History of South Shore Cultural Center

South Shore Cultural Center home page
SSCC and Chicago Landmark Designation recommendation and designation
About SSCC has more on the history
SSCC Timeline (includes early and later views)
Story of the founding of the Country Club by Lawrence Heyworth in pdf in Hyde Park Historical Society site, click Newsletters.

SSCC Photo Gallery

Kenwood Academy student Amy Lewis in 2013 created a web site on the saving of the Country Club as a community spark for her Chicago Metro History Fair project - and was a winner at city and state levels and taken to the National History Day at the University of Maryland. Access this website at http://33427478.nhd.weebly.com.

Official short story of the Club and Center - by itself in pdf.

South Shore Cultural Center
7059 S. South Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60649
Phone: (773) 256-0149
Fax: (773) 256-1153

As one of the premier cultural centers, the mission of the Chicago Park District’s South Shore Cultural Center is to provide a variety of cultural programs, professional performances, exhibits, arts oriented education, and leisure activities for the community.

The South Shore Cultural Center was originally designed as a private club, the South Shore Country Club, by the architectural firm of Marshall and Fox. The architects renowned for their hotel and apartment building designs throughout the Chicago land area, Marshall and Fox are best known for their design of the Drake and Blackstone Hotels. They constructed the original 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 Paul Robeson Theatre) on the south end of the existing building. In 1916, after expansion in membership and social importance in Chicago, the old clubhouse was moved to the south section of the grounds and became the golf club house (no longer in existence). Marshall and Fox were hired again to design a new clubhouse.

For decades, the South Shore Country Club was a playground for Chicago’s rich. In the 1960’s, the club was abandoned and fell into disrepair. Over the next few years, community activists pushed to have the club restored and in 1974, the Chicago Park District purchased the club for $10 million. The site became listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places in 1975. In 1984, the Chicago Park District rehabilitated the club house using interior color schemes developed by the original architects, Marshall and Fox.

Today, the South Shore Cultural Center is one of the Chicago Park District’s most significant historical sites. The center sits on 58 acres of land and is bounded by Lake Shore Drive on the west, 71st Street on the south and Lake Michigan on the north and east. The grounds include a nine-whole golf course, beach, nature sanctuary, butterfly garden and open space for picnics and walks. The horse stable is currently used by the Chicago Police Department. In 2004 the Cultural center was recognized as a Chicago Landmark.

The Center is a common space for banquets, weddings, receptions, community and private business meetings, art exhibits and other cultural activities. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama selected this historic venue for their wedding reception more than a decade ago. In addition to special events, the Center offers a variety of cultural programs and classes for all ages in dance, music, art, health, culinary arts, after school, fitness and more. The Center is also home to programs offered by Washburne Culinary Institute, and Parrot Cage Restaurant, a 50-seat dining experience featuring international cuisine.

For more information about your Chicago Park District, visit www.chicagoparkdistrict.com ,
or call 312.742.PLAY or 312.747.2001 (TTY).


Story of the Country Club

The following, wide-ranging history of the founding, physical building, and characteristics of the South Shore Country Club and Cultural Center and its 58-acre site, and its context, is taken from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks Preliminary Summary of Information, submitted to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks, October, 2003. According to letter to the Advisory Council, the 6-8 month path to landmark designation by City Council starts with a preliminary vote by the Commission, followed by notification of the owner (CPD) and institution of a Permit Review Process for any proposed changes until the matter is finally disposed. With agreement from the owner (CPD represented by then-Superintendent Mitchell), the Recommendation was introduced in City Council May 5, 2004. Final designation was voted May 26.

SSCC is designated "orange" in the Chicago Historic Resources Survey.

More information on the buildings is found in Alice Sinkevitch, AIA Guide to Chicago and Franz Schulz and Kevin Harrington, Chicago's Famous Buildings.

Built 1906, 1909, 1916 by Marshall and Fox.

Chicago's parks are among the city's most important resources with their abundance of historically and architecturally significant landscapes and buildings. The South Shore Cultural Center, originally built as the private South Shore Country Club and now operated by the Chicago Park District, is one of the most visually distinctive park buildings in Chicago. Built as an in-city country club with a riding stable, nine-hole golf course, lakefront beach, and other recreational amenities, the South Shore Cultural Center remains today an unusual example of resort architecture in the City.

The stucco-clad South Shore Cultural Center buildings, including the club building, gatehouse, and stable, are handsomely designed in the Mediterranean Revival Style, an architectural mode rarely used for Chicago buildings although popular in Florida, Southern California, and other warm-weather parts of the United States. The club building's beautifully detailed first-floor interiors are designed in the Classical Revival and Adamesque styles and include a ballroom, solarium, and dining rom arranged around a grandly-scaled, two-story high "Passagio." or circulation foyer. These main first-floor spaces, plus the mezzanine corridors encircling the Passagio, are lavishly ornamented with finely-detailed Classical plaster ornament.

The South Shore Cultural Center was designed by Marshall & Fox, a prominent early 20th-century architectural firm in Chicago. Practicing together between 1905 and 1926, Benjamin Marshall and Charles Fox catered primarily to the City's wealthy elite, specializing in luxury apartment buildings, hotels, theaters, and clubs. Prominent Chicago buildings designed by Marshall and Fox include the Blackstone Hotel and Theatre on South Michigan Avenue; the Drake Hotel and several apartment buildings in the East Lake Shore Drive Chicago Landmark District; the 1550 North State Parkway apartment building overlooking Lincoln Park; and the original section of the Uptown National Bank Building.

A bit more about Marshall, based on the book on Fizdale's 2014 book on 999 East Lake Shore Drive (a Marshall building along with the Drake and two others of the eight buildings on Chicago's toniest street (Marshall and family long lived in the Drake): He started as a tailor before moving into architecture, wore white suits, palled with Ziegfeld chorus girls in a white Packard, and designed transparent (in water) bathing suits. He was the prime designer who lured wealthy socialites to leave free-standing mansions and country estates to live the downtown urban luxury life in high and mid rises.

Recreational Clubs and the Development of Golf Clubs in Chicago

Clubs devoted to recreational pursuits including riding, fox hunting, boating and tennis began in earnest in the United States during the early 1880s. The establishment of the private golf club soon followed in the late 1880s. As the leisure class grew, due partly as a result of more free time associated with the advances afforded by the Industrial Revolution, individuals began to form associations that revolved around games and recreational pursuits. According to the historian Richard J. Moss, author of Golf and the American Country Club:

The country club was clearly part of the attempt to respond locally to the nerve-racking pace of change. By drawing a line between public and private space, the country club founders effectively reestablished the vanishing village. They created small, stable, and easily understood corporate enterprises that, although democratic in practice, exercised nearly absolute control over access.

Recreational clubs became popular in Chicago during the 1890s. These clubs provided Chicago's business and industrial leaders a relaxed atmosphere for social and athletic activities and making important business contacts. One of the City's early recreational clubs was the Saddle and Cycle Club, which was opened in May 1895. The club was located at Kenmore and Bryn Mawr in the Edgewater neighborhood. It later moved to Foster Avenue and the lake in 1898. Both club buildings were designed by Jarvis Hunt, who was one of the organizers of the club along with Bert Erskine and Frank Remington, who had founded the Chicago's Skater's Club. The club served as a popular social gathering place where members could participate in bicycling, horseback riding and sailing competitions.

While golf was unknown to most Americans in the late 19th century, its popularity would quickly prompt the establishment of more private clubs that any other sport. No golf clubs existed in the United States before 1888. However, sixteen golf clubs were formed by 1893. While most of these clubs were established in the eastern United States, the Chicago area was home to one club, the Chicago Golf Club, originally located west of Chicago in a town known as Belmont (today part of suburban Downers Grove).

The Chicago Golf club was founded in 1893 by Charles Blair Macdonald (1856-1939) and fellow members of the downtown-based Chicago Club. C. B. Macdonald, the first golf course architect in the United States, is recognized as the "Father of Chicago Golf" because he single-handedly led the crusade to bring the sport to Chicago. His efforts were bolstered during the World's Fair of 1893 when the British Commissioner General to the Columbian Exposition and the British delegation sought out a golf course.

In 1896, C. B. Macdonald designed what was believed to be the first golf course within the city limits. The short nine-hole course was constructed in the center of the racetrack of the Washington Park Club and Race Track, a private social club known for horse racing, that was once located on the City's South Side. Washington Park featured a grand clubhouse designed in 1896 by Solon S. Beman and hosted the American derby. despite enormous success of the Washington Park Club, a strong anti-gambling movement forced the closure of the race track, as well as the golf course in 1905.

As Chicago's prominent citizens became infatuated with the game of golf, a flood of new clubs were established. In 1897, the City's first two golf clubs—the Bryn Mawr Golf Club, once located on a site south of Jackson Park near 72nd St., and the Edgewater Golf Club, first situated near Devon Ave. and Broadway, and relocated in 1912 to Pratt and Ridge Avenues—were established. By 1900, the City and neighboring suburbs had 30 of the approximately 1,000 courses in the United States. Chicago was also the home to the first public golf course west of the Alleghenies, the Jackson Park Public Links (opened in 1899). During the first two decades of the twentieth century, the Chicago area became the hub of golf in the "West" (as the Midwest was called at the time), possessing 70 private golf clubs and nearly 20 public golf courses.

One of the most important aspects of the country club was its clubhouse. The architecture of the clubhouse, which ranged from traditional to fanciful, reflected the character of the institution and its members. The prototype of the American golf clubhouse was created in 1892 by architect Stanford White of McKim, Meade and white for the club at Shinnecock Hills on Long Island. White's functional but elegant design derived from the seaside resort architecture of the East Coast. Designs reflecting the character of the early golf clubs in Scotland and England were also popular for American clubhouses. This style is exemplified by Holabird & Roche's clubhouse for the Glenview golf and Polo Club (1897). The clubhouse, located on Chicago's North Shore, resembled a Scottish baronial manor (the same architects designed a new clubhouse in the same style when the original was destroyed by fire in 1921). The traditional character associated with Georgian and Tudor styles also made them popular choices for clubhouses.

Several golf clubs, like the South Shore and Medinah Country Clubs, constructed lavish clubhouses in more unusual architectural styles. With a nine-hole course on the shore of Lake Michigan and an ornate Mediterranean Revival-style clubhouse, the South Shoe Country Club, originally constructed in 1906 and replaced in 1916 in the same style, was distinguished by its unique site and dramatic architecture. The distinctive Byzantine Revival-style clubhouse of the Medinah Country Club (located in Medinah, a western suburb of Chicago) was the designed by R. G. Schmid in 1926 to reflect the character of the club's founders, the Shriners organization, who also constructed the similarly designed Medinah Temple (a designated Chicago landmark), also by Schmid, in 1912. While clubhouse designs varied, all shared the common goal of using elaborate architecture to underscore the exclusivity and luxury of upper-class leisure.

History of the South Shore Country Club

Original design. It included a breakater and lighthouse. There was a mini river running through the course where the two mini lakes are planned. And there are very few trees. The current natural area was a set of pavilions. There were multiple entrances until someone closed them for some reason most likely 1965 South Shore racial transition. But the original blacktop roadway is still there . The Breakwater was built as a Promenade, so built strong and high enough to avoid walkers from being washed into lake. The Casino and Lighthouse are attached to the Promenade. Cutting edge architecture for the 1906 era. This was the Catholic vacation spot for the city wealthy politicians and builders. Filling in the harbor and swimming pool area with riding ring and baseball diamond is curious. Upkeep cost had to be part of i

The South Shore Country Club was conceived by Lawrence Heyworth in 1905. As the president of the Mutual Bank and the Chicago Athletic Club, Heyworth frequently traveled to New York and had visited the New York Athletic Club's outpost on Travers Island in Long Island Sound. It was there that he got the idea to establish a similar club in Chicago. In 1946, on the fortieth anniversary of the club, Heyworth recalled:

Back in 1905 when I was President of the Chicago Athletic Club, I conceived the idea of having a Country Club in connection with the Athletic Club so the members of the Athletic Club could enjoy dining and wining in a beautiful place out in the country instead of having to resort to dives and saloons, which at that time were about the only available suburban places.

Lawrence Heyworth was familiar with the site that the South Shore Country Club would eventually occupy because he used to take his children there for recreation and to enjoy fried perch from the "old man" Barnes, a local fisherman. His first attempts to form the new club on Chicago's lakefront proved to be unsuccessful. Initially, he sent letters to members of the Chicago Athletic Club with the site in mind to gain support for the idea, but he was only able to convince a few members to endorse his plan. After this minor defeat, Heyworth used his connections to gather the support of prominent Chicago businessmen, including Honore Palmer, Harry Honore, Mason B. Staring, and William C. Thorne. With the endorsement of these influential individuals, Heyworth sent out 1,000 letters to other wealthy Chicagoans, but from this letter he received only 21 acceptances.

Not willing to abandon hope, Heyworth sent out another mailing. Fortunately for Heyworth, the letters arrived to prospective members just as the proprietors of the Washington Park Golf Club and Race Track announced that the popular racetrack and golf course would close. In less than 30 days, Heyworth received several hundred acceptances for club membership, each paying an initiation fee of one hundred dollars. With support from Chicago's elite, including Ogden Armour, through whom Heyworth convinced the presidents of seventeen Loop banks to join his cause, he arranged for the purchase of the land east of Bond Street (now South Shore Drive) for the site of future South Shore Country Club.

It was at this time that a committee of neighborhood residents got wind of Heyworth's idea to develop the land which they wanted the city to extend 67th through 70th Streets to Lake Michigan. Heyworth called the committee, which was composed of several prominent residents, many associated with local government, to meet with him at the Mutual Bank. At the meeting, Heyworth coerced the committee into supporting the South Shore Country Club by assuring them they would be unable to get a loan from any of the banks that were run by members of the soon-to-be-club. Realizing that they would be unable to conduct their affairs, the committee agreed to support the club.

The club was incorporated on April 25, 1906, an the following day the first board of governors meeting was held in the Fine Arts Building. In addition to the founding members mentioned previously, the board included: Harold F. McCormick, Joseph Leiter, Charles A. Stevens, and Harry I. Miller, amongst others. At a later meeting, board member Frederick Bode proposed to limit the club to 200 perpetual members, 2,000 active members, and 250 nonresident members. These individuals would pay initiation fees of $1,000, $100, and $50 respectively.

With this capital Heyworth was able to purchase furnishings, equipment and soil. Since the site was virtually all sand, soil had to be hauled in by train and wagon from Momence, Illinois. It is not known who designed the golf course; however, it was constructed over a two-year period and many of its putting greens were purchased from the old Washington Park facility. Additionally, he was able to hire the prominent architectural firm of Marshall & Fox to design the clubhouse.

Building Construction and Description

Heyworth wanted the South Shore Country Club to be modeled after a Mexico City club building. Initially still constrained by a relatively small budget, Heyworth recalled, "We engaged Marshall and Fox as architects and copied a picture which I had in my possession of an old Mexican Club in the City of Mexico, leaving out the expensive embellishments shown in the picture." Built in 1906, the original South Shore Country Club building (demolished) was designed in the Mediterranean Revival style and was a smaller version of the present-day building. Similar to the present clubhouse, this early clubhouse was two stories in height and featured stucco-clad walls, pitched rooflines tiled in terra cotta, and a pair of symmetrical towers.

Growing in membership during its early years, the South Shore Country Club quickly outgrew this original home. Marshall & Fox were asked to design a larger replacement building in 1916. The original clubhouse was moved on the club grounds to a site just southeast of its original location (it was later demolished). The new clubhouse, located on the original building's site, incorporated the ballroom addition from the original clubhouse (now the Robeson Theater), also designed by Marshall & Fox and built in 1909.

This replacement clubhouse—the current South Shore Cultural Center—is four stories in height and is an enlarged version of the original structure. Its H-shaped plan is symmetrical with the ballroom wing on the south, the dining room to the north, and the solarium projecting towards Lake Michigan. The building is topped by symmetrical twin towers with balconies. Like the earlier clubhouse, the structure is clad in cement stucco with a pebble dash finish. The rooflines of the main clubhouse and entrance gate are low pitched and hipped, with deep overhangs and are clad in terra cotta Spanish tile. According to The Architectural Record: "The exterior of the building does not strive for effect through applied ornament. It is merely a building of good proportions, eminently suitable for its purposes."

The grand approach to the clubhouse begins at the southwest corner of the property on South Shore Drive and 71st Street through an arched entranceway, constructed in the Mediterranean Revival style. The gatehouse (1906) is flanked by two towers, which feature bracketed balconies echoed by the main clubhouse building. Connected to the gatehouse is the stable (1906), which reflects its more utilitarian function with a rustic wooden shingle roof instead of terra cotta. The stable extends along the southern property line on South Shore Drive (71st Street), and is currently used by the Chicago Police Department's Mounted Unit.

The driveway is lined by a pergola, or trellis covered walk, that was reconstructed in the 1990's in a manner reminiscent of the original configuration. The driveway encircles a landscaped garden, once known as the "court of honor," which originally featured a fountain purchased from the Washington Park Club. In 1909, a race track was situated around the garden and sulky horse racing was held on the oval-shaped track. The grounds were originally designed by landscape architect Thomas Hawkes in conjunction with Marshall and Fox. Hawkes also designed small street planting projects along South Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago prior to working on the country club, but little else is known about his work. Although the overall layout of the grounds was important to the design of the club, only part of the original landscape plan was implemented.

Some of the notable exterior features of the clubhouse are the arched entranceway, symmetrical wings and exterior open-air pavilion, which once featured a bandstand and wooden dance floor. The space was originally unveiled in 1920 and currently consists of a small stage on the exterior of the ballroom wing and a sunken area with a terrazzo floor featuring the South Shore Country Club logo of a stylized tree.

A glass enclosed covered entry leads into the clubhouse's vestibule, through which the solarium is visible. In contrast to the exterior, these interiors are designed in the Classical Revival and Adamesque styles. The entrance vestibule features a large skylight, which is echoed by the skylight in the adjacent solarium, and the floor is tiled in a white diamond pattern with blue accents and framed by a Greek key motif. This entryway leads to the circulation foyer, or "Passagio."

The two-story-high Passagio connects all the major interior spaces on the ground floor, including the ballroom (now the Robeson Theater), solarium, and dining room. The Passagio is ornamented with Adamesque details in blue and pink contrasted with white. Details include festoons which line the trim underneath the second floor balconies, door surrounds, circular wall medallions depicting urns, and vaulted ceiling details and ribbing with floral motifs. This space features three crystal chandeliers with classically-inspired ornamental metalwork.

Located on the southern end of the club building, the ballroom (Robeson Theater) is the oldest part of the building and was constructed in 1909 as a addition to the original clubhouse. More restrained than the Passagio, it features Classical Revival details such as Ionic columns with gold capitals, clerestory windows, and dentils. The space features colonnaded side aisles surrounded by large arched windows set in between pilasters and simply detailed with small chandeliers with scalloped glass, and beamed ceilings.

The solarium faces the lake and is surrounded by large triple-paned triple hung windows on three sides which opened to allow lake breezes into the room. Similar to the entrance vestibule, the floor is tiled in a white diamond pattern with blue details. Decorative details are done primarily in light pink and white with light blue, aqua and gold accents. The center of the room features a ceiling medallion embellished with the signs of the zodiac and a large chandelier. The ceiling also incorporates Classical Revival and Adamesque details, similar to those of the Passagio, and a clerestory is capped by dentils. Pilasters with gold capitals punctuate the main space and frame the entrance to 6the solarium. The solarium entrance, like the main entrance vestibule features a large skylight, adding to the openness of the space.

Similar in openness to the solarium, the dining room is surrounded by windows on three sides. The arched floor-to-ceiling windows are triple-paned and double-hung and are set into colonnaded walls overlooking the grounds. The Corinthian columns, made of plaster and faux painted to appear as marble, are topped with gold capitals. Painted in light pink, the ceiling features a central medallion which serves as a grille flanked by two elaborate crystal and metal chandeliers which feature cameo-like insets. It is embellished with four gold and white medallions which depict dancing female figures, one at each corner of the ceiling. The walls also feature blue medallions with figures, and white Adamesque floral detailing is carried throughout the room. The floor is tiles in blue and white with a Greek key border.

An elegant white marble staircase at either end of the Passagio leads to the second floor mezzanine. The open mezzanine corridors encircling the Passagio are lavishly ornamented. Adamesque details feature a light pink vaulted ceiling, and blue and white columns, pilasters and railings with floral, urn, and animal motifs. Other original features on the second floor include two-over-two double-hung windows and a ticket booth at the south end of the space.

The Mediterranean Revival style.

...an unusual example of resort architecture in the City..rarely used for Chicago buildings....[It was] often derived from the earlier Mission style [and] drew from and eclectic mix of Mexican, North African, Spanish, Greek, and Italian influences. Bright exterior colors were often common and included scarlet, orange, azure and other "Mediterranean" colors. [Strong mediators were Florida, especially Palm Beach works by Addison Mizner often for Henry Flagler and Henry Plant and St. Augustine. Southern California produced another suite including in Pasadena, Los Angeles, and Bertram Goodhue's California Building at the 1915 San Diego Exposition or Myron Hunt's Ambassador Hotel.]

Marshall & Fox (1905-1926]

...[Benjamin] Marshall received his only formal education from the Harvard School in Kenwood, an elite prep school where he was a classmate of John B. Drake II... At an early age he was influenced by the extravagant neo-Classical buildings of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition constructed not far from Marshall's home on the South Side... Marshall was known as an eccentric character... His flamboyant style was evident in his architectural designs, such as a luxurious lakefront estate in Wilmette..that cost one million dollars to construct in 1921.

Charles E. Fox [trained MIT]... moved to Chicago to work on the World's Columbian Exposition with Holabird and Roche. Fox specialized in the new steel frame construction that was emerging in Chicago.... worked with Holabird and Roche on some of their most notable buildings such as the Old Colony, Marquette, Monadnock and Republic buildings...Fox also enjoyed a leisurely life and was a renowned yachter.. [involved in many civic organizations and clubs and] a founding member in the newly-formed South Shore Country Club [which] led to the firm's 1906 commission for the original clubhouse building... [The firm's breakthrough at that time was the 1100 Lake Shore Drive pioneer luxury apartment building.]

[Other firm buildings:] Blackstone Hotel and Theatre, Drake Hotel, ordinal section of Uptown National Bank [and important houses, including in Kenwood esp. 5000 S. Ellis. After Fox's death in 1926, Marshall designed Edgewater Beach and Breakers, Drake Tower Apartments.]



Saving the Country Club, making a "Palace for the People"

October 22, 2005, a celebration was held and a plaque dedicated honoring those who saved the Country Club from destruction in the 1970s. The following is taken largely from materials assembled for that celebration, and inquiry of "old timers" by Gary Ossewaarde. A brochure program book was published and is archived- inquiries: current Advisory Council president Gary Ossewaarde.

Many do not know how close the structure came to being demolished in the 1970s and the story of the diverse coalition that set about to save it, decide what to do with it, and convince the powers to make it happen. Even now, the dream has not yet been fully realized, but is closer now that the structural work has been done in the upper space to accommodate Washburne Culinary Institute. Costing out what needs to be done for Cultural Center uses in the upper floors and restoration/adaptation of other key components is done; funding must be found.

By the early 1970s the Club was in trouble (see Timeline) and its base was increasingly out of the neighborhood. the Club had resolved to not admit blacks and instead to close. A Black Muslim group proposed to buy and turn the Club into a hospital. In 1973, someone, presumably the now-aroused South Shore Commission and Center on the Lake, used the new Lakefront Protection Ordinance to block the sale, and quickly formed a larger coalition to have the city buy the building, which was done by the Chicago Building Commission June 13, 1974 for $9.4 million.

In fact, a bond of $18 million was sold, the remaining near-$9 million to be used to rehabilitate the site once a plan was adopted. A lead organizer of the new coalition to save the Country Club was Raynard Hall; Robert Williams headed the coalition.

South Shore Commission and Jackson Park Highlands Association arranged for a public hearing in the summer of 1974. Presented was a plan for a cultural center in the facility, a plan endorsed by over 30 organizations. Raymond Davis, who was active in this movement [and for many years head of South Shore Commission] and has continued to push for full realization of a cultural and community center at the facility, explains that the plan grew out of a larger blueprint for the neighborhood, the South Shore Plan, which called for expansion of recreational facilities.

In 1975, the coalition began to host arts events at the facility, activity which has continued ever since. But, according to a leading organizer of the time Polly Silberman, hanging over their heads was the threat that the Park District would tear down the building and replace it with a 20,000 square foot cinder block fieldhouse. In fact, the Bird Cage (an informal summer pavilion of the country club) was so torn down. In summer, 1977 the Park District announced its intention to demolish the facility. So the coalition drew in all kinds of groups to support saving and restoring the building, realizing full well that they were saving a building most could not enter while it was open. That was then; the community's turn was now. These supporting groups included South Shore Open House, Prince Hall Shriners, Friends of the Parks, and League of Women Voters. Raynard Hall is quoted in the South Shore Community News, "We reached out to groups and organizations that shared that angle of the mission [saving the building] and invited them to be part of the coalition." As the opposition became more intense, Park District Superintendent Ed Kelly was reported as reacting, "What? Oh, they don't need that down there," which caused a community and indeed South Side and all-Lakefront uproar. The slogan, "A Palace for the People," really caught on.

And in an uproar people were when a weekday morning hearing was convened at the Club. By that time, the city and district decided to pull back, and they announced that the building would remain open and intact. (More)

Now, to get the building fixed and usable and have a program for it. Silberman and Hall worked with community members and organizations on such matters as converting the ballroom into a theater with all that entails and creating programming. Polly Scheiner was one who worked on this. A catalyst was the "Jazz Comes Home" festivals by Geraldine de Haas that are a forerunner Jazz Unites and indeed of the city's festivals and tastes, and that hosted the likes of Count Basie. Henry English was president of the Coalition then and was one who ran jazz festivals. Meanwhile, the District appointed Norman de Haan to implement architectural changes and interior restorations based on meticulous research, including colors. Excellent records were made and archived. The work of the coalition and the arts at the Center played a role in community building and also creating a climate for the coalition that would elect Harold Washington mayor in 1983. The Gatehouse was restored in 1979, but work on the Clubhouse wasn't to be done until 1982-84 (at $10 million) and was not completed (under de Haan) until 1989. The garage and stables were rehabilitated starting in 1990. A gala "rededication" was held January 8, 1985. Still, the Robeson Theater wasn't ready for opening until 1997. The upper floors and the outdoor theater continued to languish except for parts used for mechanical equipment; a major facility between the pergola and Robeson Theater was removed; and the stables were adapted for the Chicago Police Department.

The Park District eventually developed the plan under a unique three-party agreement (almost unheard of in IGA's) which included the Coalition to Save the South Shore Country Club. Still, 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 1983 consent decree that the Park District treat all parts of the city the same. A part of the consent decree (not vacated until over 20 years later) was to be establishment of advisory councils for such parks as wanted them.

The Advisory Council at the South Shore Cultural Center was formed in the summer of 1986. Among its 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, and has continually raised funds to partner in, or presented its own, cultural programs.

Beginning in the 1990s, and especially 1999, the Council worked with McClier Company (hired by the District) to survey how to build out the unused parts of the facility for arts and other cultural center uses. As partnerships with arts teachers and presenters became ever more prominent, the vision for the upper floors and the basement, even dreams for reactivating the outdoor theater, came into sharper focus. The proposal and realization of plans for Washburne Culinary Institute of City Colleges of Chicago-- to take a part temporary, part permanent residency on the 4th, part of the 3rd, the glorious Parrot Cage Restaurant on ground with a new patio, and work area in the basement-- galvanized development of plans and signing of new agreements including with the Advisory Council. Now comes the funding part for completion of the dream for "A Palace for the People." With commitment from the Park District and the Council, it's on its way but will take many years. Some structural and other renovation was done in conjunction with the Washburne project, more 2006-7 including buildout of the 3rd floor, A major addition meantime was a new beachhouse, a nature sanctuary, and revival of the grand front gardens. Parts that remain unaddressed are building out the second floor, the outdoor theater, and the many upgrades needed in an aging facility. Recent improvements (2009-10) included grand foyer and mezzanine (including Music Library) refurbishment and refurnishing, painting and carpeting, major work in Robeson Theater (with more in early 2012), and the parking lots. A major glory is the gardens, with a wonderful new garden installed near Robeson Theater in 2012 under a grant from the Polly Silberman Trust. Major exterior restoration and work on the Outdoor Theater was to start in late 2012 involving a large state capital grant. The advisory council is working on ways and funding to upgrade the audio and lighting in Robeson Theater and refurbish the piano and other problem areas.


More on the turnaround public meeting: 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.