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About South Shore Cultural Center

See also the Timeline. SSCC History. Landmark Commission recommendation for preliminary designation

South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 South Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60649, 773 256-0149, Head Attendant: 773 256-0941, reservationist She She Taylor 773 256-0159- fax 773 256-1163.


Please stop by and visit us any day of the week. The building is open from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm. Office hours are: Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm and on Saturday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

To a few more words about

Drawn from past and present Council publications and media reports.

The Gem of the Southside

Affectionately called The Gem of The Southside, the South Shore Cultural Center opened its doors as a Chicago Park District facility in 1984. Having primarily served the Avalon, Chatham, Hyde Park, Woodlawn and South Shore communities, the Center presently serves the greater Chicago-land area with its innovative cultural programs and standing partnerships with arts organizations and providers, attractive grounds and historical architectural magnificence.

The South Shore Cultural Center and grounds are home to the following:

A Community Commitment

The building was originally designed as an exclusive and restrictive private club, the South Shore Country Club, by the architectural firm of (Benjamin) Marshall and Fox. These architects, renowned for their hotel and apartment building designs throughout the Chicago-land area, are best known for their design of the Drake and Blackstone Hotels. They constructed the original structure, the South Shore Club House in 1906 in the Italian Resort Style resembling a summer palace. Of the original structure, the only remaining portion is the ballroom (now Robeson Theater) on the south end of the existing cultural center. In 1916, after the membership expanded and the building became socially important, the old clubhouse was moved to the south section of the grounds and became the golf club (no longer in existence.) For decades the South Shore Country Club was a playground for Chicago's rich and famous.

In the 1960's, the club could not adapt to the times (failing to vote to open up to all who could pay, and also to changing leisure lifestyle ways) and was abandoned and fell into disrepair. Over the next few years the biracial Coalition to Save the South Shore Country Club pushed to have the club restored. In 1974, the Chicago Park District purchased the club and renovated it using the interior color schemes developed by the original architects Marshall and Fox.

The Park District eventually developed a plan under a unique three-party agreement which included the Coalition to Save the South Shore Country Club. The latter was a city-wide group of arts organizations, historical preservationists, and community groups formed to campaign against the proposed demolition and to demand the establishment of a major cultural center. Faced with concerted and highly vocal opposition to its plans, the Park district withdrew its request for demolition in 1978 and eventually secured funds for renovation of the lower floors and the exterior of the main club house.

The idea of developing a cultural center was actively resisted by the district and languished until after the election of Mayor Harold Washington, who appointed Park District board members who encouraged community participation in the management of the parks and to take seriously the consent decree to treat all parts of the city the same.

The Advisory Council

The Advisory Council at the South Shore Cultural Center was formed in the summer of 1986. Among our most important objectives are these:

1. To advise the Park District on all operations at the SSCC.

2. To develop and expand cultural, recreational and educational activities for adults and children.

3. To promote the maintenance and beautification of the park.

The SSCC Advisory Council is separately incorporated as a non-profit organization with 501(c)3 status, allowing us to raise funds through government and foundation grants and private groups to help support center activities.

We have produced our own cultural events at the SSCC such as concerts of chamber music, blues, story telling, art exhibits, tango demonstrations and lessons. We have also invited arts groups from around the city to present events and form ongoing partnerships at SSCC. Our independent partners in both producing free and other quality public performances and teaching and mentoring youth and performers include Chicago Music Association, Chicago Sinfonietta Project Inclusion, Chicago Youth Orchestras Association, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Iona Calhoun School of Dance, and South Shore Opera Company of Chicago-- the latter two housed at the Center.

We have a very active Landscape Committee which maintains several gardens on the premises and advises the Park District on landscape issues.

We have been an active force in lobbying to Park District to increase and upgrade the quality of programming it provides at SSCC. The Park District has responded by hiring trained professional staff who plan and manage classes and cultural programs for the center. Classes are available in art, music and dance for children and adults. There are art exhibits, a theatre program and interesting specialty events throughout the year.

Please join us in working to fully realize the potential of this wonderful facility.

Dues: regular $10, Senior $5, Organizations $25. Dues are not required to participate. Send with name, address, phone, interests (see below) to SSCC Advisory Council, ATTN: Raymond Davis, 7059 South Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60649.

Committees: Buildings and Grounds/Landscaping, Fund Raising, Long Range Planning, Membership, Performing Arts, Publicity.

A few more words about SSCC, from the Council

The South Shore Country Club, now known as the South Shore Cultural Center, was formerly a sumptuous playground for the city's elite. The architecture of this magnificent structure speaks to its grandeur. However, Blacks and Jews were not welcome.

The buildings and grounds were purchased in 1974 by the Chicago Park District for $10 million. The Park District intended, after the property was acquired, to demolish the main building and replace it with a field house. The community, lead by the South Shore Commission, a community organization, protested the plan and joined width the Center on the Lake to form a coalition to Save the South Shore Country Club. A city-wide group of arts organizations, historical preservationists and others joined the South Shore community to campaign against the demolition and demanded the establishment of a major city cultural center.

In 1978, the Chicago Park District provided funds for the renovation of the lower floors and exterior of the main building. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and became a Chicago Landmark in 2004. Along the way, the current name South Shore Cultural Center was adopted.

The Center's primary objective is to serve the South Shore community, specifically, and the greater Chicago area in general, by hosting cultural events. The Center is a hidden treasure of which many residents are not aware. The Center is described by many as "The Jewel" of the Park District.

The Advisory Council of the South Shore Cultural Center was formed in 1986 as a non-profit organization with 501 (c)(3) status. Its most important objectives are:
1. To advise the Chicago Park District on all operations of the Center.
2. To develop and expand cultural, recreational and educational activities for adults and children.
3. To promote the maintenance and beautification of the park.

The Advisory Council has produced its own cultural events at the Center, such as chamber music, blues and jazz concerts, storytelling, art exhibits, chess, drama, dance lessons, visual arts and craft classes.

As we celebrate our 20th Anniversary, our members, many of whom were responsible for saving the center from the wrecking ball, look with pride to what's been accomplished, but there is still potential for so much more. Our goal now is to get residents, businesses, neighborhood organizations, and others to promote, use and support the Center through use of the talents to be found in South Shore.

From the era of the fight:

Fighting to save the club are people who never would have been allowed in. By John Camper

It must have been quite a place in its day. The 71-year-old South Shore Country Club at 71st and the lake was the playground and social gathering place for the city's elite--the Armours, Swifts and McCormicks at first, and, after they moved north, the wealthy South Side Irish.

Until it was sold to the Park District in 1974, you couldn't get in if you were black or Jewish or of modest means. It's open to everyone now, and, if you have a good imagination, you can stroll through the main floor of the once opulent clubhouse and get some feeling of how it was. You'd better go soon, though. The clubhouse will be demolished before long, if the Park District prevails over the neighborhood groups that want it preserved.

At the south end of the clubhouse, you might imagine the sounds of Paul Whiteman's orchestra emanating from the grand ballroom. At the north end, 120 yards of blue carpet away, tuxedoed waiters served gourmet dinners on fine china to fashionably attired club members. In the middle, millionaires and their wives sat at wicker tables in the solarium, sipping drinks served from little triangular decanters.

The gold and crystal chandeliers are still there, as are the gray marble columns with ornate gold decorations on top. But you'll have to excuse the beige paint chipping from the walls, the torn and sun-bleached curtains, the folding chairs (all the expensive furniture was auctioned off), the "Restricted Area: Keep Out" signs near the tennis courts, and the boarded-up windows of upstairs guest rooms that once house such celebrities as Bing Crosby and Prince Albert of Belgium.

The white stucco clubhouse, symbol of the elegant life of a bygone era, has about had it. It began going to seed in the 1950s and 1960s as the patrons fled the black influx into the South Side and moved to the suburbs to join newer clubs.

Designed by architects Charles E. Fox and Ben Marshall (who also did the Blackstone, drake and t he late edgewater Beach HOtel), the clubhouse is considered one o f the few remaining examples of the Mediterranean Resort Style of architecture in the Midwest. To find such architecture elsewhere, you must go to Newport,R.I., Palm Beach, Fla., or the pages of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. The clubhouse is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

There are those who remember the clubhouse as it once was and those who want to restore it to its original condition. They are not the same people.

S. Shore club gets a reprieve. By Michael Zielenziger

Chicago Park District president Patrick L. O'Malley, capitulating to intense community opposition, Thursday withdrew plans to raze the South Shore Country Club and replace it with a cultural center.

O'Malley's dramatic announcement, greeted with shrieks of glee and a standing ovation, came in the midst of a public hearing in the 62-year-old clubhouse at which the plan's merits were being debated by some 400 persons.

Conceding that "probably, there has not been enough communication" between the community and the Park District, O'Malley said he would recommend to the district board that it scrap the plan and that in "not more than 45 days" a new committee, consisting of Plan Commission, Park District and community representatives, submit a "comprehensive plan, representative of community wishes," concerning the 58-acre site.

After the announcement, O'Malley said he had been swayed by the strong community opposition expressed at the meeting. "No elected or appointed official should sit in an office and make these decisions," he said.