Mahalia Jackson, the New Orleans-born gospel singer and civil rights activist, spent the later part of her life living in Chatham, in a spacious 1950s brick ranch house complete with seven rooms, a garage, a large chimney, and green lawns, located at 8358 South Indiana Avenue. When she moved to Chicago in 1927 at just sixteen, she lived with family and in various flats while she sang in churches up and down the South and West Sides of Chicago. After her 1947 hit, “Move On Up a Little Higher,” she gained international fame. With profits from her recordings and tours, she began investing in real estate on the South Side and looking for a home of her own. But when she began inquiring at homes with “For Sale” signs in Chatham, which was a majority-white suburb at the time, she was turned away by many homeowners—that is, until she stumbled across a white surgeon who had heard Jackson sing and was glad to sell his house to her. She bought the house in 1956 for $40,000 and was the second African-American homeowner on the block, after her neighbors, the Grants, who had moved in two years earlier.
Last November, when William and Jacqueline Lynch moved their art gallery into the recently reopened Strand Apartments on 63rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, they were unaware of their new building’s historical import. “I did know about the Grand Ballroom down the street,” said William. “I didn’t know anything about this building.”
It’s 1986 and I’m born on the South Side of Chicago. My mother Sharon’s a Chicagoan too—born in 1964…six years into her parents’ northern life. My grandma Pearlie Mae is born in 1942 in a Mississippi Delta town founded by formerly enslaved people. My great-grandmother Wyona’s the first of us to be born in the twentieth century and would be eleven when white women got the vote, forty-five when segregation fell on paper, and fifty-nine when Dr. King was shot. Her mother Trudy was born in 1887 just up the road in the town where WC Handy first heard the Blues. Her mother Lucinda was born in 1862, one year into a war that’d color the conscience and collective memory of a nation. Her mother Martha was born in 1820, part of the generation begging for that slouch toward justice and would be forty-one years old when it began.
The Lorraine Hansberry House in northwest Woodlawn is unremarkable in appearance. Its brown brick walls and minimal adornments mimic thousands of other brick three-flats built in Chicago throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Its outward appearance is transformed, however, when one learns that many of Hansberry’s experiences growing up in this house served as the inspiration behind her canonical play A Raisin in the Sun—a fictionalized reflection of her parent’s fight against housing discrimination in this very home.
The following are excerpts of articles from the Tribune that cover the city’s hotels during and after the 1893 World’s Fair. The news reflects changing opinions about living in hotels and how hotel buildings should be used, or not used, as public spaces.
David Schalliol’s series of Isolated Building Studies, which he started in 2006, hopes to “draw attention to new ways of seeing the common impact of divergent investment processes on urban communities.” “When their neighboring buildings are missing,” Schalliol says in his introduction to the series, “a tension emerges: the urban form clashes with the seemingly suburban, even rural setting. Thoughtfully engaging the landscape requires further investigation to resolve this tension: Why is this building isolated?” It is “from this friction” that he says the series, which now comprises hundreds of individual studies, launches. More of David’s work is available at davidschalliol.com.
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.
In 2015, Hannah and Quilen Blackwell bought and renovated a house on 6439 S. Peoria Street, in Englewood. They are now running community sustainability programs from this house—they call it the Eco House.
This investigation is the first in a series of projects that will document and explore public housing on the South Side. If you have tips or suggestions about coverage, email firstname.lastname@example.org.