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.”
Just over a thousand feet south of the Museum of Science and Industry sits Jackson Park’s Wooded Island. In April of 2015, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), in partnership with the Chicago Park District, began an $8.1 million restoration of Jackson Park. USACE falls under the purview of the Department of Defense, and builds military facilities, civil engineering projects, and other public works. This restoration project means Wooded Island could be closed for as long as five years until 2020—sad news, since the site is home to the popular Osaka Gardens and acts as both a birdwatcher’s paradise and local fishing spot.
“Housing poor people isn’t the problem,” Bill Eager says, “good property management is the problem.”
It is no secret that Washington Park and Woodlawn have seen better days. Economic depression and consistently declining populations since the 1970s have led to collective downturn. Currently, the neighborhoods are caught in the crossroads of the lingering memory of a thriving local culture and middle class and the issue of how exactly revival can be effectively stoked. Two newly fashioned courses point to answers: one fostered by communal organizations of both neighborhoods, and the other led by the University of Chicago.
One block south of the Cottage Grove Green Line station, the history and the future of Chicago music converge. Woodlawn’s Grand Ballroom, known as the Loeffler Building in earlier years, has played host to some of the greats of American jazz—Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, and Charlie Parker, to name a few. Today the building leases ground-floor space to the two-year-old Coltrane Conservatory of the Arts, a jazz school founded and run by Joe Pace III. Continue reading
“We made something where there was nothing at all,” announced 20th Ward Alderman Willie Cochran at the unveiling of the mural at 63rd Street and South Wallace Avenue on October 10. “And by including children in the building process, we’ve exposed them to the process by which they can achieve greater good.”
Greetings, cousins!” Naomi Davis’s voice booms across the crowd seated on folding chairs and hay bales at the Green Village Pavilion, a space of calm tucked into a corner of the African Festival of the Arts in Washington Park. Out on the festival’s pathways, women double-dutch in the shade. Reggae music floats over from the booth down the lane.
Woodlawn and Washington Park sprung up in the late-nineteenth century, accompanied by a rapid influx of (primarily European) immigrant populations and increased industry driven by the 1893 World’s Fair. During the twentieth century, Woodlawn and Washington Park served as a hub of political and cultural activity: important figures from Saul Alinsky to Jesse Owens are associated with the area. Continue reading