About a month ago, while digging up the ground under the Illinois Institute of Technology’s S.R. Crown Hall in Bronzeville to repair the school’s steam tunnels, maintenance workers uncovered some unexpected remnants of the neighborhood’s past. The artifacts, displayed for a one-day exhibition at Crown Hall this month, included ceramic tiles and stone pathways, along with a random assortment of everyday objects: a busted thermometer, glazed clay Bennington marbles, and a dirt-caked silver fork inscribed with the word “Toffenetti.”
Once the home of Ebony and Jet magazines, the historic Johnson Publishing Building on South Michigan Avenue is currently being transformed into rental apartments. Meanwhile, the building’s iconic interior fixtures are being shipped out across the city to keep the Black publishing house’s legacy alive.
On Saturday, October 14, rain poured down in torrents, the air cold and dark. It was one of the first chilly, rainy days after two weeks of unusually warm early October weather. Yet dozens of people made it through the storm to the DuSable Museum of African American History for EXPO CHICAGO’s panel conversation introducing the design team behind the Obama Presidential Center (OPC). In a shift from the typically fraught conversations about the OPC’s economic and local community impact, the panel instead focused on illustrating the design process behind the OPC, and discussing its role as an innovative social and cultural institution.
For nearly a year, Lee Bey and I were neighbors in Pullman, living a few doors down from each other on the same stretch of workers’ cottages on St. Lawrence Avenue. We did not know each other at the time—except, of course, in the way that we all learn to recognize our unnamed neighbors with curiosity, apprehension, fondness brewed from familiarity. I can say that we definitely must have brushed elbows, standing on the 115th Street platform awaiting the forever-late inbound train; he can recall how he one day passed Cottage Grove Avenue to see me setting up the Pullman Free Library in the corner storefront. It was only after I moved out of Chicago altogether that we became Facebook friends and pieced together our neighborly past.
Every year, nonprofit advocacy group Preservation Chicago releases its list of the city’s most endangered buildings. The 2016 version featured three buildings on the South Side: the Lakeside Center, the Washington Park National Bank, and St. Adalbert’s Church in Pilsen. The Weekly photographed each building, and wrote a short history of the former two buildings. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for a longer feature on St. Adalbert’s.
But the most compelling stories are the human ones behind the photos. Moving from one picture to the next, Davis builds a web of neighborhood lives.
“What do you do with something that is part of your history but can no longer really function in the same way?”
Many South Side neighborhoods have changed hands over the years, each community leaving behind architectural remnants as they gave way to a new population. One striking example of this pattern is places of worship. This past weekend, 150 buildings of all kinds across Chicago opened their doors to the public for this year’s Open House Chicago event, organized by the Chicago Architecture Foundation. We set out to explore a cross-section of churches to see what they reveal about the history of neighborhood change on our side of the city. These four sites illustrate how a place’s history becomes imprinted on its buildings, and the different ways those legacies become masked or celebrated over time. (Rachel Schastok)