to Hyde park at $45 a square foot.

The gallery moved to its storefront at 1373 E. 53rd St. after the University of Chicago purchased its previous home at the Harper Court Shopping Center in 2008. The gallery's rent was heavily subsidized at Harper Court, which was established in 1965 in part to financially support arts-related businesses.

Artisans 21 entered the wilderness of the Hyde Park real estate market, where rent was seven-times higher than at Harper Court, just as t he economy began to slump. Arnas said the store has continued to build membership and attract shoppers, but the decline in consumer spending affecting the entire business community is also hitting the gallery. "We tell students they can get something cheap, $10 to $15, and a lot of them say, 'We don't have even that,'" said Barbara O'Connor, a photographer and knitter who sells in the store.

The gallery is soliciting donations and passing around a petition asking for support, but the store needs more than a one-time infusion of cash to stay in the neighborhood. "We've been running in the red every month for the last two years," Arnas said. An anonymous patron of the arts was financially supporting the gallery until recently, according to Arnas. "We lost our angel," she said.

When Harper Court was sold, the university helped some of the businesses relocate. Artisans 21 found its 53rd Street location on its own, and Arnas said when she reached out to the university recently for help finding a new location, "I got nothing. No feedback. Nothing."

The gallery has been soliciting support from neighborhood arts groups and Ald. will Burns (4th), and Arnas was hopeful that something could be found in Hyde Park that has the foot traffic the store needs to stay in the black. "We would like to rise like the phoenix and be reborn," said Joy Rosner, a weaver and member of the cooperative.

Artisans 21 is one of the oldest artist cooperatives in the city, and would like to continue with the business model, but is beginning to debate a change, according to Arnas. The nonprofit 21st Century Artisans also operates out o the storefront and will have to move. The nonprofit, which organizes the Hyde Park Community Art fair and offers art classes, does not share in the store's financial difficulties, according to Arnas. The gallery's goods will start going into storage on June 25 and the lease ends on June 30.

Artisans 21 going through tough times. Letter by Rob Borja Herald, June 15, 2011

We at Artisans 21 have always contended that the arts are vital to a healthy, balanced society, and that includes the handcrafted arts, which are the most accessible forms encountered in everyday life.

As you must know, Artisans 21 has been a unique presence in our city, a stalwart for four decades at Harper Court until that venues' demise last year.

We have the support of our new alderman, Will Burns, as we had of Toni Preckwinkle in the past, and a long list of "Friends of Artisans 21" signatures, but our current expenses with which we have been wrestling have proven too steep for a profit-free coop despite anonymous donor members. We have not found a new haven, but his is not an obituary. We will stay together until we have found a new home fo fine crafts.

The gallery for Artisans 21 will close on June 18. You can direct your comments and inquiries to Anne arnas, president, at originannies@yahoo.com or artisans21gallery.com.

_______________________

1968 radio broadcast transcript, "The Responsibility of Urban Universities": Original participants: Arthur Brazier, Julian Levi, and Jack Meltzer, with Kenneth Northcott moderating.

From Andrew Ferguson's June 16, 2008 Weekly Standard article, Mr. Obama's neighborhood

.... Hyde Park has always been relatively affluent, but the neighborhood's character was changed forever beginning in the mid-1950s, when university officials orchestrated an ambitious scheme of urban renewal, paid for by the city and federal governments. The project was the first of its kind in Chicago, and one of the first in the country, and it served for a generation as a model for other cities, for better or worse-- usually worse. But in Hyde Park urban renewal worked like a Swiss watch.

"You have to understand the mindset," a preservationist, Jack Spicer, told me. "In the middle of the 1950s, the university thought they were in the middle of an emergency. Alarms were going off everywhere." All around Hyde Park, white flight was transforming Chicago, goosed by racial panic and the sleazy importunities of "blockbusters"-- real estate speculators who bought houses of fleeing whites at high profit to incoming blacks. "The university figured Hyde Park was next," Spicer said. The school was having trouble attracting students and faculty. Administrators considered moving the campus to Arizona or New Mexico -- anywhere pleasant -- but balked at the expense. At last they decided that if they couldn't move to a nice neighborhood, they would make their neighborhood nice.

The aim of urban renewal in Hyde Park, according to the university's president, was "to buy, control, and rebuild our neighborhood" until it was a "community of similar tastes and interests." The program lasted a decade. By the end of it the neighborhood had been reconfigured physically and redefined socially. Vast stretches of the old Hyde Park had been bulldozed, including the main shopping and entertainment (that is honky-tonk) district along 55th Street. Planner clear-cut an entire subneighborhood of wooded bungalows that housed workers from the nearby slaughterhouses and Indiana steel mills, scattering the residents to parts unknown. From these razed blocks spring parking garages, dormitories, classroom buildings, parks and rows of townhouses suitable for students and faculty.

What survived the wrecking ball was equally desirable: the mansions built during the neighborhood's day as the city's Gold Coast, in the 189s, when it drew Armours, Swifts, and other monied families looking for a lakeside home. Just to the south, turn-of-the century apartment houses were saved, refurbished, and offered as housing for the administrators and faculty at U. of C. Having uprooted most neighborhood businesses, the plan concentrated all commercial activity into three small shopping centers, from which most of the old shop owners were excluded. A single saloon survived. Notably absent from the scene was any public housing for the poor [not entirely true]. After ten years of urban renewal, the neighborhood's population had dropped by 40 percent.

Hyde Park's isolation was by design. At its boundaries, the university bought and leveled city blocks that could serve as a buffer, or moat, from the surrounding South Side as it filled with impoverished blacks. The isolation brings a whiff of unreality to the neighborhood. The place seems uprooted.....

Hyde Parkers sometimes seem strangely unaware of how completely their neighborhood's uniqueness is a product of the university's noblesse oblige. An outsider sees it most clearly in the university's police cars that patrol Hyde Park around the clock, and in the emergency call boxes spaced throughout the entire neighborhood, far beyond the campus proper, that anyone can use at any time to summon campus cops. (The university police force is the second largest police force in Illinois.) The paternalism is less obvious because it has never been racial. Urban renewal drove out as many poor whites as poor blacks; for university officials in the 1050s enlightened liberals all, the panic was over a decline in social and economic class. "They wanted a comfortable place for the upper class to live," said Spicer, the preservationist. "They didn't want only black families, or all black families, but black families of the right sort were welcomed." The neighborhood's famous racial harmony is the result. The comedian (and later movie director) Mike Nichols, who got his start in a club on the old 55th Street, defined Hyde Park liberalism for all time: "Black and white, marching arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder against the poor."...


The role and approach of HPKCC and community organizing in Hyde Park

From Organizing for Community Controlled Development, pp 26-28, Patricia W. Murphy and James V. Cunningham, 2003. Cunningham directed the Conference for a period in the late 1950s and went on organize in western Pennsylvania and serve as professor in the School of Social Work, University of Pittsburgh until recent retirement. Note his early book cited at the top of this page, on three community organizing efforts, including that of the HPKCC in Chicago.

Among the thousands of old and new neighborhood organizations that wrestled with the challenges of urban renewal after World War II was the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, formed to act for an aged but attractive lakefront location on the near South Side of Chicago that is home to the University of Chicago. The conference came into being through the initiative of black and white leaders of faith-based institutions during a time of massive southern migration. Housing was becoming overcrowded, the streets were shabby, and rumors were rife that the university was considering a move to the suburbs.

A resident who was around when it all began was Charles Staples. Still associated with the conference after 50 years, he confirms the birth event:

Until 1943, the burgeoning black community north and south of Hyde Park-Kenwood was held black by restrictive covenants. Then the courts nullified the covenants and the newcomers moved across the old boundaries. Fears engendered in some white homeowners led to distressed sales and flight. Real estate agents warned of more loses in values and frightened increasing numbers into selling, a process referred to as "blockbusting." Houses were sold to black buyers at inflated prices. Illegal rooming houses were created. Apartments were subdivided. Racial turnover and overcrowding swept through border blocks. At a gathering of conscientious ministers, Quakers, a rabbi, and other concerned citizens, black and white, the Conference was formed in 1949, dedicated to helping build a stable integrated community of high standards, through educational and legal means as well as group methods to quell fears and end blockbusting. University of Chicago Professor Herbert Thelan held community clinics in which he taught residents to be block leaders skilled in group dynamics.

The conference spearheaded a neighborhood movement that used block clubs to ease racial tension, housing code enforcement to check illegal subdividing of apartments, political action to improve the schools and increase police patrols, and eventually neighborhood-wide planning to gain long-term stability. The planning was done, with some apprehension, in partnership with the university.

The mission of the conference officially became "building an interracial community of high standards." Early on, more than 2,000 people in a neighborhood of 70,000 became active, a membership that in time doubled to 4,000. Most of those who participated paid dues. Thousands more affiliated informally through a block club or attendance at public meetings. There was a conference service organized by Pierre de Vise, a young social scientist, to steer perspective renters and home buyers to specific blocks, by race, in proportions that would ensure the interracial character of the blocks. De Vise found all but one of the realtors in the neighborhood running like scared jackrabbits chased by bloodhounds. But one cooperating firm gave him solid cooperation and showed that the effort had potential.

Doubting the feasibility of the interracial mission, the University of Chicago observed from the sidelines for three years. Finally, when an upsurge of crime in 1952 threatened to interfere with the recruitment of quality students and faculty, the university joined on its own terms, creating its own community arm, the South East Chicago Commission. The commission launched hard-line anti-crime activities and hired an unrelenting attorney as director and a professional city planner to design a long-range renewal plan for the entire neighborhood. The attorney was Julian Levi, the son of a rabbi, a native of Hyde Park-Kenwood who drove slumlords to the wall and showed little enthusiasm for resident participation. He became celebrated as the "bad cop" essential to the neighborhood's survival.

The twin efforts of residents and the university proceeded along what was then a new road by choosing to use planning and renewal as appropriate methods for preserving community rather than choosing to demolish it and start over. The presence of organized concerned residents was a mitigating force, restraining the university's appetite for land and radical gentrification, although the displacement of residents and small businesses ultimately was extensive. Throughout, Chicago's Mayor Richard J. Daley offered powerful support.

The conference and commission did not always travel the road cordially. Although a common interest in preserving the neighborhood drove them on, divergent views on methods and values tore them apart. Julia Abrahamson, the founding conference director, recorded the differences, as did university social scientists Peter Rossi and Robert Dentier (Abrahamson, 1959, Rossi & Dentier, 1961). Issues that were fought over included the allotment of land for public housing, preservation vs demolition in certain key locations, the open sharing of information as the planning proceeded, affordable versus upscale standards, and democracy versus oligarchy in decision making (Cunningham, 1965).

Ostensibly, united neighborhood forces--residents, business people, the university, local politicians, churches, and other institutions--extracted large-scale government funding to implement the resulting urban renewal plan. The conference insisted on adequate relocation benefits for the displaced, as well as the inclusion of public housing, before supporting the plan. The plan was executed amid controversy during the 1960s and early 1970s. Rehabilitation and preservation, along with clearance, were used. The conference mission was largely achieved after 25 years of effort and more than $300 million of public and private investment, but at heavy costs to several thousands of low-income residents, many of them people of color, who were forced out. this was far too many, in the view of some residents and outside critics. Today, Hyde Park is at least a biracial neighborhood of high standards. The conference still exists, but as a much scaled-down organization, now seeking to recast its vision and recapture some of the drive of the early decades.

Important to the funding of the conference during its early years were the Emil Schwarzhaupt Foundation and carl Tjerandsen, a pioneering adult educator who served a executive secretary of the foundation. His final assessment, published after 30 years of conference effort, concluded, "the community was stabilized on a multiracial basis. Citizens were mobilized. The most blighted areas were replaced with new housing and service facilities. The Conference continued as a functioning organization" ) Tjierandsen, 1980, p. 372. These achievements, he suggested, came from quality leadership, a program combining idealistic and programmatic organizational elements, interpersonal communication standards that included the rejection of confrontation in favor of cooperation while still taking vigorous stands on issues, and encouraging the aggressive involvement of those willing to support the goal of an interracial community. Participation, his report noted, was aided by a dual structure of volunteer committees and block clubs, and operations were undergirded by an environment of strong institutions that were able to bring pressure on city government, including the police, who vigilantly sought to ensure that residents felt safe when they walked to night meetings.

______________________

[What Conference board members of 1998-99 said about the early years and what followed:]

Three Principal Achievements

Three Principal Failings

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Encyclopedia of Chicago's "Urban Renewal" entry


Polk Street, c.1957
Following World War II, and continuing into the early 1970s, “urban renewal” referred primarily to public efforts to revitalize aging and decaying inner cities, although some suburban communities undertook such projects as well. Including massive demolition, slum clearance, and rehabilitation, urban renewal proceeded initially from local and state legislation, which in Illinois included the Neighborhood Redevelopment Corporation Act of 1941 (amended in 1953), the Blighted Areas Redevelopment Act of 1947, the Relocation Act of 1947, and the Urban Community Conservation Act of 1953. The earliest emphasis was placed on slum clearance or “redevelopment,” which was followed by a focused effort to conserve threatened but not yet deteriorated neighborhoods.

The new legislation had three primary functions. First, it expanded the city's power of eminent domain and enabled it to seize property for the new “public purposes” of slum clearance or prevention. Second, it pioneered the “write-down” formula which permitted the city to convey such property to private developers at its greatly reduced “use” value after the municipality subsidized its purchase and preparation. Last, the state provided assistance in relocating site residents—an absolute necessity in a time of severe housing shortages to enable the clearance of crowded, inner-city sites. The federal Housing Acts of 1949 and 1954, and their later amendments, mirrored the Illinois initiatives, providing a national framework and greater financial resources for the renewal effort. The clear intent was to offer public assistance to the private sector in the hope of heading off an urban crisis.

Vacant Property Razed for UIC, 1962
As early as 1943 a Chicago Plan Commission survey had found 242,000 substandard housing units within a 23-square-mile zone of “blight,” with the most desperate conditions extending in a sweeping arc south and west of the Loop. Another 100,000 such units were scattered across Chicago in “non-blighted” areas. Such conditions, combined with the decentralizing pull of the burgeoning suburbs, threatened to ravage the city's tax base, deplete the stock of middle-class consumers, and raise the cost of basic city services such as police and firefighting. Worried about rising taxes, declining property values, and their traditional source of shoppers and workers, Loop interests such as Marshall Field & Co. and the Chicago Title and Trust Company moved swiftly to design plans to enhance the downtown. Within weeks of his 1947 inauguration, Mayor Martin H. Kennelly received a housing program and legislative package that had gestated in Loop boardrooms.

Major institutional interests on the South Side, such as the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) and Michael Reese Hospital, also faced the daunting prospect of surviving within rapidly deteriorating neighborhoods. Even before World War II, they had recommitted themselves to the area, and, in 1946, they joined other local interests to create the South Side Planning Board (SSPB). Staking out a planning interest of seven square miles from Cermak Road south to 47th Street and from Michigan Avenue west to the Pennsylvania Railroad, their efforts—along with those of their Loop counterparts—enticed the New York Life Insurance Company to finance the Lake Meadows development. Michael Reese Hospital soon followed with its own Prairie Shores complex; IIT expanded its campus from 7 to 110 acres; Mercy Hospital decided to remain and grow in the area; and South Commons was developed as a middle-income housing enclave.

The University of Chicago took the initiative in the urban renewal of Hyde Park, as it did with the conception and enactment of the Illinois Urban Community Conservation Act of 1953, a law precisely tailored to the institution's needs. Proceeding in stages throughout the 1950s under earlier redevelopment acts and through the South East Chicago Commission (SECC), the university responded forcefully to a process of racial transition that had been accelerated by clearance projects to its north. The city approved a general renewal plan for Hyde Park–Kenwood in 1958 after the SECC had removed the worst pockets of “blight” and prevented precipitous “white flight.” By 1970, the university and various public agencies had invested some $100 million in the area—an amount augmented by an additional $300 million in private funds.

Sandburg Village, 1964
The largest renewal site north of the Loop provided space for Carl Sandburg Village between Division Street and North Avenue and, roughly, Clark and LaSalle. Most of the displaced residents were unmarried white renters without deep roots in the neighborhood. Demolition proceeded in 1960–61, with Arthur Rubloff & Co. beginning construction the next year. At its completion in 1969, the combination of high-rise towers and townhouses encompassed 3,166 units. At the same time on the Near West Side, Mayor Richard J. Daley tried to protect the Loop, fight decentralization, and enhance Chicago's image by building a campus of the University of Illinois in the Harrison-Halsted area. Sparking considerable grassroots protest, the project displaced thousands of individuals and hundreds of businesses in an old, largely Italian community before it opened in 1965.

Concern with protecting and enhancing Chicago's core also generated a construction boom within the Loop itself. Beginning with the opening of the Prudential building in 1957, a 20-year burst of activity nearly doubled downtown office space; the federal government, Cook County, and the city of Chicago each added massive administrative centers.

The neighborhoods, however, experienced a different kind of transformation. While whites were among those uprooted in Hyde Park and on the North and West Sides, urban renewal in this context too often meant, as contemporaries noted, “Negro removal.” Between 1948 and 1963 alone, some 50,000 families (averaging 3.3 members) and 18,000 individuals were displaced. Old neighborhoods disappeared, and new ones faced increasing racial pressures. Although some urban renewal sites were redeveloped for institutional expansion or middle-class housing, displaced African Americans received little benefit from the program. The city tried to contain the expansion of African American living space, in part, by using densely packed, centrally located high-rise public housing. Segregation became public policy, as the courts acknowledged in deciding the 1966 suit brought by Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) resident Dorothy Gautreaux. In 1969, federal district court judge Richard Austin found that 99 percent of the residents of CHA family housing were black, and that 99.5 percent of such units were confined to black or racially changing areas. Rather than solve the urban crisis, urban renewal had set the stage for its next phase.

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Herald publisher Bruce Sagan revisited Urban Renewal, "story of the century", in the Herald's July 21, 2004 50-year retrospective issue.

Emphasis is added. The Herald does not expect to put the issue online in the foreseeable future. We cannot dissect or fill in this article except via a few footnotes we've added, indicated by ( ). This coverage becomes sketchy after about 1960 but continues in Harper Court Story. See also the Urban Renewal (and continuing community renewal) Timeline and gather more material and perspectives.

___________

[Import and prequel]

The most important [Herald] story of the last 50 years has been the effort to rebuild Hyde Park. It was the central story of the neighborhood but was also the American story of the decline and age of the urban centers, of race relations, of planning in a democratic society, of citizen action, of institutional needs. It was the most important story ever covered by the Hyde Park Herald. It dominated the paper for 30 years and its effects are still being felt.

We call this story "Hyde Park Renewal." We use the term in the broadest possible sense. It covers all the efforts of Hyde Parkers to remake their community from demolishing acres of buildings to social action efforts like block clubs. It includes the efforts to retain long time businesses that were displaced by demolition, or the effort to combat the "red lining" of the community that deprived it of home mortgage money. It includes the effort to get the housing code enforced and apartment conversions stopped. It includes the re-planning of the neighborhood, from parks to parking.

The most dramatic part of the story is the demolishing and rebuilding, but the effort to rebuild the community was more than the planner's pencil and the wrecker's ball. It was the story of a remarkable inner-city neighborhood seeking to come to grips with some of the city's and the country's most difficult problems. And central to it all was the problems of race in America.

It was before the Civil Rights movement, before the sit-ins, before Martin Luther King, Jr., before Brown V. Board of Education, before anti-discrimination laws.

The background of our story starts during World War II, when a wave of southern African Americans (1) came north to the war effort industries, which were desperate for help. The migration continued into the post-war era as the economy boomed. The African-American population of Chicago was about 280,000 in 1940; by 1950 it had reached just over 500,000 and by 1960 it was just over 800,000; almost a 300 percent rise.

The huge increase put an enormous pressure on housing because the African-American community had been largely segregated between Cottage Grove Avenue and State Street from about 22nd to 63rd Streets known as the "Black Belt." To prevent population movement out of that area, the surrounding white communities enforced the boundaries by two methods.

One technique was violence. There was vandalism and arson during the war years to buildings that blacks attempted live in outside of "their neighborhood." Full-scale riots began erupting after the war. One of the most infamous riots, Cicero in 1951, was still in the public consciousness when Dr. Martin Luther King came to the Chicago area in the 1960s and conducted a march there. But it was on the borders of the old ghetto where trouble was constant. For an example, several thousand whites rioted when a white union organizer had a meeting in his home that some black workers attended. His home was in the Englewood community near 64th an Peoria streets. A rumor had started that his house was being sold.

As the migration north continued, the ghetto, which was overcrowded to start with, burst outward in every direction as blacks sought housing in the late 1940s. To the west the movement was stopped after a few blocks at some railroad tracks by the violence of the Back of the Yards and Bridgeport communities. Several riots failed to slow the movement into the Park Manor neighborhood south around 71st Street.

The second technique of exclusion was called a "restrictive covenant." This was an agreement among property owners not to sell or rent their property to blacks. Into the post-war period it was legally enforceable. Hyde Park and Woodlawn were both communities where the agreements were in place. And then, n 1948, in a case called Shelly V. Kramer, the United States Supreme Court ruled that restrictive covenants could not be enforced.

To the east, without the use of covenants, Kenwood, Hyde Park and Woodlawn, began to get African-American residents starting along the Cottage Grove Avenue line. There had been some movement before the court ruling because enforcing the covenants was not easy.

Without the covenants or where violence failed, blacks would move in and white flight would follow. It was Chicago's experience, and the experience of most cities in the northern United States.

There were no interracial communities. The predictions were that Hyde Park and its nearby neighborhoods would all be black in a few years. (2)

Into this swift current of social forces stepped a group of white Hyde Parkers who said, "We are not going to run, we do not believe in discrimination or segregation, and we want to live in an interracial community." They helped to change the debate, to change the laws and to change American society.

In December, 1949 they formed the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference.
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The Conference [and the University]

The leaders of some Hyde Park liberal religious establishments and community residents founded the Conference. From the beginning the goal of the organization was an "interracial community of high standards," and they said it out loud.

The aim was to break the pattern of segregation that had been established in northern American cities while preserving Hyde Park as a place where they themselves could stay. (3)

A paper by Valetta Press, a fellow at the U of C's Urban Journalism program, reports that Rabbi Jacob Weinstein of KAM Temple and Reverend Leslie Pennington of the Unitarian Church, two of the Conference founders, approached the University of Chicago in 1949 about the community's problems. She [Press] said that the U of C Chancellor, Robert Maynard Hutchins, rebuffed them. (In their excellent book, The Politics of Urban Renewal Peter H. Rossi and Robert A.[R.?] Dentier give a different time for the Hutchins meeting but the same outcome.)

As a major property owner, the University's real estate office had been deeply involved in promoting restrictive covenants in the neighborhood and it was now promoting neighborhood groups looking toward the stabilization of property values. The Conference orientation toward an interracial community was something that "put off" the real estate office. (4)

Professor John W. Boyer, Dean of the College at the University, in a speech to the college faculty last fall [2003], commented on Hutchins and the community:

"It says much about the frames of reference that preoccupied Robert Hutchins in the aftermath of World War II that he would sponsor the writing of a new constitution for the world, designed to open discussion about ways to secure international peace in a world of potential atomic warfare; and, further, Hutchins and his colleagues would write that constitution in a way that gave world governmental authorities the power to fight against racist practices; but at the same time he was unable to imagine a "constitution" for Hyde Park that would have addressed the serious social problems facing both the neighborhood and the University in a politically effective way and thus secure (local) peace in his own time.

And so without University support, but with the support of many of its faculty the Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference formed with 300 charter members in December, 1949. Julia Abrahamson, from the 57th Meeting of Friends (Quaker), became the first Executive Director and served until 1956. The Conference became the "citizen" organization, involving thousands of Hyde Parkers in efforts to revive the community.

The Conference promoted the formation of block clubs (5) throughout the community as a means of getting neighbors together. The clubs served as eyes and ears on problems of building conversions; as ways of communicating planning information; and, most of all, of introducing people to each other to allay fears and rumors about what might be happening in the neighborhood. They were the interracial meeting ground. The first block meeting took place in 1950, by 1956 there were 60 functioning clubs in Hyde park. A club could be as small as an apartment house or as large a four blocks. At its height the activity covered about 150 blocks in Hyde Park.

The Conference also became to agency tracking the endless detail of reporting building and zoning violations with government departments. The illegal conversion of a building--making two apartments out of one without a building permit--would be noted by a block club, the Conference would tell the appropriate city department, the owner would get a court summons. The Conference had members in the courtroom following the process of prosecution that could take months and many court appearances.

The Conference worked on all issues that affected community life with committees of Hyde Park residents, such a parks and the Chicago Park district, schools and the school board. There were programs such as Jobs for Teens, a tenant referral service and even a Committee on Air Pollution.

The Conference Planning Committee was the first to begin looking at demolition and building programs through city agencies. The Conference became the pipeline for information to the block clubs on Urban Renewal planning as it unfolded.

The Conference promoted citizen actions like the WhistleStop program. This was a crime-prevention program started at the height of crime concerns in the community. It provided whistles to residents and educated the community to respond to a blown whistle as a call for help.

Throughout all these programs the Conference kept a public focus on the effort to create an interracial community and made it the public goal of all renewal efforts in Hyde Park.

The Conference was also one of the chief promoters in the City of Chicago of an open occupancy law to prevent discrimination in the rental and purchase of housing.

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The South East Chicago Commission

In 1951 Lawrence Kimpton succeeded Hutchins as Chancellor of the University. Kimpton recognized the need for community action by his institution. (6)

His choice [see President Randel on the University's approach and motivation] was to create a new organization that was University-led and controlled. His proposal was the South East Chicago Commission.

Creation of the Commission was a dramatic event. The community had been concerned about the increase in crime in Hyde Park. A meeting of more than a thousand people had been held at the University in March of 1952 to discuss what the neighborhood might do. A temporary committee, led by Kimpton, was to gather information and report back. The next meeting was to be held on May 19. On Monday, May 12, the wife of a U of C faculty member was kidnapped from her home on University Avenue and a sexual assault attempted. The community erupted in anger and fear; and at the May 19 meeting Kimpton announced the creation of the Commission as a private, community-sponsored, crime-fighting agency to work in the area from 39th to 67th Streets, covering Hyde Park, Woodlawn, Kenwood and Oakland. Kimpton announced that the Commission office would open the next day and gave out the office phone number at the meeting.

In the fall of 1952 Julian Levi was hired as executive director and Donald Blackiston, a Criminologist (7), as law enforcement officer. Within months the Commission was turning out crime statistics, working with the police department and researching government planning programs for rebuilding the neighborhood.

No story of Hyde Park's Urban Renewal would be complete without a description of Julian H. Levi, the executive director of the Commission until 1980.

Levi, brilliant and inventive, drove the Commission to enlarge its program from a law enforcement mission into the whole problem of rebuilding Hyde Park. He learned to use existing governmental programs and create new ones through legislation and actions he sponsored.

His goal was to make "Hyde Park the kind of community in which the students and faculty of the University will live." His critics would say the agenda was limited by his definitions of what that community should be like and how to get there. Democratic planning was not high on his list; he represented the institutional point of view. Despite the Commission's Board of Directors that included many community members, Levi considered the SECC "the political action arm of the University." The University was the major funder of the Commission.

Levi was raised in Hyde Park and his education started in the University Laboratory elementary school and finished in the University's Law School. His brother Edward was a faculty member of the Law School, then its dean, and would be, well after Urban Renewal had started, President of the University.

Julian Levi had been a successful lawyer and businessman. His penchant for deciding on his own and his aggressive approach made him the lightening rod as criticism of the renewal programs mounted both inside and outside Hyde Park.

The Commission used the power of the University and its trustees to reach everywhere from the Chicago's Mayor's office to the U.S. President's office. Using funds solicited from Chicago's Field Foundation, the Commission created a Planning Office that acted as the City's planning department to develop the plans under the federal urban renewal programs. And the Commission drove the plans into existence at a speed unseen by a governmental bureaucracy. (8)

The Commission developed a close working relationship with the Chicago Police Department and could brag, 10 years after its founding, crime in Hyde Park had been substantially reduced. Finding that improvement not adequate, the University later developed its own police force, employing mostly off-duty officers. (9)

In the housing enforcement area, the Commission could and did use the University's prestige to pressure a slum operator's banker or insurance company.
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The Community

When the Illinois Central railroad station opened at 53rd Street in 1856, Hyde Park was the new suburb. One hundred years later it was an old, tired part of the central city.

The mile long stretch of 55th Street was filled with many three and four story walk up apartment buildings hastily built for the 1893 World's Fair. Under-maintained and converted to kitchenettes, many had become white-occupied slums.

Try finding a parking place in the pre-automobile layout of the neighborhood. The retail facilities were built in another time period. Land coverage by buildings was high. There was little open space for near by parks, or for schools or churches or other institutions. Every street was a through street for drivers from elsewhere commuting elsewhere.

And the community was facing racial change. A complete change was viewed by many as inevitable; the neighborhood would become an extension of the ghetto. There were no riots and the housing stock was perfect for the speculator--old, large apartment buildings waiting to be cut up. (10) In the early 1940s Hyde Park-Kenwood had a population of about 65,00o and about 20,000 dwelling units. By the early 1950s it had a population of over 71,000 and 25,000 dwelling units. There were 20 percent more units and 10 percent more people and not sufficient new housing construction to account for the change. The process of conversion had started, crowding more people and more dwelling units into an existing building, usually illegally.

Both organizations subscribed to the Conference's goal of an interracial community of high standards. To the University and the Commission that meant as "high" as it could be pushed. A current U of C official recently commented that the University's support for integration during the urban renewal struggle "was a necessary accommodation to reality, not a reflection of commitment to diversity."

The Conference's commitment to the interracial community also included concern for issues like moderate and middle-income housing or public school education. The inclusion of some public housing and the building of Kenwood high school became the bitterest fights of the program.

They needed each other; the Commission's muscle and money, the Conference's public social purpose and it army of volunteers. The two organizations agreed on one thing--something had to be done. The what, how and why would absorb the community for the next 30 years.
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The Herald

Into this volatile mix came new ownership of the Hyde Park Herald in July of 1953. We began to give aggressive coverage of the community's problems. By the fall of that year the Herald was pursuing stories about unethical and illegal real estate practices. In its front-page stories it was publicly naming the local real estate practitioners who were involved in illegal practices.

The Herald began to print a weekly column of building court cases generated by the Conference. It printed and promoted block club news. And it followed the Commission's crime efforts and growing planning program.

It also published original stories to illuminate problems. One such story analyzed what was happening to a typical Hyde Park building of large family-sized apartments. The building was racially integrated and the families wanted to stay. The Herald told how the family that had owned the building for 40 years moved away., How the ownership was then hidden in a bank trust, but that the old ex-Hyde Park family still appeared to own it. The Herald reported that the management of the building had been taken over by one of Chicago's slum operators and that the rent had been increased by 25 percent. The Herald analyzed the finances of the building to show that it was profitable at the old rents and would become substantially more profitable at the new rents. The story pointed out that the new rent levels were not possible on a "one-family" basis; it would take more than one family's income to pay the rent. The management of the building confirmed that to the newspaper in an interview. An apartment would be rented to multiple families who were desperate for housing. The building was quickly heading toward illegal conversion. Said the Herald, advocating strict enforcement of the building codes, "Until we learn to take the profit out of slums this process will continue." (12)

The Herald covered the renewal program in great depth. Special editions were produced at each phase of the planning process. On August 22, 1956 the Herald published a special issue. Usually a small tabloid format, the Herald printed the edition as a full-sixed newspaper to accommodate the redevelopment plans for the neighborhood. The paper supplied thousands of copies to the Conference and the Commission to be used in meetings that would explain the program to the community.

The Herald took strong editorial positions. It believed that an interracial community was good for Hyde Park, the city and the nation. The African-American newspaper, the Chicago Defender, and the Catholic Archdiocese paper, The New World, attacked Urban Renewal planning. They pointed out that it would dislocate as many as 20,0o0 people, two thirds of whom were low-income blacks. They called it "Negro Clearance." The two newspapers also charged that too much public money was being spent on one community.

The Herald responded, "This expenditure of money and human discomfort should be made only for a justifiable cause . The Herald believes that we have this cause. We believe that a demonstration that neighbors of all races can live in a community of peace and self-respect is worth whatever price must be paid."

The Herald angered many of its own University-connected readers. While calling the University "the heart and soul of Hyde Park," the Herald still fought with it on a number of issues.

One particularly bitter fight concerned the South Campus Plan between 6oth and 61st Streets in Woodlawn (described later in this story). The Herald contended that Julian Levi was deliberately misleading (it used far stronger language) both the city administration and the public over some complex federal regulations about Urban Renewal in order to get land for the U of C. Levi was foreclosing public discussion by saying the city had at do this. During the dispute, the newspaper wrote an editorial that said in part: "We are told that Mr. Levi said that since he wrote the law, he ought to know what it says and that he had not been misleading. We hereby offer to meet Mr. Levi anytime, anyplace, before any audience to discuss this question, and we'll let the audience be the judge." Levi never took the challenge. But after a fight and some compromising with the Woodlawn community, Levi got what he was after.

But the Herald's most important contribution to Renewal may have been its Letters to the Editor column. Sometimes running for pages, the Herald allowed the letter writers great latitude. All parts of the Renewal program were debated. The problems of race relations were discussed in the most frank terms.

The renewal program was using "social class level," discrimination by class, as a way of producing an interracial community. The program would make it more expensive to live here. Was that discrimination? What were community standards or values? The letter writers had opinions. Many of the land clearance proposals would dislocate low-income blacks and the justice of that was debated.

Reacting to a clearance proposal with dislocation of many poor African-Americans, one writer raised the "class question" this way: "Of course we all know that race prejudice is not involved. Not here. No one (well, almost no one anyway) in our community would object to living next door to Ralph Bunche. [Bunche was an African-American diplomat assigned to the United Nations]. Why, he might even be allowed to live in Southeast Hyde Park! But--one problem. Even if we can persuade Mr. Bunche to move to Hyde Park he can't, all by himself, live next door to all of us. Well, who knows? Modern science is moving forward rapidly. If it comes up with a way to mass-produce standardized Ralph Bunches maybe then we'll be ready to build an inter-racial community."

St. Clair Drake, a Roosevelt University Professor of Sociology and an author of Black Metropolis, wrote one of the most remarkable letters the newspaper published. Drake had been stopped (13), by University action, from buying a house in Southeast Hyde Park (directly east of the U. of C.) because he was an African American. He then moved into southwest Hyde Park and found the University had an expansion plan to tear out four blocks of housing near his home. The plan did not include his home.

He became chairman of a group helping the black property owners and residents resisting their dislocation, a battle eventually lost (14) (see Southwest Hyde Park Redevelopment later in this article). When another U of C expansion idea became public, the Chicago Defender went on the attack and declared, "This move confirms Dr. St. Clair Drake who charged that race and color motivate the university officials in their development program."

Writing to the Herald that he never took that position, drake wrote thoughtfully about the University's problems of maintaining a community in which an institution of "international prestige" could operate. Without endorsement of any position, he wrote about the "class problem" and the "many people, white and colored, without a shred of personal prejudice, who feel that the proportion of Negroes in Hyde Park-Kenwood should be reduced; and that lower class residents, whether they be Negroes, 'Hillbillies,' or Puerto Ricans, should be gradually eliminated."

Drake concluded his letter with this paragraph: "It is unfortunate that fate had cast the University and the SECC officials in the roles of King Canute and the Little-Boy-With-His-Finger-in-the-Dike, or that Conference officials (white and colored ) have been put in a position where they have to defend their racial liberalism while trying to build an interracial community. And every Hyde Park Negro leader is almost driven schizophrenic trying to decide whether to act as a 'Race Man' or in terms of his social class position. This unique, challenging, and fundamentally wholesome and sound, Hyde Park situation sometimes puts all of us in embarrassing poses and has in it elements of comedy as well as tragedy. But where else except in our own Hyde Park could it happen?"

And then there were the letters from distraught parents. A white mother wrote: "We are one of the families who honestly believed that an interracial community could work." She then relates her young sons' three experiences of being robbed. "We will have to do like so many others, move out of the community."

And then there was the black policeman who was moving out of the community. His son was afraid to go to school because of gang activity. The officer contended that the "do-gooders" made it impossible for the police to be effective. He said, "I am moving to find a neighborhood where people care."

The Herald was frequently the target of the letter writer: "We are moved to protest both the misuse and distortion of facts in the last two articles by your editor on the school situation," complained one writer. Another said, "Tabloid journalism may sell papers in New York. It is not going to sell subscriptions in Hyde Park."

The Herald's editor was caught off guard by the response to a story about a young African-American boy who had just received a prize in a talent contest. Along with the story was a picture of a bright-faced boy, a huge smile on his face. His big, wide grin showed a lot of teeth. The editor wrote a picture caption that said, in part, "a handsome white smile." The letters went on for weeks.

And on the planning and rebuilding no plan detail was left un criticized: "There is more respect paid in the proposal to abstract patterns of population density and traffic flow than to the people and institutions composing the community. Witness the proposed demolition of the Harding Museum." (The Harding was located on the east side of old Lake Park near 48th. It had an excellent collection of armor from the Middle Ages, which is now in the Art Institute.) "Witness the incredible proposal to demolition the Kimbark-Kenwood-56th-57th block, although it contains no hint of blight" (land that is now part of the park east of Ray School). "The plans for the commercial parking lot on the 5200 Lake Park-Harper block were submitted by an engineering firm that has a record of mistakes behind it." (The parking lot is now behind 53rd at Lake Park Avenue.)

Before turning to the plan itself a final excerpt from the letters: "Progress, it is necessary, but this kind of progress the vandals did to Rome."

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The planning and rebuilding

The area targeted for renewal stretched from 47th to 61st streets, from Cottage Grove to Lake Michigan, excluding the U of C campus north of the Midway, the Midway itself, Jackson Park and the Outer Drive. It covers an area of 960 acres.

There were four separate planning initiatives used in the Renewal process. (15) These plans called altogether for demolition of 193 acres or 20 percent of the community. Two of the plans called for general community improvement. Two of the plans added 41 acres to the University campus. (16)

About $120 million (which today would be valued at about $730 million) was spent, approximately half private and half public funds. More than 30,000 people were dislocated. Hyde Park's current population is about 43,000. It was once more than 70,000. It is difficult to construct exact figures because the four separate projects have, to our knowledge, never been correlated. In addition to direct expenditures on demolishing and rebuilding, the planners would argue for the inclusion of private rehabilitation investment done by individual property owners and new construction stimulated by the plan, such as the housing near 54th Street and Hyde Park Boulevard.

The South East Chicago Commission took control of the planning process. With a foundation grant of $100,000 they had hired a professional Urban Planner, Jack Meltzer, and a staff. Although the Conference had started discussions with the City, the University's superior power and money allowed it to take over the process.

The first plan stretched along the Metra tracks from 54th to 57th and down 55th from Lake Park to Kimbark Avenues, including a small section on 54th Street at around Dorchester. One can tell the project by (17) the groups of similar townhouses built along both sides of 55th Street, the twin towers of University Apartments built in the middle of 55th Street. It includes the shopping center at 55th and Lake Park. The program was called Hyde Park A and B. It was done under a city agency called the Land Clearance Commission. Hyde Park was anxious for signs that something was happening (18) and the University pushed the city as hard as it could to make this program go swiftly. In the program, the city bought the land, tore down the buildings and sold the land to a large New York developer, Webb and Knapp. The firm built an agreed-upon project.

The second planning technique used was "Urban Renewal." This was the 50s plan to "cure" the shortcomings of Land Clearance. Land Clearance would tear down everything in an area but it did not necessarily stop deterioration in adjoining areas. The new theory was to take a large area and do some demolition, but also modernize areas like traffic and parks. The object was to "save" most of the area from the obsolescence of an an aging community.

Hyde Park was the first such program [hence "demonstration"] in the nation. The Hyde Park Urban Renewal plan covered the area from 47th to 58th Streets, from Cottage Grove Avenue to the Lake. (19) It excluded the major U of C campus and Hyde Park A and B Clearance areas. The plan fixed Hyde Park traffic by creating wider through streets such as Lake Park Avenue and 55th Streets (20). It created open space in the community, such as parks at 54th Street and Lake Park Avenue or 55th Street and Kimbark Avenue. (21) It also established new housing sites such at 48th street and Lake Park Avenue, 52nd Street and Cornell or the south side of 47th Street.

The last two planning techniques were used to gain the University its 41 acres of new land. The U of C used legislation created by Julian Levi. The law changes allowed the U of C to force the owners of the land between 55th and 56th, Cottage Grove to Ellis Avenues to sell to the school on the basis of the deterioration of their buildings. The area is now the location of the athletic facilities and the new Stagg Field. (22) When the University forced this program, it told the city it needed to build student housing. This program was called Southwest Hyde Park Redevelopment.

On the south side of the Midway the U of C used another Levi creation to have the city buy everything the school did not own between 60th and 61st streets, Cottage Grove and Stony Island. The city then sold the land to the university. The proposal was attacked in a bitter dispute with the newly formed activist group The Woodlawn Organization. To win an agreement, the University rented some of its land to The Woodlawn Organization for housing projects and also agreed not to own any land south of 61st Street. The program was called "South Campus."

The two University programs that gave the U of C 41 acres of expansion room created enormous controversy. The legislative changes were made without much public attention. The actual programs were planned in secret and sprung on the community by the South East Chicago Commission and they involved the dislocation of many low and moderate-income blacks. The Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference felt betrayed. (23) The enemies of urban renewal in Hyde Park had wonderful ammunition: the U of C, which had used restrictive covenants, now was using "Negro Clearance." The Herald pointed out that the University was under contract with the city to do planning under the other renewal programs; and that it now had a semi-public status and could not behave as a private institution. The Herald wanted to know what else the University was planning. The newspaper was concerned that the University was endangering the rest of the renewal program.

The University counted on its prestige and power. It assumed that in the end, the Conference, the Herald and the rest of the community had to support the whole program, and that the justification of an interracial community would carry the day--with the U of C's 41 acres included. The University was right.

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Win some, lose some

There were many disputes and public arguments. One battle the Commission lost was the building of Kenwood High School. The Herald was one of the chief advocates for the school. The Commission did not want any new high school in Hyde Park or all those teenagers around (24). Another controversy was the inclusion of public housing in the plan. The Commission wanted none; the Conference felt an obligation, to the rest of the city and the dislocated residents, to do something. Citywide opponents of the plan used the lack of public housing to deride the program. The compromise was a small number of scattered units that can be found in the 5100 block of Blackstone Avenue, the 5600 block of Dorchester Avenue, the corner of 55th Street and Woodlawn Avenue and in other locations. Under 100 units were built as part of the plan.

[Keeping businesses and "artisans"/tradesmen was also thought important and was difficult. See Sagan's take on Harper Court story and the plight of businesses and shoppers, from the Retrospective issue.]

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Other troubles

It was not just replanning the areas the concerned the community. At one point Hyde Park was invaded by developing youth gangs. The Disciples and Blackstone Rangers, competed with each other for members and territory. Several hundred Rangers once marched through Hyde Park to demonstrate their strength. The gangs fought over who would own Hyde Park. There were shootings and beatings and claims to exclusive use of places like the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club.

The Herald took the editorial position that youth agencies were recognizing the gangs as an important, socially cohesive force and had given the gangs status that allowed them to broaden their reach. The Herald argued that the gangs were making it dangerous for local teenagers. For Hyde Park, the problem declined as the gangs became occupied by money-making drug selling and the law enforcement problems that followed. If they are around Hyde Park today, they are plying their trade. The gang problem moved to the prison system as many of their leaders went to jail.

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A test case from "late" urban renewal: the infamous Biltmore 'Alport' building

The epicenter corner of business Hyde Park, 53rd and Harper's northeast corner, now home to the Starbucks in a 1990s one-story building (underbuilt?-- 3 and 4 story buildings are now recommended for 53rd), used to house the infamous 5-story 'Alport' building. This editor (Gary Ossewaarde) well remembers the frustration over this run-down "attractor". Max Grinnell says it was dilapidated by the late 1950s and condemned by the Chicago Conservation Board in 1962, but it was certainly not torn down until many years thereafter.

Here is what Bruce Sagan says about the fight to have it added to the Urban Renewal demolition list:

"The building had been subject to a series of court cases for code violations. Each case was continued for long periods and then dismissed. The family that owned the building had strong political connections, and the Herald wondered publicly what political forces were at work. Muriel Beadle, wife of the university president, wrote a letter asking Democratic Committeeman Marshall Korshak for help addressing the building's violations. In a September 1968 editorial, the Herald asked Korshak whether he was going to do what the community wanted. The building was added to the Urban Renewal plan shortly thereafter and was eventually demolished "[by not later than 1978, when it was sold for a goodly sum, but still stayed a parking lot for about 15 years].

The infamous Alport building a 53rd and Harper that illustrated how difficult removal could sometimes be.

Hyde Park Illinois. Arcadia Publishing

 


A success story in the aftermath- the confluences and people that created a new, 20-year tradition, the 4th on 53rd Parade and Picnic

(Nichols Park and the role of 53rd St. as the main commercial thoroughfare are products of Urban Renewal. In the late 1980s, a struggle over best use for the land to the north of Nichols, which was old school reserve, ended in creation of new parkland but some resentment, at the same time 53rd St. raised concern and organizing over what was seen as slippage. And so,....)

The following story of the Parade and Picnic was written by Nancy Stanek on its 10th anniversary, 2002. It is followed by an update. Both were published in the June 6, 2012 issue of the Hyde Park Herald.

Some 4th on 53rd parade history

The 4th on 53rd Old-Fashioned Four of July has many to thank for its success. First an foremost is the ad hoc committee on 53rd Street, who with their paid consultant, Bert Still, convened a community retreat in March of 1992. Leaders and concerned citizens of Hyde Park were called to come together to address the problems of 3rdd Street, and broke into subcommittees to tackles these.

While most chose such weighty issues as parking, crime, and business vitality, two of similar mind and bent chose special events. Rebecca janowitz, of Children's Book Fair fame, found herself sitting across from Nancy Stanek, owner of Toys et cetera. Rebecca said "Parade;" Nancy said "Fun and Games;" both exclaimed "Fourth of July!" The where was equally easy: march down 53rd Street to the "new" Nichols Park, and hold the festival there-- and also very providential, as it automatically tapped an enormously valuable resource-- Stephanie Franklin, the founder and protector of Nichols Park.

The core committee may have been small, but its tentacles reached far. All that was required was contact; the event itself, an Old Fashioned Fourth of July, sold itself. Irene Sher, who was responsible for recruiting most folks to the retreat in the first place, helped underwrite the first year's event by securing the financial support of the Hyde Park Development Corporation. Rebecca dialed up Duel Richardson, Toni Preckwinkle and Bob Richards, bringing to the 4th on 53rd the enthusiastic backing of the University of Chicago's Office of Community Affairs, the 4th Ward Alderman's office and the South East Chicago Commission, as well as the 21st Police District.

Rebecca personally made Toni's Statue of Liberty Costume and enlisted her neighbors to make a Liberty Bell float. Stephanie enlisted the support of the Chicago Park District and the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club and brought with h er the indefatigable time, skills, and tenacity of George Franklin. Nancy called on the financial support of her fellow merchants, the special talents of her friends and neighbors, and hands, legs and backs of her staff. Her Harper Street neighbor Steve Thomas assembled a group of musicians to perform at the park and ended up forming an impromptu marching band at the 11th hour for the parade.

Nancy's friend Mimi Asbury volunteered to round up the Garden Fair Committee to march in the parade, man the registration table and help out in the park. Joan Steggemann, now of Joan's studio, came on board to round up additional stage equipment. Charley Gibbons, then manager of the Hyde Park Toys et Cetera, made the Uncle Sam outfit that state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25) wears to this day. The Toys et Cetera staff volunteered to put up posters, blow up balloons, face paint-- to do whatever it took to help pull off the first 4th on 53rd. The ad hoc committee provided the 4th on 53rd with any number of foot soldiers, two of whom remain particularly active: Jane Comiskey, who puts up posters and distributes flyers to her senior Cinema, and Marc Lipinski, who with his son Marco decorates the park and parade street with lots and lots of American flags.


Now approaching its 10th year, the 4th on 53rd is a testament to marriages. From its onset it has been an event that has enjoyed the support and participation of all segments of our very diverse community. Young and old, rich and poor, powerful and not, black and white, Hispanic and Asian, all Hyde Parkers come out to march in the parade and picnic and play in the park. The 4th on 53rd has received generous backing, financial and other wise, of our local politicians, major businesses and institutions. It's been the marriage of business and community; the marriage of town and gown; the marriage of politics and people. So perhaps its's not particularly squirrelly that two separate, very old fashioned marriage brought two key players, the present co-Chairs of the event, to the forefront: (1) George Franklin, married to Stephanie, and (2) Julie McCauley, married to Mark Lipinski.

 

Not heat nor rain, neither people nor politics; nothing seems to be able to stop this event from happening. When it poured torrents, the parade led by pipers with banners flying, still marched down the street. The rained-out performers came back to perform on subsequent Sundays, and thus launched the now very successful series of Sunday Concerts in the Park. On a 4th early on, local weathermen called a heat alert and cautioned Chicago residents to stay inside. Hyde Parkers came out anyway, the Marquette Park District Marching Band rolled up in their bus, and the International Horsemen arrived with there horses in tow all the way up from Beverly. when the three original co-chairs stepped down, George Franklin and Julie McCauley stepped forward to organize, and institutionalized the event to the stature it enjoys today. Just last year, when local politics concerning the park an Murray School threatened, the event stood strong and our flags kept waving!

[New:] This history was written in 2002, for the Chamber of Commerce annual award ceremony at which George and Julie were honored for their community service in organizing the 4th on 53rd celebration. Now, fast-forward 10 years-- and what was described then is just as true today. Many people still volunteer their talent, time and energy to produce this annual festival. And 2012 marks the 20th anniversary of the 4th on 53rd! Unfortunately, last August we lost our mentor and the 4th's spiritual 'Grand Marshall,' George Franklin, and so the 2-12 4th n 53rd is dedicated in his memory.

But the 4th marches on! we still need volunteer balloon blowers, poster putter-uppers, face painter, park and parade decorators and musicians, as well as entertainers--maybe there is a juggler who would like to march in the parade and then stroll around the park? Or a slack-line walker? Or some Japanese drummers? Or a steel band? The list could continue, but you get the idea. So join in--May the 4th be with you, and all our flags keep waving.

 

   

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Regents Park: a case in early 70's misdevelopment by HUD and of a long, successful turnaround by a caring developer with strong, persistent community, university, and political support.

Regent's Park, the twin tower at 5020 S. Lake Shore Drive, in late 2004 was again honored by the Mayor's Landscape Committee for its unique roof garden (see story in the Green page). Here in brief is the story of its fall, revival, and present princely state.

Hyde Park Herald, December 1, 2004. By Mike Stevens

....[Managing Director Pete] Richter, who bean working at Regents Park as a security guard 17 years ago, said [landscape] awards show how far the buildings have come since developer Bruce Clinton and The Clinton Companies began managing the property in 1975. Built in the early 70s with loans from ...(HUD), the 1,038-unit building quickly hit rock bottom in the mid 1970s when high vacancy rates, rent-delinquent tenants and rising crime led the University of Chicago and some HUD officials reportedly to call for its demolition.

"It was an awful place. It was just terrible," said South East Chicago Commission's Executive Director Gob Mason, who was a homicide detective at the time. "The last homicide I [investigated] was in that building."

The Clinton Company took over management at the one million square-foot rental property in 197 after reaching an agreement with HUD to buy the property in five years following extensive renovations. After Clinton made the improvements, HUD doubled the appraised price from $23 million to $46 million, Richter said. Clinton took HUD to court.

After noting ongoing renovations, increased occupancy rates and dropping crime rates, much of the Hyde Park community and almost all of its leaders, rallied behind Clinton. University officials, including law school dean Douglas Baird and former Vice President of Community Affairs Jonathan Kleinbard, worked for years with Clinton to try to restructure the debt-ridden mortgage he inherited after taking over the property from HUC.

"He had a lot of help. He had a lot of people on his side," Mason said. Supporters included then U.S. Sen. Carol Mosely-Braun, U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1), Mayor Richard M. Daley as well as "the full weight of the university," Mason said.

In 2002, the university-funded SECC honored Clinton for his contributions to Hyde Park along with eight others, including he "chief architects" of Urban Renewal the late Mayor Richard J. Daley and former SECC President Julian Levi as well as former 5th ward Ald. Leon Despres. "We kind of looked at that as our all-star cast going back over our 50 year history," Mason said. "Saving [Regents Park] really saved a good portion of Hyde Par."

Today Regents Park boasts close to a 90 percent occupancy rate and the heated garage houses Mercedes as well as an award-winning rooftop garden. The building was sold in 2005 and for the present remains rental.


Other kinds of problem solving

Hyde Parkers have always been original and inventive in finding solutions to community problems. As Hyde Park became interracial (25) neighborhood financial institutions from outside the neighborhood (26) stopped giving house mortgages. They engaged in what was called "red lining." That meant the bank's home office map had a red line on it where they refused to make loans regardless of the credit of the home purchaser. The ghetto was redlined. The solution was to create the neighborhood's own savings and loan associations. In 1960 I joined an interracial group of 10 Hyde Parkers and we were able to raise the first million dollars in savings required by federal authorities to obtain the first new savings charter in Chicago in more than 10 years. The savings and loan functioned in Hyde Park for about 30 years, making millions of dollars of house and condominium loans. After Congress changed banking laws in the 90s in an effort to bring more banks into the inner-city home mortgage field, the association was closed and its deposits transferred to other financial institutions.

The residents of South Kenwood were also original and inventive about their problems. Central Kenwood, about a six-block rectangle, centered on Woodlawn and 49th Street, features about 250 homes, coach houses and apartments. The homes are very large, some real mansions. By the early 1950s the neighborhood was out of fashion, and a population change had started on the western border. White flight was in full bloom.

Some professionals, both black and white, found the homes selling at very reasonable prices and began moving in. And so did the housing converters and speculators, despite the fact that the area was zoned for single-family use. So began a race to win the geography.

To the speculators this was rooming house territory. To the new homeowners, it was the opportunity to have a remarkable home, 10 minutes from the Loop to the University There were two problems: stop the speculators and find families to buy the empty houses.

And so in 1954 a group of Kenwood homeowners held the first Kenwood Open House. Nine occupied homes were open to the public. Neighbors served as guides and greeters. More than 700 visitors turned up. Thus began an annual event, which by the early 1960s was drawing over a thousand visitors. The program made a community out of the neighborhood and it led to interested buyers.

The fight with the speculators went on for years. The residents' strategy was to aggressively pursue converters for building and zoning violations. The most famous case was over a house at 4820 Kimbark Avenue that was operated as a rooming house. After a lengthy court battle, the defiant rooming house operator was given a 30-day jail sentence for failure to follow the court ordered deconversion.

Slowly the battle was won. The geography would belong to the homeowners. The Kenwood Open House Committee no longer needs to do tours to find house buyers. The houses sell; there are people of all colors. The neighborhood holds the annual Kenwood Ball every fall and a "Newcomers Reception" in the spring.
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A developer's testimony about critical Hyde Parkers (and a strong undercurrent of "Hyde Park reactive negativism" that many think has in some ways outlived its usefulness and hurts neighborhood development)

Hyde Park has a long history as an activist community, Sagan says, the current controversy over Promontory Point rehabilitation being a case on the mark. As Urban Renewal efforts became successful, private developers came into the community without city sponsored programs and built projects such as 54th Street and South Shore Drive, Cornell Avenue and 50th Street, 53d Street near Ellis Avenue, etc.

One such developer, a veteran of North Side developments who built here, has said about Hyde Park activism: "I thought Lincoln Park was tough, I had no idea what tough was."


Conclusion

There is no conclusion. Renewal in Hyde Park-Kenwood is an ongoing process. These last paragraphs are about were we are. Times have changed radically. The Civil Rights Movement has changed America. Discrimination is illegal and diversity is a goal endorsed by much of the country (not all; some things die hard). Chicago has the anti-discrimination ordinance that the Conference fought for, sometimes all alone.

In Hyde Park, we seem to have reached a level of stability of the interracial community. In 1990 Hyde Park-south Kenwood had about 41,000 residents. In 2000, there were about 42,700. Why the increase? We built more than 500 new living units during the period. The African-American population was 19,200 in 1990 and 19,800 in 2000, just 46 percent throughout the decade. The Conference original goal of an "interracial community of high standards" seems to be in place.

The University of Chicago appears to have won Julian Levi's "kind of community in which the students and faculty will live."

There are some failures. The interracial community is dependent for part of its stability on the private school system. Kenwood Academy has gone form about 70 percent African American when it opened in the 1970s to 89.4 percent now. In the old days we would get a letter from someone saying, "If it was interracial when blacks were 10 percent, is it not interracial when it is 89 percent?" The answer is yes, but the question is, Is it stable? Will the "11 percent others" be there in a few years?

Henry Webber, University Vice President for Community Affairs, suggests that one failure is that Urban Renewal made campus life and the community dull (27). He has been directing efforts to enliven both the campus and the neighborhood with the bowling alley and pool hall on 55th Street, the ice rink and garden on the Midway and the rehabilitation of the shopping center at 55th Street. He says more is to come.

The SECC, now located at 1511 E. 53rd St., has expanded over the last decades. In addition to its law enforcement and building code programs, the commission now has a parks committee and business district program and concentrates on zoning issues as well, says current director Bob Mason.

Mason says he no longer defines the SECC like Levi, as "the political arm" of the University of Chicago. The SECC is supported by and works closely with the university, but in these tempered times, Mason sees the SECC more as a straightforward community organization working alongside others to better Hyde Park.

The Conference is still at the task of informing the neighborhood. Its web site, www.hydepark.org, posts information about events, neighborhood notes and resources in the Community. Right now they are working closely with the neighborhood about the CTA bus route changes. They recently worked with Friends of the Blackstone Library to get the community more involved.

The days of the old warfare are gone. In her book, Julie Abrahamson writes, "Jack Meltzer of the Planning Unit and Bruce Sagan of the Herald were convinced that had there been no Conference to represent the 'people,' a protest movement without responsible leadership would have developed and, said Meltzer, we would have folded up two or three years ago. There would have been no renewal program."

The University is still here, the neighborhood is still here, and the Herald is still here. Where would we be without the SECC's power (loaned to it by the university) and the Conference's conscience."

In the disputatious times of Renewal this kind of story would have brought a letter to the editor claiming that we had it all wrong. We cannot publish this special section without that letter. So we have written one ourselves.

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[Counterpoint] You were just lucky--it was all economics

[Note: the author here gives a slight nod to the question of whether this massive interference by UR with "the market" and both human and property rights (including right to dispose and destroy ones property) was justifiable, worth the damage, really accomplished what we see today, and succeeded/was sustainable (without intervention from other area dynamics).]

Hyde Park and you have been busy congratulating yourselves on your integrated community and the brilliance of the Urban Renewal program and on and on. You reported on the most recent self-congratulatory program just a while ago at the South East Chicago Commission's 50th birthday party and now you are doing it again.

The truth is you were just lucky. It was a strange twist of economics that did it for you. Milton Friedman (the great market economy theoretician) strikes again, but in a way he might not have expected.

You were busy trying to keep a middle-class, or perhaps upper middle class, community of blacks and whites together. You got criticized by other parts of the city for pushing out as many of the poor blacks as you could while rebuilding parts of the community suffering from age.

You were trying to make a fortress against encroaching blight and crime. But is was not going to work. To the north and south of you were ever increasing deterioration pressing inward on you. You forget now what it was like in the '70s with the gangs marching through the Hyde Park neighborhood and the spreading crime. The areas to the north and south of Hyde Park and Kenwood were turning into a city planner's nightmare of a slum.

And then in the late 1960s and early '70s the abandonment began. Over the past 30 years Oakland and North Kenwood, to the north, and Woodlawn, to the south, emptied out. Vast populations disappeared without much help from the Urban Renewal bulldozer.

The buildings that had been a slum operator's bonanza turned into economic nightmares. A combination of inflation and increased housing opportunities for the African-American community made the buildings unprofitable.

Inflation was driving up the cost of operating a building's heat, light, etc. The operators never spent much on maintenance but now they spent nothing. With housing opportunities developing rapidly further south and west in the city and suburbs, blacks were no longer forced to pay absurdly high rents for this particular batch of undesirable housing. So the slum operator found himself with a declining profit and a declining market. First he stopped paying his real estate taxes. It took several years before failure to pay real estate taxes would result in foreclosure. So he could continue to bleed the building for a while.

When he could no longer get the rents he needed to cover costs, he stopped paying the utility bill. Eventually he walked away. The buildings burned or were vandalized and eventually they had to be demolished. The process of abandonment was accelerated and the people who occupied these buildings disappeared. Economics did it more efficiently than the bulldozer.

In 1960, the population of North Kenwood and Oakland, from 35th to 47th Street was about 46,000. By the year 2000 there were 11,000 left. The demolition of some of the lakefront public housing had helped a little. But 35,000 people or 76 percent of the population had gone away.

In Woodlawn, during the same period, the population dropped from 60,000 to about 14,500, a departure of 45,500 people, 76 percent of the population.

Hyde Park-South Kenwood had a population of 64,819 in 1960 and after Urban Renewal, had a population of 42,723 in 2000--a loss of 22,609 or 34 percent of the residents. Urban Renewal did half the damage that abandonment did.

All combined, these lakefront communities from 35th to 67th lost a total of about 102,000 residents in a 40-year period. There are about 69,00 residents where there had been 171,00.

Remember the planner's adage, "Neighborhood improvement either moves outward or blight moves inward." They are building expensive houses in Woodlawn and North Kenwood.

The fortress you were trying to make is no longer needed. (28)

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Footnotes

(1) Other groups also migrated heavily into Hyde Park as the economy revved up in the prewar and war years, particularly Appalachian whites who worked largely in stockyards. These were heavily concentrated along and near 55th Street. The desire of the city (and at least some residents and institutions in Hyde Park) to relocate them was part of the volatile political mix of the late 1940s and 5os. The city wanted to make room for housing desperate African Americans, at least short-term and until more public housing could be built without, presumably angering residents by threatening broad turnover. When only part of the money turned out to be available, the city decided to relocate the Appalachians in Uptown and carry out the evolving "Hyde Park A and B" 55th Street clearance plan and spot urban renewal.

(2) The turnover in many neighborhoods was exploited, or even instigated by unscrupulous real estate brokers who used practices to forced the old residents to sell low and then sold at a premium to newcomers--often on terms that led to repeated repossession and resale--or chopped the housing up into small rental units.

(3) Leon Despres testified at a recent conference as to his concerns as a recent (1948) homebuyer and of that of his friends. Maryal Stone Dale, in 2004 letters to the Herald (see above), recalled the fear at the time, even on the part of the most liberal-minded. "You have to have been there." Another witness recalls how scary certain buildings and its residents were, especially for young women who had pass them every day. Making things so "one could live there" meant different things to different folk. The motivations for those willing to accept blacks into the community--and many did not and still do not--ranged from a grudging doing-what-we must to those who proactively sought out people they wanted to be neighbors and start the integration and planned open houses, receptions etc. for when the first African Americans would ask to come into say, the East Hyde Park Triangle or particular buildings. The latter were often accused of being utopians of betraying the neighborhood and or university--witnesses from the time say that these feelings were shared by those who formed the South East Chicago Commission and sought through SECC to control change and urban renewal. (Oswalda Badal in Hyde Park History, publication of Hyde Park Historical Society, 1997? issue?; another person citing code wording in U of C prospectus to new faculty in the 1950s steering them away from area public schools to the Lab School.)

(4) Ed.- This is a section one wishes were more elaborated or references given.

(5) The block clubs had representation in the Conference structure and were expected to make regular reports to the organization. Board members regularly visited block club meetings. Eventually a struggle over control broke out.

(6) The University, particularly the college, had suffered a disastrous drop in enrollment after the huge GI Bill classes graduated. By 1951 the levels were unsustainable and would not pay the bills if not revived. Conditions in the neighborhood and perceptions by parents that Hyde Park was not or would soon cease to be safe and desirable for their children was a major, although far from the only cause of the enrollment drop and other problems faced by the university. The University had decided not to more away after the war, but in a few years would again have to face moving or closure if things were not reversed. The struggle in fact continued through the 60s despite a large spike in government and foundation grants and would returned in the early 70s after the Ford Foundation discontinued its largess--after the University had spent much on plant renewal and expansion.

(7) Blackiston disliked the term. He had directed the counseling programs in several prisons then came to the University to study and research further under Lewis Worth. He found the law enforcement position under Julian Levi to be the dream project of his life and was tireless in it until he died of a stroke in 1975, shortly before he was to join Edward Levi in Washington, Levi having been appointed Attorney General by President Ford. Several in the neighborhood accused Julian Levi and Blackiston of running a secret police; certainly the two gathered reams of files on citizens in Hyde Park.

(8) While it is mention of the Museum of Science and industry, not the plight of the University or the neighborhood, that is said to have swayed state legislators to save rather than stop Hyde Park's urban renewal, it was the idea of saving the world-class University of Chicago--"one of America's Athens"--that swayed President Eisenhower, when approached, to fast-track urban renewal here.

(9) By the mid-60s the U of C Police was the second largest police force in Illinois.

(10) One wonders whether the broken up tracts of owner-occupied, slow turnover single family houses and town houses would have slowed the pace. Today this makes various kinds of change glacial in the neighborhood. It seems the proportion of such housing is higher than in many Chicago neighborhoods. Yet neighborhoods that were and remain largely single-family did change in just a few years.

(12) Unanswered here is whether there is a scenario under which successful strict code enforcement without the substantial clearance, only spot renewal of incorrigibles, would have turned matters around (using an anti- or counter-market approach to take the "profit out of " slum-style managing and conversion) until the next wave came along--here the period of depopulation in surrounding neighborhoods coupled with the Hyde Park condo conversion surge, which under this scenario would likely have included much private teardown of worn out structures and redevelopment--maybe with a wave of high rises (unless also blocked), which together would have resulted in a very different Hyde Park than we know but also an "interracial community of high standards".

(13) The time frame would be helpful. From terms one expects no later than the late 50s.

(14) However, another area further south in "southwest" Hyde Park, slated for removal to build an accelerator, did end up being dropped. All of the residential area south of 57th is now gone or about to go by fall, 2004 for Hospitals and University expansion. There was a suit over housing taking of some and inconveniencing of other housing for the Center for Advanced Medicine, in which the Illinois Historic Preservation intervened. Remaining mostly untouched is the residential area between 56th and 57th, east side of Drexel to Cottage Grove. But the University no longer expands in the name of eliminating blight.

(15) Set up to review plans was the Community Conservation Council. See article above.

(16) Note that the plans went through various sized and mutations, as noted in the opening section of this page.

(17) Basic designs by internationally known architect I.M. Pei. The units were intended to reflect contemporary space needs, much as Wright had attempted from Prairie design to his experimental designs of the 40s. (University apartments were supposed to provide replacement housing for middle class persons displaced. Some say it was supposed to discourage African Americans from traveling and moving into the east Hyde Park: If anyone thought that they must have been desperate or naive indeed.)

Note that this kind of project is now done as what is called a "planned development" (an overlay of whatever zoning is there and that remains "there" in the background. A planned development can be institutional, residential, commercial, industrial... and is reviewed and recommended/approved by the Department of Planning and Development, then Community Development Council and usually the Chicago Plan Commission, then City Council. Most of these did not yet exist or were different ( Community Development Board) --nor were there historic districts. Nearly extinct is the long-tenure local review agency used for extensive redevelopment areas, Community Conservation Councils, which Hyde Park had and North Kenwood-Oakland still has because redevelopment and re developable land is still in process there. CCCs are appointed by the Mayor with usually-accepted recommendation from the local alderman..

(18) Demolition finally started in May, 1955, under just-installed new mayor Richard J. Daley. But reconstruction took a while to get started. In the 1958 Quadrangle Club Revels a song/skit was performed, having the theme "Zeckendorff (head of the developer firm), we think you're stalling!" to the tune of Tannenbaum.

(19) The ins and outs of the boundaries, and who they were to benefit would make a fascinating study.

(20) Many believe they created uncalmable speedways and now encourage assaults and robberies from cars. The other technique, even more controversial, used was numerous cul de sacs and making almost all non-arterials one way.

(21) Parks deliberately created by UR (and the first 2 planned with the community) are Nichols (54-55-Kimbark-Kenwood), Spruce (north side 54th east of Blackstone), and Elm (behind the Kimbark Plaza north of 53rd on the east side of Woodlawn). Parks indirectly established or later made on cleared land include Bixler north side of 57th at Kenwood--on land expected to be needed for Ray School, Cornell playlot north of 55th and perhaps Stout at Greenwood and 54th and Butternut south of 53rd on Woodlawn. Ma Houston and Nichols north extension are other parks later developed on land set aside alongside developing new schools (Price and Murray). Murray and Shoesmith (alongside Kenwood Community Park north of 50th at Kenwood) were, like Kenwood Academy, new UR schools.

Another open space, deliberately created by the University, was the landscaped berm on the north side of 55th Street between University and Drexel as a kind of moat. The barren of 55th including eliminating nightlife that would distract or tempt students and draw in undesirables was another part of this moat mentality.

(22) A set of buildings that sued, on 55th and Ingleside, were able to win their case and require the University to show buildings really are deteriorated if they want the land on that basis. In an agreement, the buildings became UC dorms--after all, the university had vouched to the city it needed the land for student housing--until torn down in the late 90s, first for parking while the Ellis Garage was built, then for the Ratner Athletic Facility.

(23) The Conference even had rehabbed a "demonstration affordable house" on Kenwood Avenue in Woodlawn that Mayor Daley had visited.

(24) The Commission sought an enlarging of Hyde Park High at 62nd and Stony. This school had occupied Ray School decades before. The ideal for Kenwood was that it be the local school for the residents of the "interracial community" and a racially balanced school of high achievement.

(25) For decades Hyde Park remained largely segregated by area and housing types. In the 1990s, census results and observation show, this had to a considerable degree broken down.

(26) Into the 60s some of our leading local financial institutions still told blacks they do not lend to blacks. Into the 60s some leading hotels and apartments would not accept blacks. (President Beadle led a march to desegregate the Windermere in 1962.

(27) Both Land Clearance and Urban Renewal included a deliberate targeting of the jazz etc joints, along with the seedy bars and just plain commercial and residential density and deterioration/obsolescence along the 55th and Lake Park axes. It is no accident that very little nightlife commercial-- or residential west of Kenwood-- was put in its place.

(28) A caveat might be the robbers, homeless and others showing up from who knows where on our streets and in our parks. As the immediate neighboring communities rebuild, their land will still be cheaper than Hyde Park-Kenwood and they will entice away, while Hyde Park is filled up and its housing stock will be aging--and much of its commercial stock is in poor shape. Perhaps we need now to define key problems and opportunities and work on them lest things slip away again.

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