History | Housing Issue 2018

Home Histories: The Gwendolyn Brooks House

Ellie Mejía

Tucked away on a quiet residential street in Greater Grand Crossing, an unassuming house boasts a rich legacy. From 1953 to 1994, the house located at 7428 South Evans Avenue was home to none other than Gwendolyn Brooks, the Topeka-born, South Side-raised poet, author, and teacher. Built in 1890, today the house remains modest but well-kept by its current owner. Its one-and-a-half story gray and white exterior is a welcome change among the predominantly brick two-story houses surrounding it. Though the house is far from flashy, a closer look reveals endearing details, such as the delicate white latticework tucked below its welcoming veranda. Its simple structure is transformed into something truly remarkable when one imagines the world of creative expression it held for the four decades that Brooks lived there—and what it took to get there.

History | Housing Issue 2018

A Shelter, Fallen Out of Favor

A Cold War legacy in the basement of a 55th Street firehouse

Kiran Misra

Nothing in the facade of the fire station at the intersection of 55th and University Avenue betrays the location, underneath the firehouse, of a Cold War–era bomb shelter. All functioning bomb shelters are alike, but each decommissioned shelter was decommissioned in its own way. This one turned into a gym.

History | Lit | Stage & Screen

Lorraine’s Legacy

How “Sighted Eyes / Feeling Heart” goes beyond “A Raisin in the Sun”

milo bosh

In May of 1937, eight-year-old Lorraine Hansberry moved with her family to a home in the all-white neighborhood of what is now West Woodlawn, in an act that helped fight a racially segregated housing system in Chicago. Two weeks ago, a crowd of over one hundred convened just a twenty-minute walk away from that same childhood home to watch Sighted Eyes / Feeling Heart, a new documentary honoring Hansberry’s life as both a playwright and activist.

History | Holiday Issue 2017 | Interviews | Lit | Radio

Chicago Public Libraries, Uncovered

Anne Keough on the hidden archives in the Blackstone Branch

Rod Sawyer

When Anne Keough, the branch manager at Blackstone Library, looked in the cabinets behind her desk during recent renovations, she didn’t expect to find a treasure trove of historic documents. Blackstone Library opened in Kenwood in 1904 as the first branch of the Chicago Public Library system. In Keough’s office sat volumes of Shakespeare from the late 1800s, old copies of the Hyde Park Herald, and decades-old library policies. Weekly editor Rod Sawyer spoke with Keough about her discoveries, the history of the Chicago Public Library System, and the importance of time capsules.

History

Sunken Histories

The Underwater Archaeological Society of Chicago tells the stories of Lake Michigan’s shipwrecks

Courtesy of the Underwater Archaeological Society of Chicago

On Saturday, September 29, 1906, the Great Lakes were struck with a gale. That same day, the barge, Car Ferry No. 2 was carrying twenty-eight railroad cars of iron ore and cedar telegraph poles from Peshtigo, Wisconsin to South Chicago. As the barge neared Chicago’s port, waves began to break and water made its way into the hold. Otto C. Olson, captain of the ship, threw down an anchor, and began to pump out the water. But the iron ore was too heavy. The ship flipped.

Features | History | Nature | Nature Issue 2017 | Parks

Greener Pastures

What the history of Jackson Park tells us about its uncertain future

Within a year of the World’s Columbian Exhibition’s closure, a large fire razed most of the buildings, which gave Olmsted the opportunity in 1895 to create this revised general plan for Jackson Park—a waterway system that would connect Jackson Park through a canal running down the Midway to Washington Park. (New York Public Library)

Parks are for people,” Frances Vandervoort told me. A board member and Committee Chairman of the Hyde Park Historical Society, she holds a similar position on the Jackson Park Advisory Council (JPAC), a watchdog organization for the South Side park of the same name. That’s what I’ve come to talk with Vandervoort about: the changes that will soon come to Jackson Park. The first signs of these changes are visible even today—a nonprofit called Project 120 Chicago, in partnership with the Chicago Park District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), has partially underwritten a series of revitalization projects taking place in the park since 2013. These are forerunners of more significant changes to come: the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) is slotted to open in Jackson Park in 2021, and the Tiger Woods–designed revitalization of the Jackson Park and South Shore Golf Courses—which will combine them into one PGA-grade course, and will be financed through a public-private partnership—is expected to be completed by 2020. Both projects have been sources of controversy.

History | Hyde Park | Kenwood | Politics | Woodlawn

The Past and Future of the SECC

Looking back on the South East Chicago Commission’s past as it enters a new era

The University of Chicago announced on January 26 that over the course of this year, the nonprofit South East Chicago Commission (SECC) will gain considerable independence from the university. Much of the SECC’s university funding will be cut, and the university will no longer be able to appoint or approve the organization’s board members. According to both parties, the move reflects the SECC’s need to reevaluate its direction as an organization.