The intersection of Garfield and Calumet has long been dominated by the Green Line. Most recently, the Red Line closure brought massive traffic to the station between buses replacing the Red Line and the lure of free entry at Garfield, daily ridership at the station jumped from thirteen hundred to thirteen thousand. A previously vacant lot at the northwest corner of Garfield and Calumet has taken center stages as a bus terminal for the rail replacement service.
The northeast corner of the intersection, seen easily from the Loop-bound Green Line platforms, once housed a massive retirement home. Built in 1911, the James C. King Home for Old Men was still around in 1950s, and used to span the whole north side of Garfield from Calumet Avenue to King Drive. By the 1980s the home had gone and the lot left behind, currently owned by the University of Chicago, is now occupied only by broken concrete and orange traffic cones. The UofC removed a vacant and rusted warehouse upon acquiring the property but has yet to announce plans for development.
Directly south across Garfield Boulevard is former site of the Rhumboogie Club at 343 E Garfield. The spot had long been an inauspicious location for jazz clubs. According to the Red Saunders Research Foundation, a cafe known as “Dave’s” or as “Swingland,” depending on its ownership at the time, operated for six years under three different owners. But in April 1942, the Rhumboogie started up under the management of Joe Louisand, and threw a grand opening featuring Tiny Bradshaw. T-Bone Walker had numerous stays at the club from 1942 to 1945, establishing the club’s name, the Rhumboogie, as a record label. Some say, dubiously, that Sonny Rollins and Sonny Blount, who would later become Sun Ra, played together at the Rhumboogie. It’s much more certain that Blount, a Washington Park resident, played at the Club DeLisa, which was located at Garfield and State until its 1958 closure. Once the Rhumboogie had established T-Bone Walker as a major star, he was courted by numerous other record labels, and the Rhumboogie brand faded away. The club never recovered from a fire late in 1945, and it closed in 1947. The site has been an empty lot since the 1960s.
Looking due west from the Rhumboogie site, the first remaining building wall is home to a graffiti mural, created by Kane One’s Graffiti Institute, declaring “Spray Paint Not Bullets.” The vacant space around the Rhumboogie’s former home has expanded towards the Green Line over the last few decades. Twenty years ago the wall housing the mural would barely have been visible. A little further along Garfield, right under the Green Line, is the oldest remaining “L” station-house in Chicago. The original Green Line station, located across the street from its sleek, modern counterpart, closed in July 2001.
Since then, the CTA has used one of the oldest transit stations in the country for the storage of maintenance equipment. Cecilia Butler, president of the Washington Park Advisory Council, has been campaigning for a community-based use of the station since 2009. The CTA claimed that they needed the old station for maintenance during the Red Line closure, but Butler says that “over the five-month period, no one saw them use that location.” A recent survey of Washington Park residents showed that ninety percent of residents are in favor of “having a historic landmark as a community outlet.” But, despite a fresh coat of paint, the CTA still has the station’s doors and windows sealed. What was once a grand gateway to the South Side is now a blank brick wall.
Next to the current station, at the northwest corner of Garfield and Calumet, the former bus terminal is an empty expanse of asphalt, separated from the street by opaque fences, though the empty lot is visible from the Loop-bound platform at the station. Though a long-present block of housing occupied the lot at least until 1994, it was gone by the opening of the new station in 2001. The CTA plans to turn this space into a parking lot. Although Butler is relieved that buses will no longer be traveling down Washington Park’s small residential streets, she doesn’t see why the CTA wants a second lot—the station’s existing lot seems perpetually under-capacity.