WBEZ | Curious City http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Black business' slow flight from Bronzeville http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/black-business-slow-flight-bronzeville-112524 <p><p>Bronzeville played a huge part in African-American history. When the Great Migration began a century ago, black Southerners flocked to the South Side neighborhood, which stretched between State Street and the lake, from 22nd Street to 63rd Street.</p><p>These migrants transformed the area into a black population center and a nexus of black culture. On the business side, a mass of black consumers supported black-owned restaurants, shops and other enterprises.</p><p>It&rsquo;s this commercial &nbsp;history that attracted the attention of Clare Butterfield, who lives on the north end of the neighborhood and sent along this question:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>I wondered where those shops went. &hellip; There&rsquo;s just not a lot of businesses there. And they&rsquo;re not black-owned for the most part. So that was question: Where did they go? What happened to them?</em></p><p>We found several reasons behind the dispersal of Bronzeville&rsquo;s black commercial might, from demographics to a changing business climate. But Clare herself touched on a possible explanation, too, one that&rsquo;s both common and controversial: Perhaps legalized segregation had an upside for black Chicagoans otherwise hurt by discrimination and, when that segregation ended, the business climate took a hit.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Business in the heart of Bronzeville</span></p><p>The neighborhood&rsquo;s status as a vibrant commercial center is undeniable, according to <a href="http://www.thehistorymakers.com/sites/production/files/styles/bio_photo/public/Reed_Christopher_wm.png" target="_blank">Christopher Robert Reed</a>, an emeritus professor of history at Roosevelt University and one of <em>the</em>&nbsp;go-to scholars on black Chicago. (He also grew up in Bronzeville, his father owning a three-chair barber shop in the neighborhood until a fire destroyed it in the 1970s).</p><p>&ldquo;The State Street corridor was a commercial center for black Chicago,&rdquo; Reed says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s been likened to a black Wall Street.&rdquo;</p><p>This activity happened in the context of persistent racial segregation in Chicago. The primary instruments that kept blacks in Bronzeville and the rest of Chicago&rsquo;s &ldquo;Black Belt&rdquo; were restrictive covenants, private legal agreements that barred whites from selling their homes to blacks. Until the covenants were ruled unconstitutional in 1948, discrimination crowded black families of all economic stripes into too few residential units. This created a critical density of black consumers and, the theory goes, one that kept black-owned businesses viable.</p><p>But there&rsquo;s danger in presenting life or business in Bronzeville as a happy Jim Crow fest: Segregation did breed business ingenuity, but it also bred discriminatory practices. That led to some surprises in the neighborhood&rsquo;s composition. For one, Chicago&rsquo;s whites kept blacks out of white neighborhoods, but that didn&rsquo;t stop whites from operating their own businesses within Bronzeville. <a>In</a>&nbsp;the seminal book <em><a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/B/bo3638645.html" target="_blank">Black Metropolis: </a><a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/B/bo3638645.html">A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City</a></em>&nbsp;authors St. Clair Drake and Horace Cayton found that, in 1938, Bronzeville blacks owned and operated 2,600 businesses while whites had 2,800.</p><p>And, there&rsquo;s more. The area&rsquo;s black businesses were smaller and older than their white counterparts, and they only received less than a tenth of all the money spent by black consumers within the area.</p><p>Business cycles, too, were unkind. Reed says from the 1920s on, blacks did own businesses on 35th Street, but these operations &ldquo;were hurt tremendously by the Great Depression that started in 1930.&rdquo;</p><p>Even after the worst of the Depression passed, segregation had put the black business community on unsure footing, as black owners couldn&rsquo;t compete with whites when it came to securing capital. Steven Rogers, who teaches black entrepreneurship at Harvard University, says there&rsquo;s always been a dearth of support by mainstream financial institutions.</p><p>&ldquo;In the 1940s when we saw blacks in the business world, the only support that black-owned businesses had was through guerrilla financing, that&rsquo;s self-financing, or family,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We didn&rsquo;t see that institutional support that we saw with white-owned companies. And the reality is when that happens, when that&rsquo;s in existence, you won&rsquo;t see the prosperous businesses as we see in the white communities.&rdquo;</p><p>And that left black businesses of the past last century much more vulnerable.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Spread far and wide</span></p><p>There are no data that show clear pre- and post-1948 numbers of black-owned businesses, but it&rsquo;s clear that blacks began to disperse in the 1950s because of the lifting of covenants. At the same time &ldquo;urban renewal&rdquo; (often derided as &ldquo;Negro removal&rdquo;) was underway.</p><p>&ldquo;The expansion of Lake Meadows, Prairie Shores, Michael Reese Hospital, Mercy Hospital and the Illinois Institute of Technology led to the displacement of thousands of black families from State Street east over to the Lake from 26th Street south to about 35th,&rdquo; says Reed. &ldquo;This was a devastating blow to black demographic unity and it affected businesses operations adversely on 35th Street.&rdquo;</p><p>The bottom line, Reed says, is that &ldquo;the customers had moved away.&rdquo;</p><p>The erosion of a concentrated customer base plays into changes that took place in Scott&rsquo;s Blue <a>Book</a>, a black business directory that contained an array of listings &mdash; everything from sausage-makers to dentists. As desegregation continued, the tone of the books shifted from unabashedly pro-black to more race-neutral in the 1960s.<a name="presentation"></a></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://wbez.is/1LRR1t5" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Blue%20Book%20Comparison%20presentation%20THUMB.png" style="width: 100%;" title="" /></a></div><p>And there was another transformation, one that gets to Clare&rsquo;s observation about Bronzeville&rsquo;s present-day businesses not being black-owned.</p><p>&ldquo;What happened to the businesses happened to a lot of businesses in America, once the economy was transformed by the global economy&rsquo;s dominance,&rdquo; Reed says.</p><p>35th Street faced competitive trends similar to those faced by other commercial strips in Chicago, to the point where, today, 35th Street includes multinational companies: McDonald&rsquo;s, Chase Bank, Subway and Popeye&rsquo;s, to name a few. (<a href="http://popeyes.com/franchise/international/areas-available.php" target="_blank">Yes, Popeye&rsquo;s is international!</a>)</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Survivors of segregation and then integration, too</span></p><p>The Depression, a global economy and urban renewal played their roles in undercutting or dispersing Bronzeville&rsquo;s black-owned businesses. As we&rsquo;re answering Clare&rsquo;s question about what happened to them, it&rsquo;s fair to point a brighter side: Some of these businesses stayed put.</p><p>Among the survivors are black-owned Seaway Bank and <a href="http://www.isfbank.com/">Illinois Service Federal</a>, a savings and loan that&rsquo;s been around since 1934. The latter issued home loans when commercial banks shunned black customers.</p><p>Illinois Service Federal chairman Norman Williams also happens to be president of <a href="http://www.unityfuneralparlors.com/" target="_blank">Unity Funeral Parlors</a>, a black-owned South Side business that started in 1937.</p><p>&ldquo;My father came to Chicago as an insurance executive,&rdquo; Williams says. &ldquo;This was an entrepreneurial idea that came to him that he hoped his family would be able to continue.&rdquo;</p><p>Williams&rsquo; father turned out to be right. For decades, few white funeral homes served blacks, and many of the funeral homes survived a more integrated era.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Continuing legacy</span></p><p>Black businesses are no longer clustered in an area like the Black Belt, but that doesn&rsquo;t mean they don&rsquo;t exist. The basic pattern was that black businesses moved into the neighborhoods that black people moved into.</p><p>&ldquo;Black Chicago has always been recognized as the crown jewel of black-owned businesses throughout the country,&rdquo; says Harvard&rsquo;s Steven Rogers. &ldquo;The black business community in Chicago is responsible for some historic events in our country.&rdquo;</p><p>Historic events like &hellip; helping finance the elections of the city&rsquo;s first black mayor and the country&rsquo;s first black president.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">More about our questioner</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/preferredheadshot3.png" style="float: right; height: 322px; width: 290px; margin: 5px;" title="(Photo courtesy of Clare Butterfield)" />Clare Butterfield grew up in Central Illinois but has been in Chicago for 30 years, having lived on the North, West and South sides.</p><p>She&rsquo;s called Bronzeville home for the past 10 years, and, following our reporting, appreciates a reminder that urban renewal programs deeply affected her neighborhood.</p><p>&ldquo;I&#39;ve seen the memorial marker on State Street north of 35th that mentions that IIT displaced a row of black businesses there,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Some of the businesses got swept out along with the housing, and that should have been more obvious to me.&rdquo;</p><p>Clare is just one of many questioners who&rsquo;ve asked about some of the least comfortable parts of Chicago history.</p><p>&ldquo;It&#39;s hard for white people to ask these questions,&rdquo; she says, &ldquo;partly because we don&#39;t want to be interpreted as critical, when we mean to be sympathetic (however imperfectly), and partly because we&#39;re probably not going to like what we learn: more examples of injustice and the use of power by people like us, first to force people into a neighborhood and then to force them out of it.&rdquo;</p><p>The only way out, she says, is affirm that these things happened and, when we can, show, too, how &ldquo;some entrepreneurs persisted and thrived in spite of everything they had to navigate.&rdquo;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author">Natalie Moore</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side Bureau reporter. <a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a>.&nbsp;Follow Natalie on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me">Google+</a>, &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 30 Jul 2015 15:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/black-business-slow-flight-bronzeville-112524 Star light? Too Bright! http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/star-light-too-bright-112452 <p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s celestial landscape is bright and beautiful, but it&rsquo;s virtually invisible because it&rsquo;s obscured behind the orange glow that emerges from the city&rsquo;s streetlights and buildings each night. This obscured sky has hundreds of thousands of stars, dotted with bright travelling planets, crisscrossed by satellites and burning meteors. To see that sky, you need a dark sky, and in Chicago &mdash; <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/art-and-science-behind-glow-chicagos-skyline-111928" target="_blank">a city of stage-lit skyscrapers, sprawl and sodium streetlights</a> &mdash; it just doesn&rsquo;t get dark enough to see more than a handful of the brightest stars and planets.</p><p>According to Larry Ciupik, an astronomer at <a href="http://www.adlerplanetarium.org/" target="_blank">Adler Planetarium</a>, Chicago is one of the most light-polluted cities in the world. One of the many potential consequences of that is clear, he says:</p><p>As the night sky fills up with more artificial light from increasing development and glare from unshielded streetlights, more people are forgetting what darkness even looks like. Or, worse, they never experience it at all.</p><p>&ldquo;I think we gradually become used to not seeing the sky,&rdquo; Ciupik says. &ldquo;But it&rsquo;s a whole kind of primal feeling when you see a very dark sky. A black sky with thousands of stars &hellip; you can&rsquo;t duplicate [that] even inside of a planetarium. Artificial doesn&rsquo;t compare to reality.&rdquo;</p><p>That reality hit our questioner, Paula de los Angeles, between the eyes when she moved to Chicago a few years ago. Having grown up in a small town in Connecticut, she missed seeing the stars when she looked up at Chicago&rsquo;s night sky. And she asked for help finding them:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>What are the best spots in Chicago or the suburbs to stargaze?</em></p><p>To Paula, moving to Chicago not only meant she had to give up seeing stars, but also the feeling that goes along with it: She misses the part of herself that had been filled with wonder just by looking up at night.</p><p>&ldquo;You kind of have to pick when you&rsquo;re in Chicago what kind of experience you want,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s too bad we can&rsquo;t see the night sky and also be around technology and a lot of lights, too.&rdquo;</p><p>We asked astronomers and stargazers to tell us where Chicago&rsquo;s good stargazing spots are. They all told us the same thing: nowhere. Not in the city or in Chicago&rsquo;s near suburbs. But, some spots are better than others, and you&rsquo;re better off getting as far from the city as possible. Adler astronomers and members of the <a href="http://www.gadboisproductions.com/cas/" target="_blank">Chicago Astronomical Society</a> promised visiting a few of their favorites is worth your time. (Assuming there are no clouds, of course!) We&rsquo;ve listed their suggestions below, from least-worst to OK. Consider the list your invitation to catch a bustling display of stars, constellations, meteors, and galaxies you&rsquo;re denied each evening!</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://blue-marble.de/nightlights/2012" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chicagoglow1_0.png" style="height: 336px; width: 620px;" title="Night-lights imagery by NASA's Earth Observatory shows Chicago's light pollution at night. Click to explore the map." /></a></div><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">Before you leave</span></p><p>Bad timing can break a stargazing trip, so plan for both cloudless, moonless nights. Consult <a href="http://cleardarksky.com/c/Chicagokey.html" target="_blank">this handy clear skies chart</a> for 3-day forecasts. Bring plenty of warm layers, a seat cushion or foam mat, water and snacks. Also, consider loading your phone with a neat stargazing app. (Options: Google Play store: <a href="http://wbez.is/1LrJcvo" target="_blank">http://wbez.is/1LrJcvo</a>)</p><p>*Note: Our recommended stargazing spots fall on the <a href="https://grok.lsu.edu/Article.aspx?articleId=12612" target="_blank">Bortle Scale, which measures a sky&rsquo;s darkness and light pollution</a>. In this scale, a 1 is the darkest theoretical sky, and a 10 would render stars invisible.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">In the city</span></p><p><strong>Where:</strong> Northerly Island</p><p><strong>Why:</strong> It&rsquo;s slightly east of the Loop, and that slightly cuts down the light pollution.</p><p><strong>How:</strong> Point your eyes or telescope east over Lake Michigan. The sky will be a tad darker than it would if you were facing the glow of downtown.</p><p><strong>Bortle Scale:</strong> 8-9</p><p>Other suggestions: Adler Planetarium staff and other volunteers organize stargazing meetups through their &nbsp;<a href="http://www.adlerplanetarium.org/scopes-in-the-city" target="_blank">&lsquo;Scopes in the City program</a>, where you can gaze at Chicago&rsquo;s night sky through telescopes in various places around the city. For indoor stargazing, <a href="http://www.adlerplanetarium.org/news/527t2u2qou5sp2br97mksvkjoddr1y" target="_blank">Adler&rsquo;s Doane observatory</a> has the largest telescope in Chicago. (It&rsquo;s becoming more accessible to the public<a href="http://www.adlerplanetarium.org/news/527t2u2qou5sp2br97mksvkjoddr1y" target="_blank"> as renovations are completed</a>.) The University of Chicago&rsquo;s<a href="http://astro.uchicago.edu/RAS/" target="_blank"> Ryerson Observatory</a> is another option, but call in advance.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The suburbs</span></p><p><strong>Where:</strong> <a href="http://www.openlands.org/openlands-lakeshore-preserve" target="_blank">Openlands Lakeshore Preserve</a>, Highland Park</p><p><strong>Why:</strong> It has few lights! This 77-acre nature preserve lies along the Lake Michigan shoreline, 25 miles north of Chicago. It officially closes at sunset, but the Chicago Astronomical Society sometimes gains permission to host stargazing meetups there.</p><p><strong>Bortle Scale:</strong> 6-7</p><p><strong>Where</strong>: The <a href="http://fpdcc.com/nature-centers/little-red-schoolhouse-nature-center/" target="_blank">Little Red School House</a>, Willow Springs</p><p><strong>Bortle Scale: </strong>6-7</p><p><strong>Where:</strong> <a href="http://www.cantigny.org/" target="_blank">Cantigny Park</a>, Wheaton</p><p><strong>Bortle Scale:</strong> 7</p><p>Other options: For indoor stargazing, Northwestern University&rsquo;s<a href="http://ciera.northwestern.edu/observatory.php" target="_blank"> Dearborn Observatory</a> is open to the public on Fridays.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://djlorenz.github.io/astronomy/lp2006/overlay/dark.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/lightpollutionmap_0.PNG" style="height: 359px; width: 620px;" title="Light pollution in the Great Lakes region. Note Chicago's whitewash of light for about 50 miles. Click the map to explore in detail. (Source: P. Cinzano, F. Falchi, University of Padova. C. D. Elvidge, NOAA National Geophysical Data Center, Boulder. Copyright Royal Astronomical Society. Reproduced from the Monthly Notices of the RAS by permission of Blackwell Science.)" /></a></div><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Beyond the suburbs</span></p><p><strong>Where:</strong> Indiana Dunes State Park</p><p><strong>Why:</strong> This park promises some of the metro region&rsquo;s darkest skies; its 21,000 &nbsp;acres of wetlands and dunes are mostly unlit, and the darkness of Lake Michigan lies just north. It&rsquo;s within an hour&rsquo;s drive of Chicago and is accessible by <a href="http://www.nictd.com/" target="_blank">public transportation</a>, too, though a commuter train trip can take twice as long as a car ride. Under the right conditions, many stars are visible and you can clearly see the hazy patch of the Milky Way above the horizon.</p><p><strong>How:</strong> The park is open until 11 p.m. To stay later, consider camping, which is possible year round. The park holds <a href="http://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/files/sp-Dunes_SpecialEvents.pdf" target="_blank">special stargazing events</a>, some of which involve sleep-overs on the beach.</p><p><strong>Bortle Scale: </strong>4-5</p><p><strong>Where:</strong> <a href="http://www.dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/parks/r2/silversp.htm" target="_blank">Silver Springs State Park</a>, Yorkville (about 90 minutes southwest of Chicago)</p><p><strong>Bortle Scale:</strong> 5</p><p><strong>Where: </strong><a href="http://www.mccdistrict.org/rccms/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Coral-Woods-Site-Map-2014.pdf" target="_blank">Coral Woods Conservation Area</a>, Marengo (about 90 minutes northwest of Chicago),</p><p><strong>Bortle Scale:</strong> 4.5-5</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Lake Michigan!</span></p><p><strong>Where: </strong>Ferries start from Milwaukee or Manitowoc, Wisconsin. From Milwaukee, catch a night ride with the <a href="http://www.lake-express.com/" target="_blank">Lake Express</a> that cuts right across Lake Michigan to Muskegon. <a href="http://www.ssbadger.com/" target="_blank">The S.S. Badger</a> departs from Manitowoc.</p><p><strong>Why: </strong>The trips can take approximately 3 &frac12; hours. About halfway through, you&rsquo;ll see the best stargazing in the area! The Milky Way is bright enough to cast shadows onto lighter objects. Some stars appear red or yellow, others blue, while others are white.</p><p><strong>How:</strong> Head to the top deck about 90 minutes into the voyage. The ferries move quickly, so be warned that the pinnacle of darkness doesn&rsquo;t last long. Bring layers because it gets windy!</p><p><strong>Bortle Scale: </strong>2-3.</p><p><em><strong>Can we suggest a sailboat?</strong></em></p><p><em>If you have a boat (or have a friend with one), you&rsquo;ll be surprised to find how many stars you can see even just 10 miles due east of the city and northern suburbs. While looking back at the view of Chicago&rsquo;s skyline could be tempting, give yourself about 15-20 minutes to gaze out into the darkness to adjust your eyes, too. Here&rsquo;s a look at our own trip, and be sure to listen to our audio story which takes place on board!</em></p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="560" id="iframe" scrolling="no" src="//flickrit.com/slideshowholder.php?height=550&amp;width=620&amp;size=medium&amp;speed=stop&amp;setId=72157656147604916&amp;caption=on&amp;credit=2&amp;theme=1&amp;thumbnails=0&amp;transition=0&amp;layoutType=fixed&amp;sort=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p><em><a href="https://twitter.com/loganjaffe" target="_blank">Logan Jaffe</a> is Curious City&#39;s multimedia producer and Jesse Dukes is Curious City&#39;s audio producer.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Wed, 22 Jul 2015 16:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/star-light-too-bright-112452 Here's Harold! (the robot edition) http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/heres-harold-robot-edition-112398 <p><p>A lot of folks who submit questions to Curious City take the call quite literally: What do you want to know about Chicago, the region or the people who live there? Questioner Jon Quinn put his own twist by submitting our first (and only) question about a <em>robot </em>&mdash; not just any robot, but the talking, animatronic likeness of former mayor Harold Washington that sits in a corner of the <a href="http://www.dusablemuseum.org/exhibits/details/a-slow-walk-to-greatness-the-harold-washington-story/" target="_blank">DuSable Museum of African American History</a>.</p><p>Jon had caught the robot&rsquo;s act and &mdash; like thousands of patrons before him &mdash; had learned that Harold Washington was a big deal: He&rsquo;d been a state representative and senator in Illinois, then a U.S. congressman, and Chicago&rsquo;s first black mayor. First elected as mayor in 1983, Washington won a second term with the help of multi-racial political coalitions that survived well beyond his death in 1987.</p><p>Jon was intrigued by the man, but his mind was fixed on the animatronic likeness:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>What&#39;s that robot&#39;s story?</em></p><p>His question&rsquo;s informed by his observation that the robot is &ldquo;creepy,&rdquo; and it reminds him of an animatronic likenesses you can find at Chuck E. Cheese pizza restaurants or trips to Disney World&rsquo;s <a href="https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4130/5022492880_06ed142a4f_z.jpg" target="_blank">Hall of Presidents</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;I loved the Hall of Presidents but, um, it was terrifying,&rdquo; Jon says. (He knows a thing or two about Disney World, having grown up in Central Florida.)</p><p>To answer Jon&rsquo;s question, we put together the robot&rsquo;s origin story. Along the way, though, we couldn&rsquo;t help but ask: Is this a good way to portray the former mayor?</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Born from the mind of an ideas man</span></p><p>When Charles Bethea was appointed curator of the DuSable in 2002, the museum was looking to create a permanent exhibit about Harold Washington within a wing that had been dedicated to him back in 1993. Bethea was charged with bringing more oomph to the museum and keeping school-aged visitors interested. Any depiction of Washington himself would have to be new and life-like. Also, it should keep up with new technology.</p><p>&ldquo;With Harold Washington being this over-the-top, larger-than-life figure, we wanted to honor him in a specific way,&rdquo; says Bethea, adding that a museum should be considered a non-traditional classroom. &ldquo;You have to strike a balance between education and entertainment, especially with history museums.&rdquo;</p><p>Bethea and his team spent four years cycling through options, dispensing with staid life-sized statues made of bronze or others covered in resin. Eventually, someone mentioned that animatronic technology was dropping in price, with costs ranging between $10,000 and $30,000, depending on how large a figure&rsquo;s range of movement needs to be.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;It was like, we could literally put him at his desk, we could literally bring video and audio into the presentation to make it that much more interactive,&rdquo; Bethea says. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s where the excitement came because it was like, &lsquo;What? We can actually get this!&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Translating Harold the man into Harold the robot</span></p><p>The DuSable team hired <a href="http://www.lifeformations.com/" target="_blank">Life Formations</a>, an Ohio-based factory of the life-like that&rsquo;s created everything from Abe Lincoln to a drum-playing gorilla. Bethea says the most expensive (and difficult) part of the partnership was the &ldquo;human sculpting,&rdquo; or coming up with a just-right Harold. Bethea gathered photos, interviews, and even an iconic <em>Playboy</em> magazine profile article to help Life Formations recreate Washington&rsquo;s likeness.</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/harold%20washington%20playboy.jpg" style="height: 320px; width: 320px; float: right;" title="Harold Washington posing in Playboy Magazine, which is one image Life Formations used to replicate the former mayor. " /></div><p>Translating that material fell to a team that included designer and project manager Travis Gillum.</p><p>&ldquo;They gave us quite a bit of video footage that we tried to work from,&rdquo; Gillum says, adding that Washington smiled quite a bit. &ldquo;If [an animatronic has] to speak sternly as part of their character in final form, that becomes a little bit weird if they have a smile on their face.&rdquo; Gillum says historic figures such as Washington and Abraham Lincoln typically require special care.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s a tough line to walk, especially with the humans,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Obviously if you&rsquo;re not very realistic with the human, it can be somewhat disappointing and sometimes creepy. But at the same token, if it&rsquo;s ultra-realistic, that can be really creepy to people.&rdquo;</p><p>Gillum&rsquo;s nodding to the concept of the uncanny valley, coined in the 1970s by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masahiro_Mori">robotics professor Masahiro Mori</a>. Even with that idea firmly in mind, Life Formations aimed to make Washington look realistic.</p><p>Bethea invited Washington&rsquo;s family to review the robot&rsquo;s development. Bethea says there was some back-and-forth, mostly around big-ticket items. For instance, some family members felt the early bust of Harold&rsquo;s head (still pigmentless and hairless at that point) actually looked like &ldquo;their Harold,&rdquo; but the museum gave the robot several hairdos because the curl pattern wasn&rsquo;t quite right and the grays weren&rsquo;t scattered accurately.</p><p>Another consideration: Washington died at age 65, but which time in Harold&rsquo;s life should the robot depict? Washington&rsquo;s hair greyed as he served as mayor, but he had also gained dozens of pounds during his terms. The family felt that the final body of the &lsquo;bot was too slim. Washington had weighed 284 lbs at his death, but Bethea says he took &ldquo;artistic license&rdquo; by representing a healthier Washington that looked closer to age 58.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="377" mozallowfullscreen="true" scrolling="no" src="https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/14he2NjpKaf192vxiGf6zrIQXrRCuAizRRGk9ybEcLwU/embed?start=false&amp;loop=false&amp;delayms=3000" webkitallowfullscreen="true" width="620"></iframe></p><p>At the touch of a button, the Harold Washington robot gives three presentations, one each about Washington&rsquo;s mayoral campaign, his struggle to push a legislative agenda during <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/342.html" target="_blank">Chicago&rsquo;s Council Wars</a>, and his funeral and legacy. (A kicker: He invites patrons to check out <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-home-fit-wild-parrots-108565" target="_blank">Chicago&rsquo;s population of green parrots</a> &mdash; a fixture of the South Side&rsquo;s Washington Park.)</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Did they get it right?</span></p><p>Bethea&rsquo;s a fan of the DuSable Museum&rsquo;s Harold Washington likeness (he calls it &ldquo;his baby&rdquo;), but not everyone is sold on how the robot turned out. Jacky Grimshaw, Vice President of Policy at the <a href="http://www.cnt.org/" target="_blank">Center for Neighborhood Technology</a>, and one of Washington&rsquo;s former advisors, says the Harold &lsquo;bot is okay for people who didn&rsquo;t know him, but it doesn&rsquo;t dig below the surface.<a name="video"></a></p><p>&ldquo;For me, it doesn&rsquo;t really get at who Harold was,&rdquo; she says.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/eibf4JJN4fQ?rel=0&amp;showinfo=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p>A young Grimshaw first knew Washington from Corpus Christi Church, where she saw the future mayor hobnob with Chicago aldermen and other politicians. While she was graduating college, Grimshaw&rsquo;s mother was involved in Washington&rsquo;s campaign for Illinois senator. It wasn&rsquo;t long before her mother set her up with a gig as a staffer. Later, she served in Washington&rsquo;s own mayoral administration, where she formed housing policy.</p><p>Grimshaw believes DuSable visitors don&rsquo;t sense Harold Washington as a person; it&rsquo;s not that a patron should know Washington preferred eggs or oatmeal for breakfast, but to understand him, she says, they need a heftier dose of his personality. He moved people, she says. Seeing him in action was like a 1983 edition of Obama&rsquo;s &ldquo;Yes We Can&rdquo; campaign.</p><p>&ldquo;He was such a magnetic person that you would know he was there,&rdquo; she says, adding that that was the case in small venues or in rooms of more than a hundred. &ldquo;That exhibit doesn&rsquo;t even begin to relay that kind of personality, that kind of magnetism, that interaction with people which I believe ... was nourishing to him.&rdquo;</p><p>For museum curator Bethea, the proof of the robot&rsquo;s effectiveness is its impact.</p><p>&ldquo;You gravitate towards it and it pulls you in, then you really start to think about that person&rsquo;s life; legacy and where they fit history and how hopefully you relate,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Interestingly, that&rsquo;s exactly what happened for Jon Quinn, our questioner. After his encounter with the robot, he spent two months diving deep into Harold, his history and his legacy: He sought out This American Life&rsquo;s two part special on Washington&rsquo;s legacy, read the biography Fire on the Prairie, and he closely watched Chuy Garcia&rsquo;s 2015 mayoral campaign. Garcia campaigned for Washington and considered him a mentor. Garcia lost the 2015 race for mayor to incumbent Rahm Emanuel.</p><p>Quinn even thinks it should be a requirement that Chicagoans venture to the DuSable Museum.</p><p>&ldquo;As strange and odd as that [animatronic] was, it was a really important afternoon for me in this weird way because it got me thinking a lot about this person and his legacy and what things from his mayoralty are still with us,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It went from this moment of eerie, uncanny valley creepiness to this fascinating exploration of the city&rsquo;s recent history and politics.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Q%20ASKER%20JON%20QUINN%20PHOTO%20TOO.jpg" style="float: left; height: 347px; width: 260px;" title="" /><span style="font-size:22px;">More about our questioner</span></p><p>Jon Quinn, a philanthropic advisor who lives in Chicago&rsquo;s Logan Square neighborhood, grew up in Central Florida and went to Disney World &mdash; a lot. He geeks out about presidential history and political firsts, so when his first stopover at the DuSable Museum of African American History was underscored with an air-compressed politician, he was creeped out.</p><p>&quot;But then the amazing thing was, I got over that, and was deeply engaged,&rdquo; he says. Quinn and his friends were also thrust into <a href="https://curiouscity.wbez.org/" target="_blank">let&rsquo;s-ask-Curious City-land </a>with a ton of questions in mind.</p><p>Among them: whether contemporary politicians could find some inspiration.</p><p>&ldquo;The Harold Washington exhibit was probably my favorite place in the museum, in part because we just finished an election where a lot of commentary talked about whether or not Garcia could recreate the Harold Washington coalition,&rdquo; says Jon.</p><p>Jon was also troubled that in all his nine (non-consecutive) years living in Chicago he had never been to the DuSable Museum.</p><p>&ldquo;I even went to college at the U of C, right around the corner,&rdquo; he says. Transformed by his afternoon there, he now believes it should be a requirement that all Chicagoans visit the DuSable and all of the other history institutions the city has to offer.</p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 15 Jul 2015 17:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/heres-harold-robot-edition-112398 Just another bull shark story http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/just-another-bull-shark-story-112347 <p><p>It&rsquo;s the kind of &ldquo;fact&rdquo; that makes you blink and wonder if you read it correctly. The Global Shark Attack File, a listing of every documented shark attack in recent history, compiled by the non-profit Shark Research Institute, <a href="http://www.sharkattackdata.com/gsaf/attack/united_states_of_america/illinois/1955.00.00.c" target="_blank">lists a shark attack in Lake Michigan in 1955</a>. The details are thin. The name of the victim: George Lawson. The species: bull shark. Lawson was bitten on the right leg. The bite was unprovoked and non-fatal.</p><p>It sounds impossible, right? Sharks live in the oceans, and while you sometimes hear of them in brackish rivers, Lake Michigan is nearly 2,000 navigational miles from the nearest ocean. The story persists in various <a href="http://news.travel.aol.com/2010/09/22/chicago-mythbusters/" target="_blank">mythbusting columns</a>, and while most experts think the story is probably an urban legend, Chicagoans keep bringing it up. Curious City got two very similar questions, one from Adam Kovac of Chicago, and another from Hilary Winiarz of Hawthorn Woods. Winarz&rsquo;s wording summons the frustration of many Chicagoans about the ongoing lack of a satisfying answer.</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>Can we please get a final ruling on whether or not one young George Lawson was actually attacked by a shark, in Lake Michigan in 1955?</em></p><p>We&rsquo;d love to help Hillary, Adam, and the unsatisfied masses. The problem is, there&rsquo;s very little evidence either way. And it can be very difficult to prove that something did NOT happen. Nevertheless, we took a three-pronged approach to answering this question.</p><p>Approach 1: Find a witness or participant in the event itself.</p><p>Approach 2: Locate the original source of the story, and evaluate its reliability.</p><p>Approach 3: Examine the scientific plausibility of a mature bull shark entering Lake Michigan, surviving long enough to attack a person in 1955.</p><p>Following this trajectory, we found a few clues about the origins of the story, and learned that a shark in Lake Michigan may not be as implausible as you would think.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Approach 1: Can I get a witness?</span></p><p>The Shark Research Institute sent us the names of the two people involved in the Lake Michigan shark attack; the victim, a boy named George Lawson, and the rescuer, John Adler. We searched public records for those names (including spelling variations) in the Chicago area, and found two George Lawsons and two John Adlers who could have been the right age in 1955; the Lawsons would have been under 16 and the Adlers over 18. We called the listed phone numbers. One phone line was disconnected, and we left messages on the other three. We heard from one respondent that he was NOT the John Adler we were looking for. Nobody else returned our calls. It seems clear that if a remaining John Adler or George Lawson were involved in a shark attack, they were not interested in discussing it with Curious City. Nor does it appear that any George Lawson or John Adler has ever given an interview about the shark attack.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Approach 2: Where did this bull shark story come from anyway?</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/man eating sharks book.jpg" style="float: right; height: 328px; width: 250px;" title="The book Man-Eating sharks, which we purchased for exactly 1 cent. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe) " />The Global Shark Attack database actually does list a source as &ldquo;F. Dennis P &nbsp;52&rdquo;. After a little sleuthing, we found a <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Man-Eating-Sharks-Terrifying-Compilati/dp/0706405544/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1436195032&amp;sr=8-3&amp;keywords=man-eating+sharks" target="_blank">picture book</a> published in 1975 called Man-Eating Sharks: a Terrifying Compilation of Shark-Attacks, Shark-facts and Shark-Legend! &ldquo;F. Dennis&rdquo; refers to <a href="http://www.felixdennis.com/" target="_blank">Felix Dennis,</a> who, as it turns out, is a famous and eccentric book and magazine publisher in the UK. He is known for founding several successful magazines including Maxim, Blender, PC World, and several others.</p><p>Unfortunately, he died of cancer in 2014, but his estate kindly put Curious City in touch with one of the authors of Man-Eating Sharks, Christopher Rowley, now based in upstate New York. Rowley remembers the book quite clearly: &ldquo;Felix wanted to carve out a chunk of the enormous money flowing due to the Jaws phenomenon in 1975.&rdquo;, he says.</p><p>Of course, he means Steven Spielberg&rsquo;s mega-hit film, which sparked tremendous fascination and fear of sharks. In the midst of the Jaws craze, Dennis hired Rowley and two other writers to find out everything they could about sharks. &ldquo;When Felix wanted something like that, it was like crash diving,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;Klaxons are roaring, go out and buy everything you can. It was all about being nimble and quick in those days.&rdquo;</p><p>Rowley spent five weeks at the library, reading about sharks, compiling information, and writing passages of the book. He doesn&rsquo;t remember where the story of the Lake Michigan shark attack comes from, but definitely recalls reading about bull sharks. He admits they may have made up some of the details &mdash; fast and loose fact-finding didn&rsquo;t begin with the internet age &mdash; but doesn&rsquo;t think they made up that particular story. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s too much little detail there,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;On the other hand, I can&rsquo;t remember how much invention went into it, and how much we found in the libraries.&rdquo;</p><p>So if you believe Rowley, it suggests there may be another mysterious source of the Lake Michigan shark attack, possibly in another newspaper or magazine somewhere. If so, nobody involved with Man-Eating Sharks remembers what it was. Or, it&rsquo;s possible Rowley or one of his collaborators just made up the story out of whole cloth, possibly after reading of the bull shark&rsquo;s notorious habit of swimming up freshwater rivers. Which brings us to our next approach ...</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Approach 3: So you&rsquo;re saying there&rsquo;s a chance?</span></p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/bullsharkillustration.png" style="height: 421px; width: 620px;" title="While most shark species can only survive in saltwater, bull sharks have the unusual ability to survive in freshwater, too. (Illustration from the book Man-Eating Sharks)" /></p><p>Scientists enjoy a good hypothetical situation, and several we spoke with indulged us by entertaining the possibility of a shark entering and surviving in Lake Michigan. Phil Willink, the Senior Research Scientist at the Shedd Aquarium, says the bull shark &mdash; the kind of shark named in the Global Shark Attack File &mdash; is notorious &nbsp;for entering freshwater: &ldquo;It is able to control the salt and other compounds in its blood, to maintain a balance with the water that&rsquo;s around it, and is able to move back and forth between freshwater and saltwater. So, yes, bull sharks can swim into freshwater and we think they can stay there for several years possibly.&rdquo;</p><p>Furthermore, Willink says bull sharks have been documented as far as 2,000 miles upstream in the Amazon River, a few hundred miles farther than the distance between Lake Michigan and the nearest saltwater. So it is theoretically possible for a bull shark to swim to Lake Michigan, if it could find a viable route.</p><p>One path a shark could take to Lake Michigan is the St. Lawrence seaway, entering the St. Lawrence River north of New Brunswick, Canada, and swimming through Lake Ontario, The Wellend Canal near Niagara Falls, Lake Erie, Lake Huron, and finally into Lake Michigan. Scientists agree this is probably impossible because of the great distance, the navigational obstacles, and most importantly, because the water of the Gulf of St. Lawrence &nbsp;at the entrance to the Seaway is far too cold for bull sharks. Their <a href="http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/gallery/descript/bullshark/bullshark.htm" target="_blank">northernmost range is Massachussets</a>, seven hundred miles to the south.</p><p>The more likely route, according to scientists, would be via the Mississippi River and Illinois River and Canal System. There are few obstacles to prevent a bull shark from reaching the Illinois River, and in fact, bull sharks have been occasionally spotted near St. Louis. But if you&#39;re curious what all it would take for a shark to get from the Mississippi River Delta to Lake Michigan in the first place,<a href="http://s3.amazonaws.com/uploads.knightlab.com/storymapjs/5f15087581297692d20d2c039b06eb5d/the-more-likely-but-still-unlikely-journey-of-the-shark-that-might-have-attacked-george-lawson-in-lake-michigan-in-1955/index.html" target="_blank"> we&#39;ve put together the details:</a></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://s3.amazonaws.com/uploads.knightlab.com/storymapjs/5f15087581297692d20d2c039b06eb5d/the-more-likely-but-still-unlikely-journey-of-the-shark-that-might-have-attacked-george-lawson-in-lake-michigan-in-1955/index.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/the%20most%20unlikely%20png.PNG" style="height: 483px; width: 620px;" title="" /></a></div><p>If the shark did somehow manage to get through all eight locks and gates, it would face another immediate problem:The water is too cold. Bull sharks prefer water <a href="http://oceanofk.org/tag/Tagmigrate/ddisttemp.html" target="_blank">warmer than seventy degrees fahrenheit</a>, and Lake Michigan&rsquo;s water is <a href="http://coastwatch.glerl.noaa.gov/statistic/avg-sst.php?lk=m&amp;yr=0" target="_blank">only that warm during a few weeks each year</a>. That means the bull shark would have to accomplish all of this in a very short period of time, or, as Kevin Irons points out, find one of the places warm water is discharged into the lake by power plants. Neither Irons nor the Shedd Aquarium&#39;s <a href="http://www.sheddaquarium.org/Conservation--Research/Conservation-Research-Experts/Dr-Phillip-Willink/" target="_blank">Phillip Willink </a>will go so far to say a shark could never make it to Lake Michigan and survive long enough to attack a person, but both consider the odds to be outlandishly high. &nbsp;</p><p>Of course, the shark may have had help. A shark could certainly have been brought to Lake Michigan &nbsp;in a water tank on a truck, an airplane, or helicopter, perhaps in a<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9dghbyBaQyI" target="_blank"> similar scenario</a> to the one faced by Batman in the 1966 film, Batman. We know this kind of thing happens, because at least two dead saltwater sharks have been found in Lake Michigan.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/milwaukee2.png" title="One of the two known hoaxes involving sharks in Lake Michigan. (Source: Chicago Tribune, 1969) " /></div></div><p>One was later revealed as a prank, and scientists think the <a href="http://www.neatorama.com/2008/08/30/shark-found-in-lake-michigan/" target="_blank">other</a> may have been a prank, or possibly a discarded pet. Phillip Willink admits the Shedd aquarium has several sharks swimming in tanks just a few feet from the waters of Lake Michigan, but promises &ldquo;We keep them in the building at all times.&rdquo; Kevin Irons allows a baby shark could arrive in a cargo ship&rsquo;s ballast water tank, but it would most likely die in the lake. It would need to survive several years, living through the frigid winters, avoiding predation, until it was large enough to attack a child. Again, all of this is exceedingly unlikely.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">The um, shark&rsquo;s tooth in the coffin?</span></p><p>If you&rsquo;ve been anywhere near a television or national newspaper in the last few weeks, you have seen reports of shark attacks in the Carolinas. Shark attacks make the news. Editors and reporters know there&rsquo;s something fascinating and horrific about toothed death emerging from tranquil waters in a vacation spot to ruin somebody&rsquo;s week. If a shark did attack somebody in Chicago, you would expect to see it in the Chicago newspapers. You would expect anniversary stories, stories pegged to &ldquo;Shark Week&rdquo;, and &ldquo;where are they now?&rdquo; stories about Lawson and Adler. We have access to digital, searchable archives for both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Defender and neither paper carried a shark attack story. This, more than any other piece of evidence, really makes the case that the bull shark story is an urban legend</p><p>And one further point. Often, urban legends have their grounding in some true but prosaic story. Over time the details are exaggerated and enhanced into an enduring fiction. But there appears to be absolutely nothing CLOSE to the 1955 shark attack in any records. Until 1975. There are references to Lawson in the Tribune&rsquo;s &ldquo;Action Line&rdquo; column, and the earliest one: October 1975, and it references a magazine called <a href="http://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/killer-sharks-jaws-death-vol-jaws-408438933" target="_blank">Killer Sharks: The Jaws of Death</a>, also published in 1975, the same year as Felix Dennis&rsquo; Man-Eating Sharks. All three verifiable references of George Lawson occur in 1975, the year of Jaws, and a year characterized by intense shark interest world wide. This cluster of references suggests a likely scenario: Somebody, possibly one of Felix Dennis&rsquo; authors, possibly the Jaws of Death publishers, possibly the publishers of another mysterious book or magazine designed to capitalize on the Jaws phenomenon; somebody just made the whole thing up to sell magazines and make a quick buck. If that fabricator would only come forward, it would save our questioners, and the city of Chicago, a great deal of frustration.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/jesse%20and%20question%20asker.jpg" style="float: left; height: 180px; width: 320px;" title="Producer Jesse Dukes, left, and questioner Hilary Winiarz. " /><span style="font-size:24px;">Our questioners</span></p><p>Adam Kovac asked his version of the question back in 2012, in the early days of the Curious City project. He was surprised and pleased when he heard we were finally tackling his question, three years (and several swimming seasons) later. We were unable to talk to him due to scheduling difficulties. Hilary Winiarz&#39;s day job is as a writer in corporate communication and a mother of a ten year old boy, Matty, who also likes sharks. In what spare time she can scrape up, she writes fiction. Perhaps, it&rsquo;s the romance novelist in her that makes her say she wants the shark story to be true: &ldquo;I would, actually. I mean he lived, so it&rsquo;s not terribly tragic.&rdquo; Still unsatisfied, she mentioned the possibility of going through hospital records to find a patient named George Lawson in 1955. &nbsp;When we suggested that may prove a wild goose chase, she wasn&rsquo;t sure: &ldquo;The jury is still out on the goose chasey-ness of this of this, but it&rsquo;s enough potential for a goose chase to say I might be spinning my wheels.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Jesse Dukes is Curious City&rsquo;s audio producer, and he knows a<a href="http://www.vqronline.org/essay/lions-deep" target="_blank"> thing</a> or two about sharks. Thanks to Emily Charnock for sharkival assistance.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 08 Jul 2015 16:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/just-another-bull-shark-story-112347 What really happens to Chicago's blue cart recycling? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-really-happens-chicagos-blue-cart-recycling-112302 <p><p>Sara Bibik waited years for her blue cart. In February 2014, Chicago finished rolling out the curbside or alleyway recycling containers to every small residential building in the city, fulfilling a promise first made seven years earlier.</p><p>&ldquo;We were one of the last wards to get blue bins, so we had Blue Bags for a long time,&rdquo; says Bibik, referring to <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2008-05-03/news/0805020335_1_blue-bag-program-blue-bags-cart">the city&rsquo;s previous, unsuccessful recycling program</a>. The city&rsquo;s Blue Bag system was notoriously expensive and ineffective, and after 13 years of trying to launch a citywide recycling campaign, Chicago ditched the program.</p><p>Despite the distrust many had for Chicago&rsquo;s blue bags, Bibik and her family had kept using them.</p><p>&ldquo;You felt like it was working. We still did it,&rdquo; she said. She&rsquo;s glad to have a blue cart now, but fears all her work recycling might be for nothing.</p><p>Like many Chicagoans, Bibik, a dance teacher who lives in the Edison Park neighborhood, remains skeptical about her local government&rsquo;s ability to recycle effectively:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>I want to know if our city&rsquo;s blue bin recycling actually gets recycled.</em></p><p>&ldquo;I hope it&#39;s true,&rdquo; says Bibik, 47. &ldquo;I have two kids, 14 and 11. They do love to recycle and they get angry if they see recycling in the garbage. I&#39;ve trained them well.&rdquo;</p><p>But, she asks, is it all going to the landfill anyway? Is recycling all a sham?</p><p>To answer her question we&rsquo;re going to follow the trash from Chicago alleyways all the way through the elaborate sorting facilities where recycled stuff gets prepped for its second act. We&rsquo;ll find out how much of that stuff gets thrown out by the many hands that handle it along the way. And we&rsquo;ll learn how recycling connects average recyclers like Bibik to bauxite miners on the other side of the planet.</p><p>When it comes to recyclables ending up in the landfill, things are a lot less bleak than Bibik secretly suspects &mdash; recycling in Chicago is not a sham &mdash; but there are reasons to wonder if the city underestimates how much of its &ldquo;recycled&rdquo; products actually end up as garbage.</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/thealleywayfinal.png" style="height: 345px; width: 620px;" title="(Flickr/zenia)" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><p>Not everything makes it out of the alleyway. If garbagemen open the lid of a blue recycling bin and see trash, they slap an orange sticker on that cart, flagging it for the next garbage truck. The city then sends a letter to the bin&rsquo;s owner.</p><p>&ldquo;A lot of people put bags in there, you know, The Jewel[-Osco] bags, Glad bags that are not supposed to be in the recycling,&rdquo; says Ken Baran, a worker for Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Streets &amp; Sanitation. Other common recycling mistakes, he says: styrofoam and number six plastic. (<a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/streets/supp_info/recycling1/blue_cart_residentialrecyclingacceptedmaterials.html">DSS posts a guide to accepted recyclables online,</a> and on top of its blue carts.)</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/tolandfillorangesticker.png" style="float: right; height: 188px; width: 200px;" title="About 4.5 percent of blue cart users received an orange sticker from the City in 2014. That means all that potentially recyclable material is sent to a landfill. " /></div><p>&ldquo;We have good parts of city and bad parts of the city,&rdquo; says Baran.</p><p>Baran sees clunkier contaminants, too: soccer balls, garden hoses, yard waste. Workers will sometimes remove any obvious items from the top of a blue cart and dump the rest onto the truck to be recycled. Otherwise, they leave the load with an orange sticker.</p><p>Last year 27,199 households got at least one of those stickers, or about 4.5 percent of blue cart users. About 1 percent of blue cart homes continued to mistakenly (or purposefully) recycle garbage, and ended up with three or more stickers by the end of 2014.</p><p>Chicagoans sent off almost 103,845 tons of stuff into their blue carts last year, and about eight times as much into their black garbage bins. That&rsquo;s an all-time high, and about 90,600 tons more than in 2007, the program&rsquo;s launch year.</p><p>When their truck is full, Baran and his colleagues drive to one of the city&rsquo;s transfer stations, preparing Chicago&rsquo;s trash for its potentially global odyssey.</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/transferstation.png" style="height: 345px; width: 620px;" title="(WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><p>Seagulls cruise over two house-sized mounds of refuse in an empty warehouse. If it&rsquo;s carrying garbage, Baran&rsquo;s truck will dump its contents into a pile on the east side of the room, or in the western pile if it&rsquo;s carrying recycled material. First he&rsquo;ll have his truck weighed.</p><p>This transfer station is at 34th Street &amp; South Lawndale Avenue, next door to the defunct Crawford coal plant. Chicago owns three such facilities, but they are privately operated. Put another way: The transfer stations are where Chicago&rsquo;s recycling becomes someone else&rsquo;s stuff. The city sells its recyclables to two private companies: Waste Management and Resource Management. (Waste Management buys about twice as much as Resource Management.)</p><p>&ldquo;There&#39;s not much that occurs in terms of any sort of processing here &mdash; it&#39;s like materials dumped out on the floor and it&rsquo;s hauled out of here to some other location,&rdquo; says Chris Sauve, recycling director for the city&rsquo;s Department of Streets &amp; Sanitation.</p><p>At this point, almost everything from Chicago&rsquo;s blue bins is still destined for recycling, except for whatever&rsquo;s left in the alley with orange contamination stickers. Almost two-thirds of Chicago&rsquo;s blue cart recycling is paper, however, and if it&rsquo;s soaked with enough rainwater the whole load has to be landfilled. Sauve says this is so rare that they don&rsquo;t keep numbers on it.</p><p>Under five-year contracts that go through 2018, Waste Management and Resource Management agree to buy Chicago&rsquo;s goods at a price that the city adjusts every quarter based on global commodity markets. To account for the costs associated with buying the city&rsquo;s trash, such as hauling and dealing with contamination, Waste Management and Resource Management get to buy at a slight discount, in a sense &mdash; in fact, Resource Management essentially gets paid to take the city&rsquo;s glass.</p><p>Since all the recycling is mixed together in what&rsquo;s called a &ldquo;single-stream&rdquo; program, the city multiplies the quarterly price of each commodity by its proportion in Chicago&rsquo;s waste stream, based on <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/streets/supp_info/zero_waste/2009_chicago_wastecharacterizationstudyandwastediversionstudyres.html">the city&#39;s 2009 waste characterization study</a>. As mentioned, paper and cardboard make up 68 percent of the average ton of blue cart material by weight. Glass is about 11 percent, plastic 4 percent, and metal 3.2 percent.</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/sortingcenter.png" style="height: 345px; width: 620px;" title="(WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></div></div><div><p>After they send trucks to scoop up recyclables from the giant piles at transfer stations, Waste Management and Resource Management send them through an elaborate industrial process to separate out the goods by material.</p><p>I visit one of these sorting facilities, operated by Waste Management, on the far Southeast Side of the city. It&rsquo;s just on the other side of highway from Beaubien Forest Preserve. There I meet Mike Tunney, Waste Management&rsquo;s area director of recycling. Between this and their other Chicago-area facility, Waste Management processes approximately 24,000 tons of recycling every month (only about 5,000 tons comes from the blue cart program).</p><p>About 600 hundred tons of recycled material pile up here each working day, Tunney says &mdash; a fact that&rsquo;s evident from the ceiling-high mountains of trash and heavy truck traffic. To get it ready for its customers, Waste Management sends the mixed-up waste through a labyrinth of conveyor belts, high-tech machines, and actual people who &ldquo;manually recover&rdquo; certain items as they roll by with the rest of the trash.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/tolandfill2.png" style="float: right;" title="Between 18 to 20 percent of material that arrives at Waste Management's sorting facilities is not recyclable. That includes items caked with too much food waste, as well as wet paper and strange items such as garden hoses and basketballs." /></div></div></div><p>&ldquo;In the first step of the process ... we have employees in front of a mechanical screens pulling out these large bulk items so that they don&#39;t get caught in the screens,&rdquo; Tunney says. &ldquo;Swimming pools, tarps, or kids&#39; toys, miscellaneous metals.&rdquo;</p><p>Humans also sift through paper goods on conveyor belts in the facility&rsquo;s &ldquo;fiber sorting room,&rdquo; and perform quality control at several other points. But most of the work is automated. Giant blowers waft paper over a sieve for heavier materials like metal. A row of spinning wheels bounces plastic containers along &mdash; as long as plastic bags and food waste haven&rsquo;t gummed up the gears.</p><p>Sorting through trash is surprisingly high-tech. Several types of electromagnetic filters &mdash; fiber magnets, eddy currents &mdash; recover more valuables. There&rsquo;s even an optical sorter that discerns different types of plastic using a laser.</p><p>But what about the stuff that doesn&rsquo;t make it past this step? Tunney says 18 to 20 percent of what goes into their facility doesn&rsquo;t make it out because they can&rsquo;t recycle it. It&rsquo;s &ldquo;contamination&rdquo; like we see with the orange stickers in the alley. A few examples are laid out on the factory floor: a basketball, a garden hose, even a Listerine bottle full of hypodermic needles. I see dozens of plastic bags stretched and wrapped around gears in a dormant machine &mdash;&nbsp;garbage, and a costly hassle for Waste Management. Paper that&rsquo;s too wet won&rsquo;t make the cut, and neither will anything too caked with food waste. The needles go to biohazard disposal. The rest? It all ends up in a landfill.</p><p><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/streets/supp_info/zero_waste/2009_chicago_wastecharacterizationstudyandwastediversionstudyres.html">The 2009 waste characterization study</a> is also where the city gets its estimate of contamination in the waste stream, or how much of the blue cart material Waste Management and Resource Management will have to eventually throw out because it can&rsquo;t be recycled. According to the city, that number is 13.8 percent, or about 14,330 tons in 2014.</p><p>Resource Management and Waste Management say that number, which was based on 2007 data, is actually much higher now. Greg Maxwell, senior vice president at Resource Management, said it can be as high as 30 percent. Waste Management&rsquo;s Mike Tunney quoted their contamination rate at 18 to 20 percent. If those numbers are correct, the city&rsquo;s Department of Streets &amp; Sanitation could be underestimating the amount of &ldquo;recycled&rdquo; blue cart material that ultimately ends up in a landfill by 4,361 to 16,822 tons.</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/globaljourney.png" style="height: 347px; width: 620px;" title="(WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><p>Where do the bales of bundled recyclables go? All over the world. A lot of paper and plastic goes overseas, often to China. <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304444604577337702024537204">By number of cargo containers, the leading U.S. export to China is scrap</a>. (Actually in recent years <a href="http://www.pri.org/stories/2014-02-18/chinas-green-fence-cleaning-americas-dirty-recycling">China has turned away barges of trash and recycling from the U.S., </a>deeming it too dirty or low-value.)</p><p>Coca-Cola or Anheuser-Busch might buy bales of old aluminum cans to cut the raw material costs of making new cans from scratch. International Paper might buy up recycled paper. Or local companies like Pure Metal Recycling might buy bales of bulk metal, segregate the materials by chemical purity, and sell those new bales to smelters and steel mills.</p><p>Kyle Witter shows me around Pure Metal Recycling&rsquo;s scrap yard in the McKinley Park neighborhood. They sift through all types of metal waste &mdash; curly shavings of aluminum, empty beer cans, I even glimpse a piece of an old CTA bus &mdash; and send it to manufacturers. They say all their steel ends up at steel mills within 200 miles of the city. There, it&rsquo;s melted down and made into everything from steel tubes to components for power tools.</p><p>But only a small portion of this material starts in your blue carts or curbside bins &mdash; less than 2 percent, according to chief administrative officer Dennis Schalliol. Most of what I see is car parts, the innards of thousands of automobiles. By some measures automobile recycling rakes in $22 billion annually.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="377" mozallowfullscreen="true" src="https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/15gZvU91wYz4-UkKpabe598VBBxzlM8PTn1ZsBPEGg8c/embed?start=false&amp;loop=false&amp;delayms=3000" webkitallowfullscreen="true" width="620"></iframe></p><p style="text-align: center;"><em><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><strong>PHOTOS:</strong> The scrapyard at Pure Metal Recycling in Chicago&#39;s McKinley Park neighborhood. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)</span></span></em></p><p>Forklifts stack cubes of compressed aluminum two stories high. Witter points out a row of aluminum 6111 alloy cubes, which Ford will buy to use in its all-aluminum body Ford F-150 pickup trucks.</p><p>I do see daunting mounds of aluminum cans that likely started in the blue carts of people like our question asker Sara Bibik. But according to <a href="http://shanghaiscrap.com/">Adam Minter</a>, who wrote a book about the global recycling trade called <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Junkyard-Planet-Travels-Billion-Dollar-Trash/dp/1608197913">Junkyard Planet</a>, commercial and industrial recycling operations dwarf municipal programs like Chicago&rsquo;s blue cart.</p><p>&ldquo;We all as Americans think of recycling as putting something in the blue bin. But the blue bin only represents somewhere in the range of 5 to 15 percent of what&#39;s recycled in the United States,&rdquo; Minter says. &ldquo;It&#39;s a very very small piece of the pie. And it&#39;s a very expensive piece of the pie.&quot;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Markets squeezed</span></p><p>Someone has to be making money after all this, right?</p><p>&ldquo;With respect to the value of the materials we know that we&#39;re in a commodities business and sometimes that value is up and sometimes the value is down,&rdquo; says Waste Management&rsquo;s Mike Tunney. &ldquo;And we&#39;re hopeful that the markets will return to their five-year averages, but right now it&#39;s a difficult proposition, no question.&rdquo;</p><p>How&rsquo;s the market treating Chris Sauve, the city&rsquo;s recycling director?</p><p>&ldquo;It&#39;s not a money losing operation,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;we&#39;re just not receiving any reimbursement that would help pay enough to offset the cost of the operations.&rdquo;</p><p>That might be par for the course. Like a lot of cities, Chicago got into a low-margin business when commodity prices were up. In 2007, when the city&rsquo;s blue cart program got started, commodities markets were soaring through what&rsquo;s called a &ldquo;supercycle,&rdquo; and arguably into a bubble.</p><p>According to author and journalist Adam Minter that market is cyclical.</p><p>&ldquo;There&#39;s really nothing unusual. It&#39;s just that your municipality, Chicago, has gotten involved in the commodity business, and commodities go up and they go down. You&#39;ve gotta ride it out,&rdquo; Minter says.</p><p>The thing is, recycling is not an easy business &mdash; especially for a municipality compelled to provide it as a public service.</p><p>&ldquo;If you&#39;re starting a business the first thing you think isn&#39;t &lsquo;How much stuff can I make.&rsquo; It&#39;s &lsquo;How much stuff can I sell&rsquo;. In other words you&#39;re thinking about &lsquo;Is there a demand for my product.&rsquo; But the way municipal recycling programs work is they start from the other end. They say &lsquo;We need to collect as much recycling as possible then we&#39;ll figure out where to sell it.&rsquo; Well that&#39;s not a very good business model, you know.&rdquo;</p><p>But it may not be as bad questioner Sara Bibik fears. Remember, she wonders if recycling in Chicago was just a feel-good sham.</p><p>&ldquo;Recycling isn&#39;t a sham. It&#39;s a half-trillion dollar industry globally,&rdquo; says Minter. &ldquo;What you put in your recycling bin is put there so somebody else can consume it. You&#39;re doing an environmental good deed, but you&#39;re also competing directly with, say, a bauxite miner who is pulling bauxite out of the ground to be made into aluminum cans. You&#39;re competing against an iron ore miner or you&#39;re competing against a logger &mdash; you&#39;re part of a commodity business.&rdquo;</p><p>Sara Bibik might not have realized her recycling was feeding into this giant, global trade, or that for the last several years that that business has ebbed and flowed largely with demand from manufacturers in China. But she&rsquo;s just happy to know it&rsquo;s getting recycled at all. Even if at least 20 percent of it is &ldquo;contaminated&rdquo; and ends up in the landfill anyway.</p><p>&ldquo;That&#39;s a lot better than 100 percent. I mean I voted for both Mayor Daley and Mayor Emanuel, but I quite honestly didn&#39;t have confidence that that the contract was really being done on this recycling. Well, that&#39;s great to hear that it&#39;s even you know let&#39;s say worst case scenario it&#39;s 80 percent [recovered]. That&#39;s pretty exciting to me,&rdquo; says Bibik. &ldquo;Hopefully the trash piles are not getting filled as quickly and we&#39;re not building new ones. And that&#39;s also really exciting.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/bibbik.jpg" style="float: left; height: 400px; width: 300px;" title="Questioner Sara Bibik." /><span style="font-size:22px;">Meet the question asker</span></p><p>Sara Bibik grew up in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, but moved to Chicago when she was 18. For the last 15 years she&rsquo;s been raising two kids with her husband, Jeff, in the Edison Park neighborhood. And she&rsquo;s been teaching those kids, 14-year-old Zoe and 11-year-old Jake, how to recycle.</p><p>&ldquo;We just had a party, so there were some soda cans in the trash and the kids are all like, &lsquo;Oh! They should be in the recycling!&rsquo;&rdquo; says Bibik, 47. The family started recycling when the city began offering Blue Bags in 1995 and kept up with it until the program was discontinued in 2008.</p><p>Between the Blue Bag and the <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/streets/supp_info/recycling1/blue_cart_recycling.html">blue cart program</a>s, Bibik even took her recycling to a dropoff center in a nearby forest preserve rather than throw it out.</p><p>&ldquo;It was a little annoying but not terrible,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;You still did it.&rdquo;</p><p>Bibik says she waited years for a blue cart, and now that she has one she wants to know more about what actually happens to all the stuff her family dutifully throws in there.</p><p>She says now she&rsquo;ll make sure the paper in her recycling bin stays dry so less of it gets thrown out as &ldquo;contamination.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&#39;s important for our Earth. I think it&#39;s important that we don&#39;t contaminate the water in the soil and the air with our burning of trash,&rdquo; says Bibik. &ldquo;It seems we&#39;re supposed to be good stewards of this Earth.&rdquo;</p><p><em><a href="http://cabentley.com/">Chris Bentley is a freelance journalist</a> who reports regularly for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City. Follow him at<a href="http://cabentley.com/">cabentley.com</a> and on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/cementley">@Cementley</a>.</em></p></div></div></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 01 Jul 2015 17:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-really-happens-chicagos-blue-cart-recycling-112302 In Chicago, eternal rest ain't so eternal http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-eternal-rest-aint-so-eternal-112210 <p><p>This year, for the first time ever, Americans&rsquo; preference for cremation will surpass their preference for burial, <a href="http://nfda.org/about-funeral-service-/trends-and-statistics.html#CF" target="_blank">according to industry surveys conducted by the National Funeral Directors Association</a>. That means that up until this point, most Americans expected to be buried. And they expected to stay that way. Forever. And they had the graves to prove it. The sheer number of cemeteries and their solid, long-lasting headstones, monuments and mausoleums testify to the strength of a cultural norm: most of us are destined for a final resting place.</p><p>But archaeologist David Keene says Chicago-area cemeteries &mdash; and the human remains within them &mdash; are less permanent than most of us think.</p><p>&ldquo;We put expensive, well-crafted monuments on top of graves that last longer than any of us will,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;So, cemeteries look like they&rsquo;re there forever. But &hellip; they&rsquo;re not.&rdquo;</p><p>It didn&rsquo;t take long for Chicago to move its dead around. Take early settler John Kinzie, for example. He was first buried in the cemetery behind Fort Dearborn, and had been dug up and reburied in <em>two </em>other cemeteries before landing in his <em>final </em>&ldquo;final resting place&rdquo; in Graceland Cemetery in the 1860s. Cemeteries are still prone to relocation, for much of the same reason they always were: Dead people are simply in the way of the living.</p><p>The idea of relocating the dead for the sake of modern demands and development doesn&rsquo;t phase Oak Park native Samantha Kearney, who has a masters degree in urban planning. She&rsquo;s well aware of Chicago&rsquo;s history of cemetery relocation, but wanted to hear about the most notable examples. So, she sent Curious City this question:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>There are thousands of bodies buried in Lincoln Park. How many people realize this and what other neighborhoods have similar histories?</em></p><p>Below, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-eternal-rest-aint-so-eternal-112210#list">we list repurposed cemeteries and cemetery relocation projects</a> that span from the city&rsquo;s early days &mdash; when bodies were obstacles to more park space and a clean water supply &mdash; up until just a few years ago, when bodies were in the way of a new runway at O&rsquo;Hare.</p><p>If you track these funerary shuffles, it&rsquo;s easy to conclude that Keene&rsquo;s right: Final resting places may not be so final. But you also conclude there&rsquo;s a case to be made for better planning when it comes to moving the dead around. So, before we jump into our list, here&rsquo;s something to think about from Melody Carvajal, who manages cemetery relocations for a living.</p><p>&ldquo;This is not a textbook,&rdquo; Carvajal says. &ldquo;There has to be a way of doing it right. You have to sit and talk with the families for hours. &hellip; That&rsquo;s okay. It&rsquo;s okay to hear the emotion.&rdquo;</p><p>Carvajal says she&rsquo;s seen a number of cemetery relocation projects go awry, so she&rsquo;s advocating for some industry standards. Among other recommendations: Relocation project planners should conduct genealogy, research the cemetery&rsquo;s history, and, above all, reach out to surviving family members.</p><p>Carvajal says adopting such standards would allow everyone to evaluate the cemetery relocation process, for which there are currently no set standards. And if Carvajal is right about the increasing inevitability of relocating cemeteries that clash with the plans of modern developers, it&rsquo;s necessary to ask: How do we plan for that?</p><p><a name="list"></a>With that, here&rsquo;s a glimpse of some of Chicago&rsquo;s repurposed or relocated cemeteries &mdash; the famous, the forgotten, and the tucked away.</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/lincoln%20park%20small.png" style="height: 370px; width: 620px;" title="(Source: Google Earth with overlay map of Lincoln Park in 1863, from IJ Bryan's History of Lincoln Park, 1899 " /></div><div><strong><span style="font-size:18px;">Lincoln Park</span></strong></div><div><strong>Formerly:</strong> Chicago City Cemetery</div><div><strong>When:</strong> 1840s-1860s</div><div><strong>Burials:</strong> 35,000</div><div><strong>Remaining:</strong> 10,000 - 12,000</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><p>Lincoln Park is Chicago&rsquo;s poster child of cemetery relocations. Burials in the City Cemetery, which spanned along the lakefront from North Avenue to Wisconsin Street., began in 1843, after the city relocated two smaller cemeteries on the northern and southern ends of town. The city owned the cemetery and it was run by the City Sexton, a public official who maintained the land and managed sales of burial plots.</p><p>By the mid-1850s, things were not going well. Chicago&rsquo;s population (of both the living and the dead) had exploded, and there were accusations that the City Sexton had kind of let the City Cemetery go. Newspapers noted caskets emerging from the sandy ground, and the area reeked of death. Dr. John H. Rauch theorized that the &ldquo;rising miasma&rdquo; exuded by the deceased could become a city-wide health threat. Many people believed him.</p><p>Also, residents started to value green space more than burial space. Prominent Chicagoans routinely petitioned that the cemetery be either improved or removed; one consistent suggestion was to convert the cemetery into a park. The city finally agreed to close the cemetery in the early 1860s and planned to relocate graves to the newly-opened &ldquo;rural&rdquo; cemeteries of Rosehill, Graceland and Oak Woods.</p><p>That work was never fully completed. At its height, about 35,000 people were buried in the City Cemetery.&nbsp;Pamela Bannos, an artist and professor at Northwestern University who&#39;s conducted extensive research on the cemetery in her project, <a href="http://hiddentruths.northwestern.edu/" target="_blank">Hidden Truths</a>,&nbsp;estimates that between 10,000 and 12,000 bodies remained in the park by the time the last cemetery lot exchange costs were recorded in 1886.</p><p>The remaining dead included many of those buried in the city&rsquo;s potter&rsquo;s field, land reserved for the burial of the unknown and indigent. That area also contains thousands of other unidentified victims of cholera and the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.</p><p>In 1869, the Lincoln Park Commissioners took on the job of creating the park and parade grounds the citizenry petitioned for. They ran into corpses as the work progressed and continued to do so for decades to come.&nbsp;To this day, construction in the park (say, for new parking lots)&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/a-conservatory-a-zoo-and-12000-corpses/Content?oid=1109775">raises the prospect of unearthing the dead.</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/dunning%20google%20map%20SMALL.png" style="height: 370px; width: 620px;" title="(Source: Google Earth with overlay of map of human remains findings, courtesy David Keene)" /></div><p><strong><span style="font-size:18px;">Dunning Square Shopping Center, housing development</span></strong></p><p><strong>Formerly:</strong> Cook County Infirmary, Cook County Insane Asylum</p><p><strong>When: </strong>1854-1911</p><p><strong>Burials:</strong> 38,000</p><p>Another neighborhood that has a similar history to Lincoln Park is Dunning, on Chicago&rsquo;s northwest side. In fact, some of the bodies disinterred from the potter&rsquo;s field in Lincoln Park ended up here.</p><p>In the 1850s, the 320 acres of land between Irving Park Road and Montrose Avenue, and west to Oak Park Avenue was known as Dunning. It included the Cook County Infirmary, a &ldquo;poor farm&rdquo; and almshouse, and the Cook County Insane Asylum, both horrific places by all accounts. Many of the people who ended up at Dunning were poor and mentally ill, and often abused by the hospital staff.</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/story-dunning-tomb-living-106892" target="_blank"><strong><em>See:&nbsp;</em></strong></a><strong><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/story-dunning-tomb-living-106892">The story of Dunning, a &lsquo;tomb for the living&rsquo;</a></em></strong></p><p>There were at least three burial grounds at Dunning intended for poorhouse residents and asylum inmates, but also accessible by anyone in Cook Cook County whose family couldn&rsquo;t afford to pay for traditional cemetery burial. It&rsquo;s estimated that between 1854 and 1911, 38,000 people were buried there. Records of the dead&rsquo;s identities and locations were poorly kept, and many were either lost or destroyed by the time the place closed in the 1970s.</p><p>The state sold off the property to developers. Over the years, it&rsquo;s been common for construction projects to run into a corpse or two. In 1989, a backhoe operator accidentally split a corpse in half while doing work on a new housing project. The corpse appeared to be a red-headed Civil War soldier buried in his uniform, according to Chicago archaeologist David Keene, who was called to the scene.</p><p>A year later, when the construction of Wright College began on the grounds, Keene says he found human remains scattered just about everywhere. After a number of excavations, Keene pieced together the location of a 5-acre cemetery on the corner of Belle Plaine and Neenah Aves. Today, that&rsquo;s Read-Dunning Memorial Park, the only vestige of the history of the original complex. The remaining area gave way to Dunning Square shopping center, which contains a Jewel store, the campus of Wright College, the Maryville Center for Children, along with housing and condominium developments.</p><p>In the spring of 2015, city workers were concerned that <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-dunning-cemetery-road-construction-met-20150429-story.html" target="_blank">road construction in the Dunning area would uncover bodies</a>, enough that the <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20150518/dunning/city-use-ground-penetrating-radar-search-for-long-forgotten-bodies" target="_blank">city postponed the work until ground-penetrating radar could locate them</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/oak%20forest%20grounds%20SMALL.png" style="height: 370px; width: 620px;" title="(Source: Google Earth with overlay of Oak Forest Infirmary grounds map from 1916)" /></div><p><span style="font-size:18px;"><strong>Oak Forest Health Center, Oak Forest Heritage Preserve</strong></span></p><p><strong>Formerly:</strong> Cook County Cemetery at Oak Forest</p><p><strong>When:</strong> 1911-1971</p><p><strong>Burials: </strong>90,740</p><p>Today&rsquo;s Oak Forest Health Center, located 22 miles southwest of Chicago, opened in 1910 as the Cook County Work Farm/Oak Forest Infirmary, a huge facility that, in addition to a hospital, contained a tuberculosis treatment center, a cottage colony, a fruit orchard, baseball grounds and &hellip; three cemeteries.</p><p>One of them, St. Gabriel Cemetery, was reserved for indigent Catholic patients of the hospital, and, today, contains no visible grave markers, aside from a dirt road that circles a statue of St. Francis of Assisi. The area is currently undeveloped and supervised by nearby St. Casimir Cemetery. &nbsp;</p><p>The other two cemeteries on the premises were owned by Cook County, and they served as burial grounds for the indigent, following the closure of the grounds at Dunning. Between 1911 to 1971, 90,740 people were buried there, estimates Barry Fleig, who runs a <a href="http://cookcountycemetery.com/OakForest.htm?" target="_blank">website dedicated to both Dunning and Oak Forest</a>. &nbsp;</p><p>By 1923, the poor conditions of the County cemetery, located in the Northeast corner of the hospital grounds, were apparent. &ldquo;This unsightly and barren area would be more in harmony with the rest of our Institutional premises if converted into a well kept and attractive park with the adornments of trees, shrubbery, flowers, and intersected with convenient walks and driveways,&rdquo; wrote Anton J. Cermak in Cook County Infirmary&rsquo;s annual report in 1923.</p><p>The county wouldn&rsquo;t take the suggestion until 2012, when the Cook County Forest Preserve District unveiled plans to convert the area into a 176-acre park, complete with bike trails, a visitors center, and interpretive signage that would nod to the area&rsquo;s history. However, those plans were temporarily halted after construction crews <a href="http://abc7chicago.com/news/century-old-oak-forest-graves-dug-up-by-forest-preserve-crews-/382661/" target="_blank">dug up hundreds of human bones while attempting to build the new trail system</a>.</p><p>Today, those plans are still in the works. The bones were simply reburied. According to the <a href="http://fpdcc.com/downloads/OakForestHeritagePreserve-MasterPlan.pdf">Oak Forest Heritage Preserve Master Plan</a>, the area of the &ldquo;historic cemetery&rdquo; will feature native grasses and prairie vegetation in a grid formation that vaguely alludes to the plats of bodies that lie beneath.</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/von%20zirngibl%20topper2.png" style="height: 240px; width: 620px;" title="(Source: Google Earth, Flickr/Zol87)" /></div><p><strong><span style="font-size:18px;">Sims Metal Management, Limited</span></strong></p><p><strong>Contains</strong>: The lone grave of Andreas von Zirngibl</p><p><strong>When: </strong>1850s (approx) - present</p><p><strong>Burials:</strong> Definitely one, maybe more</p><p>The story of why there&rsquo;s a single grave nestled in the middle of a South Side junkyard is a bit of a Chicago legend. Yes, there is a tombstone that marks the one-armed body of Andreas von Zirngibl, a Bavarian native who fought Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. It&#39;s located at 9331 S. Ewing Ave, right in the middle of a metal and electronics recycling site.</p><p>According to testimony from the von Zirngibl descendents in their <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=Mt7-q82AB0YC&amp;pg=PA431&amp;lpg=PA431&amp;dq=Zirngibl+et+al+v.+Calumet+%26+C.+Canal+%26+Dock+Co.+et+al&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=6pl77UzPeV&amp;sig=aQWcYa9GOY2LvRZ4w6EonhzFlW4&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ei=9LaBVen-CZO5oQTUl4vwBw&amp;ved=0CCYQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&amp;q=Zirngibl%20et%20al%20v.%20Calumet%20%26%20C.%20Canal%20%26%20Dock%20Co.%20et%20al&amp;f=false">1895 Illinois Supreme Court case</a> against the Calumet and Chicago Canal and Dock Co., which formerly owned the property, von Zirngibl bought 40 acres of land near the mouth of the Calumet River in 1854. He lived and fished there until he died of a fever in 1855.</p><p>The family says his last wish was to be buried on his homestead. <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1999-05-31/features/9905310107_1_von-grave-site-lake-michigan">As the story goes</a>, they buried his body on the site, marked off the small platt with a white picket fence, and visited him from time to time.</p><p>By the late 1890s, the Canal and Dock company had purchased the land independently, seemingly without much fuss or notice from the Zirngibls (they had dropped the &ldquo;von&rdquo; by this time). But somehow or another, the family learned of the purchase, took the company to court, and told the judges that their deed to the land (now worth millions of dollars) was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire.</p><p>Needless to say, the family couldn&rsquo;t prove they owned the land, but they also couldn&rsquo;t prove they <em>didn&rsquo;t </em>own the land. As a compromise, the court ruled the Zirngibls could keep the area within the white picket fence surrounding the resting place of their family member, but the rest of the land rightfully belonged to the Canal and Dock company.</p><p>Today, the area is owned by Sims Metal Management Limited, and is a visible reminder of the human capacity to resist moving the dead at all costs, even in the face of development &hellip; and even if it doesn&rsquo;t work out so well.</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/OHARE%20embed.png" style="height: 370px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p><strong><span style="font-size:18px;">O&rsquo;Hare Airport&rsquo;s western runway</span></strong></p><p><strong>Formerly:</strong> St. Johannes Cemetery</p><p><strong>When</strong>: 1837-2013</p><p><strong>Burials:</strong> 1,200 (approx)</p><p><strong>Remaining:</strong> 0</p><p>A high-profile cemetery relocation happened just a few years ago at O&rsquo;Hare International Airport. The O&rsquo;Hare modernization project included several new runways, one of which was platted right over a St. Johannes Cemetery.</p><p>Established in 1837, the small cemetery was located on the western edge of the airport. It spanned five acres and contained about 1,200 graves. It primarily served the congregation of a church that once stood on the grounds.</p><p>The relocation project took about five years to complete, and raised the ire of nearby residents and church congregations, who argued the cemetery shouldn&rsquo;t be moved in the name of progress.</p><p>The runway was built anyway, and when it opened, the descendants of the relocated dead were invited to march down the runway to commemorate St. Johannes. No official memorial marks the landscape today.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Samantha%20K-22.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 200px; float: left;" title="Questioner Samantha Kearney at a Curious City live event at DePaul University, where we discussed her question. (WBEZ/Shawn Allee)" /><strong><span style="font-size:18px;">About our questioner</span></strong></p><p dir="ltr">An Oak Park native, Samantha Kearney says she&rsquo;s committed to historic preservation, and that carries over as in interest in place through time. The idea of cemeteries as seemingly indestructible institutions fits the bill.</p><p dir="ltr">With a masters degree in urban planning and policy, Kearney rightly suspected that the Lincoln Park cemetery relocation wasn&rsquo;t a one-time phenomena, and that there must&rsquo;ve been other Chicago neighborhoods with similar histories.</p><p dir="ltr">Now that she&rsquo;s taken in our findings and all this talk about cemetery relocation and moving bodies around, Kearney brings up a good reminder: A final resting place doesn&rsquo;t have to be physical.</p><p dir="ltr"><a name="map"></a>&ldquo;Our final resting place is in the hearts and minds of the people we inspire,&rdquo; she says.</p><p><em>Logan Jaffe is Curious City&#39;s multimedia producer. Follow her on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/loganjaffe" target="_blank">@loganjaffe</a>.</em></p><p><em><iframe height="460" src="https://www.google.com/maps/d/embed?mid=zD1cveoHRWh8.k3Jk8KXmKHDk" width="620"></iframe></em></p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 17 Jun 2015 19:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/chicago-eternal-rest-aint-so-eternal-112210 Beyond the rattle and clatter: When the CTA 'L' is your neighbor http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/beyond-rattle-and-clatter-when-cta-l-your-neighbor-112173 <p><p>Our questioner Eleni Chappen is a web developer living in Chicago&rsquo;s Ravenswood neighborhood. She got interested in the quirks of living next to the CTA elevated train tracks while riding the Brown Line, where she spotted what she thought might be her dream home: a yellow house with a pool in the backyard located right on a curve along the route.</p><p>&ldquo;I always wondered what goes on in there,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;I imagined them never being able to open their windows, because it would be so loud. Or them have to wear earplugs all the time. Or they&rsquo;d be having dinner and the spoons and forks are all shaking.&rdquo;</p><p>So she submitted this question:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>What&#39;s it like to live in a home that&#39;s directly adjacent to CTA tracks?</em></p><p>We found many people who reported what you&rsquo;d expect: Residents spoke of not being able to open windows and having things rattle throughout the house when a train rumbles by at a clip. But we also learned more surprising details about life near the tracks. One family off the Brown Line says the noise from the CTA has gotten worse, even, since renovations that allow the train to go faster. At the same time, one renter off the Red Line says life has grown quieter with the addition of newer train cars.</p><p>Maybe most surprising of all, everyone we spoke to says they&rsquo;ve adapted to the noise and the shaking the train brings. And there&rsquo;s a kicker. One expert tells us residents (neighbors to the tracks or not) should expect the CTA train lines to eventually get quieter, as the agency updates to newer train models and lines are revamped with noise mitigation in mind.</p><p>Until then, though, we found some folks to talk about what it&rsquo;s like to live with the &quot;L&quot; as your neighbor.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Mary and Floyd</span></p><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Homeowners, Brown Line</span></p><p>When Mary and Floyd bought their yellow house right off a curve on the Brown Line 25 years ago, the fact that it was so close to the &quot;L&quot; didn&rsquo;t faze them. They had always loved the look of the house and figured the rumbling of the &quot;L&quot; would soon become white noise. And it did, for many years. But since the renovations of the Brown Line were completed in 2009, Mary and Floyd say the noise has gotten much, much worse. In fact, they think it&rsquo;s affected their hearing. &ldquo;The train is just so loud,&rdquo; Floyd says. &ldquo;One morning I expect to wake up and it&rsquo;s in our bedroom. That sort of scares me.&rdquo;</p><p>Lately, the frustrations over the noise have been compounded by the fact that their property taxes keep going up, despite the impact of the noise. But this, Mary says, has a very real impact on their property value. Years back she says they put the house on the market for a while. &ldquo;Over 50 percent of the people that saw that it was by the train they wouldn&rsquo;t even come into the see it,&rdquo; Mary says.</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/MARY%20outside%20WEB.jpg" style="height: 427px; width: 320px; float: right;" title="Mary and Floyd have owned a yellow house off the curve of a Brown Line train for the last 25 years. Mary says she has a love-hate relationship with the train. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe) " /></div><p>We called Landon Harper, a broker with @Properties who has been selling real estate next to the &quot;L&quot; for more than a decade, and asked him if it&rsquo;s harder to sell when the noise of the &quot;L&quot; is factor. He says there is a definite discount for homes that abut the train versus those a few blocks away. But the market is strong, he says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s all about finding the right buyer.&rdquo;</p><p>While Mary is trying to dispute her taxes, neither she nor Floyd has ever logged an official complaint with the Chicago Transit Authority. And, in fact, few people do. CTA says the agency only received seven complaints in 2014. And that is half the number from the previous year.</p><p>Mary and Floyd, semi-retired and in their mid-60s, admit there are strange quirks about living so close to the tracks. Like when the vibrations of the train cause her china to move around inside her cabinet. Or when blobs of tar and large bolts and pins come flying off the tracks. There have been two fires on the tracks from sparks, Mary says. And in the parking lot under the tracks people come and park their cars to do, well, you know what. &ldquo;The workers &hellip; they called this Lovers Lane,&rdquo; Mary quips.</p><p>Despite all her gripes, there are also charming and funny things about living next to the &quot;L,&quot;&nbsp;says Mary, who asked we just use her first name. Mary has a pool out back where she swims all summer long. Frequently her friends and neighbors &mdash; or the men who moved her couch &mdash; tell her they see her out swimming. &ldquo;I guess everyone on the train sees me swimming,&rdquo; she chuckles.</p><p>Mary says she has a love-hate relationship with the train. And she wrestles with it every day. Is it worth it? When she looks at her surging tax bill and the train comes screeching around the corner, it&rsquo;s hard to see the upside. But when she hears the jingle of the <a href="http://www.transitchicago.com/holidaytrain/#media" target="_blank">Christmas train</a> as it barrels down the track, or sits with a glass of wine at dusk and watches the glowing train go by, she feels connected to her city.</p><p>&ldquo;You see these people and you think, there is a whole world out there,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;There is a whole world of the city: museums, bars, restaurants, and these people are going and coming and there you are, watching it all.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Daphne Karagianis, 29</span></p><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Renter, Green Line</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Curious%20City%20Daphne%20selects-1%20WEB.jpg" style="height: 401px; width: 600px;" title="Daphne Karagianis lived in an apartment next to the Green Line for two years. (WBEZ/Shawn Allee) " /></p><p>The first night Daphne Karagianis, 29, spent in her apartment, an arm&rsquo;s reach from the Green Line off Kedzie and Lake, she almost cried. &ldquo;It felt like the train was inside the apartment. It felt like the place was falling down,&rdquo; she says. Daphne&rsquo;s apartment was so close to the train stop that she could hear the announcements from inside. (The most disconcerting, she says, was when the stress calls came through for someone needing assistance on the platform.) &nbsp;Regardless of all that, however, it took only about a month for her to get used to the sound.</p><p>What she never got used to, however, was the feeling of living in a fish bowl. If she wanted to open the curtains, it meant CTA riders were staring into her living room. &ldquo;When I went on the train line I could see inside our house, the couch and the cat,&rdquo; she says.</p><p>Despite the fact that the train was so close, &ldquo;it felt like you could reach out and touch it.&rdquo; Daphne says she never made a connection to a stranger, though she did ask her friends to wave as they pulled into the station on their way hang out at her place.</p><p>Daphne lived in the apartment for two years until this spring, when she moved to Logan Square. She said her move had nothing to do with the train, and she&rsquo;d even consider renting near one again &mdash; though she would never <em>buy </em>a place so close to the tracks.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Collin Ashmead-Bobbitt, 34</span></p><p><span style="font-size:18px;">Red Line, Brown Line, Purple Line</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Bobbit1 (3) WEB.jpg" style="height: 400px; width: 600px;" title="Collin Ashmead-Bobbitt pays $500 a month in rent, but his apartment backs up to the Red, Brown and Purple CTA lines. (WBEZ/Jesse Dukes)" /></p><p>Recently, WBEZ engineer Collin Ashmead-Bobbitt, 34, got a text message from his buddy. &ldquo;You doing laundry?&rdquo; it said. Collin was confused. &ldquo;How do you know? Are you here?&rdquo; he responded. &ldquo;Nope. Headed downtown on the Red Line and saw you go outside with your laundry basket.&rdquo;</p><p>It&rsquo;s just one of the many quirks about living in an apartment next to the train tracks. Others include stacking his books vertically to prevent them from getting jostled and falling off the shelf, to hanging pictures with four to five nails per frame. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve gone through a lot of wine glasses,&rdquo; he adds. Collin, an audio engineer and video editor, has lived in his Lincoln Park West apartment, a converted cottage house, for more than four years. At $500 a month the place is a steal. But it also backs up to three train lines: the Red Line, Brown Line and Purple Line.</p><p>&ldquo;When there is two southbound trains and an immediate follower and two northbound trains and an immediate follower, the apartment kind of rumbles,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Despite the constant noise and vibrations, Collin says he&rsquo;s confident it&rsquo;s not a health risk for his hearing.</p><p>&ldquo;My ears and eyes are my life and I would not live in a situation where I thought it would be damaging to both those senses,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;As an audio engineer and a film editor I rely heavily on them.&rdquo;</p><p>It&rsquo;s been more than four years since he moved into the place. Even he admits the first few weeks were an adjustment period. &ldquo;I considered buying earmuffs,&rdquo; he says. But soon, the sounds of the train became such white noise that life seemed off kilter when they weren&rsquo;t around. When he went to visit his mom in a suburban neighborhood in upstate New York, &ldquo;all I heard was crickets,&rdquo; Collins says. &ldquo;It really freaked me out that there was no trains and no sirens. The soundscapes of the city were so far away.&rdquo;</p><p>Even Collin&rsquo;s cat, Mr. Venkman, likes watching the train from the window. &ldquo;He gets excited when it comes,&rdquo; Collin says.</p><p>And when it doesn&rsquo;t come? Well, that&rsquo;s even worse in a certain way.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s the lifeline of the city,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;And when you don&rsquo;t hear it you definitely know something&rsquo;s up and you should turn on the radio.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ELENI%20WEB.jpg" style="float: left; height: 240px; width: 320px;" title="Question-asker Eleni Chappen, left, says the yellow house owned by Mary, right, has been her dream home since she first saw it riding the CTA's Brown Line. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" /><span style="font-size:24px;">Our Questioner, Eleni Chappen</span></p><p>When we called Eleni Chappen, 27, to ask her more about why she posed this question to Curious City, we did not expect that she was actually now sort of living it.</p><p>Ironically, since asking this question she&rsquo;s moved jobs and works in Ravenswood in an office sandwiched between the Metra and the Brown Line. And she&rsquo;s realized something: &ldquo;After a while, you do kind of ignore it.&rdquo;</p><p>But that still didn&rsquo;t really answer the heart of her question: If one could adapt, was living next to the &quot;L&quot;&nbsp;a smart investment? Could it be a best-kept secret of Chicago real estate?</p><p>&ldquo;Maybe I am scheming secretly to buy a house next to the tracks,&rdquo; she says. &quot;Is it less than a normal house?&rdquo;</p><p><em>Meribah Knight is a freelance journalist in Chicago and reports for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City. Follow her at&nbsp;<a href="http://www.meribahknight.com/" target="_blank">meribahknight.com</a>&nbsp;and on Twitter at&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/meribah" target="_blank">@meribah</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 10 Jun 2015 13:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/beyond-rattle-and-clatter-when-cta-l-your-neighbor-112173 The unsung hero of urban planning who made it easy to get around Chicago http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/unsung-hero-urban-planning-who-made-it-easy-get-around-chicago-112061 <p><p><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">Editor&#39;s note: This was piece was produced in collaboration with the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.architecture.org/" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); outline: 0px;" target="_blank">Chicago Architecture Foundation,</a>&nbsp;which provided research, expertise and other assistance during its development.</em></p><p>Jessica Fisch and Paul Toben are engaged to be married this fall. But before the two new arrivals to Chicago start a new life in a new home, they want to solve a mystery with roots in the city&rsquo;s early history.</p><p>Toben and Fisch bought a house in the Edgewater neighborhood last year, and they&rsquo;ve been fixing it up since. But they discovered something odd about the address displayed on their siding.</p><p>&ldquo;It was underneath the vinyl siding that was here before and it shows our current house number, which is very visible,&rdquo; says Toben, pointing to metal numbers nailed into the wood slat. It spells out 1761. &ldquo;But then two boards below, there&#39;s a sort of ghosted, painted-over paint.&rdquo;</p><p>That number, barely visible in the 110-year-old wood, reads 615.</p><p>&ldquo;We want to know when we went from 615 to 1761,&rdquo; says Fisch. She and Toben asked Curious City:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>&ldquo;Where did the old number come from? When and why did they renumber the streets?&rdquo;</em></p><p>Fisch and Toben aren&rsquo;t the only Chicagoans with two house numbers &mdash; in fact, any building in the city built before 1909 probably had a different number than it does now.</p><p>These are the result of a massive shift in how the city handles street names and addresses. Today Chicago is known for having one of the simplest street systems of any big city in the world, with every address emanating out from a central origin point at the intersection of State &amp; Madison Streets. It wasn&rsquo;t always going to be that way, though, and many people fought the change. But Edward Paul Brennan, an unsung hero of urban planning, spent much of his life taming the navigational chaos of Chicago&rsquo;s adolescence, and his legacy lives on more than a century later &mdash; even if few people know his name.</p><p>So answering the &ldquo;when&rdquo; of our questioners&rsquo; inquiry is easy: September 1, 1909. But to answer &ldquo;why,&rdquo; we need to go back to some early Chicago history, when a map of the city looked very different.</p><p><strong>The expanding city</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/gulp-how-chicago-gobbled-its-neighbors-109583" target="_blank">Chicago was booming in the late 19th century, gobbling up neighboring towns and annexing them as new neighborhoods of the city</a>. Hundreds of thousands of European immigrants poured into the city, helping triple the city&rsquo;s population between 1880 and 1910. It ballooned in both population and physical size, quadrupling in area in 1889 alone.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/CityLimits/cityLimitsGIF.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chicago%20grow%20graphic.jpg" style="height: 356px; width: 620px;" title="Chicago's population grew tremendously throughout the mid-to-late 19th century. There was hardly an effort to standardize street names and addresses until Edward Paul Brennan came up with a plan. (Click to watch animation of how Chicago grew)." /></a></div><p>&ldquo;That was great for those communities because they got the promise of a good infrastructure, but it also created logistical problems obviously for managing a city that size,&rdquo; says Andrew Oleksiuk, secretary of the Illinois Postal History Society.</p><p>Every town that folded into Chicago, from Lake View to Hyde Park, had its own system for naming and numbering streets. Some towns counted out addresses starting from the Chicago River, while others started from Lake Michigan. Some placed even numbers on the north side of the street, others put them on the south. Some even let developers choose their own street names or numbers if there wasn&rsquo;t a lot of local opposition.</p><p>Oleksiuk says the topsy-turvy numbering system contributed to mailmen&rsquo;s struggle to keep up with changing tech, such as the telegraph, streetcars and a new entrant: the telephone.</p><p>&ldquo;The post office really did see itself as being challenged by these new technologies,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;So doing something like straightening out the numbering system and making it more efficient for mail delivery made them able to compete better in this world of new technologies.&rdquo;</p><p>As city limits swallowed up existing towns, no one bothered to standardize street names and addresses. Not surprisingly, this system frustrated Colonel LeRoy D. Steward, superintendent of city delivery for the Chicago post office, who spoke at an Industrial Club meeting in April 1908.</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;Chicago is suffering from improper mail delivery because of improper street arrangement. ... At present there are 125 towns within the city limits, and all have local street names and numbers. At present there are 511 streets of practically duplicate names. No one knows how many duplicate street numbers there are.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>In a later speech Steward asked: &ldquo;What is the use of spending large sums in beautifying the city when one cannot find one&rsquo;s way about it?&rdquo;</p><p>Such critiques emerged alongside the so-called <a href="http://xroads.virginia.edu/~cap/citybeautiful/city.html" target="_blank">City Beautiful movement</a>, whose proponents believed societal ills would evaporate with the development of rationally designed cities. Private groups like the <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/290.html" target="_blank">City Club</a> and the <a href="http://www.commercialclubchicago.org/" target="_blank">Commercial Club</a> banded together to improve the city, promoting ideas like <a href="http://burnhamplan100.lib.uchicago.edu/history_future/plan_of_chicago/" target="_blank">Daniel Burnham&rsquo;s famous Plan of Chicago</a>, which was published in 1909 &mdash; the same year Brennan&rsquo;s system for rationalizing city addresses first took effect. Celebrated architects and engineers built the Loop, standardized the city&rsquo;s cable car system and carved out green spaces that we still use today. But the elegance of our street system is taken for granted.</p><p><strong>New solutions from a man with a plan</strong></p><p>It wasn&rsquo;t a postal worker or even an urban planner that smoothed out the system. It was a man named Edward Paul Brennan.</p><p>Brennan was a delivery boy for his father&rsquo;s grocery store, and later a bill collector for the music company Lyon &amp; Healy. He was so frustrated with the chaos of Chicago&rsquo;s address system that in 1901 he came up with his own. But it would take him years to get it implemented.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Brennan 1910 courtesy Adelaide Brennan.jpg" style="height: 385px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="Edward Paul Brennan in 1910, who devoted his life to crafting a perfect plan for Chicago street nomenclature. (Photo courtesy Adelaide Brennan)" /></div><p>Brennan wasn&rsquo;t the first person to recognize the problem, but he was the most persistent at arguing for a solution. As early as 1879, the <em>Chicago Daily Tribune</em> reported on an ordinance for renumbering South Side streets based on Philadelphia&rsquo;s plan, where addresses increased by 100 with every block. It didn&rsquo;t pass.</p><p>&ldquo;His daughter told me that when he was delivering groceries for his father. Before he was even a bill collector, he was running into this problem,&rdquo; says Patrick Reardon, an author and journalist who has researched the history of Chicago&rsquo;s street grid. &ldquo;So this was not something that Brennan uncovered &mdash; it was what everybody lived with. It was like snow in the winter &mdash; it was just part of the nature of the city.&rdquo;</p><p>But Brennan wouldn&rsquo;t accept the status quo. Beginning in the 1890s he started a scrapbook, collecting newspaper articles about problems with city navigation or delays due to address confusion. Articles had headlines like &ldquo;Streets in a Tangle. Visitors Lost.&rdquo; One report tells about a doctor who couldn&rsquo;t find a patient during a house call emergency. Brennan lobbied business leaders and newspaper editors for decades, needling them with letters that began like this one:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;Dear Sir, Do you think a city should have two streets with the same name? Do you think a city should have one street with two or three, or even ten names? You agree that such naming of streets is ridiculous and an insult to the intelligence of any city. Yet Chicago, your city, has hundreds of such streets. This confusion costs you and the other citizens of Chicago hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. &hellip;&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>Like many Progressive Era activists, Brennan was motivated by the spirit of the time, devoting his life to crafting &ldquo;a perfect plan for Chicago street nomenclature.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;So let us go forward with the spirit that built the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/your-ticket-white-city-108994" target="_blank">World&rsquo;s Fair</a>, correct our error and present the people of Chicago with a perfect house numbering plan,&rdquo; he said in one of many letters lobbying Chicago aldermen and local business leaders.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Thompson_Chicago_plat_1830.jpg" style="height: 491px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="James Thompson's plat map of Chicago, 1830. (Wikimedia Commons)" />Brennan&rsquo;s plan benefitted from the grid system laid out by James Thompson&rsquo;s official plat map for the city in 1830. Because of the regular spacing of Chicago&rsquo;s city blocks, the continuation of the grid despite any geographic features, and the absence of curved roads, Brennan&rsquo;s 1901 plan could be highly logical and mathematical. &ldquo;In this way,&rdquo; Brennan wrote, &ldquo;the numbers will indicate the locality at a glance.&rdquo;</p><p>With the help of an independent alderman named Charlie Byrne (who happened to be Brennan&rsquo;s cousin) he presented his &ldquo;Street Nomenclature Plan&rdquo; to the City Council in 1901. It included four big ideas: All addresses would be centered around a 0,0 point at State and Madison Streets; street names would include the direction; even-numbered addresses would always be on the west and north sides of any street, with odd numbers on the east and south sides; house numbers would increase by 800 (or 8 blocks) every mile, although Brennan had originally proposed 1000 addresses per mile.</p><p>Brennan&rsquo;s plan would also involve renaming many streets in order to cut confusion caused by duplication and other problems.</p><p>After his initial proposal, Brennan argued that Kinzie and State should instead be the new 0,0 baseline street, in honor of early settler John Kinzie. Alternate plans from other map enthusiasts proposed Western and Madison, because of its proximity to the geographic center of the growing city.</p><p><strong>A new address for every house in town</strong></p><p>After more than seven years of petitioning, the City Council passed Brennan&rsquo;s house numbering plan in 1908 and it went into effect on September 1, 1909. Businesses within the Loop fought the change early on, arguing that &mdash; among other things &mdash; it would cost too much to reprint their stationery. They received an extra two years to adopt the same system as the rest of the city.</p><p>The process of converting the address of nearly every household in Chicago was a daunting task. Newspaper accounts in the days and weeks leading up to the mandatory changes indicate confusion, resignation, and also humor. City directories published maps and thick new guides that residents and businesses could purchase, listing every old address and its new equivalent. Residents sent illustrated postcards with poems or cartoons to friends, notifying them of the change.</p><p>&ldquo;If you had your Aunt Matilda in Kansas who&#39;s sending you a letter, she doesn&#39;t necessarily know about the re-numbering system,&rdquo; says Oleksiuk. &ldquo;You have to write her a letter to tell her, &lsquo;My new address is such and such.&rsquo; &lsquo;Oh you moved?&rsquo; &lsquo;No I didn&#39;t. They&#39;re just re-numbering the streets.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Trouble lived beyond the initial confusion, though, as some people actively fought the change.</p><p>&ldquo;There were people who saw what [Brennan] was doing and what the city was doing in changing street names as meddling with the historic nature of their streets,&rdquo; says Reardon. &ldquo;So it was not a simple or an uncontroversial thing.&rdquo;</p><table border="0" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="1" style="width: 620px;"><tbody><tr><td><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/addresses/1.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/old_residence_1_thumb.jpg" style="height: 203px; width: 203px;" title="" /></a></div></td><td><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/addresses/5.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mailman_newspaperclip_6_thumb.jpg" title="" /></a></div></div></td><td><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/addresses/3.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/town_5_thumb.jpg" title="" /></a></div></div></td></tr><tr><td><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/addresses/2.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/newhomenumber_3_thumb.jpg" style="height: 203px; width: 203px;" title="" /></a></div></td><td><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/addresses/4.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/sameoldhammock_4_thumb.jpg" style="height: 203px; width: 203px;" title="" /></a></div></td><td><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/addresses/6.html" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mayor_newspaperclip_7_thumb.jpg" title="" /></a></div></td></tr></tbody></table><p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-size:10px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Above: Postcards and newspaper clippings show the humor and confusion the city felt after the house number changes. Click on an image for large view.</span></span></p><p>Some residents banded together, lobbied their aldermen, and fought the city&rsquo;s proposed street name changes.</p><p>Under Brennan&rsquo;s plan, the tiny streets of Arlington Place and Deming Place in Lincoln Park should have been renamed as Montana Street and Lill Avenue, because they aligned east to west with those longer streets, despite not having a continuous block of streets.</p><p>&ldquo;Deming Place and Arlington Place residents joined Bellevue Place residents yesterday in expressing indignation at the cold-bloodedness of the council committee on street nomenclature which has threatened to rob them all of their euphonious titles.&rdquo; &mdash; <em>Chicago Daily Tribune</em>, Dec. 19, 1908</p><p>Others in the city were upset that they were losing a familiar house number. Mrs. Charles E. Pope, a resident along Chicago&rsquo;s Lake Shore Drive, wrote to the <em>Chicago Daily Tribune</em> in early 1909:</p><p>&ldquo;Really, I don&rsquo;t see how we shall be able to bear the burden of four numbers after being used to only two. Besides, most of us have lived here many years, and we don&rsquo;t like to see things changed.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.chsmedia.org/househistory/1909snc/start.PDF" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/map%20showing%20house%20number%20cutout.PNG" style="height: 153px; width: 220px; float: right;" title="Click for full document of Chicago's 1909 street name and number changes." /></a>But even after the city-wide address renumbering, Brennan&rsquo;s work wasn&rsquo;t done. For the next 30 years he rooted out duplicate street names and inconsistencies, lobbying incessantly as part of the City Club&rsquo;s two-man Street Nomenclature Committee.</p><p>Brennan didn&rsquo;t get everything he wanted. He publicly lamented when aldermen wouldn&rsquo;t take his suggestions for new street names, all of which he said should reference &ldquo;meaningful&rdquo; things like art, literature, history, poetry, and &ldquo;illustrious names from many foreign lands.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;It is for us of the present day to continue the work so well begun by the pioneers of Chicago instead of being looked upon as iconoclasts by future generations,&rdquo; he said in 1913. &quot;With a history rich in meaningful names there will be no need of our innocent thoroughfares being rechristened Hinton, Dunmore, Dennison, Empire, or Limerick.&quot;</p><p>As always for Brennan, it was a matter of historic importance.</p><p>&quot;We are about to do something which will last as long as Chicago does,&rdquo; he wrote.</p><p><strong>Brennan&rsquo;s legacy</strong></p><p>After the initial disruption caused by the changes, Chicagoans eventually appreciated the relative simplicity of the city&#39;s new street names and addresses. But Brennan&rsquo;s name was largely forgotten in the years after his death in 1942. His daughters wrote to newspaper editors and the city&rsquo;s map department attempting to have their father&rsquo;s work recognized.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">Five years later, City Council named a South Side street in his honor: South Brennan Avenue runs from 96th Street south to 98th Street in the Jeffery Manor neighborhood. At the time the city publicly acknowledged the elegance of Brennan&rsquo;s system, noting &ldquo;There are now fewer street names in Chicago than in any other city in the country of even one-half the area of Chicago.&quot; Chicago had 3,629 miles of streets with just 1,370 names &mdash; far fewer than other cities with smaller geographical footprints at the time: New York (5,003), Baltimore (3,929), or Cleveland (2,199).</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/honorary%20brennan.jpg" title="Today, Brennan's got an honorary street named after him at the intersection of State and Madison Streets, the city's 0,0 point. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></div></div><p>Every time Chicagoans navigate the 227 square miles of their city, they&rsquo;re unwittingly perpetuating Brennan&rsquo;s legacy. But until recently one of the only explicit reminders of the man himself was a collection of weathered scrapbooks he carefully collected, which was placed in the care of the Chicago History Museum by Mary Brennan, one of his daughters.</p><p>Another daughter, Adelaide, lived to the age of 99 and was able <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-08-25/opinion/ct-perspec-0825-madison-20130825_1_south-branch-north-branch-chicago-river" target="_blank">to see Ald. Brendan Reilly dedicate the northwest corner of State and Madison as Edward Brennan Way</a> in 2013.</p><p>Still, few people recognize the name of the man instrumental in rationalizing Chicago&rsquo;s streets. Compare that to the fate of Daniel Burnham.</p><p>&ldquo;Edward Paul Brennan was the man who, in my mind, is comparable to Daniel Burnham,&rdquo; says Patrick Reardon. &ldquo;Burnham had the Plan of Chicago, which was set up to change the landscape, the physical landscape of the city. Edward Brennan changed the mental landscape of the city.&rdquo;</p><p>And that mental landscape persists today. Since Brennan&rsquo;s system is universal across the city, with 800 numbers to a mile, Chicagoans still use that same mental landscape to get around their city.</p><p>Raphael Nash was born in the West Side&rsquo;s Austin neighborhood, but has lived all over the city. He had to learn Brennan&rsquo;s system, even if he didn&rsquo;t know it was Brennan&rsquo;s.</p><p>And even though most people today use a GPS to get around, Nash says it&rsquo;s useful to have a mental map as precise as Brennan&rsquo;s.</p><p>&ldquo;Sometimes I&#39;m driving and I don&#39;t need to be fumbling with the phone or anything so I just look up and pay attention to the number,&rdquo; Nash says.</p><p>Brennan&rsquo;s system is so simple that Nash and several other Chicagoans interviewed for this story say it has ruined them for other cities.</p><p>&ldquo;When I spent time on the East Coast I learned cities like Boston, which is just a mess. I was like OK, we had order,&rdquo; says Nash. &ldquo;And when I came back home was I was like, &lsquo;wow this is really easy.&rsquo; I don&rsquo;t know why I never paid attention to it.&rdquo;</p><p>Now Nash knows who to thank for that.</p><p>&ldquo;Thank you, Mr. Brennan,&rdquo; he says.</p><p><strong>Who inspired our question?</strong></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/toben%20_%20fisch1%20%281%29%202.jpg" style="height: 434px; width: 620px;" title="Paul Toben, left, and Jessica Fisch, right, discovered their old house number while fixing up the place they recently bought in Chicago's Edgewater neighborhood. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" /></p><p>We have several questioners to thank for inspiring this look into the city&rsquo;s rational street-numbering system. Jessica Fisch and Paul Toben started us off, but so did Marina Post, a Chicago homeowner.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/post6%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="height: 484px; width: 270px; float: right;" title="Marina Post asked us a similar question about her home in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood. (WBEZ/Chris Bentley)" />Post wondered why her 1890s home in Wicker Park (today 2146 W. Caton St.) was one of several homes in the neighborhood with stained glass windows displaying lower, outdated address numbers. Post&rsquo;s is 51.</p><p>&ldquo;I can imagine it would feel somewhat demeaning to go from 51, which feels kind of exclusive,&rdquo; Post says, &ldquo;to 2146, which just makes you feel like you&#39;re one of the masses somehow. I could imagine if I were living at that time I would feel attached to my number.&rdquo;</p><p>She may as well have been talking about Mrs. Charles E. Pope, who complained about &ldquo;the burden of four numbers&rdquo; to the <em>Chicago Daily Tribune</em> during the address change. In fact we might owe our questioners&rsquo; curiosity to those stubborn homeowners from the early 20th century who kept their old house numbers beside the new, standardized addresses under Brennan&rsquo;s plan. Without them we wouldn&rsquo;t have the physical evidence of the pre-1909 system &mdash; or lack thereof &mdash; that piqued the interest of people like Paul Toben, Jessica Fisch and Marina Post.</p><p><em><a href="http://cabentley.com/" target="_blank">Chris Bentley is a freelance journalist</a> who reports regularly for WBEZ&rsquo;s Curious City. Follow him at <a href="http://cabentley.com/">cabentley.com</a> and on Twitter at <a href="https://twitter.com/cementley" target="_blank">@Cementley</a>. Jen Masengarb is Director of Interpretation and Research at the <a href="http://www.architecture.org/" target="_blank">Chicago Architecture Foundation</a>. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/jmasengarb" target="_blank">@jmasengarb</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 20 May 2015 12:52:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/unsung-hero-urban-planning-who-made-it-easy-get-around-chicago-112061 Were Chicago's public schools ever good? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/were-chicagos-public-schools-ever-good-112025 <p><p>Our questioner Julie had completely forgotten she asked this when we reached out to her. She lives in Chicago&rsquo;s North Center neighborhood and didn&rsquo;t want to say much more about herself. But here&rsquo;s what she wanted to know:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>There is reporting about how Chicago Public Schools is slowly getting better. Was there ever a time when they were <strong>good</strong>?</em></p><p>As an education reporter, I&rsquo;ve heard many versions of this question during <a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/bvevea" target="_blank">my time covering Chicago Public Schools</a>, and that&rsquo;s partly why I wanted to take a stab at answering it. But I also wanted to tackle this question because it asks us to think about our relationship with the public schools and what we expect them to do.</p><p>Measuring a school or school district&rsquo;s success or failure is no easy feat, and it&rsquo;s even harder to measure over time because the standards and metrics have changed significantly. <a href="https://ccsr.uchicago.edu/sites/default/files/publications/Trends_CPS_Full_Report.pdf" target="_blank">A recent study from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research</a> stated that &ldquo;discrepancies are due to myriad issues with publicly reported data &mdash; including changes in test content and scoring &mdash; that make year-over-year comparisons nearly impossible without complex statistical analyses.&rdquo;</p><p>Because the definition of &ldquo;good&rdquo; is subjective,<a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/good-school-bad-school-how-should-we-measure-111736" target="_blank"> we solicited your help</a> in defining how to use it while reporting this story. Some of you suggested using standardized test scores, which go back decades. (Schools haven&rsquo;t used the same test over time, making comparisons difficult.) Others suggested we consider grades or safety.</p><p>Ultimately, we decided to look at when CPS did a good job preparing students for successful careers; that is: When did the district best prepare people to be productive, taxpaying citizens? Career readiness is a consistent expectation, and it&rsquo;s possible to compare one era to another.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The 1940s, a Golden Era?</span></p><p>Based on this measurement and what historians and other experts suggested, the 1940s would seem the best contender for the district&rsquo;s golden era of public education. Schools provided valuable workforce training that was needed in the local industries, like steel and iron work, retail and office or clerical jobs.</p><p>The 1940s saw the culmination of a series of unprecedented investments in public education, mostly from the federal government. The Smith-Hughes Act of 1917 funneled millions of dollars into vocational training. Chicago schools set up programs in accounting, drafting, welding, and even &ldquo;household arts.&rdquo;</p><p>After a lag during the Great Depression, the war effort and New Deal programs brought even more vocational programs. One example: In 1939, the city built <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2012-05/school-architecture-look-sprawling-chicago-vocational-99372">Chicago Vocational High School</a>, and quickly turned it over to the U.S. Navy to train young men in aviation mechanics. (By the late 1940s, control of the school returned to the Chicago Board of Education.)</p><div class="image-insert-image ">Another example to point to: More than a dozen local unions collaborated with and supported the programs at Washburne Trade School to train future electricians and carpenters.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</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/lane tech automobile dept.JPG" style="height: 389px; width: 620px;" title="New Deal programs of the 1940s brought more vocational programs to public education, like this automobile shop class at Albert Grannis Lane Manual Training High School, now named Lane Technical College Prep High School in Chicago's North Center Neighborhood. (Courtesy Chuckman's nostalgia and memorabilia website) " /></div></div><p>But Dionne Danns, an education historian at Indiana University, provides a fast reality check when it comes to assessing the era. She points out that, at the turn of the century, and into the 1940s, people did not even need a high school diploma. In fact, most people weren&rsquo;t even finishing elementary school.</p><p>&ldquo;You didn&rsquo;t have to go to school for a job,&rdquo; Danns says. &ldquo;You went to school because they wanted you to go. They were opening more schools because they wanted immigrants to go to school and learn what it meant to be American.&rdquo;</p><p>And more importantly, Danns says, the 1940s can&rsquo;t count as a golden era of public schooling because schools were not providing education to all children; African Americans, Latinos and other minority groups did not have access to the same public schools as whites.</p><p>Women were just beginning to gain access to colleges and careers. Many attended the Lucy Flower Vocational School, which offered a home economics program and some two-year programs in sewing, dressmaking and millinery (hat-making).</p><p>A <a href="http://ecommons.luc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1770&amp;context=luc_diss">study</a> out of Loyola University pegged Chicago Vocational High School enrollment in 1946 at 2,721 students. Just 204 were girls. Another all-girls school opened that year. Richards Vocational High School had an enrollment of 230 women and offered curriculum in home arts, dressmaking, beauty culture, and bookkeeping among other things.</p><p>&ldquo;We can&rsquo;t underestimate the role schools played in maintaining inequalities in society,&rdquo; Danns says.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1964%20map.jpg" style="float: right; height: 502px; width: 350px;" title="Locations of integrated and segregated elementary schools in Chicago, 1964. (Source: Board of Education)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Better schools, more students</span></p><p>What about looking for the CPS golden era of career readiness just a bit later, perhaps sometime in the &lsquo;50s or &lsquo;60s? It&rsquo;s tempting, because the inequalities we saw in the 1940s were challenged in 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated schools are &ldquo;inherently unequal&rdquo; and therefore, unconstitutional.</p><p>By the 1960s, African Americans were enrolling in public schools that had been historically all white. And for a while, schools were integrating.</p><p>In 1964 Paul Goren (today, the Superintendent of District 65 in Evanston) was in kindergarten in the city&rsquo;s Avalon Park neighborhood. Hanging on his office wall are three class photos: one each from 1964, 1967 and 1968. In the 1964 photo, half of the smiling children are white, the other half are African American. The 1968 picture, though, shows just three white students.</p><p>Goren says that in his class of about thirty or so, those last three white children were the last three white children left in the entire school.</p><p>&ldquo;What I remember very distinctly, and again, it&rsquo;s characterized in the pictures up above, was arguments kids were making saying, &lsquo;We&rsquo;re moving!&rsquo; &lsquo;Oh, why are you moving?&rsquo; And the answer was because the schools are not good,&rdquo; Goren recalls. &ldquo;That sort of confused me, because the schools didn&rsquo;t seem to be any different than they were when they were frankly, all white.&rdquo;</p><p>That same year, an advisory panel on integration warned the Chicago Board of Education that whites were fleeing the district in mass numbers.</p><p>The board dragged its feet and did little to prevent white flight during the 1960s, but by 1970 the board started systematic attempts to integrate the schools.</p><p>It created the first generation of magnet schools, many of which are still successful today: Whitney Young, Disney, and Inter-American, among others. They were endowed with special programs and extra resources that would attract white students and African Americans. Students applied from all over the city and their names were essentially, picked out of a hat.</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/metro%20high%20school%20yearbook%201978.PNG" style="height: 457px; width: 620px;" title="Metro High School's curriculum was built on the idea of the city being a classroom, and held classes at places like the Shedd Aquarium and Second City. (Source: Metro High School yearbook, 1978)" /></div><p>Goren went to one such school, called Metro High (or, Chicago Public High School for Metropolitan Studies). Not only was it an experiment in diversity, the school had a <a href="http://www.metrohschicago.com/bonus/Cycle3catalog1973.pdf">unique curriculum</a>. Goren took classes across the city: marine biology at Shedd Aquarium, animal behavior at Lincoln Park Zoo, and public speaking at Second City.</p><p>&ldquo;For me the golden era was my time at Metro High School,&rdquo; Goren says. The school closed in 1991.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/goren.PNG" style="height: 235px; width: 275px; float: right;" title="Paul Goren, right, at Metro High School in 1975. " /></p><p>Goren says many of the kids who attended Metro and other magnet schools were propelled into good careers in law and medicine. He has several friends who are now teachers in the area, as well.</p><p>But a lot of Chicago kids weren&rsquo;t that lucky. Magnet schools became isolated islands of success, but if you didn&rsquo;t get into one, public education was a mixed bag. &nbsp;</p><p>Among other problems, inequalities persisted. Danns says when schools started to integrate, local trade unions pulled support from Washburne Trade School. An <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1986-11-27/news/8603290329_1_apprenticeship-public-schools-board">article</a> from the Chicago Tribune in 1986, mentioned that in 1963 fewer than 2 percent of apprentices at Washburne were black.</p><p>In other words, even with years of effort on the part of the district, a career-ready curriculum remained out of reach for large swaths of CPS students.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">&#39;Worst in the nation&#39;</span></p><p>There are few reasons to argue that CPS was at its best in the &lsquo;80s, because (among other reasons), CPS ran into financial troubles throughout the decade. Also, between 1979 to 1987, Chicago teachers went on strike nine times. Districts started measuring achievement and looking at dropout rates, and in Chicago, things did not look great.</p><p>In 1987, then-U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett famously characterized Chicago schools as &ldquo;the worst&rdquo; in the nation. More than half of all students were dropping out of high school at the same time the value of a high school degree was increasing. Factory jobs had all but disappeared and the country was still recovering from the 1982 recession.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/VC8dPdPo9Tg?rel=0&amp;controls=0&amp;showinfo=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><span style="font-size:10px;">Above: A short video recollection from a CPS teacher about the 1980s strike. (YouTube/Chicago Teachers Union)</span></span></p><p>Susan Lofton was a teacher in the early 1990s and vividly remembers being locked out because CPS couldn&rsquo;t make payroll.</p><p>&ldquo;All of a sudden was told don&rsquo;t go to work on Monday,&rdquo; Lofton says. &ldquo;I remember going to an unemployment office where there was literally a roped off area for teachers to go be processed.&rdquo;</p><p>In 1988, the Illinois General Assembly passed the first Chicago School Reform Act, creating local school councils at each individual school. Many schools improved under this model, but others did not.</p><p>In 1995, the state gave total control of CPS to mayor Richard M. Daley. This started the last era we&rsquo;re going to consider. &nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">More success than we realize</span></p><p>I&rsquo;m going to suggest something that might surprise you. Maybe, just maybe, we&rsquo;re living in CPS&rsquo; golden era right now.</p><p>There&rsquo;s a growing body of evidence that Chicago&rsquo;s schools are improving quickly and &mdash; for certain populations of students &mdash; doing better than other districts. <em>U.S. News and World Report</em> just released its annual rankings of the nation&rsquo;s best high schools: <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/mayor/press_room/press_releases/2015/may/six-chicago-public-high-schools-among-top-ten-in-the-state--u-s-.html">Six of the top 10 in Illinois are in CPS and another three in the top 20.</a></p><p>&ldquo;When the state&rsquo;s not doing well or not making great progress, there&rsquo;s always some number of people who say, &lsquo;Well maybe that&rsquo;s just because Chicago&rsquo;s not doing well. Maybe they&rsquo;re just dragging down the rest of the state,&rsquo;&rdquo; says Robin Steans, executive director of <a href="http://www.advanceillinois.org/">Advance Illinois, a bipartisan group focused on improving the state&rsquo;s education policy</a>. &ldquo;What we found is that&rsquo;s not true. Chicago has made steady gains both academically and in terms of some critical outcomes, like graduation.&rdquo;</p><p>Steans&rsquo; group looked at scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, from 2003 to 2013 and found Chicago students grew 11 points on the 8th grade math test and 7 points on the 4th grade reading test. The state grew just 7 points and 3 points, respectively.</p><p>Advance Illinois also compiled state graduation data from 2014 to compare Chicago with other districts for certain subgroups of students. They found that Latino students enrolled in CPS are more likely to graduate high school than their counterparts in many suburban districts, including Maine Township High Schools and Evanston Township High School.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s so counterintuitive to what they think they know about Chicago that they just disregard it,&rdquo; Steans says of the data. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s been so much noise, with the teachers strike and the school closings. The political heat and noise tends to crowd out what&rsquo;s actually beneath and behind that.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://urbanedleadership.org/about-us/people/paul-zavitkovsky/" target="_blank">Paul Zavitkovsky</a>, a&nbsp;leadership coach and assessment specialist&nbsp;at the Urban Education Leadership Program at the University of Illinois - Chicago, may be able to help. In a forthcoming study, Zavitkovsky&rsquo;s findings mirror what Advance Illinois found.</p><p>&ldquo;On an apples-for-apples basis, if you compare yourself with your counterparts based on race and socioeconomic status in other parts of the state, you have a higher probability of having a better educational experience in Chicago,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>But Zavitkovsky goes further. He shared a preliminary version of the report with WBEZ that showed students in the 75th percentile for 4th grade math achievement grew 20 points between 2003 and 2013. The performance of that subgroup in the rest of the state grew only 3 points in the same amount of time.</p><p>However, he&rsquo;s not convinced CPS is in a &ldquo;golden era&rdquo; because of all this data. From Zavitkovsky&rsquo;s vantage, the real win is that we have more information than we&rsquo;ve ever had before,and that can better inform the national conversation about public schools.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re better positioned now than we&rsquo;ve ever been to know what we have to do in order to be able to get that kind of stuff into the hands and into the heads of more than just a small percentage of kids, coming primarily from the most privileged families in America,&rdquo; Zavitowsky says.</p><p>There&rsquo;s no easy way to measure job readiness and whether these improvements translate into more successful alumni. Short of picking up the phone and calling all the former students, CPS does not follow students into employment.</p><p>The closest indicator available is college persistence, and CPS also made gains in it during the last decade. A <a href="https://ccsr.uchicago.edu/publications/educational-attainment-chicago-public-schools-students-focus-four-year-college-degrees">report from the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research</a> found that between 2006 and 2014, the percentage of CPS students earning a bachelor&rsquo;s degree within 6 years of high school graduation jumped from 8 percent to 14 percent. The national rate is 18 percent.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Greater Expectations</span></p><p>I&rsquo;ve been reporting on CPS for more than four years and I&rsquo;ve covered a lot of the noise and dysfunction Steans mentioned. But I&rsquo;ve also reported on schools that are trying everything to improve.</p><p>They include schools like Senn High School in Edgewater. Susan Lofton, the teacher who remembers being in the unemployment line back in the 1990s, is now the principal at Senn. When she took over in 2010, the school had a bad name.</p><p>&ldquo;A-B-S,&rdquo; Lofton says, &ldquo;Anywhere But Senn.&rdquo;</p><p>Lofton created the Senn Arts magnet program and expanded the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/eight-forty-eight/2012-04-25/chicagos-middle-class-not-interested-hidden-gem-high-schools-98519">rigorous International Baccalaureate program</a>, which had long been a hidden gem.</p><p>She also recruited drama teacher Joel Ewing away from Walter Payton College Prep, a prestigious selective enrollment school.</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/ewing.png" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Joel Ewing teaches a drama class at Senn High School. Previously a teacher at Walter Payton College Prep, Ewing says he accepted the position at Senn because he saw a void that needed to be filled. (WBEZ/Jesse Dukes)" /></div><p>&ldquo;When I took the job at Senn Arts, I got crooked heads,&rdquo; Ewing says. &ldquo;&lsquo;Why would you leave Walter Payton? That&#39;s clearly one of the best schools, in the city, state.&rsquo; ... I thought there was a void that needed to be filled. Payton is going to be alright.&rdquo;</p><p>Senn chose to become a little like a magnet school but still focus on neighborhood students &mdash; a strategy that lots of CPS schools are trying. But Lofton says the biggest hurdle to changing Senn&rsquo;s reputation has nothing to do with academics.</p><p>&ldquo;The first day I got here, I took the Red Line,&rdquo; Lofton recalls. &ldquo;I, myself, could barely get through the station to get myself to school. There were a lot of my kids there that were just loitering because, &lsquo;Hey! We don&rsquo;t go to school on time here.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Now, she and the other administrators start every morning at the Thorndale Red Line stop, shuffling students along and calling the cops on anyone else who, as she says, had no business being there.</p><p>Senn is not alone: Schools across the city worry about safety, sometimes even before academics. It&rsquo;s a big departure from past decades.Today, we expect schools to do more than we ever have. Making the local train stop safe? Since when is that in the job description of a principal or teacher? If Lofton and Senn staff want their students to be prepared for college and careers, they don&rsquo;t really have a choice not to.</p><p>The latest trends tempt me to say that the time we&rsquo;re looking for, when CPS schools were good ... is right now. The district&rsquo;s serving more students than ever and it&rsquo;s still making incremental progress, despite the noise and dysfunction that sometimes overshadow much of it. (As an education reporter, I know I share the blame for that.)</p><p>But I&#39;m not convinced this is the golden era; there&rsquo;s a lot of work to be done and that bad stuff I report on? It does really happen.</p><p>So, even if there was never a &ldquo;golden age&rdquo; and even if the idea itself is impossible, I think we have to keep asking questions, looking at what works and what doesn&rsquo;t and never stop highlighting those who are not being served.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a producer and reporter for WBEZ. You can follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 13 May 2015 17:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/were-chicagos-public-schools-ever-good-112025 What does the Lincoln Park Zoo do with all its poo? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-06/curious-city-secrets-lincoln-park-zoos-poo-100260 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/204249224&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: This report expands on reporting we started when we first visited this question in 2012. The audio story includes interview excerpts from the Curious City Fecal Matters! live event of March 2015.&nbsp;</em></p><p>There&rsquo;s a natural cycle to urban life that can&rsquo;t be ignored; as the snow melts away and the citizenry emerges from winter burrows, residents spend more time outdoors, and with that, there&rsquo;s more opportunity to ponder the animals&rsquo; rhythms and cycles, including the less seamly ones.</p><p>Chicagoan Kelley Clink reflected on life&rsquo;s natural processes, particularly as she potty-trained her pup two springtimes ago. She wondered how poop management worked on a larger (Ok, institutional) scale, and she then sent us this question:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em><a href="http://curiouscity.wbez.org/#!/archive/question/33">What happens to all the, um, &#39;animal waste&#39; from the Lincoln Park Zoo?</a></em></p><p>&ldquo;My dog at the time was pooping in various places,&rdquo; Clink said. &ldquo;Sometimes I&rsquo;d pick it up and throw it in a dumpster, and sometimes if he pooped on my rug I&rsquo;d take some toilet paper and flush it inside. So it made me think, &lsquo;Gosh, with all these animals are they flushing it? Putting it in the dumpster? Where is it going?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Well, the answer can be summed up like this: Lincoln Park Zoo tosses the poo, it studies the poo, and it stores the poo (in the hopes of studying the poo even more someday). That may not be returning poo to &ldquo;the great cycle of life,&rdquo; but it&rsquo;s how the stuff is dealt with, regardless. If you can hold your nose for a short bit, here are the details.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Toss it</span></p><p>The first thing to note is that zoo poop is not so easy for journalists to access, so you&rsquo;re spared first-hand accounts of the nitty-gritty, behind-the-scenes scraping, shoveling and the like. The Lincoln Park Zoo tells us raw animal waste is considered biohazardous, so we could not actually go anywhere near it to follow its journey.</p><p>But, the Lincoln Park Zoo confirms that the bulk of the animal waste is pretty much handled like garbage; it&#39;s hand-removed by staff, thrown into dumpsters or bags, and compacted along with all the other garbage, according to General Curator Dave Bernier. He says the zoo uses a waste management company to cart everything away.</p><p>Some zoos have opted to<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjfNVEvRI3w"> use the feces for composting</a>, even <a href="http://www.zoo.org/page.aspx?pid=2001">selling the material as fertilizer</a> in their gift shops for use in home gardening. Bernier said he&#39;s heard talk of doing similar things at Lincoln Park, but he says there are some considerable barriers to doing so. He said it would require hiring staff and the park currently doesn&#39;t have space or a back-lot for such an operation. Besides, Bernier said, &quot;We have a hard time getting people to like the smell of our aardvark, I can&#39;t imagine they&#39;d like this feces brewing somewhere.&quot;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">What can you do with zoo poo? Study it!</span></p><p>But the old heave-ho doesn&rsquo;t apply to the zoo&rsquo;s entire supply of animal feces. Dave Bernier says a portion of the poo is studied for insights into the animals&rsquo; physical and emotional well-being. In some respects, Bernier says, the zoo treats feces as a &quot;management tool&quot; to monitor animal health. For example, zoo keepers look for obvious changes in the consistency, color or amount of feces animals produce.</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/8%20CAMELS.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Normal Bactrian Camel waste should look like chocolate-glazed donut holes, explains Bernier. When one of the camels had a loose stool, the zoo studied its fecal matter and learned it was eating too much of the free-growing plant foliage. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe) " /></div><p>Bernier says that a few years ago the zoo &quot;had a camel that had loose stool. Normally they&#39;re well-formed pellets of stool &mdash; just think of chocolate-glazed donut holes.&quot; He explains that staff looked into that camel&#39;s diet and realized it was eating too much of the free-growing plant material in its space.</p><p>&quot;So we ended up cutting back some of the plants they could reach in their exhibit and then their stool normalized again,&quot; he said.</p><p>But the zoo keepers take an even closer look at feces, too, performing diagnostic tests in an on-site laboratory.</p><p>Rachel Santymire, director of the zoo&rsquo;s Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology, oversees and studies about 10,000 poop samples a year from about 50 animal species at the zoo. Santymire says each sample is a clue into an animal&rsquo;s emotional health.</p><p>&ldquo;Animals can hide certain behaviors,&rdquo; Santymire said. &ldquo;I can look inside the animal &mdash; they can&rsquo;t lie to me! &mdash; and I know exactly how they&rsquo;re reacting to whatever they&rsquo;re encountering &hellip; all from poop.&rdquo;</p><p>For example, Santymire can tell whether an animal is pregnant by detecting changes in its hormonal levels. She can also get a sense of whether an animal feels stressed out &mdash; all by looking for the hormone cortisol.</p><p>Bernier says those fecal tests can be used to make important decisions, <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10888705.2011.576968">such as changing an animal&#39;s living situation</a>.</p><p>&quot;I had a singly-housed female antelope which normally lives in groups and she seemed perfectly fine. But she was alone because her cage-mate had recently passed away,&quot; Bernier said.</p><p>He wondered if introducing another antelope to her cage would ultimately be a positive change, or if it would stress her out. They tested the theory by slowly introducing a new antelope friend. All the while, staff collected and tested samples of both animals&rsquo; feces &mdash; before the introduction and after it. Bernier said the cortisol levels spiked and then dipped after the introduction.</p><p>&quot;But ultimately both of their stress hormone levels went down below their baselines when they were together,&quot; Bernier said. He adds that, without this kind of testing, staff could not have known whether it was a positive or negative change because the animals showed no outward signs of stress.</p><p>&quot;Animals are meant to mask any kinds of injuries illnesses or deficiencies because a lot of them are prey animals or have to survive in a social setting,&rdquo; Bernier said.</p><p>But, as zoo staff often say: Hormones don&rsquo;t lie.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Institutional poo hoarders</span></p><p>With about 10,000 poop samples a year making their way through Santymire&rsquo;s lab, you&rsquo;d suspect she has a complex storage system for all that waste; however, Santymire says the setup&rsquo;s quite simple. It involves refrigeration. And lots of it.</p><p>First, the animal care staff collects samples from the animals like you might pick up after a dog, using sealed, plastic bags. The staff puts those samples in refrigerators all around the zoo, and Santymire collects the new material every month. She then weighs out portions of the poop, shoves them into test tubes, and then places the tubes into carefully labeled boxes, according to species. Santymire says each box holds 100 poop samples, and she&rsquo;s got 10 standard, 21-cubic-foot freezers full of poo boxes.</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/lpzoo%20strorage.jpeg" style="height: 278px; width: 620px;" title="The zoo's endocrinology lab studies about 10,000 poop samples a year and stores them in 10 freezers throughout the grounds. (Photo courtesy Lincoln Park Zoo)" /></div><p>Why keep all that poop at the ready? Well, Santymire says, it stays fresh for a long time, making the samples good material for follow-up questions she comes up with.</p><p>&ldquo;Instead of throwing away samples when we&rsquo;ve published our results, I look at the tubes and say, &lsquo;Wow, I can ask and answer another question with these poop samples. I cannot throw them away. I admit it,&rdquo; she said.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The kicker: What are the grossest offenders?</span></p><p>Questioner Kelley Clink wasn&rsquo;t just interested in the Lincoln Park Zoo poo&rsquo;s ultimate destination. She tossed us a quick follow-up that we couldn&rsquo;t resist: Which animal is the worst to clean up after?</p><p>We put the question to both Santymire and Bernier.</p><p><strong>Santymire&rsquo;s nominee: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fishing_cat" target="_blank">The Fishing Cat</a></strong></p><p>&ldquo;Imagine a cat that eats mostly fish. If you boil the feces you can clear out the fecal lab,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;No one wants to be around when you&rsquo;re working on fishing cat poop.&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/fishing%20cat.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="(Flickr/Attis1979)" /></div><p><strong>Bernier&rsquo;s pick: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pygmy_hippopotamus" target="_blank">The Pygmy Hippo</a></strong></p><p>&ldquo;Special note on the hippos ... They&rsquo;re the messiest of all animals,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Because our hippos here are a river species &mdash; they&rsquo;re pygmy hippos. So they advertise their territory with feces. But instead of just dropping the feces, they use their tails like a propeller and they spray it all over the place.&rdquo;</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe frameborder="0" height="350" scrolling="no" src="https://i.imgur.com/LPGeFb1.gifv#embed" width="620"></iframe></p><p style="text-align: right;"><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-jXMeo4a4k" target="_blank"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><span style="font-size:10px;">(Shawn O&#39;Dell/YouTube)</span></span></a></p><p><em>Logan Jaffe is Curious City&rsquo;s multimedia producer. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/loganjaffe" target="_blank">@loganjaffe</a>. Jennifer Brandel founded Curious City, and is now expanding the project as <a href="https://twitter.com/Curious_Nation" target="_blank">Curious Nation</a>. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/jnnbrndl" target="_blank">@jnnbrndl</a>.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 06 May 2015 18:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-06/curious-city-secrets-lincoln-park-zoos-poo-100260