WBEZ | Curious City http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Why apartments are the blind spot in Chicago's recycling program http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/why-apartments-are-blind-spot-chicagos-recycling-program-111883 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/201003191&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Our question asker Quetzalli Castro grew up in a Logan Square two-flat. Her parents still live in that house on Kedzie Avenue. Among the many fond memories she remembers from growing up there is the day they got curbside recycling.</p><p>&ldquo;My parents were very happy about that,&rdquo; says Castro, 26. &ldquo;I remember grabbing jars and throwing them in there and seeing a big, blue truck come and take it away on I think it was Wednesdays.&rdquo;</p><p>Since then she&rsquo;s lived in several larger apartment buildings, but none of them has had recycling.</p><p>&ldquo;So I&#39;ve been caught trying to put my recycling into other people&#39;s recycling bins and they&#39;re like &lsquo;Put it in your own!&rsquo; I don&#39;t have one. I wish I did! I have all this recycling and nowhere to go,&rdquo; Castro says.</p><p>She&rsquo;s even called the city to ask about getting a blue cart, but says she didn&rsquo;t get a straight answer. So she asked Curious City:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Why is recycling not available to apartment buildings and certain parts of the city?</em></p><p>The short answer is that the city has a two-pronged system for recycling: Small buildings with four or fewer units get one system (the blue carts and bins Castro remembers) and buildings with five or more units are supposed to set up their own systems through private contractors.</p><p>But the real reason why Castro and perhaps hundreds of thousands of apartment dwellers like her end up throwing their recyclables in the dumpster is more complicated: It has to do with city politics, landfill economics and a toothless ordinance that has struggled to buoy recycling rates in large apartment buildings for 22 years.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Waste piling up</span></p><p>Quetzalli Castro is not alone. In January Claire Micklin left an <a href="http://opengovhacknight.org/">Open Government Hack Night</a> with an interactive website designed to identify and shame owners of large apartment buildings without recycling. She called it <a href="http://www.mybuildingdoesntrecycle.com/">MyBuildingDoesntRecycle.com</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;I&#39;ve lived in Chicago 10 years and I&#39;ve never been in a building that has recycling,&rdquo; says Micklin, who grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and now lives in an apartment building in the Edgewater neighborhood. &ldquo;I noticed the blue bins from next door, a four-flat, were overflowing because people from my building kept putting their recycling in there.&rdquo;</p><p>Like Castro, Micklin reached out to the city only to find herself more confused &mdash; there was no recourse for building residents like her who wanted to recycle, but whose landlords wouldn&rsquo;t provide the service.</p><p>Micklin did a little more research and learned the city passed a law in 1993 called <a href="http://www.luc.edu/media/lucedu/sustainability-new/pdfs/REcycling%20Ordinance%20Chicago%2011%20%205.pdf">the Chicago High Density Residential and Commercial Source Reduction and Recycling Ordinance</a> (more commonly referred to as the Burke-Hansen ordinance, for the aldermen who drafted it). The ordinance made owners of large apartment buildings (defined as having at least five units) responsible for their own recycling, because the existing requirements for garbage pick-up made the same distinction. The city gave multi-unit building owners until 1995 to establish programs that would collect at least two kinds of recyclables. By 1996 they were all supposed to collect at least three. If they didn&rsquo;t, Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Streets &amp; Sanitation could issue fines to the building owners for $25 to $100 per day.</p><p>But 22 years later it&rsquo;s common to find large apartment buildings without any recycling service at all. Less than three months after her site launched, Micklin says nearly 1,300 people have reported 1,034 addresses through MyBuildingDoesntRecycle.com.</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/website%20screenshot.PNG" style="height: 223px; width: 620px;" title="The website mybuildingdoesn'trecycle.com has gained about 1,300 reports since its launch in January 2015. " /></div><p>The overall success of Chicago&rsquo;s residential recycling program could depend on the participation of large apartment and condo buildings. More than 442,000 housing units (just slightly more than forty percent of the city&rsquo;s total) are supposed to have recycling provided by landlords or condo associations. And, according to 2007 data (the latest available), <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/doe/general/RecyclingAndWasteMgmt_PDFs/WasteAndDiversionStudy/WasteCharacterizationReport.pdf">these units account for more than a third of the solid waste collected from the residential sector.</a></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">No enforcement</span></p><p>A key reason why many building owners appear not to have complied with the Burke-Hansen ordinance is that the city rarely enforces it. Since 2010 records from Chicago&rsquo;s office of Business Affairs &amp; Consumer Protection show only 69 citations were issued for not recycling in commercial or residential establishments, and no warnings or fines have been issued since June 2011. We&rsquo;re currently waiting on numbers from other departments, but City Hall hasn&rsquo;t said they&rsquo;ve strengthened enforcement lately.</p><p>Why the lax enforcement? Burke-Hansen authorizes fines, but it doesn&rsquo;t compel the city to actually issue them.</p><p>&ldquo;Everything is a &lsquo;can&rsquo; and a &lsquo;may,&rsquo; and [the ordinance] has the authority but it doesn&#39;t say &lsquo;you must,&rsquo;&rdquo; says Helen Shiller, who represented the city&rsquo;s 46th Ward from 1987 until 2011. &ldquo;The issue with private haulers is that it&#39;s been left entirely to the market. To the extent that there&#39;s been people demanding more [recycling], that&#39;s pushed it along some. To the extent that there&#39;s more economic viability, it&#39;s increased. But the city has not changed its language to require anything.&rdquo;</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/shiller%20quote.png" style="height: 100px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p>Shiller says for condominiums and townhouses, it&rsquo;s a slightly different story. There was a rebate program in place for any condo association that presented the city with an affidavit declaring the building had recycling. <a href="http://committeeonfinance.org/condo/index.asp">It&#39;s currently being phased out</a>, and payments were typically delayed by as many as five years, but Shiller says that program once served as a &ldquo;carrot&rdquo; to complement Burke-Hansen&rsquo;s seldom-used &ldquo;stick&rdquo; of warnings and fines.</p><p>For apartment buildings, however, the regulatory environment is simpler. The city doesn&rsquo;t tax recycling pick-up like it does trash, but apartment building owners never benefitted from an incentive program like condos used to.</p><p>&ldquo;In this case there seems to be neither a carrot nor a stick,&rdquo; says Carter O&rsquo;Brien, the vice president of the Chicago Recycling Coalition, a volunteer advocacy group. The Coalition has been working with (and sometimes against) the city since the early 1990s to improve recycling rates in the Chicago area.</p><p>In some ways, O&rsquo;Brien says, the city&rsquo;s past efforts at recycling still haunt present-day operations. The first citywide recycling effort began in 1995, when Chicagoans were asked to buy special blue, plastic bags at the grocery store in which they&rsquo;d put their recycling before throwing the bag in the trash. Recyclables were supposed to get sifted out at sorting facilities after that, but little of it did. The city canned the program in 2008.</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/FLICKR%20jenn%20brandle%20blue%20bags.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="The first citywide recycling program debuted in 1995, and required residents to throw their recycling in special blue, plastic bags before throwing the bags in the trash. (Flickr/Jennifer Brandel)" /></div><p>&ldquo;The blue bag was just such a catastrophe. It really set Chicago back quite a bit, because even people that did it religiously kind of suspected deep down that maybe it wasn&#39;t working so well,&rdquo; says O&rsquo;Brien. &ldquo;And for people that were kind of on the fence, they basically said, &#39;This is obviously not working. I see my blue bags go in a truck, I see them rip open, and this is a scam, a con and a joke, and I&rsquo;m not going to think about recycling ever again.&#39;&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Money in the trash</span></p><p>The irony for owners of multi-unit residential buildings is that recycling can be easy to implement. Sometimes it even saves building owners money.</p><p>Gordon Magill is president of Family Properties, a company his great grandfather started more than a century ago. Family Properties now owns 15 multi-unit buildings on the city&rsquo;s North Side and in the suburbs. Magill still has hundreds of blue bags stashed in a cupboard in his Edgewater office. He&rsquo;s an avid recycler &mdash; he picked up a few soda cans off the sidewalk on our way to the dumpsters behind one of his buildings &mdash; but said the Blue Bag program was doomed from the start. Undeterred by its failure, however, Magill reached out to the company that hauls waste from his buildings and set up a recycling program.</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/magill1%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" title="Gordon Magill is president of Family Properties in Chicago. He says recycling is a net-positive for him financially. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></div><p>&ldquo;When the blue bag program ended, basically we weren&#39;t shocked. Let&#39;s just start with that,&rdquo; Magill says. &ldquo;We just picked up the phone, called up our salesperson for our scavenging service and asked them to put in the bins. It was as simple as that.&rdquo;</p><p>Magill says recycling is either a low-cost addition or a net positive for him financially, as he doesn&rsquo;t have to pay as often to empty his building&rsquo;s more expensive trash bins. He also cites recycling&rsquo;s &ldquo;commercial appeal to environmentally conscientious residents.&rdquo; In other words: His tenants want it.</p><p>Not all landlords are so zealous. Jim Thom, who owns a 14-unit building in Avondale, says he&rsquo;d like to offer recycling to his tenants but can&rsquo;t figure out how to make it work. His dumpster sits in a narrow gangway that runs all the alley, leaving little room for another bin; the trash bin already pinches circulation between the stairwell and the building&rsquo;s laundry room.</p><p>And, Thom says, when he looked into recycling, he found it could bump up his waste pick-up costs as much as 33 percent, from $3,000 to $4,000 a year.</p><p>&ldquo;It&#39;s certainly something we think about,&rdquo; says Thom. &ldquo;We just haven&#39;t seen a solution that&#39;s made us jump and say, &#39;Let&#39;s do it.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>He says he&rsquo;s never been fined by the city for not providing recycling, and hasn&rsquo;t heard of any building owners or managers who have.</p><p>Josh Connell, a managing partner with Lakeshore Recycling Systems, says there are times when recycling just doesn&rsquo;t make sense.</p><p>&ldquo;Those are the small buildings &mdash; your six-unit, 10-unit, even up to 25-unit buildings depending on the logistics and the space &mdash; it&#39;s difficult to recycle,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Multi-unit residential buildings are a little less than half of Lakeshore&rsquo;s business, Connell says, and he estimates four out of five of them order recycling along with trash pick-up. Larger buildings enjoy an economy of scale that can make recycling revenue-neutral, or even a net positive. But even though waste hauling is typically a minor item on a building owner&rsquo;s balance sheet, any extra expense has to be justified.</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/connell%20quote.png" title="" /></div><p>&ldquo;If it&#39;s gonna cost money to recycle and the residents of these buildings aren&#39;t pushing for it, most building owners are not going to spend more money when people aren&#39;t clamoring for it,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We have building owners that do pay for recycling because the residents want it.&rdquo;</p><p>As evinced by the popularity of MyBuildingDoesntRecycle.com, a lot of multi-unit building residents want it.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The trash is always greener on the other side</span></p><p>Recycling rates have been on the rise both nationally and in Chicago, and waste haulers like Connell say interest in their business is rising, even as the falling price of oil undercuts plastic recyclers&rsquo; bottom line. But is a more environmentally conscious public all it takes to forge a sterling recycling program?</p><p>Probably not. San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and even New York City come up often in discussions of successful recycling programs. In 2012 <a href="http://sfmayor.org/index.aspx?recordid=113&amp;page=846" target="_blank">San Francisco announced it had achieved 80 percent landfill diversion</a>, well on its way to a goal of &ldquo;zero waste&rdquo; by 2020. It even has curbside composting to collect food waste and other organic material alongside bins for trash and recycling. San Francisco&rsquo;s success is due to several factors &mdash; including a culture of conservation and clear, rigorously enforced regulations. But a simple number holds it all together: $151.47.</p><p><a href="http://www.recologysf.com/index.php/for-homes/transfer-station-residential">That&#39;s how much it costs</a> to dump one ton of waste in a landfill in the Bay Area. Figures are nearly as high on much of the West Coast. That number in Chicago is just $46, according to the city&rsquo;s Department of Streets &amp; Sanitation. In New York and along the East Coast it&rsquo;s somewhere between the two, around $100 per ton.</p><p>Connell says we should consider the dumping costs that are eventually passed onto building owners.</p><p>&ldquo;If they&#39;re paying twice as much to get rid of garbage, adding recycling could be an immediate positive impact on their bottom line,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Still, Connell says he sees a lot more Chicago landlords coming around to recycling these days, in part because their tenants are starting to demand it. And if more buildings set up recycling, the cost borne by each one could fall, as waste haulers compete for business and are able to travel fewer empty miles between each pick-up.</p><p>The societal benefits of cutting down on trash are myriad: Chicago trucks bound for the nearest landfill typically end up in Rockford or downstate Indiana, belching greenhouse gases all the way there and even <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/when-chicago-area-traffic-worst-111374">helping clog up already congested roads</a>.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">&lsquo;I give it a C&rsquo;</span></p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s poor reputation for recycling is no secret, even to those currently in charge of administering it. Ald. George Cardenas (12th), chairman of City Council&rsquo;s Committee on Health and Environmental Protection, calls the current program &ldquo;a work in progress.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;We&#39;re nowhere near the level that we should be. I give it a C right now,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We need to get better at it. We need to enforce better. And we need to educate a lot of constituents in the outer wards of the city.&rdquo;</p><p>He says he&rsquo;s wary of alienating landlords and businesses, but concedes that the owners of multi-unit residential buildings and small businesses have had more than 20 years to institute recycling since the Burke-Hansen ordinance passed.</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/cardenas.png" title="" /></div><p>&ldquo;I think we&#39;ve come full circle. We&rsquo;ve obviously given them ample time, and so I&#39;m at the point where I want to take more draconian efforts to make sure everyone&#39;s fully in compliance,&rdquo; Cardenas says. He can&rsquo;t point to any measure currently on the agenda for his committee or others in the City Council, but his assessment of the situation is blunt: &ldquo;The buildings are there. They should be doing it. Go check them, give them a citation, come into compliance. It&#39;s really that simple.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">How big is this blind spot in Chicago&rsquo;s recycling program? According to DSS data, smaller residential buildings recycle just over 11 percent of their waste. On paper, things appear better when it comes to larger buildings: <a href="https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1NQ1JsVu4Ob_iYxKQJTYsw_oBW6pAspJpyah3uwL4yrw/pubhtml?gid=0&amp;single=true" target="_blank">Figures reported bi-annually to the city by private waste haulers </a>suggest that buildings the city is not responsible for recycled 38.7 percent of their waste. But, there&rsquo;s a problem with that comparison, since the private haulers serve industrial and commercial clients as well as large, multi-unit residential buildings. DSS has no data that separates out recycling for multi-unit residential buildings</p><p>In other words, we don&rsquo;t know if the situation our question-asker Quetzalli Castro asked about is getting better at all. And absent any plans to enforce the ordinance, she may be stuck in that situation, at the whim of her landlord.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/question%20asker%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="height: 480px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="Quetzalli Castro, our question-asker. " /><span style="font-size:22px;">Quetzalli Castro, Curious Citizen</span></p><p>Quetzalli Castro, 26, is a determined recycler &mdash; she&rsquo;s already doing it even though her building manager doesn&rsquo;t provide the service. She says that impulse started young and hasn&rsquo;t dwindled, even if her options have.</p><p>&ldquo;I&#39;ll admit to being sort of a judgey person and saying, &lsquo;Oh you don&#39;t recycle?&rsquo; and [people] say &lsquo;Well we used to back where I came from, but here in Chicago my apartment building doesn&#39;t offer it so I don&#39;t do it anymore.&rsquo; For me it&#39;s been a struggle, since I&#39;ve always had that habit and I don&#39;t want to lose that recycling habit.&rdquo;</p><p>A longtime Logan Square resident, Castro grew up in a two-flat on Kedzie boulevard and now lives in a multi-unit apartment building nearby. She was born in Mexico City, but moved to Chicago when she was just one year old.</p><p>Right now Castro is a graduate student at the University of Chicago in their Urban Teacher Education Program, pursuing a two-year degree focused on education in Chicago.</p><p>Castro is dismayed by the lack of recycling among many multi-unit apartment buildings. And she says learning about the city&rsquo;s lack of enforcement adds another dimension to neighborhood development.</p><p>&ldquo;I think that&#39;s pretty surprising, especially now that there&#39;s a lot of reconstruction in Logan Square and lots of other areas that are being gentrified. There&#39;s bigger buildings going up. And that&#39;s kind of concerning because we&#39;re losing affordable housing, but also recycling, too,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;I know there are plenty of people who wish to recycle, but don&#39;t or really can&#39;t because they don&#39;t have a blue bin offered to them. And I find that really sad.&rdquo;</p><p><em><a href="http://cabentley.com/" target="_blank">Chris Bentley is a freelance journalist</a> and reporter for Curious City. Follow him at<a href="http://twitter.com/cementley" target="_blank"> @Cementley</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 15 Apr 2015 17:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/why-apartments-are-blind-spot-chicagos-recycling-program-111883 Drumming for dollars as a Chicago bucket boy http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/drumming-dollars-chicago-bucket-boy-111845 <p><p><a name="top"></a><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/199910706%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-oyHw5&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>If you work or visit Chicago&#39;s Loop or use the exits along the South Side&rsquo;s Dan Ryan Expressway, there&#39;s a good chance you&#39;ve experienced a fixture of the city known as the bucket boys. And if you haven&#39;t seen them directly, maybe you&rsquo;ve heard them from afar, mostly young men drumming on buckets and asking for a donation in return.</p><p>That was how Annie Dieleman became curious about the bucket boys. It started with her morning commute from Bridgeport to Englewood, where she was working. As a social worker at Thresholds, a large social service agency in Chicago, Annie, 28, was always seeing and hearing bucket boys on her drive. Plus, social work is a stressful job, and seeing the smile on the faces of the guys performing next to her window helped make her day that much better.</p><p>&ldquo;It was always nice to be around happy, pleasant people who are super positive and charming,&rdquo; Annie says.</p><p>So she asked Curious City to find out more:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>My Curious City question was about the bucket boys and I was curious how they get into the job of being a bucket boy. How they train, if they have territories. Just ... what the deal is.</em></p><p>Turns out, bucket boys treat their gig like any other job: They put in the hours, save up the cash and take care of their customers. What&rsquo;s more, for many of the young men out there, beating buckets is not just a way to make a living; it&rsquo;s a way to avoid gangs and make their mark in a positive way.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Our guides</span></p><p>For this question, we enlisted the help of Jerome and Jarrell Lucas, 29-year-old twin brothers who grew up in the Roseland neighborhood. A couple of years ago they started filming the bucket boys. Their interest grew and soon they embarked on a documentary film project titled &ldquo;Bucket.&rdquo;</p><p>These guys have been steeped in the world of Chicago bucket boys, and they know it better than most outsiders. And for that reason, it was sort of a no-brainer to provide you with the twins&rsquo; birds-eye view, as well as an audio story where you can hear directly from one of Chicago&rsquo;s bucket boys.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/drumming-dollars-chicago-bucket-boy-111845#top"><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: sans-serif; line-height: 24px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">►</span></span><em>Take a listen to the audio story</em></a></p><div class="image-insert-image "><span style="font-size: 22px;">How did the bucket boys start?</span></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><strong>Jerome Lucas:</strong> It started in the mid-90s in the <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/2478.html">Robert Taylor buildings</a>. And they innovated a way to find a way to make money. They grabbed a 5-gallon bucket and drumsticks and took it to the streets and seen if it worked. I am assuming that they saw the other street performers and they were like, &ldquo;Well, we could do something, too. And they make music, we make music.&rdquo;</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/FOR WEB lucas bros screenshot1.png" title="" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcEcQR5iBNc" target="_blank"><em><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><span style="font-size:10px;">Above: Jarrell Lucas, left, and Jerome Lucas, right, are twin brothers who are shooting a documentary about the bucket boys. To see some snippets of their work, click here.&nbsp;</span></span></em></a></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Why the Dan Ryan Expressway?</span></p><p><strong>Jerome:</strong> I think they choose the expressway because it&rsquo;s more convenient &mdash; you know, traffic moving fast. They look at it as a quicker way to monetize playing the bucket. They can get you in and get you out. It&rsquo;s kind of like a fast food restaurant. I think that is why they choose the expressway over the average corner. I think they would like to choose the CTA, but the reason why they don&rsquo;t choose the CTA is because [of] that sound; it echoes. And that would bring, like, the police, and bring so much attention that way. ... They have to choose their spots wisely of where they&rsquo;re going to be at.</p><p><strong>Jarrell Lucas: </strong>They get to perform for about, 5, 6, 7 seconds. And then if you want to donate you can donate, and if you don&rsquo;t want to donate, you don&rsquo;t have to.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">What do they sound like?</span></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/OokLXv4FApI?rel=0&amp;controls=0&amp;showinfo=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p><em><span style="font-size:10px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Above: A Bucket Boy performance on Michigan Ave., across from Millennium Park in Chicago. (YouTube/JUSTCURI0US)</span></span></em></p><p><strong>Jarrell:</strong> A lot of drumming &mdash; different rhythms, different sounds. Different types of sounds, textures and beats. If you hear them you&rsquo;ll be downtown and you&rsquo;ll hear them from another whole block. So if you&rsquo;re on State [Street], you&rsquo;ll hear it on Randolph or another block, because it&rsquo;s so loud. A lot of people actually <a href="http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/clout_st/2009/06/city-council-swipes-at-bucket-boys-on-mag-mile.html" target="_blank">hate the sound</a>.</p><p><strong>Jerome:</strong> How you can tell the more advanced bucket boys from the average bucket boys is because they got a song with it. They say something with it like, &ldquo;Hey pretty lady.&rdquo; And they are the only ones that have it. Certain groups have certain songs and certain chants they use. And some are beginners, so they just trying to catch the rhythm. They are all trying to get a rhythm together so they can make money.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/fz8iwv5Sh6k?rel=0&amp;controls=0&amp;showinfo=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p><em><span style="font-size:10px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Above: Bucket boy Charles Chapman drums off the Dan Ryan on 55th Street. (WBEZ/Meribah Knight)</span></span></em></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">How does one become a bucket boy?</span></p><p><strong>Jerome:</strong> It&rsquo;s like an initiation thing. Somebody usually brings you in, but if nobody brings you in you got to start from the bottom. You got to go to Home Depot, buy your bucket, buy your drumsticks and get out on the corner. Usually they everybody who is, like, real amateurs &mdash; they send them to 55th [Street]. And they be the only ones out there. By themselves, beating and drumming and that build confidence. You get good. If you stank, you go home and you continue to work on it. And after a minute you done built so much confidence and made so much money on your own they like, &ldquo;Who is that over there on 55th, making all that noise?&rdquo; &nbsp;It&rsquo;s kind of like the music business. It&rsquo;s like, &ldquo;Who is that guy we&rsquo;ve been hearing about? We need him with us.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">How old are most bucket boys?</span></p><p><strong>Jarrell:</strong> Between the ages of 16 and 24. That would be the ages of a bucket boy. I don&rsquo;t know about 25. I haven&rsquo;t met that person yet. But around the ages 16 to 24, they all beat buckets around that age.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">How much money can a bucket boy make?</span></p><p><strong>Jerome:</strong> [If you&rsquo;re experienced] $300 to $400 a day. But if you&rsquo;re a rookie you&rsquo;re going to make probably $30, $60, $40, and that&rsquo;s it for your day.</p><p><strong>Jarrell:</strong> My personal opinion: They actually use the money for what they want. They use their art to get to where they want to go in life.</p><p><strong>Jerome:</strong> I had no idea they was getting cars. &hellip; And I heard $300, but I was like, &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think kids be that responsible with the money. They take it and go blow it.&rdquo; But it was like, naw, they actually like, &ldquo;We going to get a car. We thinking about getting an apartment.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Are there territories?</span></p><p><strong>Jerome:</strong> They usually on 87th, 79th, 63rd and downtown &mdash; but not downtown for long. They get in and out of downtown. Because that&rsquo;s where the most money can be made really, downtown Chicago. But they have to move in and out because <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/bacp/general/Street_Peddler-Performer_Fact_Sheet_4_10_14.pdf">they have to have permits </a>or they could be moved. For some reason they never want to get a permit.</p><p><strong>Jerome:</strong> It&rsquo;s like a first come, first serve basis. Whoever gets to that corner first. I think it&rsquo;s a respectful thing to not just be, like, all on one corner. They all know each other but they each got a set they work with.</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="400px" src="https://a.tiles.mapbox.com/v4/curiouscity.lm075e9o.html?access_token=pk.eyJ1IjoiY3VyaW91c2NpdHkiLCJhIjoibGM3MUJZdyJ9.8oAw072QHl4POJ3fRQAItQ" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em><span style="font-size:10px;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-4180fbf2-9b3e-2c33-93be-976dfa077b8b"><span style="font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: rgb(248, 248, 248);">Above: Chicago&rsquo;s bucket boys drum at various locations around the city, depending on the season and time of day. Here&rsquo;s a map of common spots, provided by </span><span style="font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Jerome and Jarrell Lucas as well as other sources.</span></span></span></em></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">What is the trick to success?</span></p><p><strong>Jerome:</strong> They have to be humble and they have to be confident to do that. ... If you&rsquo;re too confident,you come off as arrogant. And if you&rsquo;re too, how can I say ... If you have the charm turned on, people think, &ldquo;You just trying to hustle me. You&rsquo;re a panhandler.&rdquo; So I think you need a little bit of all to get a perfect bucket boy.</p><p><strong>Jerome:</strong> They travel to stadiums. Because they know Chicago can be like, they done got used to seeing them. But other states are amazed by [the bucket boys]. They like, &ldquo;Out of a bucket?&rdquo; So I guess they capitalize off it. They go to other states and make lots of money at stadiums and arenas. ... They do to music concerts. ... They set up outside in the parking lot exits and entries to the stadiums.</p><p><strong>Jerome:</strong> When they really want some money from somebody, they&rsquo;ll go to your window, they&rsquo;ll put it between their legs and they&rsquo;ll beat it. And when they do that it&rsquo;s like ... I guess it makes a person feel like they are performing just for them.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Is beating a bucket a good option for some of the bucket boys?</span></p><p><strong>Jerome:</strong> It&rsquo;s hard to find a job on the South Side of Chicago. And at the end of the day I think people want to be creative and be paid to be creative at what the do. So, I think this is more like their first option ... to avoid being involved in gang violence and other things of that nature. It&rsquo;s like, if you&rsquo;re not beating a bucket then you&rsquo;re involved in some type of gang violence, or you&rsquo;re becoming a victim of gang violence. So like I said, they choose wisely. I think they are good decision-makers, very good decision makers.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">You&rsquo;ve spent two years making this film, what is something you learned that surprised you?</span></p><p><strong>Jerome:</strong> How they get different sounds from the bucket? I didn&rsquo;t know that hitting the side of the bucket make a different sound than the top. And different, like ... How can I say? Different corners on the bucket give out different sounds. So when they are trying to come up with their little symphony together, some will hit the sides. Some will hit the top. Some hit the bottom. Some hit the top. You never knew a bucket could make so many sounds. But if you listen to bucket boys you&rsquo;ll find out they can make a bucket make so many sounds that you wouldn&rsquo;t even thought was possible.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR WEB annie and meribah for qasker photo.jpg" style="height: 213px; width: 320px; float: right;" title="Reporter Meribah Knight, left, and question-asker Annie Dieleman. (WBEZ/Jesse Dukes)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Our question asker</span></p><p>Annie Dieleman is a social worker in Chicago residing in Bridgeport. Originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, she moved to Chicago a decade ago for college.</p><p>She says she first started wondering about who the bucket boys were when she was commuting to her social work job in Englewood. She would see them on the Dan Ryan exit ramps.</p><p>She particularly admired one young man who was always drumming as she exited the Dan Ryan at 63rd street. Finally, instead of giving him her usual wave, she rolled down her window and asked:</p><p>&lsquo;You&rsquo;re really talented.How did you get into this?&rdquo;</p><p>His answer struck a chord with Annie: It was a positive way to make money and stay out of trouble. He was building something for himself in a neighborhood that offered few job options.</p><p>&ldquo;He seemed like he had a really positive message,&rdquo; Annie says. &ldquo;It made me curious about everyone.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Meribah Knight is a freelance journalist in Chicago and reports for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City. Follow her at meribahknight.com and on Twitter at <a href="https://www.twitter.com/meribah" target="_blank">@meribah</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 08 Apr 2015 17:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/drumming-dollars-chicago-bucket-boy-111845 The legacy of Michael Jordan in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/legacy-michael-jordan-chicago-111803 <p><p>Everyone from superfans to the casual office bracket pool participant follows NCAA March Madness. We rally around underdogs. We&rsquo;re suckers for Cinderella stories. It&rsquo;s as much about these journeys as the sport itself. So as teams compete for the championship title, let&rsquo;s look at Chicago&rsquo;s biggest basketball legend. Our tall tale. Michael Jordan.</p><p>Jordan came to Chicago in the 1980s, and went on to have one of the most memorable careers in basketball. Briefly, Chicago had the best sports team in the country. <a href="http://archive.fortune.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/1998/06/22/244166/index.htm" target="_blank">We were known around the world</a> as the home of Michael Jordan and the Bulls. He brought home six NBA championship trophies in the &lsquo;90s.</p><p>Jordan&rsquo;s lasting fame in Chicago is what prompted a seventh-grader working on a history project to ask this question about him. (The student chose to remain anonymous.)</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>What was Michael Jordan&rsquo;s impact on Chicago?</em></p><p>Jordan wondered about his local legacy too. In 1993, he said this to a crowd at the opening of the Michael Jordan Restaurant:</p><blockquote><p>&quot;I want to say to the Chicago people, thank you for your support. Ever since I came to this city in 1984, you have taken me in like one of your own, and I&rsquo;ve tried to reciprocate that in my talents and playing the game of basketball. Hopefully the two is going to be a relationship that&rsquo;s going to last a lot longer than me just playing basketball.&quot;</p></blockquote><p>MJ did indeed leave the Bulls and the city in 1999. So, what did MJ leave behind? We consider possible economic impacts as well as his cultural &mdash; even spiritual &mdash; contributions, too.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Timeline: A brief history of Jordan</span></p><p>If you&rsquo;ve never been a Jordan fan, just need a refresher, or are too young to remember, here&rsquo;s a timeline of how Jordan&rsquo;s career intersects with Chicago history.<a name="timeline"></a></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="650" scrolling="no" src="http://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline/latest/embed/index.html?source=0Ai7E2pZ6aCZtdEczczVJNzlKNFlUakM0bW1MQlZvOEE&amp;font=Bevan-PotanoSans&amp;maptype=toner&amp;lang=en&amp;height=650" width="95%"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Jordan&rsquo;s economic impact: A windfall for the Windy City?</span></p><p>In the 1990s, the Bulls were on fire. They won championships. More people bought tickets to games and wanted Bulls memorabilia. However, according to sports economists we talked to, it&rsquo;s difficult to find measurable economic impact on the city.</p><p>Allen Sanderson, an economics professor at the University of Chicago and editorial board member of the <a href="http://jse.sagepub.com/" target="_blank">Journal for Sports Economics</a>, says pro sports teams typically draw in-person audiences within a 25-mile radius. He argues that when all those Chicagoans and suburbanites bought tickets to basketball games, that very same ticket cash likely would have just gone elsewhere &mdash; say, to Chicago restaurants, malls, etc.</p><p>Economics and Business Professor Rob Baade of Lake Forest University agrees that during Jordan&rsquo;s time in Chicago, it was likely that local fans just shifted some of their spending from one entertainment choice to another. Bulls are on a hot streak? Spend Saturday night in the arena. Lackluster season? Go out to dinner instead.</p><p>These kinds of arguments, he says, continue beyond Chicago and Michael Jordan. Consider a more <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/nov/17/lebron-james-economic-impact-cleveland-we-expect-too-much" target="_blank">contemporary debate about economic influence and famous athletes: LeBron James and the city of Cleveland, Ohio</a>. Sports celebrities have some effect, Baade says, but it&rsquo;s often modest.</p><p>&ldquo;If you make the argument that Cleveland&rsquo;s economy has ramped up during LeBron&rsquo;s return, you&rsquo;d have to look at the entire Ohio economy,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Whatever modest effect Jordan did have, though, likely got a bump from the fact that he got the Bulls into the playoffs, effectively lengthening the local playing season, and creating several more games.</p><p>&ldquo;You can make the argument that more people are coming in to watch playoffs. But that&rsquo;s not lasting,&rdquo; Baade said.</p><p>But what about Jordan&rsquo;s own spending? After all, by the mid-90s he was one of the world&rsquo;s highest-paid athletes.</p><p>Sanderson says the success didn&rsquo;t put money back into Chicago because that money was spent elsewhere. Jordan went on trips to Jamaica and other places that took him &mdash; and his wallet &mdash; outside of the city.</p><p>Jordan does still have a home in north suburban Highland Park. The mansion, complete with entrance gates adorned with the number 23, is for sale. Though he left the city more than 10 years ago, the house is still on the market. (Any takers? <a href="http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/2700-Point-Dr-Highland-Park-IL-60035/4902463_zpid/" target="_blank">There&rsquo;s a gym and a basketball court (duh), and it&rsquo;s only $16 million.</a>)</p><p>What about the Michael Jordan Restaurant? It&rsquo;s closed (<a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1994-01-14/entertainment/9401150342_1_waiter-plate-iced" target="_blank">possibly because of bad reviews such as this one</a>), but the Michael Jordan Steak House, which opened in 2011, still stands. The restaurant employs about 150 people. According to manager Myron Markewycz, the operation&rsquo;s doing well. Markewycz estimates that during the first few years it was open, Jordan visited the restaurant about 30 times. That was before Jordan divided his time between residences in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Florida. Now, while Markewycz can&rsquo;t give a specific number, he says they see much less of Jordan.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The United Center: The house that Jordan built?</span></p><p>It&rsquo;s tempting for an armchair historian to credit the United Center&rsquo;s construction to Jordan and the Bulls&rsquo; success. After all, you can&rsquo;t miss the statue of Jordan that dominates one of the center&rsquo;s main entrances. And, a surface reading of the timeline lends some evidence: Jordan arrived in 1984 and the United Center opened for business in 1994, replacing the Chicago Stadium.</p><p>But actually, the United Center was a joint venture designed to house both the Bulls and the Blackhawks hockey team. And it was first planned in 1988, years before the Bulls&rsquo; first championship in 1991.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/UnitedCenter.jpg" style="height: 338px; width: 450px;" title="Chicago's United Center was opened in 1994. (Flickr/Esparta)" /></div><p>Sanderson says it&rsquo;s likely Jordan was just in the right place at the right time. Yes, Jordan excelled at the United Center, but basketball&rsquo;s popularity was the draw, not Jordan.</p><p>Jordan&rsquo;s rookie season was 1984, just as the NBA&rsquo;s popularity began to snowball. Until then, not many Americans watched basketball at the stadium or on TV. According to Sanderson, the playoffs were taped and aired later because not enough people wanted to watch them live. The sport gained momentum throughout the &lsquo;80s. Jordan and the Bulls, he says, rode the wave.</p><p>Sam Smith, a sports reporter who covered Jordan for the Chicago Tribune and authored two books about the star, says this rising tide compelled the NBA to push all teams &mdash; including the Bulls &mdash; to build new stadiums, fill seats and boost revenue.</p><p>&ldquo;They committed all of the franchises to have to get new buildings,&rdquo; he said, adding that if teams couldn&rsquo;t pull it off financially or politically, they were pressured to look for new cities to play in.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MJ%20united%20center%20statue%20for%20united%20center%20section_0.jpg" style="float: left; height: 361px; width: 250px; margin: 5px;" title="Chicago Bulls' star Michael Jordan stands next to a 12-foot bronze statue of himself unveiled outside the United Center in Chicago, Ill., Nov. 1, 1994, during a salute to Jordan by the Bulls. At left is Jordan's mother Deloris. (AP Photo/John Zich)" /></p><p>&ldquo;Everybody was put onto this,&rdquo; Smith said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s why Seattle&rsquo;s team moved to Oklahoma City, as an example.&rdquo;</p><p>But Charles Johnson, the CEO of Johnson Consulting (a firm that works on stadium projects, among other things) gives Jordan more credit.</p><p>Johnson helped supervise the development of the United Center for Stein and Company. He says the previous venue, the Chicago Stadium, had become obsolete and that there &ldquo;was no doubt&rdquo; that the United Center would have been built at some point. Still, he says, Jordan &ldquo;absolutely&rdquo; drove the timing.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it is safe to say that this is the building that Michael built,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I do not think this can be said anywhere else, so emphatically.&rdquo;</p><p>Johnson, Sanderson and Smith agree that Jordan had a definite impact on the new stadium&rsquo;s capacity and other amenities &mdash; in particular, the high number of suites.</p><p>&ldquo;If MJ was not in the picture, that many suites would never have happened,&rdquo; Johnson said, adding that the decision to create additional luxury seating turned into an excellent revenue stream for the construction project.</p><p>Smith goes further, saying that the NBA pointed to Jordan&rsquo;s track record and crowd appeal as an argument to expand suites and other accommodations. He says the franchises listened.</p><p>&ldquo;You can make a case with Michael that he influenced all of these buildings everywhere,&rdquo; Smith said.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Charitable impact</span></p><p>Throughout the 1990s, Michael Jordan was the richest athlete in the world, raking in $78.3 million in 1997 alone. Even if Chicago felt little economic impact from the Bulls&rsquo; success, you might suspect that Jordan&rsquo;s personal wealth &mdash; and fundraising in his name &mdash; had potential to leave a more measurable mark on the city.</p><p>In 1989 Jordan and his mother, Deloris, created the Michael Jordan Foundation, a Chicago-based charity that focused on improving education on a national scale. It had two offices and twelve people on staff. Student who participated in Jordan&rsquo;s Education Club could earn a weekend trip to Chicago if their grades and school attendance improved.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MJ%20econ%20impact%20AP_1.jpg" style="height: 345px; width: 450px;" title="Chicago Bulls player Michael Jordan gestures during a news conference at Bercy stadium in Paris Wednesday Oct. 15, 1997. Michael Jordan is the richest athlete in the world, regaining the top spot on the Forbes magazine list for the fifth time in six years. Jordan will earn dlrs 78.3 million in 1997. (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)" /></div><p>But in 1996, seven years after the foundation&rsquo;s start (and shortly after Jordan made his <a href="http://chicago.suntimes.com/basketball/7/71/450458/michael-jordan-proclaimed-im-back-20-years-ago-today" target="_blank">famous Bulls comeback</a>), he<a href="http://www.apnewsarchive.com/1996/Michael-Jordan-Pulls-Plug-on-Charitable-Foundation/id-0c0db7ac6126eb83ad42762939677c11" target="_blank"> pulled the plug</a>. Jordan told the press he wanted to take a &ldquo;more personal and less institutional&rdquo; approach to financial giving, and that he&rsquo;d rather &ldquo;pick and choose to whom I give my donation.&rdquo;</p><p>And, aside from a substantial <a href="http://www.chicagobusiness.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=9999200019825" target="_blank">$5 million donation</a> to Chicago&rsquo;s Hales Franciscan High School in 2007, Jordan doesn&rsquo;t seem to have picked or chosen much else when it comes to local donations.</p><p>One Chicago charity to which MJ does still contribute is the James R. Jordan Foundation, an evolution of the Michael Jordan Foundation named in honor of his father. Deloris Jordan (Michael&rsquo;s mother) is the founder. Michael has little administrative involvement, a fact quickly asserted by the foundation.</p><p>&ldquo;He hasn&rsquo;t been here in how many years?&rdquo; said Samuel Bain, the foundation&rsquo;s director of development. &ldquo;[MJ] hasn&rsquo;t lived here, hasn&rsquo;t played here.&rdquo;</p><p>Bain says it&rsquo;s challenging to quantify the impact of the James R. Jordan Foundation on the city itself, but suspects it&rsquo;s benefited more local children and families than MJ&rsquo;s efforts in the early &lsquo;90s.</p><p>Under Deloris&rsquo; direction, the James R. Jordan Foundation partners with three Chicago K-8 schools, two of which are on either side of the United Center. Every student enrolled in these schools is part of a program called the <a href="http://www.jamesjordanfoundation.com/a-team-scholars.html" target="_blank">A-Team Scholars</a>, which awards scholarship money to students based on the letter improvements of their grades each semester.</p><p>Bain says the program has helped Chicago kids make it to high school and college. Some students have become <a href="https://www.gmsp.org/" target="_blank">Gates Millennium Scholars</a>, and a number of graduates from the James R. Jordan Schools have returned to Chicago as program mentors.</p><p>&ldquo;The impact shows in actual neighborhoods, in kids who are making it,&rdquo; Bain said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s the result of making it to college.&rdquo;</p><p>As far as MJ&rsquo;s contributions?</p><p>&ldquo;He&rsquo;s a supporter like our other supporters,&rdquo; Bain said. &ldquo;We are not the Michael Jordan Foundation. We don&rsquo;t want the focus to be on Michael.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Second to none</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MJ%20need%20you%20back%20pride%20section_0.jpg" style="float: right; margin: 5px; height: 381px; width: 250px;" title="(AP Photo) " />For a while, everyone wanted to <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0AGiq9j_Ak" target="_blank">&lsquo;Be Like Mike.&rsquo;</a> Which means Chicago&rsquo;s identity got a bit of a makeover, too.</p><p>Before MJ came along &ldquo;if you were traveling and told someone you were from Chicago, people would say, &lsquo;Oh, Chicago. Al Capone!&rsquo; Now, it&rsquo;s &lsquo;Chicago? Michael Jordan!&rdquo; said Sanderson.</p><p>Sam Smith says that the city experienced a sense of pride that it hadn&rsquo;t had before.</p><p>For a long time, he points out, Chicago was the &ldquo;Second City&rdquo; to New York or Los Angeles.</p><p>&ldquo;Here in Chicago, sports teams have traditionally been unsuccessful. They were associated with losing and being made fun of,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>That sentiment turned around. The United Center&rsquo;s Michael Jordan statue, entitled &quot;The Spirit&quot; and completed in 1994, has these words emblazoned on it: &ldquo;The best there ever was. The best there ever will be.&rdquo; It was as if, when Jordan was playing for the Bulls in the &lsquo;90s, everyone was proud to be from Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;You can&rsquo;t be the best forever,&rdquo; Smith said, &ldquo;but for a while we were number one.&rdquo;</p></p> Wed, 01 Apr 2015 11:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/legacy-michael-jordan-chicago-111803 The Chicago rabbit: The unofficial face of wildlife is right under your nose http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-rabbit-unofficial-face-wildlife-right-under-your-nose-111770 <p><p>Our question about rabbits comes from Curious Citizen Jennifer Gadda, who says when she lived in San Francisco and New York, she hardly ever saw rabbits. Not so with her time in The Second City; the little guys were all over the parks or springing between grass and gravel.</p><p>&ldquo;If I wasn&rsquo;t hearing someone complain about their garden, I was seeing them everywhere,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;I wondered if they truly were &lsquo;the other pigeon&rsquo; of the city. It was like <em>The Twilight Zone</em>.&rdquo;</p><p>With this in mind, Jennifer sent us a two-parter about these urban hoppers:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>What&#39;s the deal with all the bunny rabbits that inhabit the urban areas of Chicago? Most importantly, where do they go for the long winter?</em></p><p>Well, Jennifer, looking into this question has made us realize something: There&rsquo;s a case to be made that the lowly rabbit should be considered as iconically &ldquo;Chicagoan&rdquo; as celery salt on hot dogs or pronouncing basketball as &ldquo;b-ea-sketball.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The Eastern Cottontail</span></p><p>According to our sources, it&rsquo;s likely that Jennifer&rsquo;s fine, four-legged friends are members of our region&rsquo;s dominant species, the Eastern Cottontail. It&rsquo;s difficult to estimate how many actually inhabit the city, but the The Urban Wildlife Institute at Lincoln Park Zoo has made a go of it, having set up 118 camera &ldquo;traps&rdquo; across the city to catch rabbits doing their thing. The heat-sensitive cameras take a photo every 30 seconds or whenever they&rsquo;re triggered by motion.</p><p>Mason Fidino, who spearheads the Institute&rsquo;s ongoing<a href="http://www.lpzoo.org/blog/nature-boardwalk-lincoln-park-zoo/what-do-rabbits-do-winter" target="_blank"> research</a> on the species&rsquo; behavior, estimates there are 200 or so wild rabbits on the zoo grounds alone, which translates to a density of about 30 rabbits per hectare.</p><p>&ldquo;This implies that our density of rabbits in this area is far greater than reported estimates of rabbit densities in natural areas of this region (from other people&rsquo;s work),&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Translation: Chicago&rsquo;s likely full of rabbits, or at least more rabbits per hectare (or acre) than nearby suburbs or natural areas.</p><p>One reason they&rsquo;re so common in the city is because the heart of downtown is an &ldquo;urban heat island,&rdquo; meaning the city is warmer than the &lsquo;burbs. (Wouldn&rsquo;t <em>you </em>hang out where it&rsquo;s warmer?)</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/DSCF1013.JPG" style="height: 380px; width: 450px;" title="An Eastern Cottontail hides under bushes at the Lincoln Park Zoo entrance. It is uncommon for a rabbit to be out during the day. (WBEZ/Gabrielle Wright)" /></div><p>If the rabbits had to pick a neighborhood, it would definitely be Lincoln Park and the real estate around Museum Campus, where the little fugitives have had quite an effect. They eat shrubs and bark, so it&rsquo;s common to find their bucktooth prints on trees. The Chicago Park District estimates that, in 2002, more than $50,000 worth of Grant Park&rsquo;s plants and trees ended up in rabbit bellies. The Horticulture Department at Lincoln Park Zoo estimates that rabbits chowed $15,000 worth of landscaping during a recent winter season.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/untitled-510-2.jpg" style="height: 338px; width: 450px;" title="The Urban Wildlife Institute uses cameras to spot rabbits, both day and night. (WBEZ/Gabrielle Wright)" /></div><p>If you don&rsquo;t buy Findino&rsquo;s take on the rabbit population, consider another one. In his book <em>Rats</em>, Robert Sullivan equates the long-eared mammal&rsquo;s bold presence across Chicago with the commonality of rats in New York City&rsquo;s subways.</p><p>&quot;I also noticed that in addition to a rat problem, Chicago public parks appear to have a bit of a rabbit problem,&rdquo; writes Sullivan. &ldquo;Rabbits were hopping all over the place, believe it or not. It was a little scary.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">It&rsquo;s a hard life for a Chicago rabbit</span></p><p>Regarding Jennifer&#39;s follow-up question about the fate of the rabbits during winter, Fidino says the answer&rsquo;s straightforward: Most rabbits die over the winter. A Lincoln Park Zoo study estimates a winter mortality rate of about 70 percent.</p><p>The critters compensate for this dismal figure by mating like ... rabbits. One female rabbit may have up to 25 babies each year. In frigid temps, many of those babies don&rsquo;t survive. Those that do? They hide.</p><p>During the winter, many will make homes in warm places right under your nose. How you interact with your environment determines how many you&rsquo;ll see. Fidino says if you have a garden covered by a fresh layer of snow, rabbits are probably there. When asked where <em>he </em>would hide if he were a rabbit, Fidino says he&rsquo;d join the bounty of bunnies storming the Lincoln Park Zoo. He also said he would hide behind a large waste bin.</p><p>&ldquo;Rabbits are pretty creative,&rdquo; Fidino says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s actually quite funny where you might find them. In the city, they might be hiding right under something near your feet and you wouldn&rsquo;t even know it. It&rsquo;s their job to hide.&rdquo;</p><p>The Eastern Cottontail is qualified for the job, as it&rsquo;s a crepuscular species (meaning it comes out of hiding only at dawn and dusk to forage food). Hopping around during the dusty twinge of the violet hours makes it easier to avoid predators.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/untitled-498-3.jpg" style="height: 338px; width: 450px;" title="Camera 'traps' capture night-time images of rabbits in Chicago. (Photo courtesy of Lincoln Park Zoo/Urban Wildlife Institute)" /></div><p>Still, there are more obstacles to staying alive. According to the Illinois Department of Natural History&cedil; there are about 2,000 coyotes hanging out in our<a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-part-chicago-has-most-biodiversity-103725" target="_blank"> diverse urban jungle</a>, along with other predators. Cottontails are toward the bottom of the food chain, making the struggle to find food harder. What&rsquo;s more, they are susceptible to Tularemia, or &ldquo;rabbit fever,&rdquo; an infectious disease that spreads quickly, just as bubonic plague can. The disease wiped out between <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-03-20/news/ct-met-kass-0320-20130320_1_rabbit-dark-shadows-coyotes" target="_blank">40 to 60 percent of the city&#39;s rabbit population in 2013</a>. In 1930, plans to relocate rabbits from the city to a local forest preserve were halted due to the disease.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Chicago&rsquo;s <em>other </em>bunnies</span></p><p>If you spot the brown creatures during daylight, there&rsquo;s a chance they could be in in danger. Red Door Shelter, an animal rescue center on the city&rsquo;s North Side, has created an up-and-at-&lsquo;em community that snaps pictures of the furballs as they huddle near car tires or under porches. Members post pics to the shelter&rsquo;s Facebook Page and assign search parties to follow up on &ldquo;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/reddoorshelter/photos/a.180540025330317.50697.180526168665036/888798757837770/?type=1" target="_blank">bunny action alerts</a>&rdquo; when necessary.</p><p>&ldquo;They happen quite often,&rdquo; says Toni Greetis, Vice President of the Red Door Shelter. &ldquo;If a bunny is on the loose we get together and go look for them.&rdquo;</p><p>Search parties determine whether the rabbit in question is wild or a domesticated breed. Greetis says there&rsquo;s a peculiar rise in the amount of rabbits that are let loose in the winter. The group&rsquo;s rescued 54 since Easter of 2014.</p><p>&ldquo;Domestic rabbits often get mistaken for the wild Eastern Cottontails but don&rsquo;t have the genetic makeup to survive the winter,&rdquo; Greetis says. &ldquo;They will die if left out in the cold.&rdquo;</p><p>Following rescue, the shelter will search for the bunny&rsquo;s owners or put it up for adoption.</p><p>If you find some wild rabbits hopping along the side of building or nestled under your deck, they&rsquo;re probably okay. Dawn Keller is the Executive Director and wildlife ecologist at Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation, the city&rsquo;s only wildlife hospital. She<a href="http://www.flintcreekwildlife.org/found_an_animal/bunnies/" target="_blank"> advises you to leave wild rabbits alone</a> if you find one.</p><p>&ldquo;Believe me, even if you don&rsquo;t see them, they&rsquo;re here&rdquo; Keller says. &ldquo;This is their city too.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Jennifer Gadda, Curious Citizen</span></p><p>Jennifer is no stranger to wildlife, having grown up in a semi-rural section of Boise, Idaho. She&rsquo;s lived in bustling cities across the country, as well Oxford, England. She says she&rsquo;s never seen so many urban rabbits as she has in Chicago&rsquo;s Ravenswood neighborhood.</p><p>In Fall of 2003, the theater professional (she manages production at Court Theater) landed in Chicago. She says she immediately took in two &ldquo;Candy Land-like surprises&rdquo;: a superb chocolatey smell wafting in the air and ... rabbits. Everywhere.</p><p>&ldquo;Isn&#39;t it unusual to have wildlife in the middle of a city?&rdquo; she asks. &ldquo;Or are rabbits really just cuter versions of rats and pigeons?&rdquo;</p><p>Jennifer&#39;s lived here for 10 years, long enough to have lived through 2013-2014&rsquo;s &ldquo;Snowmageddon&rdquo; season. Like many Chicagoans, she worried about people who didn&rsquo;t have adequate cold-weather shelter, but the fate of the rabbits sprang to mind, too.</p><p>Knowing most of them actually do die off, she says the rabbits&rsquo; reproductive rate makes perfect sense.</p><p>&ldquo;I guess this is how nature keeps things in balance,&rdquo; Jennifer says.</p><p>But ... she&rsquo;s still curious to know if they are just cuter versions of rats.</p><p><em>Gabrielle Wright is an intern for Curious City. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/@GabiAWright" target="_blank">@GabiAWright</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 25 Mar 2015 19:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-rabbit-unofficial-face-wildlife-right-under-your-nose-111770 Good school, bad school: How should we measure? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/good-school-bad-school-how-should-we-measure-111736 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/good schools thumb.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: Reporter Becky Vevea is actively working on answering this question, so we&#39;re currently closing discussion on this post, which proved useful in helping her and the Curious City team focus the final reporting. She&#39;s hoping to compare how CPS has performed when it comes to &quot;career readiness.&quot; If you have leads or sources that Becky should consider, please email them to curiouscity@wbez.org. Thanks!&nbsp;</em></p><p>Recently, a listener submitted a question that WBEZ&rsquo;s education reporters hear pretty often.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s a version that Julie from North Center sent Curious City:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>There is reporting about how Chicago Public Schools are slowly getting better. Was there ever a time when they were <strong>good</strong>?</em></p><p>The short answer is: <em>It depends</em>.</p><p>Not only do families have different values and ideas of &ldquo;good&rdquo; or &ldquo;successful,&rdquo; but society as a whole has placed value on different things over time. At one point, vocational education was essential to train the next generation of residents, workers, and citizens. Today, value&rsquo;s placed in college placement and readiness.</p><p>This post is just step one in answering Julie&rsquo;s question. We&rsquo;re going to lay out several ways that &ldquo;good&rdquo; has been defined and ask you to do a little homework. Take a look at what we&rsquo;ve compiled below and let us know on <a href="https://twitter.com/wbezcuriouscity" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/curiouscityproject?ref=hl" target="_blank">Facebook</a>, or in the comment section which of these, if any, we should use to answer Julie&rsquo;s question. What do you think matters the most for determining a school&rsquo;s success?</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Standardized tests scores</span></p><p>The most popular tool for measuring a school is to measure how its students perform academically, specifically how they perform on standardized tests.</p><p>Illinois students <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-ends-standoff-agrees-give-new-state-test-111644" target="_blank">started taking a new test called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness in College and Careers, or PARCC</a>. Some high school students take the PARCC and many also take the <a href="http://www.actstudent.org/" target="_blank">ACT</a>. Up until last year, all juniors in Illinois took the ACT.</p><p>Those tests have changed dramatically over time and the scores needed to be considered good or bad are moving targets. <a href="https://ccsr.uchicago.edu/" target="_blank">The University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research</a> analyzed Chicago Public Schools performance from 1988 to 2009, running sophisticated statistical analysis on the standardized tests used throughout that time.</p><p>&ldquo;The publicly reported statistics used to hold schools and districts accountable for making academic progress are not accurate measures of progress,&rdquo; <a href="http://ccsr.uchicago.edu/downloads/3030threeerasfullreportwithsearleacknowledgment.pdf" target="_blank">the report concluded</a>. &ldquo;The indicators have changed frequently &mdash; due to policies at the local, state, and federal levels; changes made by test makers; and changes in the types and numbers of students included in the statistics.&rdquo;</p><p>The report looked at Chicago Public Schools reading and math performance across two separate tests, the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, or ITBS, and the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, or ISAT. It found math performance inched up, while reading performance stayed nearly the same for almost two decades.</p><p>The average ACT score of a high school is often used in conjunction with graduation rates to determine if it is a &ldquo;good&rdquo; school or not. The average ACT score in CPS has remained relatively flat over the past decade and a WBEZ analysis showed many of the best high schools in the city are <a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/schools/the-big-sort.html" target="_blank">enrolling freshman who already perform well</a> on standardized tests.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Academics</span></p><p>Standardized test scores can reflect the performance of a school, but academic reputation is usually defined by a combination of things.</p><p>Anne Kremer, Associate Director of Undergraduate Admission at DePaul University, said colleges first look at a student&rsquo;s transcript.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re looking at the rigor of your curriculum, that you are taking not just the bare minimum,&rdquo; Kremer said, though she added that colleges evaluate students based on what&rsquo;s available at their school. For example, if Advance Placement classes aren&rsquo;t offered, that won&rsquo;t be held against an applicant.</p><p>There are a host of schools in Chicago that tout rigorous college prep curriculums, including selective enrollment schools that require test scores for admission. Many charter schools, like those in the <a href="http://noblenetwork.org/" target="_blank">Noble Street Network</a>, offer AP classes and tout a long list of alumni at prestigious public universities, and even some Ivy league schools. Mayor Rahm Emanuel continues to expand rigorous <a href="http://www.ibo.org/" target="_blank">International Baccalaureate</a> programs within CPS high schools, as well.</p><p>Beyond what schools advertise about curriculum and notable alumni, there&rsquo;s word of mouth reputation, as well as the following data:</p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p>Curriculum</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p>Attendance rates</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p>Graduation rates</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p>Academic awards, such as the &ldquo;Blue Ribbon School&rdquo; award, <a href="http://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools" target="_blank">U.S. News &amp; World Report </a>rankings, etc.</p></li></ul><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Safety </span></p><p>When Chicago Public Schools decided to shut down 50 schools in 2013, it became clear that some parents don&rsquo;t choose schools based only on academics; they often choose a school based on how safe it is &mdash; or appears to be.</p><p>Illinois and Chicago school officials started collecting data on safety in recent years, in order to identify schools where violence is an issue and figure out how to shield schools from it. There are two ways to talk about the safety: what happens <em>inside</em> the school and what happens <em>outside</em> the school. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Inside, schools can struggle with fighting, poor classroom management, and bad behavior. As an outsider, the best way to figure out how unruly a school might be on the inside would be by looking at the following data points:</p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p>Total number of infractions</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p>Level or severity of those infractions</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p>Suspensions and expulsions</p></li></ul><p>What happens outside a school is another matter. Even the best, most orderly school can struggle to be considered &ldquo;good&rdquo; because of the neighborhood it sits in. Data points we could look at to determine the safety of the school&rsquo;s surroundings:</p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p>Neighborhood crimes</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p>Vacant lots and buildings</p></li></ul><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Proximity</span></p><p>In the same way parents don&rsquo;t want to send their children to unsafe schools, many don&rsquo;t want to travel long distances to send their children to school. In Chicago, many do in order to attend magnet schools, charter schools and, frankly, other neighborhood schools that are safer than their own. But many parents say they want a good school within walking distance of their home.</p><p>CPS has a <a href="http://www.cps.edu/Schools/Find_a_school/Pages/findaschool.aspx" target="_blank">school-finder which allows searches by ZIP code or address</a>.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">&lsquo;Soft-skills&rsquo;</span></p><p>Ask anyone what they remember most about high school and they probably won&rsquo;t say the standardized tests or fights in the hall. Most of what people remember about their school-aged years is the overall experience &mdash; playing sports, performing in music and drama clubs, or participating in student government. So one way to define &ldquo;good&rdquo; relates to the reputation the school has in areas unrelated to academics.</p><p>Recent research out of the University of Chicago shows &ldquo;soft skills&rdquo; are the key to long-term success in life. Tim Kautz, a researcher at the Center for the Economics of Human Development, <a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/M/bo17116615.html">recently wrote a book about non-cognitive skills </a>in high school graduates.</p><p>&ldquo;Cognitive skills, that is what&rsquo;s measured by test scores, becomes relatively fixed by age 10,&rdquo; Kautz said. &ldquo;So, that sort of completely changes what a good education system should do.&rdquo;</p><p>The state&rsquo;s best schools don&rsquo;t just focus on academics; they also provide robust extracurricular experiences. Whitney Young, while known for its academics, is a basketball powerhouse in Chicago&rsquo;s Public League, and the school&rsquo;s chess team won the state championship. Another school, Simeon High School, also draws students because of its basketball program, despite low scores on standardized tests.</p><p><a href="http://www.chiarts.org/">ChiArts</a>, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAkQuis2STg">modeled after the high school in the musical Fame</a>, attracts students interested in pursuing careers in fine arts such as drama, music, and dance. Comprehensive suburban high schools in Evanston and Oak Park River Forest draw families who want their children in diverse schools.</p><p>Kautz said most of that is not measured by districts and states in part because it&rsquo;s really hard to capture.</p><p>&ldquo;What you learned on the soccer team probably isn&rsquo;t going to help you all that much with your ACT scores, but may actually help you with your job or getting through college,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>It may be hard to gather empirical data to correlate the amount of time spent in soccer with success in careers, but there are ways to gauge whether students have opportunities to develop &ldquo;soft-skills&rdquo;. They are:</p><ul><li><p>Racial and ethnic diversity in enrollment data</p></li><li><p>Non-core classes, sports, and clubs offered</p></li><li><p>Budgets and grants for extra-curricular programs</p></li><li><p>Attendance</p></li><li><p>Class size</p></li></ul><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Beyond School</span></p><p>One common phrase used by everyone from President Obama to your child&rsquo;s teacher in recent years is &ldquo;College and Career Readiness.&rdquo;</p><p>No one argues with it, but hard to nail down exactly what someone means when they use the phrase.</p><p>Our question asker, Julie, touched on this issue when we first asked for her to explain what &ldquo;good&rdquo; meant.</p><p>&ldquo;I know an older gentleman who moved to Chicago as a teenager to escape WWII in the 1940s,&rdquo; she wrote. &ldquo;He arrived here knowing no English. He graduated from a North Side public school, got a job at a department store, and went on to have a successful career as an entrepreneur.&rdquo;</p><p>Julie pointed to Senn High School in Rogers Park as a school that&rsquo;s trying hard to change its reputation.</p><p>&ldquo;Just a few years ago, it was one of those schools that one would say &lsquo;No way is my child going to go there.&rsquo;&rdquo; She went on: &ldquo;Was Senn once a &lsquo;good&rsquo; school decades ago? Did it do its job of helping a mostly immigrant population to learn English and a few vocational skills to assimilate into American culture? Were expectations lower?&rdquo;</p><p>The latest push of education reform, in part, comes because the American economy is dramatically different than it was decades ago: factory jobs are gone; technology and information jobs are abundant; and policymakers worry our school system doesn&rsquo;t align with the skills needed to get a job in today&rsquo;s world.</p><p>There&rsquo;s not as much data to measure success in this and the data one would need would require patience. Tying a student&rsquo;s success in life to a school and the education it offers requires tracking beyond graduation, something some public schools have just started collecting on a systematic basis.</p><p>There are two measurements that Chicago uses to measure success in college. They are:</p><ul><li><p>College enrollment</p></li><li><p>College persistence</p></li></ul><p>There are no official measurements for tracking career success district wide. But many schools with vocational programs can typically say how many students earn a certification in the trades available at their school. &nbsp;</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation" target="_blank">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 19 Mar 2015 16:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/good-school-bad-school-how-should-we-measure-111736 What happens to 'Number 2' in the Second City http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-happens-number-2-second-city-111723 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/POOP THUMB.jpg" alt="" /><p></p> Wed, 18 Mar 2015 17:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-happens-number-2-second-city-111723 Chicago's forgotten Civil War prison camp http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicagos-forgotten-civil-war-prison-camp-111688 <p><p>When Chris Rowland&rsquo;s co-worker told him that Chicago was once home to a Civil War prison camp, he almost didn&rsquo;t believe it. But a bit of Googling led Chris to a name, Camp Douglas, and a location, Chicago&rsquo;s Bronzeville neighborhood. It also led him to the camp&rsquo;s gloomy history, one that included dismal living conditions and a death toll that numbered in the thousands. Beyond that, though, Chris, a 36-year-old sales engineer at a South Side manufacturing company, found hardly any information about the camp. So he came to Curious City for help:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Why was there a prison camp in Chicago during the Civil War and why did so many people die there? What happened to it?</em></p><p>Camp Douglas was one of the largest POW camps for the Union Army, located in the heart of Bronzeville. More than 40,000 troops passed through the camp during its nearly four years in operation. What&rsquo;s more &mdash; and this is where it gets gloomier &mdash; it&rsquo;s been hyperbolically remembered by some historians as the &ldquo;deadliest prison in American history&rdquo; and &ldquo;eighty acres of hell.&rdquo; So the fact that Chris, despite his earnest attempt, didn&rsquo;t find much on Camp Douglas interested Curious City, too. How could one of the deadliest Civil War prison camps virtually disappear from our collective memory? Answering this part of Chris&rsquo;s question had us consider how a city acknowledges the darker parts of its past and the benefits, if any, of remembering them at all.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Why Chicago? </span></p><p>Located on the South Side of Chicago around 31st Street between Cottage Grove Avenue and present-day Martin Luther King Drive, Camp Douglas occupied roughly four square blocks &mdash; about 80 acres total &mdash; and operated from 1861 to 1865. Back then the area was the country, outside the city limits. Today, it&rsquo;s Bronzeville.</p><p>When it opened in 1861, Camp Douglas was a training and enlistment center for Union soldiers, a pit stop or starting point for soldiers headed to the battlefield. In other words, it had been improvised, and wasn&rsquo;t meant to hold prisoners or last more than a couple years. After all, no one thought the Civil War would go on as long as it did.</p><p>But then, in February 1862, Ulysses S. Grant captured roughly 5,000 Confederate soldiers in a victory at the Battle of Fort Donelson at the Tennessee-Kentucky border. With nowhere else for the captured troops to go, Camp Douglas became a Union Army prisoner-of-war camp, and it stayed one for the duration of the war.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">As it turns out, Chicago&rsquo;s role as a transportation hub made it an ideal location first for a training camp and, later, for a prison. Eight railroads crisscrossed the region in a spaghetti soup of tracks that allowed goods to move to and fro. Young men could travel from various parts of the state to enlist. From there, the Union Army would assemble regiments and brigades and ship soldiers by rail to the front lines.</div><p>What&rsquo;s more, the camp&rsquo;s location was directly off the Illinois Central Railroad. At the time, this was the longest railroad in the world, running from Cairo, Illinois, along the Ohio River, to Chicago. History buffs may recall that at the beginning of the war Cairo was General Grant&rsquo;s staging location for Union attacks on the Confederacy. Once he captured Confederate troops, they were only a steamboat and train ride away from Camp Douglas.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://a.tiles.mapbox.com/v4/curiouscity.l4pfhnm5/page.html?access_token=pk.eyJ1IjoiY3VyaW91c2NpdHkiLCJhIjoibGM3MUJZdyJ9.8oAw072QHl4POJ3fRQAItQ#13/41.8593/-87.6501" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/camp douglas map still.PNG" style="height: 291px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Camp Douglas sat on about 80 acres of land around what is now 31st Street between Cottage Grove Ave. and Martin Luther King Drive. Click for larger map." /></a>&ldquo;Camp Douglas was Chicago&rsquo;s principal connection to the Civil War,&rdquo; says Theodore Karamanski, a history professor at Loyola University in Chicago and the author of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Civil-War-Chicago-Eyewitness-History/dp/0821420844" target="_blank"><em>Civil War Chicago: Eyewitness to History</em></a>.</div></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size: 24px;">&lsquo;Eighty acres of hell&rsquo;</span></p><p>Camp Douglas&rsquo; makeshift nature showed in its rickety wooden barracks and crude sewer system. Soon, though, the camp was taking on more and more prisoners and keeping them for longer and longer. But because neither side intended on taking large numbers of prisoners for extended periods of time, Camp Douglas &mdash; as well as most other Civil War prison camps &mdash; proved unprepared to handle them.</p><p>&ldquo;That is when all the prison camps got a lot nastier,&rdquo; Karamanski says.</p><p>The camp was meant for no more than 6,000 prisoners, and as its ranks grew to roughly 12,000 at its peak it became more dangerous than any battlefield. Overcrowding and poor sanitation spread diseases such as dysentery, smallpox, typhoid fever and tuberculosis. Illness became the camp&rsquo;s leading cause of death, claiming roughly 4,500 Confederate soldiers, or 17 percent of the total number of men imprisoned at the camp during its nearly four years in operation, according to Karamanski&rsquo;s estimate. In his book, Karamanski cites an 1862 report by the U.S. Sanitary Commission, wherein an agent admonished Camp Douglas for its &ldquo;foul stinks,&rdquo; &ldquo;unventilated and crowded barracks,&rdquo; and &ldquo;soil reeking of with miasmic accretions&rdquo; as &ldquo;enough to drive a sanitarian to despair.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="377" mozallowfullscreen="true" src="https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1ihNZ1PKt3yGIsJVdIok4GmOU27ZyCU_-xa6bQ5Tgvc4/embed?start=false&amp;loop=false&amp;delayms=5000" webkitallowfullscreen="true" width="620"></iframe></p><p>Karamanski estimates that during the Civil War only one in three soldiers died on the battlefield. The rest died in prison camps or camps of their own army.</p><p>&ldquo;Disease was rampant in Camp Douglas and it was rampant in the Civil War. More people in the Civil War died of diseases than from bullets,&rdquo; says David Keller, the managing director of the <a href="http://www.campdouglas.org/" target="_blank">Camp Douglas Restoration Foundation</a> and the author of a forthcoming book about the history of the camp.</p><p>Still, Karamanski is quick to refute the claim that Camp Douglas was &ldquo;the deadliest prison camp in America,&rdquo; as some historians claim. &ldquo;Civil War prison camps were terrible,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;All of them were terrible.&rdquo;</p><p>While Camp Douglas may have claimed more Confederate lives than any other <em>Union</em> prison camp, it pales in comparison to Andersonville, a Confederate prison in Georgia that offered neither barracks nor fresh water to its Union prisoners. In all, 13,000 men, or 28 percent of the total prison population, perished there, Karamanski says.</p><p>Given these details, it&rsquo;s probably no surprise that escapes occurred regularly at the camp. Many escape attempts were made by digging tunnels into the soft, swampy ground, but most came from bribing the guards. It is estimated that roughly 500 prisoners escaped from Camp Douglas one way or another.</p><p>Again, security was lax because the camp had never been intended to hold prisoners. &ldquo;They barely had any kind of wall up,&rdquo; Karamanski says. &ldquo;Some of the prisoners would just wander off and say &lsquo;Hey, let&rsquo;s go get a drink.&rsquo;&rdquo; Drunk and emaciated soldiers (still wearing their Confederate garb), would be picked up by local police and hauled, stumbling, back to the camp. &nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Camp Douglas as local spectacle</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/women%20visiting.jpg" style="height: 459px; width: 620px;" title="When Camp Douglas was first opened, Chicagoans had free access to the site. Above, visitors with picnic baskets arrive at the camp. (Photo courtesy Chicago History Museum) " /></p><p>Recall that Chris, our question-asker, could find little about the camp &mdash; as though the place had become a secret. Secrecy was certainly not the case during the war, though. In the camp&rsquo;s early days, Chicago residents were allowed free access to the camp. &ldquo;People were excited that here was the enemy, tamed, incarcerated and for your viewing,&rdquo; Karamanski says. Sometimes, though, visitors &mdash; likely Confederate sympathizers &mdash; would end up walking out with a prisoner.</p><p>Soon, though, the camp tightened up security and stopped admitting visitors.</p><p>At that point, a local businessman got an idea. Utilizing a hotel across the street from the camp, he built a viewing platform where he charged customers 10 cents a pop to climb a stairway up to a wooden platform to catch a glimpse of the rebels. &ldquo;It was a real treat for a lot of kids to see those Confederates,&rdquo; Karamanski says.<a name="tower"></a></p><p><iframe align="middle" frameborder="0" height="421" scrolling="no" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/cdmap.html" width="620"></iframe></p><p><em>Above: An 1864 illustration of Camp Douglas as seen from a Union observation tower, contrasted with a Google Earth view of the area today. The center bar can slide left or ride to hide or reveal either side.</em></p><p>When the Civil War concluded in the spring of 1865, Camp Douglas&rsquo; prisoners were given a set of clothes and a one-way train ticket out of the city. The camp itself was razed, rather quickly, by scavengers as well as the government, selling off the equipment as surplus. &nbsp;</p><p>When summer rolled around, though, &nbsp;the camp parade ground gave way to a new sport that returning union soldiers had learned during wartime: baseball. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Soldiers came back from the war and they&rsquo;d lost a lot of their youth,&rdquo; Karamanski says. &ldquo;Some of the first baseball games by Chicago&rsquo;s elite teams were played at Camp Douglas. ... It helped erase some of the memories of the war.&rdquo;</p><p>But Karamanski suspects baseball may have helped erase part of a larger memory, too: public memory, or in this case, the way a city tells the story of itself.</p><p>For the most part, the history of that memory nearly had Camp Douglas written out.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Remembering the forgotten</span></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/oak%20woods%20plot%20for%20web.jpg" style="height: 409px; width: 620px;" title="A monument in Oak Woods Cemetery at 67th Street and Cottage Grove marks the largest mass grave in the Western Hemisphere, or where roughly 4,000 Confederate soldiers who died at Camp Douglas are buried. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" /></div><p>When we first meet Chris, our Curious Citizen, it&rsquo;s a bitterly cold day in late January and we stand on what Keller and others claim is the largest mass grave in the Western Hemisphere:<a href="http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/national_cemeteries/Illinois/Confederate_Mound_Oak_Woods_Cemetery.html" target="_blank"> a mound of roughly 4,000 Confederate soldiers</a> who died at Camp Douglas, now buried at Oak Woods Cemetery at 67th Street and Cottage Grove. (The soldiers had originally been buried in City Cemetery, now Lincoln Park. But soon after the war, the city thought better of placing the dead so close to Lake Michigan &mdash; Chicago&rsquo;s principal source of drinking water. That cemetery was closed and the Confederate soldiers were moved to Oak Woods, the only cemetery that would accept them.)</p><p>Staring up at the forty-foot-tall bronze and granite memorial where a despondent-looking Confederate soldier stands atop a granite column, bowing his head in remembrance, Chris asks: &nbsp;&ldquo;So why do you think it was forgotten about? Why was it swept under the rug?&rdquo;</p><p>First off, <a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/chicagofire/" target="_blank">the Great Chicago Fire </a>came just six years after Camp Douglas closed, sapping resources and shifting the city&rsquo;s priority away from the South Side. Then came the Great Migration, where hundreds of thousands of African Americans migrated North on the same railroad that once transported soldiers from Camp Douglas to the front lines of the Civil War. When they arrived in Chicago, African Americans began settling in Bronzeville. It&rsquo;s safe to say probably the last thing on their mind was exploring their neighborhood&rsquo;s lost history, centering on those who had previously fought to keep them enslaved. Then came the post World War II housing shortage and the urban renewal of the 1960s. &ldquo;There was a lot of reason to forget about it,&rdquo; Keller says of the camp.</p><p>But at the center of this question of why Camp Douglas was forgotten is the obvious tension of an African-American neighborhood and a city rooted in Union ideals taking steps to remember thousands of dead soldiers who fought on the side to uphold slavery.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think you can&rsquo;t ever discount the impact of race on Chicago memory,&rdquo; Karamanski says. &ldquo;So when dealing with the memory of oppression and racism &nbsp;&mdash; &nbsp;which is what the Civil War represents &nbsp;&mdash; &nbsp;it&rsquo;s never going to be something that&rsquo;s broadly consensual because it&rsquo;s a <em>felt </em>history.&rdquo;</p><p>And that strife over how to remember what happened at Camp Douglas didn&rsquo;t come about over time. There was deep-rooted animosity toward the Confederate cause from the moment the war ended.</p><p>In 1895, the night before President Grover Cleveland and his entire cabinet presided over the dedication of the memorial in Oak Woods, the monument was defaced by vandals. Later, a private citizen erected a more permanent protest, which still stands; just yards away from the memorial to the dead rebel soldiers a large granite marker honors those Southerners who resisted secession as &ldquo;martyrs of human freedom.&rdquo;</p><p>The issue reared itself again in 1992, when The Commission on Chicago Landmarks proposed to make the Oak Woods mound a historic landmark, drawing the ire of black alderman. &ldquo;Here is a group of people who looked upon my people as animals, as subhuman,&rdquo; then-Alderman Allen Streeter <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1992-10-02/news/9203300191_1_landmark-status-civil-war-monument" target="_blank">told the <em>Chicago Tribune</em></a>. &ldquo;I&rsquo;d rather forget about the whole thing,&rdquo; he added.</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/sign%20and%20funeral%20home.jpg" title="The first official acknowledgment of Camp Douglas was erected in the fall of 2014 outside of Ernie Griffin's former funeral home at 32nd Street and Martin Luther King Drive in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" /></div><p>That&rsquo;s the same year that Ernie Griffin got involved. He ran the Griffin Funeral home at 32nd Street and Martin Luther King Drive &mdash; right smack on the former camp&rsquo;s site. The African-American funeral operator learned his grandfather had enlisted in the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry at Camp Douglas. Griffin decided, much to the neighborhood&rsquo;s chagrin, to erect a memorial to honor the dead rebels. It included a Confederate battle flag flown at half-mast. &ldquo;This was like an incitement to many African Americans,&rdquo; Karamanski says. After the flag kept getting torn down, Griffin took out an ad in the <em>Chicago Defender</em>, the city&rsquo;s African-American newspaper. In his book, Karamanski quotes Griffin, saying, &ldquo;The flag is not a symbol of hate. It is a symbol of respect for a dead human being.&rdquo; Griffin has since died, and the memorial was taken down when the funeral home closed in 2007.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Remembering the cost of victory</span></p><p>According to Karamanski, one of the most important things to keep in mind while trying to preserve history is the way we tell stories about the past ... as well as who tells them.</p><p>&ldquo;If we try to memorialize Camp Douglas in such a way that we don&rsquo;t share the story, share the authority in creating the site with the people in the community, then you&rsquo;re asking for trouble,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>It&rsquo;s a lesson being considered by Bernard Turner and David Keller, directors of the <a href="http://www.campdouglas.org/" target="_blank">Camp Douglas Restoration Foundation</a>, which plans to build a museum somewhere on the site of the former camp. Keller says they are &ldquo;very, very close&rdquo; to being able to announce a location.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s important to know what&rsquo;s in your neighborhood,&rdquo; says Turner.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s building community pride,&rdquo; adds Ke<span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255);">ller.</span></p><p>After the rocky attempts to memorialize Camp Douglas and the soldiers who died there, seeking to remember Camp Douglas has been going more smoothly lately. &nbsp;In 2014 the foundation helped persuade the Illinois Historical Society to erect the first official acknowledgement of the camp: a small plaque at 32nd Street and Martin Luther King Drive informing residents and passersby that they are in fact walking upon significant history. The foundation&rsquo;s also included the local public school, Pershing East, in its various projects, which include two archeological digs of the site. And it has discussed its efforts with the <a href="http://www.dusablemuseum.org/" target="_blank">DuSable Museum of African American History</a>.</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/SHERRY%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Sherry Williams, president of the Bronzeville Historical Society, says it's important to remember Camp Douglas as not only a prison camp, but also a place where black union soldiers and confederate prisoners intersected. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" /></div><p>For Sherry Williams, president of the Bronzeville Historical Society, there&rsquo;s potential in telling stories about Camp Douglas that move beyond its brutal legacy.</p><p>&ldquo;We look at the Camp Douglas story as being told just about the miserable conditions that were faced by these prisoners of war, but there are wider stories to need to be expounded on,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not one narrative, it&rsquo;s multiple narratives.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>One such narrative hits close to Williams. After looking into the camp&rsquo;s death records, she discovered that a soldier named S.G. Cooper died at the camp. He was a Southerner whose family owned her direct ancestor, Nero Cooper, a former slave who enlisted in the Union&rsquo;s African-American infantry. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a tie between Confederate soldiers and the Union black soldiers,&rdquo; Williams says. &ldquo;Here&rsquo;s the intersection of the fight for freedom.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, Karamanski says, it&rsquo;s okay if the way we remember Camp Douglas is kind of dark.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s true that Camp Douglas is a dark shadow on Chicago&rsquo;s history. But it also reminds us what the Civil War was about,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;You didn&rsquo;t go ahead and end slavery without a fight. But we&rsquo;re honest only if we really understand the cost that victory &nbsp;&mdash; &nbsp;of saving the union and ending slavery.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/question%20asker_1.jpg" style="height: 213px; width: 320px; float: right;" title="Curious Citizen Chris Rowland, right, at Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" /><span style="font-size:24px;">Chris Rowland, Curious Citizen</span></p><p>Chris Rowland is a 36-year-old sales engineer at a South Side manufacturing company. He lives in Uptown and was reading <em><a href="http://www.harrietbeecherstowecenter.org/utc/" target="_blank">Uncle Tom&rsquo;s Cabin</a></em> when he got to thinking about the Civil War and what connection Chicago might have to it.</p><p>The topic then presented itself at work. &ldquo;One of the guys mentioned that there was actually a prison camp in the actual city in Chicago,&rdquo; he says. Except, &ldquo;nobody could remember what the actual name of it was.&rdquo;</p><p>He says one of the guys thought the name might have been Camp Burnham. Another guy thought the camp &nbsp;was called the Andersonville Prison, confusing the name of Chicago&rsquo;s North Side neighborhood with the famous civil war prison camp in Andersonville, Georgia.</p><p>But when Rowland searched a bit more on Google, he learned about the camp&rsquo;s real name, but not much else. When he submitted us this question about a year and a half ago, he says he was surprised at how difficult it was to find any information about Camp Douglas.</p><p>And though he&rsquo;s not a Chicago-native &mdash; or a history buff, he says &mdash; learning more about Camp Douglas, Chicago and the Civil War has put a bit of his own life into perspective.</p><p>&ldquo;I grew up in Oklahoma,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We weren&rsquo;t even a state yet.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Meribah Knight is a freelance journalist in Chicago and reports for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City. Follow her at <a href="http://www.meribahknight.com/" target="_blank">meribahknight.com</a> and on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/meribah" target="_blank">@meribah</a>.</em></p><p><em>Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the location of where Mr. Nero Cooper had enlisted in the Union Army. According to Sherry Williams, he enlisted in the Union Army in Tennessee.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Wed, 11 Mar 2015 17:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicagos-forgotten-civil-war-prison-camp-111688 Building skyscrapers on Chicago's swampy soil http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/building-skyscrapers-chicagos-swampy-soil-111658 <p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: This was piece was produced in collaboration with the <a href="http://www.architecture.org/" target="_blank">Chicago Architecture Foundation,</a> which provided research, expertise and other assistance during its development.</em></p><p>From his office tower in downtown Chicago, Mike Vendel has no reason to doubt the structural stability of the buildings where he and hundreds of thousands of others spend their workdays. Looking back on the Loop from the shores of Lake Michigan, though, it&rsquo;s a different story.</p><p>&ldquo;Outside enjoying the lakefront, beaches, parks,&rdquo; says Vendel, &ldquo;you see the sand and you see these huge skyscrapers in the skyline and you think: How do they stay stable in that structure?&rdquo;</p><p>He asked Curious City how it all came to be:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>What special techniques or extra work is required to construct massive buildings on swampland around Chicago?</em></p><p>He&rsquo;s right to wonder. Steadying skyscrapers in Chicago (and, come to think of it, many cities around the world) is still a staggering feat of structural engineering. If architects and engineers don&rsquo;t do it right, the results could be catastrophic: They could end up with a lopsided building or, worse, a fatal collapse.</p><p>As we found out, in the past 150 plus years, architects have struggled to tame Chicago&rsquo;s swampy soil, with varying degrees of success. In fact, the city&#39;s very identity as a hotbed for architecture and geotechnical engineering might be a product of what reporters once deemed &ldquo;the great layer of jelly in Chicago&rsquo;s cake.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">From swamp to city</span></p><p>Offering just a <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/993.html" target="_blank">short portage between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River basin</a>, the area that would become downtown Chicago was a natural choice for the city&rsquo;s settlers &mdash; and a naturally swampy setting. Ray Wiggers, a geologist with Oakton Community College, says Chicago&rsquo;s bedrock is buried beneath silt, mud and clay.</p><p>&ldquo;If you had been here, for example, in 1820 when Chicago was still a very small settlement, what you would have found first of all was a soil profile that was mostly wetland soil. It would be <a href="http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/267930/Histosol" target="_blank">something we&rsquo;d call a histosol</a> &mdash; it&rsquo;s very peat-rich, very rich in organic matter,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Very swampy, marshy.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_MANUSCRIPTS/illinois/cookIL2012/Cook_IL.pdf" target="_blank"><em>View the USDA&#39;s Soil Survey of Cook County for&nbsp;a detailed look at Chicago-area soil</em></a></p><p>The soil was so slick that <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-01/raising-chicago-105064" target="_blank">in 1856, Chicago lifted itself up to 14 feet off the ground</a> to keep from sinking and sliding around in the mosquito-infested marshland.</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s soil started as sediment drifting around in Lake Chicago &mdash; an ice-age precursor to Lake Michigan. That material settled to the bottom, leaving present-day denizens a thick layer of squishy soil.</p><p>&ldquo;If you can imagine your front yard and the little muddy spot you have after it&rsquo;s rained for a while,&rdquo; says Wiggers, &ldquo;that sediment is really, really saturated and it&rsquo;s very oozy. Imagine trying to build a skyscraper in that.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR WEB chicago in 1820.jpg" style="height: 478px; width: 620px;" title="(Image courtesy Library of Congress)" /></div></div><p>By contrast New York City &mdash; whose architects and engineers pioneered the skyscraper along with Chicago&rsquo;s during the late 19th century &mdash; had nearly perfect soil conditions for anchoring tall buildings. Despite being surrounded by water, Manhattan has readily available bedrock.</p><p>The rock outcroppings jutting out of the earth in Central Park are visible proof that New York&rsquo;s bedrock, Manhattan schist, comes all the way up to the surface in some places. Chicago&rsquo;s equivalent, a rock called dolomite, can be as deep as 85 feet underground.</p><p>&ldquo;And yet here in Chicago we persevered through all the muck, literally, and built [skyscrapers] here,&rdquo; Wiggers says.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://digicol.lib.depaul.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/p16106coll1/id/170/rec/25" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20soil%20map%20crop.jpg" style="height: 274px; width: 620px;" title="Generalized soil map of the region of Chicago, 1927. Click to explore a large version of this map. (Image courtesy DePaul University archives)" /></a></div><p>Reporters in the late 19th century described Chicago&rsquo;s soil as &ldquo;a great jelly-cake&rdquo; with a &ldquo;semi-fluid&rdquo; layer like &ldquo;molasses.&rdquo; Here&rsquo;s a bit from an 1891 article in the New York Times &mdash; back when the word skyscraper was so new that reporters had to put it in quotes:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;What shall it profit Chicago to have taken the prairies and the wheat fields and the distant lairs of wolves and bears in its municipal embrace if the proud palaces in the haunts of its Board of Trade must sink in a smother of slimy ooze? Who shall restrain the great layer of jelly in Chicago&rsquo;s cake? Who can say when it will be released, to be mixed with the sluggish sewage of the river, and then to fill the streets and pour in at the windows while the thin upper crust sinks to its ultimate resting place on the lower clay?&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>That clay actually became the key to some early engineering solutions for tall, heavy buildings. Before then, they fine-tuned a method to float their massive buildings on layers of jelly-like clay called the desiccated crust. But as anyone who has stumbled through the lobby of the Auditorium Building has experienced, early engineers didn&rsquo;t always get it exactly right.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">An early experiment</span></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/Library%20of%20Congress%2C%20Prints%20%26%20Photographs%20Division%2C%20HABS%2C%20Reproduction%20number%20HABS%20ILL%2C16-CHIG%2C39--1.jpg" style="height: 450px; width: 620px;" title="The Auditorium Building in 1963, which floats in the soil on a layer of clay instead of bedrock.(Photo courtesy Library of Congress, Prints &amp; Photographs Division, HABS, Reproduction number HABS ILL,16-CHIG,39--1)" /></div><p>The 1889 Auditorium Building is well-known for the important role it played in establishing the artistic and cultural identity of a young, booming city. Roosevelt University now owns the building at the corner of East Congress Parkway and North Michigan Avenue.</p><p>The multi-use building, designed by Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan, included an exquisite performance space with stunning acoustics and ornamentation. But the building also sheds light on how these late 19th century architects wrestled with designing increasingly taller and heavier buildings on Chicago&rsquo;s waterlogged clay.</p><p>If you&rsquo;ve ever visited the Auditorium Building or Theatre, you may have noticed that the floors are not quite even. And if you&rsquo;ve come in the Auditorium entrance off the Congress Parkway, located under the building&rsquo;s 17-story tower, you may have noticed that you walk <em>down</em> about four steps to buy your ticket and enter the lobby.</p><p>Those four steps were not part of Adler and Sullivan&rsquo;s original plans &mdash; they were added because that&rsquo;s how far the building has sunk into the earth since it was constructed in 1889. The building weighs more than 110,000 tons.</p><p>All new buildings sink a bit at first &mdash; a fact architects and engineers have tried to account for since they began building big enough to notice. But the Auditorium sunk more than 18 inches in the first year after it opened, leaving it with uneven floors that can make visitors feel drunk as they navigate. The technical term for this is &ldquo;differential settlement,&rdquo; which means that the different parts of the building &mdash; depending on how heavy they are and how much the soil can bear &mdash; settle to different depths.</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/FOR WEB Auditorium_bldg_(foundations)_HABS.jpg" style="height: 322px; width: 620px;" title="Adler and Sullivan designed a foundation system of isolated piers to distribute the load at several points across the Auditorium Building's base. (Source: Library of Congress, HABS, National Park Service)" /></div></div><p>In the basement of the Auditorium, there&rsquo;s a large crack on the concrete floor that runs parallel to the exterior wall. While the whole building has settled, this is where it&rsquo;s obvious that the heavier exterior stone walls have sunk almost a foot more than the interior structure, which was made from a lighter iron and steel skeleton.</p><p>The 1880s and 1890s saw several Chicago buildings that used a hybrid structural system of stone and brick on the exterior with iron and steel on the interior. But because architects knew that a continuous foundation around the building&rsquo;s perimeter would likely sink at different rates and to different depths, Adler and Sullivan designed a foundation system of isolated piers to distribute the load at several points across the building&rsquo;s base. These piers under the building resemble giant pyramids measuring more than 12 feet tall. They acted like the legs of a chair, redistributing the heaviest parts of the building&rsquo;s uneven footprint over a larger area. But these giant pyramids &mdash; made with layers of wooden timbers, crisscrossing steel embedded in concrete, and blocks of stone &mdash; took up valuable basement space.</p><p>Adler conducted extensive tests of the Auditorium footings, loading them with heavy pig iron to simulate the weight of the building and then measuring how much they sank into the earth. But this is an imperfect science. He based his calculations on exterior walls of brick, not the heavier granite and limestone that would eventually be used. It also became clear that the 17-story tower simply weighed more than the 10-story building surrounding it. And the weight of the exterior stone walls was much greater than the lighter skeleton frame of steel and iron used on the interior.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20monadnock%20present%20Eric%20Allix%20Rogers%20flickr.jpg" style="height: 423px; width: 280px; float: right;" title="The Monadnock Building, built in 1891, is one of the heaviest skyscrapers still standing. (Flickr/Eric Allix Rogers)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">A later experiment: The Monadnock Building</span></p><p>As skyscrapers in the late 19th century grew taller, architects and engineers experimented with ways of preventing buildings from sinking too far into the clay, or settling unevenly.</p><p>Burnham and Root&rsquo;s 1891 Monadnock Building, which sits at the southwest corner of Jackson Boulevard and Dearborn Street, is one of the heaviest skyscrapers still standing. Its dark brown brick walls measure six feet wide at the base.</p><p>The building&rsquo;s basement holds clues to how such a heavy building stands without its feet on solid bedrock. Owner Bill Donnell explains that the Monadnock is distinctive because it&rsquo;s one of the tallest buildings with walls that actually do the work of holding it up. During the 1890s, buildings needed to get taller, so architects started shifting away from load-bearing walls; instead, they opted for a sturdy skeleton of steel.</p><p>Construction crews at the time couldn&rsquo;t dig down 80 feet to find bedrock, so they floated the building on the clay.</p><p>They took steel railroad rails and layered them into pyramid-shaped footings that could distribute the building&rsquo;s weight over a larger area. Picture dozens of columns pressing through the basement floor with pyramid-shaped feet, made from railroad rails caked with concrete.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20grillage%20diagram.jpg" title="A diagram of standard grillage foundation of steel rails and concrete. " /></div><p>These so-called &lsquo;grillage&rsquo; foundations were used in several other Burnham and Root buildings throughout Chicago in the 1880s and 1890s, including the Rookery and the now-demolished Montauk Block and Great Northern Hotel. Burnham credits Peter B. Wight, who came to the city from New York after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, with helping to engineer the first one.</p><p>In fact, if we think back to our question about Chicago&rsquo;s swamp, this type of floating raft foundation actually makes a lot of sense. Imagine a tall tree growing in a water-filled swamp. Just like the Monadnock&rsquo;s foundations, the tree trunk flairs out wide at the base. With only a shallow root system, this is the tree&rsquo;s only way of buttressing itself in the mud.</p><p>The Monadnock is actually a hybrid; its northern and southern halves were completed a few years apart, and feature different structural systems. The north half of the Monadnock was the end of an era in structural design, showing the challenges of this type of floating-raft foundation and thick masonry walls.</p><p>A lot more than swampy soil factored into the desire for new structural systems around this time. As land values climbed, developers and clients required taller buildings to make building profitable. That meant architects and engineers needed to economize while also still strengthening the structure against gravity and wind. And if the walls of the building get thicker, the result is smaller rooms with less rentable space. Thicker walls also meant smaller windows. Long before the widespread use of strong electric lighting, natural daylight was a premium amenity that all tenants wanted.</p><p>Things changed a bit when the owners of the Monadnock Building expanded only a year and a half later. They commissioned architects Holabird &amp; Roche for the southern addition and rather than design another load-bearing brick building, the architects developed a lighter-weight steel skeleton frame building. Although it used a similar foundation, this steel skeleton frame brought benefits beyond simply weighing less; it had thinner walls, used less material and could be constructed faster.</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/monadnock grid bentley2.jpg" title="The grillage foundation seen under the basement floor of the Monadnock Building shows how the architects and engineers tried to float the building on clay. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></div></div><p>Just one year after the Monadnock&rsquo;s southern addition was built, another dramatically different type of foundation system, called caissons, was attempted for the first time in a Chicago skyscraper. At Adler and Sullivan&rsquo;s Stock Exchange Building construction site, crews were finally able to drill down through all the clay and fill the holes with concrete, which anchored the building to the bedrock.</p><p>Caissons were basically subterranean chambers that could keep construction work dry even deep underground. They diminished the need to float the building on top of the squishy soil, which meant that architects and engineers could experiment with new types of structural systems above ground.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 4.08.43 PM_0.png" style="height: 637px; width: 310px; float: right;" title="Surficial geology map of the Chicago region. Click to enlarge. (Courtesy USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Reaching new heights</span></p><p>Architects in Chicago have dug enough foundations to know their way around the city&rsquo;s famously swampy soil. But in many cities geotechnical engineers are still searching for solid footing.</p><p>&ldquo;For cities that are established, it&#39;s more a question of refinement,&rdquo; says Bill Baker, a structural engineering partner at architecture firm Skidmore Owings &amp; Merrill. &ldquo;There are still cities where you&#39;re trying to figure it out. [In] Las Vegas you can&#39;t find the rock. There have been some buildings with very large settlements, so how do you deal with that? [In] Houston, believe it or not, you can&#39;t find the rock.&rdquo;</p><p>Baker knows this problem well. In 1957 architects Walter Netsch and Bruce Graham used steel pilings to anchor Chicago&rsquo;s Inland Steel Building to dolomite bedrock buried deep beneath the Loop &mdash; the first time after almost seven decades of skyscraper construction that design teams and engineers had accomplished such a feat.</p><p>Though most of the digging and surveying underground is done remotely these days, Baker recalls looking up from 70 feet beneath the AT&amp;T Corporate Center, which opened in 1989.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re looking up at a little patch of light, which is the sky, and it of course has an earthy smell,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Somewhere along the way someone discovered there&rsquo;s a tendency to be methane down there, and so we don&rsquo;t go down them any more. We put cameras down there. But I kind of miss going down &hellip; to the bottom of the world there.&rdquo;</p><p>He says even though new technology makes it easier to find solid bedrock beneath 100 feet of wet clay, it doesn&rsquo;t always make sense to drill that deep. Modern engineers still use the same general principle Burnham &amp; Root employed when they floated the foundations of the Monadnock Building on an even flimsier layer of soil known as desiccated crust: They just spread the load. Only, today, they prefer a compacted layer of clay found deeper than the crust, called hardpan.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://archive.org/stream/historyconstruct00nich#page/n0/mode/thumb" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20hardpan%20and%20other%20soil%20tests%20copy.png" style="height: 466px; width: 620px;" title="Hardpan, a soil layer above bedrock, is commonly used to anchor skyscrapers today. (Source: The history, construction and design of caisson foundations in Chicago, 1913) " /></a></div><p>&ldquo;One of the reasons we don&#39;t always sit on the rock is it&#39;s very expensive. Because once you poke through that hardpan you&#39;re fighting against water that&#39;s under pressure,&rdquo; Baker says. &ldquo;That last few feet is very expensive, which is why if at all possible you sit on the hardpan.&rdquo;</p><p>And Baker says Chicago&rsquo;s legacy as an innovation center for geotechnical engineering is very much alive.</p><p>&ldquo;If you were an architect you had to show that you were not just a ballerina, you had to show you could actually speak to the technology,&rdquo; says Baker. &ldquo;One of the things about Chicago is that it was always an architectural engineering town. &hellip; A lot of the serious architects out there are very, very savvy when it comes to technology.&rdquo;</p><p>While Chicago may have been dealt an unlucky geological hand, 19th century Chicagoans did find something useful to do with all the mucky clay: The city became the center of the nation&rsquo;s terra cotta industry. Architects used terra cotta, which is simply baked clay, to <a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/curiouscity/chicagofire/#buildingmaterials" target="_blank">help fireproof buildings after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871</a>.</p><p>So it might just be that Chicago&rsquo;s sloshy soil helped solidify the foundations of modern tall building design, engineering and construction.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/FOR%20WEB%20vendel.jpg" style="height: 232px; width: 310px; float: left;" title="(Photo courtesy Mike Vendel)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Mike Vendel, Curious Citizen</span></p><p>Mike Vendel, a computer programmer for Accenture, grew up in Chicago&rsquo;s West Lawn neighborhood and now lives in Edgewater. He says he first wondered about Chicago&rsquo;s swampy soil when volunteering in parks along the North Side lakefront. Looking south one day from Montrose Beach, Vendel noticed that Chicago&rsquo;s mighty skyscrapers were basically sitting on the same soggy footing he was.</p><p>&ldquo;I see these giant buildings on the horizon. And then I look down at the sandy soil I&#39;m standing on and I think, how do those massive and immense buildings stay stable in a soil like this?&rdquo; he wrote at the start of our reporting.</p><p>He wondered about the geology of our region and how early settlers overcame Chicago&rsquo;s swampy conditions to lay the foundations of a 20th century skyscraper boom.</p><p>&ldquo;Any architect probably knows how massive buildings can remain stable in any type of soil,&rdquo; he wrote. &ldquo;But to me, it&rsquo;s a mystery and fairly amazing.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Chris Bentley reports for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City and is the Midwest Editor of <a href="http://www.archpaper.com/" target="_blank">The Architect&rsquo;s Newspaper</a>. Follow him at <a href="http://cabentley.com/" target="_blank">cabentley.com</a> and on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>.</em></p><p><em>Jen Masengarb is Director of Interpretation and Research at the <a href="http://www.architecture.org" target="_blank">Chicago Architecture Foundation</a>. Follow her on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/jmasengarb" target="_blank">@jmasengarb</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 04 Mar 2015 17:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/building-skyscrapers-chicagos-swampy-soil-111658 The rise of Casimir Pulaski Day http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/rise-casimir-pulaski-day-111624 <p><p>Casimir Pulaski Day. If you grew up in Illinois in the 1980s or 1990s (or, if you raised a kid at the time), you probably remember a school and government holiday &mdash; the first Monday in March &mdash; that most of the rest of the country does not observe.</p><p>Nic Levy, our question asker, remembers coming to Oak Park in fifth grade and being surprised. &ldquo;There was this holiday I saw on the calendar,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I couldn&rsquo;t pronounce it. I asked my parents. They also didn&rsquo;t know because they were from New England.&rdquo;</p><p>Nic remembers that one of his history teachers added a short aside about Pulaski during his class&rsquo;s unit on the Revolutionary War, so he grew up understanding that Pulaski was a hero of that war and that he was from Poland. But all that info was about the hero. For help with the holiday, he sent us this question:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>How did Casimir Pulaski Day become a public holiday in Illinois?</em></p><p>We let Nic, a history buff, take a crack at an answer. He guessed that Casimir Pulaski Day came about as an expression of Polish-American pride, maybe in the 1970s or 1980s.</p><p>&ldquo;After the &lsquo;60s, there was this climate in the U.S., not just of ethnic tolerance, but of celebration of different cultures in cities across America,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I feel like that kind of started in the &lsquo;70s.&rdquo;</p><p>Nic&rsquo;s on the right track, but the details make the story worth telling. Just consider what was working <em>against</em> the state holiday: Casimir died more than two hundred years ago, he never set foot in Illinois, the community that adored him arrived in Chicago nearly a century after he died, and, it turns out, he&rsquo;s not even the most famous Polish-American war hero.</p><p>The story behind this most &ldquo;Illinois&rdquo; of holidays involves Casimir, of course, but it&rsquo;s more of a story about a strong community that was willing to spend political capital to honor him.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Casimir Pulaski: Polish Patriot, American Volunteer</span></p><p>Let&rsquo;s start with Count Casimir Pulaski the man. He grew up in the struggle of Polish patriots against the neighboring powers that sought to annex or assert control over what was at the time the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. By the time he was 22, he was fighting against the new Polish King Stanislaw II, who was seen by many as a puppet of the Russians. Pulaski became an important cavalry officer in a series of wars. But by 1775, the conflict had gone badly for the Polish patriots, and he was exiled to France. There he met the Marquis de Lafayette and Benjamin Franklin, who recruited him to come to America, to fight in the Revolutionary War.</p><p>Columbia College historian Dominic Pacyga says Pulaski considered the American Colonists&#39; fight for independence from Great Britain as similar to Poland&rsquo;s own struggle for independence.</p><p>&ldquo;There was this revolutionary spirit, the Enlightenment was going on, soon there was going to be the French Revolution,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;So a lot of people were wrapped up in this revolutionary fervor that was going through the West at this time, and they ended up in the United States.&rdquo;<a name="painting"></a></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="363" mozallowfullscreen="" scrolling="no" src="//www.thinglink.com/card/627225578885349377" type="text/html" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="620"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:11px;"><strong>Above: Click on the painting&#39;s hotspots to hear about the artist&#39;s motifs. </strong>Analysis comes from experts at The Polish Museum of America. Painting:&nbsp;<em>Brigadier General Kazimierz Pulaski mortally wounded at the battle of Savannah on the 9th of October 1779</em>&nbsp;by Stanislaw Batowski Kaczor.&nbsp;</span></p><p>George Washington and other Colonial leaders were skeptical of these European idealists because not all of them lived up to their billing as great soldiers. But Ben Franklin helped Pulaski by writing a letter of recommendation to George Washington, describing the Pole as &ldquo;&hellip; an officer famous throughout Europe for his bravery and conduct in defense of the liberties of his country.&rdquo; Although the Continental Congress wouldn&rsquo;t approve a commission, Washington allowed Pulaski to enlist informally. Casimir Pulaski then proved himself at the <a href="http://www.ushistory.org/brandywine/thestory.htm" target="_blank">Battles of Brandywine</a> and <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Germantown" target="_blank">Germantown</a>, and George Washington named him a Brigadier General and the first Commander of the American Cavalry.</p><p>At first, American soldiers balked at the idea of fighting under a &ldquo;foreign&rdquo; officer. So, in March of 1778, Congress organized the Pulaski Legion, which was made up of mostly &ldquo;foreign&rdquo; soldiers &mdash; Colonists and volunteers from France, Germany, and Poland. Pulaski&rsquo;s Legion turned the tide at the skirmish at Egg Harbor, New York. In May, they drove the British out of Charleston, South Carolina.</p><p>But just a few months later, Pulaski died from a mortal wound he received in Savannah, Georgia. In the Early Republic, Pulaski was remembered as a Revolutionary hero, alongside his friend, the Marquis de Lafayette. Several new towns and counties were named &ldquo;Pulaski&rdquo; in his memory.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Pulaski&rsquo;s backers in the Polish-American community</span></p><p>Pulaski remained a great hero in his homeland as well, a sentiment that wasn&rsquo;t forgotten when Poles began arriving in the United States. If Pulaski hadn&rsquo;t had a community that respected his achievements, who knows if there would have been Casimir holiday.</p><p>By 1800, the independent Polish state had been divided between Russia, Austria, and Prussia. Poles began immigrating to Chicago in the 1860s as economic refugees from lands where they were ethnic minorities and often disenfranchised.</p><p>White Anglo-Saxon Protestants saw themselves as the &ldquo;real&rdquo; Americans, and they did not always welcome Poles with open arms.</p><p>&ldquo;They are from the other Europe. They have the names nobody can pronounce, they&rsquo;re not Protestants. There&rsquo;s a good deal of anti-Polish prejudice at the time,&rdquo; Pacyga says. Because of this, he says, Polish Americans used Casimir Pulaski &mdash; alongside the other Polish revolutionary hero, Tadeusz Kosciuskzko &mdash; as a symbol that Poles had contributed to the American Republic from the very beginning.</p><p>As early as the 1930s, Polish Americans in Chicago lobbied for public recognition of Casimir Pulaski. Their first major victory was a declaration, in 1933, that the former <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/1427.html" target="_blank">&ldquo;Crawford Road&rdquo; in Chicago would now be &ldquo;Pulaski Road.&rdquo;</a> According to Dominic Pacyga, many of the merchants and the shopkeepers in the area were not happy about <a name="wherescasimir"></a>the new name. &ldquo;They have to change letterheads, they have to change addresses, they have to mail out letters saying they&rsquo;re no longer on Crawford Road.&rdquo; For more than a decade, the issue remained contentious.</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/where%27s%20casimir%20topper.png" style="height: 143px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="500px" src="https://a.tiles.mapbox.com/v4/curiouscity.l9pnj16d/attribution,zoompan,zoomwheel,geocoder,share.html?access_token=pk.eyJ1IjoiY3VyaW91c2NpdHkiLCJhIjoibGM3MUJZdyJ9.8oAw072QHl4POJ3fRQAItQ" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size:11px;"><strong>Above: Local historian Dan Pogorzelski says there&#39;s no statue of Casimir Pulaski in Chicago</strong>, but there are still places to find the Polish war hero around the city. Here are a few of Pogorzelski&#39;s suggestions. Anything missing? If you&#39;ve spotted Casimir somewhere else, write us at curiouscity@wbez.org and we&rsquo;ll add it to the map.</span></p><p>In 1944 a streetcar conductor got into a fight with a Polish-Chicagoan when he referred to the Pulaski Road stop as &ldquo;Crawford Road.&rdquo; But in the end, Pulaski Road stuck, due to support from the Democratic political machine. Pacyga says: &ldquo;In the Democratic Party, the Poles [were] an important faction, and they were able to pull it off.&rdquo;</p><p>Much of Chicago&rsquo;s Polish-American history, including the importance of Pulaski, is preserved at the Polish Museum of America. The museum, which occupies much of the headquarters of the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America, sits on Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago, near the traditional &ldquo;Polish downtown.&rdquo;</p><p>Malgorzata Kot, the museum&rsquo;s managing director, says Polish Americans relate to Pulaski because he was a soldier. He fought for freedom and independence in Poland and America, and he had to fight for acceptance when he came to America. She says Polish Americans relate to those struggles, and see them as at the center of their history. &ldquo;Kazimierz [Casimir] Pulaski is a symbol of a Pole who was important in Poland, who risked it all to come here and fight for your freedom and ours.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Casimir&rsquo;s day arrives </span></p><p>The Polish-American community that remembered Casimir so fondly did everything it could to get the political system to recognize him. The persistance paid off.</p><p>In the 1970s, the Polish American Congress in Chicago took up the cause of a statewide Casimir Pulaski holiday. In 1977, they succeeded in getting a law passed designating the first Monday in March &ldquo;Casimir Pulaski Day.&rdquo; This was only a commemorative day, meaning Illinois schools, public offices and banks stayed open.</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/first%20pulaski%20day%20maybe.jpg" title="Former Illinois Gov. Dan Walker signs the Pulaski Day bill September 9, 1973 at the Polish Museum of America in Chicago. First a commemorative holiday, Pulaski Day became an official public holiday in 1985. (Photo courtesy Polish Museum of America)" /></div><p>The lobbying efforts simmered for years, and gathered momentum again in 1985 when State Senator Leroy Lemke <a href="http://www.luminpdf.com/files/14235190/ST052185%20CASIMIR%20PULASKI%20FLOOR%20DEBATE.pdf" target="_blank">introduced a bill in the Illinois Senate</a> to make Casimir Pulaski Day a full public holiday. It would give public schools and some government offices a day off, at the governor&rsquo;s discretion.</p><p>Speaking in support, Senator Thaddeus Lechowicz cast the law as part and parcel of the ethnic pride movements increasingly common in American cities. &ldquo;Every ethnic group, every racial group has a person or persons they that they see have contributed to an extra degree in making this country great. ... Casimir Pulaski fills that need for Polish Americans,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Dominic Pacyga says the timing suggests the bill got traction due to the recent passage, in 1983, of a national holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., the slain civil rights activist. Lawmakers knew Martin Luther King Day would go into effect the next year, in 1986. Pacyga says the &ldquo;white ethnic&rdquo; community, including Poles, Jews, Italians, Greeks, Irish, wanted something similar. &ldquo;There was a feeling the white ethnic community should also have a day, and in Illinois, it made sense to make it Pulaski Day, because the Polish community is so large in Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>Retired State Senator Calvin Schuneman still remembers how the debate played in 1985. At the time, <a href="http://www.luminpdf.com/files/14235190/ST052185%20CASIMIR%20PULASKI%20FLOOR%20DEBATE.pdf" target="_blank">he raised concerns about the holiday</a>, and thirty years later, he has the same concerns.</p><p>&ldquo;If it&rsquo;s going to be a state holiday where government offices are going to be closed and schools are going to be dismissed, I think we have enough of those holidays.&rdquo; For Schuneman, who represented portions of western Illinois, this was a matter of Chicago politicians pushing something that didn&rsquo;t make sense for the rest of the state.</p><p>&ldquo;It was good politics for them,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;but there certainly was no demand for recognizing Casimir Pulaski in my district.&rdquo;</p><p>The law did pass, though, and Governor Jim Thompson fulfilled the terms of the bill and declared a public school holiday across the state. Some municipal offices chose to close in honor of Casimir Pulaski, as did some banks. That freed many people up to visit the Polish Museum of America on Pulaski Day.</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/rahm%20pulaski%20day.jpg" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks at the Polish Museum of America on Casimir Pulaski Day in 2014. In 2012, negotiations between Emanuel and the Chicago Teacher’s Union resulted in Chicago Public Schools dropping Pulaski Day as a day off from school. (Photo courtesy Polish Museum of America)" /></div><p>Every year on Pulaski Day, the president of the Polish Roman Catholic Union, currently Joseph Drobot Jr., presides over a formal ceremony honoring Casimir Pulaski. The Great Hall at the museum can hold up to 500 people, and he says it&rsquo;s usually full during the ceremony. There&rsquo;s an honor guard in bright red and blue eighteenth century cavalry uniforms. The event is open to the public and there&rsquo;s free Polish food. According to Drobot, &ldquo;This being an election year, there will be many politicians. It&rsquo;s an opportunity to be seen.&rdquo;</p><p>The ceremony is always held in front of the centerpiece of the Museum&rsquo;s Great Hall: a fifteen- foot-wide painting of Casimir Pulaski, painted by Stanislaw Batowski. It depicts Pulaski&rsquo;s mortal wounding at Savannah.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Whittling away Casimir Pulaski Day</span></p><p>While memory of Casimir Pulaski is alive and well at the Polish Museum of America, his holiday has been chipped away in the state&rsquo;s public schools.</p><p>In 1995 the legislature made Casimir Pulaski Day optional. Individual school districts in Illinois could apply for a waiver to opt out. Downstate districts were the first to seek waivers.</p><p>By 2009, 74 percent of the districts chose to keep school open on Pulaski Day. And in 2012, Chicago Public Schools dropped Pulaski Day during negotiations between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Teacher&rsquo;s Union.</p><p>When this happened, many Polish Americans felt disrespected, and even hurt. One <a href="http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2012/03/columbus.html" target="_blank">commenter on a blog post wrote</a>: &ldquo;So to sum it up, it took over 200 years for America to acknowledge the man and only in Illinois because of Chicago&#39;s large Polish population and a few decades later we are getting rid of the holiday.&rdquo;</p><p>But historian Dominic Pacyga says, while it might be a shame to lose the holiday, it&rsquo;s also part of what always happens with ethnic immigrant culture in America.</p><p>&ldquo;Many Polish Americans have assimilated. Seventy-five to 80 percent live in suburbs instead of Chicago,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;When you all live in Chicago, you had a lot of clout, when you live in 100 to 200 municipalities, your clout is fragmented. So the lesson is: Stay in Chicago. Come on back home, and we&rsquo;ll get Pulaski Day back.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/question%20asker_0.jpg" style="height: 267px; width: 200px; float: left;" title="(Photo courtesy Nic Levy)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Nic Levy, Curious Citizen</span></p><p>Nic Levy, who asked Curious City to investigate Casimir Pulaski Day, agrees with Pacyga&rsquo;s take that the loss of the holiday is just part of how history works. Nic does feel that having memories of Pulaski Day is something that will define his generation in the decades to come. He enjoys thinking about how history affects geography, as in how the contributions of a Polish nobleman in the 18th century, could change the name of a Chicago road in the twentieth.</p><p>He&rsquo;s studying geography now, at McGill University in Montreal. He says his interest in geography and history began as a teenager in Chicago, right when he started driving. He used maps to plan routes, and was fascinated by the names of the streets, Chicago&rsquo;s orderly grid plan, and the way the grid intersected with the geography of the river, canals, and the lake.</p><p><em>Jesse Dukes is Curious City&rsquo;s audio producer.</em></p><p><em>Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of the managing director of the Polish Museum of America. The correct spelling is&nbsp;Malgorzata Kot.</em></p></p> Wed, 25 Feb 2015 16:22:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/rise-casimir-pulaski-day-111624 No conspiracy required: The true origins of Chicago's February elections http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/no-conspiracy-required-true-origins-chicagos-february-elections-111585 <p><p>With Chicago&rsquo;s municipal election less than a week away, we couldn&rsquo;t help but notice a bevy of questions related to the fact that the races for mayor and city aldermen are settled in late February. In short, a lot of folks suspect that the timing, with the chance of sub-zero temps and snow, amounts to a conspiracy &mdash; one that undercuts the whole democratic thrust of the election itself.</p><p>&ldquo;I mean, nasty cold weather would seem to suppress voter turnout,&rdquo; says Curious Citizen Dave Seglin.</p><p>Another question-asker, Jesse Ackles, adds: &ldquo;My cynical take on it is that it really seems to favor incumbents.&rdquo;</p><p>The most concise formulation of the question comes from Eric Sherman, a local campaign worker who&rsquo;s been canvassing for votes in this nasty cold weather. Here it is:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Why are the Chicago Municipal Elections held in February? What&rsquo;s the REAL reason?</em></p><p>For the record, Eric&rsquo;s not entirely sure the timing is a ploy meant to mess with the administration of democracy, but his formulation (&ldquo;the REAL reason&rdquo;) resonated with a lot of commenters on Twitter and Facebook.</p><p>Regardless, we&rsquo;re going to clear things up, for sure. But a warning to conspiracy theorists: You&rsquo;re not gonna like this. It turns out, there&rsquo;s good evidence that the timing of the February elections was intended to broaden voter participation, not narrow it. Don&rsquo;t blame us. Just read ahead and then blame the historical record.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">On the paper trail</span></p><p>Let&rsquo;s clarify what we&rsquo;re talking about when we say &ldquo;Chicago&rsquo;s February elections.&rdquo; Most towns in Illinois hold party primaries on the last Tuesday of February, while the municipal or so-called &ldquo;consolidated elections&rdquo; happen on the first Tuesday in April.</p><p>Chicago, though, is different. The city holds no primaries for alderman or mayor. Since 199, mayoral candidates have been elected on a nonpartisan basis. Run-offs are held between the top two vote getters if there is no clear majority. Those occur in April.</p><p>Ok, on to the origin story.</p><p>The obvious call to make first is to the Chicago Board of Elections. Jim Allen, a spokesman, says Chicago has held its election around this time of year as long ago as 1837.</p><p>&ldquo;The first mayoral election where Ogden beat Kenzie was in May, and ever since then as far as I can tell we&rsquo;ve been swearing in our mayors in May.&rdquo;</p><p>Of course, this was back when mayors only served one-year terms and City Hall was a saloon. But even Allen, who&rsquo;s been doing this for awhile, is a little stumped about the origins of the current date.</p><p>&ldquo;The part that&rsquo;s going to be hard is finding this bridge between May and when it got pushed back to February,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Is it a political reason that it&rsquo;s incumbent protection, by keeping the voters at home and turnout low? Who knows. That&rsquo;s for a political scientist to noodle over.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Primary election reform </span></p><p>Our next stop: Chicago&rsquo;s Municipal Reference Collection, which resides on the 5th floor of the Harold Washington Library. There, librarian Lyle Benedict begins with relevant passages in the<a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/fulltext.asp?DocName=001000050K2A-1.1" target="_blank"> Illinois compiled statutes</a>.</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s elections, like every Illinois municipality, are set by state law. Except for a few years after the Civil War, these elections were held in April, as set forth in the Cities and Villages Act of 1872.</p><p>For most of the 19th century these were elections in name only; candidates that appeared on the ballot were chosen ahead of time by party bosses at state conventions.</p><p>All of this changed during the Progressive Era, when reformers pushed to institute open primaries, which would let average party members participate.</p><p>The change was hailed as a huge step forward.</p><p>On March 7, 1898, the<em> Chicago Tribune</em> wrote about a gathering of 800 young African-Americans at Bethel Church. The esteemed lawyer Edward E. Wilson was quoted addressing the crowd:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;The days of corrupt politics in Chicago are numbered. A few more wise laws such as the new primary law will sound the death knell of the corrupt politician, the ballot-box stuffer, and ward heeler, and honest men will control the elections, and when that time comes honest men will cease to be ashamed to play their part in politics.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="no" src="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1898/03/07/page/7/article/honest-primaries-discussed" width="300"></iframe></p><p>According to Benedict and legislative records, there was another change in the works: These primaries were set for February &mdash; more than a month before the April elections. In 1905, Benedict says, Chicago held its first February primary elections.</p><p>&ldquo;Looks like the Republicans were February 14, the Democrats were February 24 and the Socialists were March 4,&rdquo; Benedict notes, pointing to old election rolls.</p><p>These open primaries empowered average voters (at least eligible<em> male</em> voters), but reformers felt it didn&rsquo;t go far enough. Over the next decade they advocated for direct primaries, which would consolidate all of the state&rsquo;s primaries &mdash; regardless of party &mdash; on a single day.</p><p>This was a contentious issue, as entrenched party interests sought to preserve the status quo. A <em>Chicago Tribune</em> article from Oct 15, 1907, was headlined: &ldquo;New Primary Act May Cause Spasm: Measure to be Introduced Today at Springfield Is So Direct That It Staggers Politicians.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="400" scrolling="no" src="http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1907/10/15/page/1/article/new-primary-act-may-cause-spasm" width="300"></iframe></p><p>Reformers eventually won out, however, and the day lawmakers selected was the last Tuesday in February. That date has stuck ever since.</p><p>At the time this was a radical change, according to Maureen Flanagan, a historian at the Illinois Institute of Technology.</p><p>&ldquo;The parties can&rsquo;t just hunker down and control everything,&rdquo; she says, adding that since the general elections were in April, moving the consolidated primaries back to February gave voters a lot more say.</p><p>&ldquo;So if you&rsquo;ve got, say, 6 weeks, [candidates] have a chance to get out and give speeches, do interviews, and it does in fact make it possible for people to know who the candidates are,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>And, Flanagan says, people felt they now had a voice in deciding who would run the city, which led to an increase in voter turnout.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Timing is everything</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/snow%20gearing%20up.jpg" style="float: right; height: 467px; width: 350px;" title="A trio of campaign volunteers for Alderman Proco Joe Moreno bundle up against the cold as they prepare to hit ward precincts with flyers and door-hangers. (WBEZ/Derek John)" />Okay, at this point, we can just say it: The conspiracy theories are dead wrong about why Chicago elections are in February. The timing wasn&rsquo;t originally created to suppress voter turnout &mdash; quite the opposite.</p><p>The next question is: Why do so few people remember it that way?</p><p>Well, one reason is that &mdash; starting in the 1930s &mdash; the Democrats have dominated municipal elections. Then, there&rsquo;s the Democratic Machine, which has been implicated in notorious election shenanigans: Sitting politicians doled out jobs for votes, ballots sometimes were &ldquo;lost&rdquo; during key contests, and nepotism often prevailed in the selection of candidates. Little wonder that citizens find the very timing of elections suspect.</p><p>Dick Simpson, a professor of political science at UIC, was one of the few independents who was elected to the City Council back in 1971. He says for local ward races, especially, the Machine was hard to beat.</p><p>&ldquo;Aldermanic elections are frequently thrown to the Machine for many reasons: patronage, jobs, favors, corrupt contracts. But the winter weather does not help,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>And yet Simpson provides at least one example of when February&rsquo;s blustery weather worked against the Democratic Machine.</p><p>This was during the 1979 Democratic mayoral primary. The incumbent, Michael Bilandic, faced Jane Byrne. As the two went head to head in January, blizzard after blizzard deposited enough snow to practically shut down the city. By the end of one gigantic snowstorm, Simpson says, Chicagoans could look out their windows and see 5 or 6 feet of snow staring back at them.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;d be skiing to the grocery store because you couldn&rsquo;t get there any other way,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;The &lsquo;L&rsquo;s weren&rsquo;t running, so they cut the &lsquo;L&rsquo; stops in the black community, which enraged the black community.&rdquo;</p><p>These political problems piled up &mdash; nearly as high as the snow &mdash; until just a few weeks later, when Bilandic went down to a shocking defeat.</p><p>While Simpson acknowledges other factors, he says the timing of the election was huge.</p><p>&ldquo;If it had been held in April, Jane Byrne probably wouldn&rsquo;t have been elected.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Today&rsquo;s election reforms</span></p><p>While it&rsquo;s still hard to campaign during the winter, in some ways it&rsquo;s never been easier to vote in Chicago.</p><p>Echoing the Progressive reforms from a century ago, new rules have extended the early voting period and allowed more people to use mail-in ballots. Starting in 2016, every polling station in the city will have same-day registration.</p><p>One last thing to note. Chicago&rsquo;s average voter turnout for municipal elections hovers around 40 percent. Compare that to turnout in San Antonio, Texas. According to <a href="http://www.fairvote.org/research-and-analysis/blog/fairvote-report-low-turnout-plagues-u-s-mayoral-elections-but-san-francisco-is-highest/#.UqoBkvRDtrE" target="_blank">figures collected by the voter advocacy group Fair Vote </a>, turnout in that city&rsquo;s last few mayoral elections averaged below 10 percent.</p><p>Translation? Chicago&rsquo;s turnout is higher than nearly every other big city &mdash; even those in warmer climates, where braving the outdoors in February isn&rsquo;t so intimidating.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/question%20asker2.jpg" style="height: 400px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="Question-asker Eric Sherman standing in front of a map of Chicago’s 1st ward. (Derek John/WBEZ)" /><span style="font-size:24px;">Who asked our question?</span></p><p>We received several versions of this question about the timing of Chicago elections, but the one we got from Eric Sherman accompanied a great backstory. He&rsquo;s a local political activist and self-proclaimed political science nerd. He&rsquo;s currently working on Alderman (1st) Proco Joe Moreno&rsquo;s reelection campaign, which means he&rsquo;s often going door-to-door in this brutal weather.</p><p>&ldquo;People are nice about it and sometimes they&rsquo;ll let you in,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;If you can get into an apartment complex, that&rsquo;s great. That&rsquo;s a good 15 to 20 minutes where you&rsquo;re inside a building.&rdquo;</p><p>When we tell Eric how the February election date was originally a reform that encouraged greater voter participation, he gets ecstatic.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s another example of the contradictory nature of Chicago politics,&quot; he says. &quot;People get really negative and really pessimistic, and they assume the whole system is rigged. As someone who&rsquo;s involved in local &nbsp;politics, it&rsquo;s not rigged. If it was, we wouldn&rsquo;t be out there knocking on doors and getting supporters.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Derek L. John is WBEZ&#39;s Community Bureaus Editor. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/derekljohn" target="_blank">@derekljohn</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 18 Feb 2015 18:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/no-conspiracy-required-true-origins-chicagos-february-elections-111585