WBEZ | South Chicago http://www.wbez.org/tags/south-chicago Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Changing South Chicago http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-06/changing-south-chicago-107641 <p><p>We&#39;ve had some fun here with &quot;Then and Now&quot; photos of Chicago. Sometimes the changes in a site have been striking. For today, let&#39;s look at a South Chicago location that looks dramatically different from its appearance a half-century ago.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/27--1956--89th-Avenue%20O_0.jpg" title="1956--89th Street, looking east toward Avenue O (CTA photo)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/27--2013--89th-Avenue%20O.jpg" title="2013--the same location" /></div></div></div><p>The older photo shows 89th Street and Avenue O when the U.S. Steel South Works was still going strong. In 1956 this was the east terminal of the 95th Street bus line. By the way, the destination sign on the bus says it&#39;s headed for Evergreen Plaza--new then, but closed now.</p><p>In 2013 the only visible remnant of the plant is that one metal utility pole. But redevelopment is on the way, and I plan to come back in a few years to take another picture.</p></p> Wed, 12 Jun 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-06/changing-south-chicago-107641 There in Chicago (#23) http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-05/there-chicago-23-107014 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/23--2013--92nd @ Commercial.JPG" title="92nd Street at Commercial Avenue, view west" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/23--1934_0.jpg" title="1934 at the same location" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">How well did you find your way around the Chicago of the past?</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The Washington Hotel was long a landmark at the northeast corner of 92nd Street and Commercial Avenue. The commercial development is another clue, since there weren&#39;t many major shopping districts on the far South Side in 1934. The older photo also shows a junction of two streetcar lines, and a grade-separated railroad crossing in the distance. Those features were also rare south of 79th Street.</div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 10 May 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-05/there-chicago-23-107014 South Chicago, past and present http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-12/south-chicago-past-and-present-104196 <p><p>North Chicago is in Lake County.&nbsp;West Chicago is in Du Page.&nbsp;East Chicago is in Indiana.&nbsp;But where is South Chicago?</p><p>South Chicago is part of the city, located about a dozen miles southeast of the Loop.&nbsp;It&rsquo;s officially designated as&nbsp;Community Area 46.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ZZZ--Commercial @ 92nd (2012)-b.JPG" title="The heart of South Chicago--92nd and Commercial" /></div></div></div><p>If Jefferson Davis had been listened to, this area might have become downtown Chicago.&nbsp;In 1833, as a young Army officer, Davis surveyed the various rivers that&nbsp;could be linked to the planned Illinois-Michigan Canal.&nbsp;He said that the Calumet River was the best choice. Speculators began buying up nearby land.</p><p>Then the&nbsp;politicians picked the Chicago River as the link to the canal.&nbsp;The Calumet River boom went bust.&nbsp;For the next few decades, growth here was slow.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ZZZ--South%20Chicago%20Map.jpg" title="" /></div><p>A few scattered settlements developed.&nbsp;The&nbsp;biggest of them was Ainsworth.&nbsp;By 1867, when the Village&nbsp;of Hyde Park annexed the area, the name &ldquo;South Chicago&rdquo; was coming into common use.</p><p>Enter James Bowen, often called The Father of South Chicago.&nbsp;In 1869 Bowen organized a company to develop the Calumet River and its harbor.&nbsp;The company also began buying land, subdividing it,&nbsp;and laying out streets.</p><p>Did Bowen know something?&nbsp;The very next year,&nbsp;Congress made a major appropriation to deepen the Calumet River.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">A few industries had been located in South Chicago.&nbsp;As the harbor was improved, more industry came. And with lumber yards and iron forges and grain elevators going up, railroads started laying track to serve them.&nbsp;And with railroads coming in, even more industry was attracted to the area, and&ndash;well, you can see where this is going.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ZZZ-South Works (LofC).jpg" title="U.S. Steel South Works (Library of Congress)" /></div></div><p>The one industry that made South Chicago was Steel.&nbsp;The big daddy of the steel plants was South Works, opened on the lakefront near 91st Street in 1881.&nbsp;By 1901 the facility stretched all the way north to 79th Street.&nbsp;That was the year it became part of the new U.S. Steel corporation.</p><p>South Chicago&nbsp;was annexed by&nbsp;Chicago in 1889.&nbsp;The community then had about 24,000 people, and more were on the way.&nbsp;Many of these settlers were Poles and other Eastern Europeans.</p><p>Housing was built quickly and cheaply.&nbsp;The blocks near South Works were divided into &ldquo;shoestring lots&rdquo;&ndash;140 feet long but only 25 feet wide&ndash;and crammed with frame cottages and two-flats.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ZZZ--South Chi--9000-block S Houston--raised streets.jpg" title="Shoestring lots on a raised street--Houston Avenue" /></div><p>The result was the worst living conditions in Chicago.&nbsp;The steel mill that gave jobs also fouled the air and deafened the ears.&nbsp;The land itself was low and swampy.&nbsp;One writer described the area as having &ldquo;pools of water, ditches clogged with soot,&nbsp;garbage, and industrial debris,&nbsp;[as well as] decomposed animals.&rdquo;</p><p>Things were better away from the mill.&nbsp;The northern sections of South Chicago remained vacant until the 1920s.&nbsp;Then brick bungalows began going up.</p><p>Population growth continued, peaking at 56,000 in 1930.&nbsp;Now the residents included many Mexicans, with a sprinkling of African-Americans.&nbsp;The blocks around 92nd and Commercial became a major commercial district&ndash;locals referred to it as &ldquo;Downtown.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/zzz--8100 block South Shore Drive.jpg" title="Bungalows and two-flats on South Shore Drive" /></div><p>South Chicago was made by Steel.&nbsp;At one time, about 70% of the adult men were employed in the steel industry, at South Works or at other plants in nearby communities. The Chicago-Gary corridor was the steel-producing center of the world.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">The American steel industry declined after World War II.&nbsp;The reasons why this happened have been debated at length.&nbsp;South Chicago suffered through the decline.&nbsp;The final blow came in 1992, when South Works closed for good.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Today the community is trying to rebound.&nbsp; The 2010 Census counted about 32,000 residents. The population is 75% African-American, the rest mostly Hispanic. Ambitious plans have been advanced for developing the vacant South Works land.&nbsp;And once again, this site may become the key to the survival of South Chicago.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ZZZ--Green%20Bay%20%40%2091st.JPG" title="Cleared land near the South Works site" /></div></p> Mon, 10 Dec 2012 08:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-12/south-chicago-past-and-present-104196 Photo essay: People-watching at Dave Matthews' South Chicago caravan http://www.wbez.org/blog/lee-bey/2011-07-11/photo-essay-people-watching-dave-matthews-south-chicago-caravan-88945 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2011-July/2011-07-11/Bey-davematthews.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-July/2011-07-11/P7095266.jpg" style="width: 498px; height: 345px;" title=""></p><p>It was quite the spectacle watching people streaming in to Lakeside--the former USX Steel site in the South Chicago neighborhood--for the three day, 39-act Dave Matthews Band Caravan festival that concluded last night.</p><p>WBEZ's Robin Amer did a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-07-07/steel-mill-site%E2%80%99s-second-act-88844">fantastic blog post</a> last week that was a set-up piece for the concerts and explained the USX site's history and condition. But for a Southeast Side native such as myself (Chicago Vocational High School, Class of 1983) who spent the last half of my childhood in a house my parents owned at 84th and Constance just northwest of this South Chicago neighborhood (I also covered the South Chicago for the old Southtown Economist newspaper in the early 1990s) it was a blast returning to the neighborhood and the site and capturing some of the people I saw there.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-July/2011-07-11/P7095296.jpg" title="" width="434" height="640"></p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-July/2011-07-11/P7095288.jpg" style="width: 502px; height: 370px;" title=""></p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-July/2011-07-11/P7095309.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 495px;" title=""></p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-July/2011-07-11/P7095294.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 375px;" title=""></p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-July/2011-07-11/P7095298.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 610px;" title=""></p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-July/2011-07-11/P7095282.jpg" title="" width="499" height="640"></p><p>Concertgoes walk past one of the old US Steel channels that once handled freighters that would bring in iron ore. The channels and the concrete walls in which the ore was dumped will be retained under the Chicago Lakeside plan:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-July/2011-07-11/P7095246.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 309px;" title=""></p><p>The surrounding South Chicago neighborhood is visible from the site. Here, St. Michael's church at 83rd and South Shore Drive reaches upward:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-July/2011-07-11/P7095249.jpg" style="width: 501px; height: 369px;" title=""></p><p>Behind the music--and the dust and dirt--was a bit of genius on the part of developer Dan McCaffrey who has undertaken a $4 billion plan to develop the 500-acre site into a new community to be called <a href="http://www.mccafferyinterests.com/content.cfm/lakeside_1">Chicago Lakeside</a>. The concert took a parcel that was likely out-of-site and out-of-mind for many folk outside of the Southeast Side and literally put it (and the neighborhood) back on the map. And he showed that tens of thousands of people (the final numbers aren't in as I write this) can get there with relative (<em>relative</em>, now) ease.</p><p>Not to mention the city is rife with big empty parcels close to public transit--the three-acre former Kennedy King College site at 69th and Wentworth is one of many that yawn at me daily as I ride in on the Metra Rock Island line. Turning them into big ticket festival grounds for even just a few days is one way to bring life and adjust the narrative of these places for the better.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 11 Jul 2011 05:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/lee-bey/2011-07-11/photo-essay-people-watching-dave-matthews-south-chicago-caravan-88945