A Timeline for the South Shore Country Club/Cultural Center with old views

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Early photo of the first Clubhouse, 1906, South Shore Cultural Center areal of South Shore Cultural Center  50s?
1909 or later, original clubhouse with ballroom added on right; croquet players c. 1916 during construction of the new South Shore Cultural Center clubhouse with original moved to right
Early view, 2nd South Shore Cultural Centre clubhouse and pergola 1955 east (shoreside) elevation, South Shore Cultural Center
Hitoric foyer/passagio interior, South Shore Cultural Center Historic view of  Solarium, South Shore Cultural Center
Hitoriac entrance lobby, or vestible South Shore Cultural Center Historic view, ballroom (now Robeson Theater)  South Shore Cultural Center
1950 areal of South Shore Cultural Center 1916, just after constructionof the 2nd clubhouse, with pergola. Marshall and Fox arch .

Views. The original, 1906 clubhouse-below 1909 or later with the ballroom addition, right barely visible to right is original moved southeast for 1916 construction. 1955. As from the beach (east elevation). Historic interiors (Passagio, solarium, vestibule, ballroom (Robeson Theater)) . 1950 areal. 1916 exterior (colonnade/pergola)

Drawn largely, although with some exceptions, by Gary Ossewaarde from South Lakefront Framework Plan, Phase 2, Jackson Park and South Shore Cultural Center, 2001, Chicago Park District and Johnson, Johnson & Roy, with some infill also from the Commission on Chicago Landmarks staff recommendation for designation, 2003 booklet, shared with the Advisory Council.

  • Site (part) bought by Lawrence Heyworth, pres., Chicago Athletic Club, for private country club
  • Successful membership drive among prominent Chicagoans. From start to be for Roman Catholics.
  • Property is 64 1/2 acres and club is in incorporated July 24.
  • Charles Fox of (Benjamin) Marshall and Fox is hired to design what would be the original frame clubhouse. Fox was a founding member. Original facilities: stables, colonnade, first four golf holes
  • Thomas Hawkes draws up landscape plan.
  • Gala opening September 29 for its 300 member families
  • First equestrian shows
  • Golf course finished and opened in May
  • Lawn tennis courts open
  • Sulky horse racing starts on the oval in front of the clubhouse
  • Ballroom of reinforced concrete added at south end of clubhouse—only original clubhouse section that remains.
  • First automobile show
  • Clay tennis courts added
  • Membership has soared from throughout Chicago, including from many socially prominent families.
  • Membership is capped at 2000 residential memberships.
  • Decision is made to build a new clubhouse due to heavy usage
  • Original clubhouse moved by tennis courts and renamed Birdcage Club, for the informally-dressed after their sporting events
  • Construction starts on the PRESENT CLUBHOUSE of concrete, adjacent north(west) to the 1909 ballroom (now Robeson Theater).
  • The Marshall and Fox clubhouse opens. Mediterranean Resort Style dressed in a signature rusty-brick red stucco. $300,000 cost. The concrete clubhouse has basement and four full floors plus a mezzanine and a small separated-section fifth floor under the red-tile roof. Features include library, conservatory, dining facilities (for up to 2,000—formal attire mandatory) and two floors of "hotel" rooms (shared facilities).
  • A new Shooting Cottage is built in English Country Style.
  • Front Gardens completed, including two fountains and riding ring. Unique design drawn from City Beautiful concepts.
  • Grand American Skeet Shooting Championships held at the club. Repeats 1921, 1923.
  • Famous visitors include former presidents and future Supreme Court Chief Justice William Howard Taft.
  • Outdoor Pavilion built south of ballroom (theater, bandstand, terrace, specially decorated dance floor)
  • Will Rogers performs. Prominent quests include Queen Marie of Romania and family.
circa 1930
  • Jews are formally banned. Members are increasingly Hyde Park and South Shore residents.
  • Jean Harlow and Prince Svasti of Thailand are prominent guests; Paul Whiteman one of several famous performers.
circa 1938
  • U.S. Clay Court Tennis Championships
  • Lawn bowling greens laid out (no longer extant)
  • Applicants (232) outnumber spaces and a waiting list is started
  • The Club at last retires its mortgage and all bonded debt.
  • Prince Baudoin of Belgium a prominent guest.
  • 50th anniversary year-long celebration. Resident membership peaks at 2,006, Landmarks Commission staff says it peaked in 1957 at 2,200 making it Chicago's larges private golf club.
  • The tide turns. South Shore had seen African Americans go from nearly 0% to 8% in three years; white flight picks up, SSCC membership starts to fall.
  • Residential memberships have fallen 31% to 1,370 despite 154 new applications.
  • Spanish Riding School of Vienna (Lippizanners) launches U.S. tour from SSCC, Jacqueline Kennedy cosponsor.
  • Future of the Club openly debated in autumn elections.
  • Club markets equestrian events to revive interest and membership, without much success.
  • Stables close and equestrian events are dropped. This accelerates decline. Membership dropping.
  • Facilities are refurbished over two years at $195,000. Debt rises and club continues to fail.
  • Club fails to open membership to Jews and African Americans.
  • Club newsletter, published since 1916, ceases publication.
  • Membership is down to 731 (63% off peak). 50 applicants are mostly successorships by widows and children.
  • Operating deficit $177,000, decision is made to close the club and dispose of assets
  • Last event, Cotton Ball, held July 13th. Furnishings auctioned in August.
  • Chicago Park District is persuaded to acquire land at $9,775,000. Possession is taken in September.
  • Birdcage Club and Casino (se of original ballroom), deemed unrepairable, are demolished; intent of District under Ed Kelly is demolish the whole facility. Kitchen and other facilities are stripped.
  • When plans are released to demolish Clubhouse, Stables, colonnade (pergola) and counter suggestions for a cultural center/arts palace are rejoined with "They don't need that down there", opposition erupts. After rallies, forming a Coalition to Save South Shore Country Club, a moratorium is placed on demolitions.
  • In 1975, the SSCC buildings are placed on the National Register of Historic Places
  • New concrete beach house with concessions opens and the old beach house demolished.
  • Stables are re-roofed and lent out to the Chicago Police Mounted Unit.
  • After much pressure, the Park District forms a unique three-way partnership agreement, including as a formal partner the community coalition, and the District is committed to retain and rehabilitate the Clubhouse as a cultural center.
  • A comprehensive restoration project is begun.
  • The Gatehouse is restored. Other than this, the District lags on its commitment.
  • After more pressure, work starts on a $10 million Clubhouse rehabilitation project.
  • Gala rededication January 8. Cultural programming starts as work continues.
  • The new Advisory Council for South Shore Cultural Center starts much of the cultural programming and partnerships itself and undertakes some of the landscape provision and tending (official date 1986).
  • Pier, jetty, revetment project.
  • DeHaan Associates completes restoration of clubhouse interior.
  • Clubhouse and colonnade restoration are declared complete, but some internal work is never quite finished and the upper floors (as well as part of the basement) remain unoccupied warehousing and the outdoor theater is not refurbished.
  • The Garage and stables are rehabilitated. The Pergola is reconstructed in this and following years.
  • The Shooting Lodge is torn down with what the Council considers inadequate notice.
  • Clubhouse Ballroom is rehabilitated and dedicated as Paul Robeson Theater.
  • Successful arts and performance partnerships with arts organizations, cultural classes and instruction, practice rooms, and kids programs and camps remain among the successful uses of the Center. The 9 hole golf course remains very successful.
  • At Council and other insistence, the Park District agrees to hire McClier company to do a building structure and use survey, including what could be programmed in the unused floors. Increasing concern is voiced about access problems.
  • The McClier Report shows that with structural improvements the building will support use of the upper floors for cultural programming and gives suggestions of how the spaces might be adapted and for what uses. It also calls for improved emergency and crowd access for the facility. The Council begins asking for implementation of the McClier Report and access improvements.
  • A framework planning process is announced for South Lakefront parks; Johnson, Johnson & Roy is hired. A series of workshops is conducted.
  • Major cultural events continue, including exhibitions in the new gallery, plays, concerts, and the South Shore Jazz Festival. Partners have included Chicago Symphony, Merrit School, South Shore Chorus, Chicago Music Association, and many others.
  • The Council is increasingly concerned about budget cuts for cultural programs and partnerships and building maintenance. It continues to call for access improvement and implementation of the McClier Report.
  • As framework planning continues, Kemper Sports proposes to set up Junior Golf where (southeast peninsula) the Council and Alderman were working with the District to establish a major nature center. Eventually, Junior Golf is constructed northwest of the clubhouse. And work begins on a spectacular Nature Center under the District's Department of Natural Resources.
  • City Colleges of Chicago proposes to build for Washburne Culinary Institute a temporary training school and kitchen and ongoing continuing education center and public cafe in the upper floors and other spaces of the center. This included an offer to shore up structural support. A long process of consideration begins. The Council then takes the position that if such a facility comes in, part of the upper floors must be built out for cultural programming.
  • The Framework Plan is completed and adopted. The future for many recommendations remains uncertain and, judging by past practice, likely to be superseded by pro tempore projects.
  • The District agrees to hire McClier, also hired by City Colleges to design the Culinary Institute space, to cost out and design space build out and conversion for cultural programming, as part of a complete building study and to work with the Council for a fundraising plan.
  • The Nature Center opens to great acclaim in 2002, also purple martin houses are set up elsewhere.
  • The programming budget continues to be cut, but great programs are still held. The Council continues to landscape and raise funds for such projects as restoration of the Steinway piano and a marquee at the entrance.
  • In October preliminary landmark status is granted by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks.
  • Work on the building related to Culinary Institute and possible future buildout had not started by February due to various budget and other constraints including a state freeze.
  • The budget for the Center was barely cut; the place was buzzing with programs, but Center Director Efe McWorter and Head Attendant Bob Crocket were among those taking early retirement.
  • In February, the park district asked for an additional 120 days to consider proposed landmark status.
  • The Advisory Council, with Chicago Music Association, was again sponsoring concerts at the Center.
  • A public meeting was held to explain the timetable for the buildout for Washburne Culinary Institute and the new dance studio on the upper floors.
  • Landmark designation was introduced into City Council May 5 and final designation approved May 26. .
  • Washburne Culinary Institute is completed and opened, followed by Parrot Cage Restaurant.
  • The work continues developing and costing out the Master Plan.
  • Programs, including directly by the park district, continue to grow.
  • December 9, at a celebration of 100 years since first construction of the Country Club (remaining section houses the former ballroom now Robeson Theater, the Park District announces commitment of $2 million to build out the Cultural Center.
  • Planning and setting of priorities continues for the Center. Phase I centerpiece is buildout of the 3rd floor, including dance studios, meeting and multipurpose rooms. This is completed (including new windows) and fully utilized, with open house being planned for 2009. Washburne's school moved to 63rd and Halsted but the kitchens remain for the glorious Parrot Cage Restaurant (now with an outdoor patio) and both culinary school and community classes. The Center is prioritized as a center of activity and showcase (partly because of then-projected Olympics in 2016). Work undertaken includes the grand lobby (including new carpet and grand furniture) and Robeson Theater. Further planning continued, including for redone parking lots, a small fitness center, a refurbished and named Margaret Burroughs Foyer and Art Gallery, and the outdoor theater.
  • The Center and Advisory Council continue to assemble an array of new arts and music partners and providers as well as its own programs. The kind of rentals and events to be held is revised as appropriate for this special and historic facility. New partners included South Shore Opera and the Center hosted concerts of the Civic Orchestra and Chicago Music Association and many other activities from films and rodeos to jazz festivals and art openings. .
  • The Council holds fundraising galas and begins to gain new, younger active members.
  • Many new partners were added to bring public concerts and performances to the Center- truly a hopping place
  • Considerable exterior work was done, adding to the new carpeting, improvements to Robeson Theater, and new parking lots
  • In October it was announced a $2.483 Progress Illinois grant for the facility. Work is to start in late 2012 on exterior restorations and the Outdoor Theater. Also a very generous grant from the Silberman Estate was used to create a grand garden near Robeson Theater and repair irrigation in the main garden, and will be used to purchase risers for Robeson.
    The state rescinded the grants but there is possibility of some restoration. In 2016-17 CPD undertakes various repairs.