WBEZ | Maxwell Street http://www.wbez.org/tags/maxwell-street Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Old Maxwell Street remembered on film http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2013-06/old-maxwell-street-remembered-film-107720 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 9.46.46 AM.png" alt="" /><p><p>It&#39;s been 20 years since the first eviction notices were served on the vendors of old Maxwell Street; the opening salvo in a preservation battle that wiped away the Near West Side open-air market.</p><p>For decades, the area flanking Halsted just south of Roosevelt was a bustling, decaying place where you could find anything from clothes to car tires&mdash;all set against a sonic backdrop of electric blues musicians who jammed out in the open for shoppers.</p><p>What an incredible place. Of course, it&#39;s all gone now and replaced by a sedate neighborhood of residences, restaurants and facilities for the University of Illinois at Chicago. The university was the prime mover behind the redevelopment.</p><p>This brings us to the above video: a clip from the 1981 film <em>Maxwell Street Blues</em>. The 56-minute documentary by Raul Zaritsky and Linda Williams shows the neighborhood as it was and focuses and the folk who made the music there. Facets Multimedia has a <a href="http://www.facetsdvd.com/product-p/dv101474.htm">DVD of the film</a>.</p><p>The market still exists, but as a city-regulated, Sundays-only event on Des Plaines Street north of Roosevelt. Vendors set up shop, but the whole thing vanishes&mdash;like Brigadoon&mdash;until the next week. Frankly, I miss the old place.</p><p>Let&#39;s close with another vintage view of Maxwell Street from 1980 movie <em>The Blues Brothers</em>:</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/ur8Js8Ae9wc" width="620"></iframe></p></p> Mon, 17 Jun 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey/2013-06/old-maxwell-street-remembered-film-107720 Bloody Maxwell http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-02/bloody-maxwell-105423 <p><p>We&#39;ve been hearing much about Chicago&#39;s crime problems lately.&nbsp;Was it always&nbsp;so bad? Take a look at the <em>Chicago Tribune</em>&nbsp;from February 11&mdash; 107 years ago.&nbsp;</p><p>In 1906&nbsp;our city&nbsp;was already known for the biggest Stock Yards, the busiest street corner, and the most railroad trains. Now&nbsp;Chicago had earned another distinction.&nbsp;We had the most dangerous police district in the world.</p><p>The <em>Tribune </em>called it &ldquo;Bloody Maxwell.&rdquo; Then known as the 21st Precinct, it took in the area west of the river between Harrison and 16th, as far as Wood Street. Each year, within this single square mile, scores of people were murdered.</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/2-11--Maxwell%20Street%20%28L%20of%20C%29.jpg" title="'Bloody Maxwell' (Library of Congress)" /></div><p>&ldquo;Murderers, robbers, and thieves of the worst kind are born, reared, and grow to maturity in numbers that far exceed . . . any district on the face of the globe,&rdquo; the paper reported. &ldquo;Stealing is as natural as breathing. Property belongs to whoever can take and keep it.&rdquo;</p><p>In some families, four generations were active criminals.</p><p>The area was filled with recent immigrants. There were Irish, Germans, Poles, Italians, Greeks, Russian Jews, and others, all living uneasily together in crowded, dirty tenements. They brought with them their Old World traditions&ndash;you backed your own people, you solved your own troubles, and you didn&rsquo;t trust the police.</p><p>The precinct station stood at 943 West Maxwell Street, like a Wild West fort surrounded by hostile Indians. The <em>Tribune </em>called the cops there &rdquo;the bravest policemen in the world.&rdquo; Most of them had grown up in the neighborhood, and knew how to deal with the conditions. Yet even the most fearless officer would never enter a building alone.</p><p>The cops didn&rsquo;t have enough manpower to patrol the area. The thugs knew this and were getting bolder. &ldquo;Living more like beasts than human beings,&rdquo; the paper said, &ldquo;hundreds and thousands of boys and men follow day after day, year after year, in the bloody ways of crime.&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/2-11--Maxwell%20Station%20%28L%20of%20C%29.jpg" title="Suspect in custody at Maxwell Street Police Station (Library of Congress)" /></div><p>Even so, some young men did overcome their environment. They spurned the seductions of the streets. They went on to lead useful, productive lives.</p><p>Why did two boys growing up on the same block&ndash;perhaps even in the same tenement&ndash;turn out so differently? Why did one become a model citizen, and the other a depraved rogue? It was something the sociologists needed to study.</p><p>The story of &ldquo;Bloody Maxwell&rdquo; filled two full pages of the <em>Tribune</em>. Over a century later, it&rsquo;s still interesting to read. Today much of the old 21st Precinct is gentrified, or part of the UIC campus.</p><p>The police station remains standing at the corner of Maxwell and Morgan. If it looks familiar, that&rsquo;s because it was later featured on a TV series about city cops in a crime-filled, inner-city district: &quot;Hill Street Blues.&rdquo;</p></p> Mon, 11 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-02/bloody-maxwell-105423 Maxwell Street blues http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-10/maxwell-street-blues-103349 <p><iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="http://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F64531621&show_artwork=true"></iframe></p><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/Maxwell%20street%20flickr%20bunkys%20pickle.jpg" style="float: left; width: 441px; height: 278px;" title="(Flickr/bunky's pickle)" /></div><p>There was a celebration Sunday to mark the 100<sup>th</sup> birthday of Maxwell Street. It was not a big party and not held on Maxwell Street&mdash;but rather at what is called the Maxwell Street Market at Des Plaines and Roosevelt.</p><p>I was there; and I was there too when Maxwell Street was dying. The fall of 1998, and I am there. The curbs are broken, the sidewalks smashed and thrown askew as if by a small earthquake. It was a shattered, tattered and shuttered street. The block east of Halsted is a mess of iron grates, plywood and broken glass windows, barely able to echo the vibrancy that was here for more than a century; a disorderly but delightfully dizzying mix of immigrant cultures and commerce and the blues.</p><p>The University of Illinois at Chicago, which owned much of the land in the area and is expanding its campus, moving in for the kill.</p><p>A group of concerned citizens, activists and blues performers formed the Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition in an attempt to save something of the street. They have created a sculpture that spelled M-A-X in 10-foot-tall letters made of railroad ties, and the &quot;Maxwell Street Wall of Fame,&quot; a mural filled with names of former area residents, such as bluesman Bo Diddley, jazzman Benny Goodman and former Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg.</p><p>Near the mural is a cardboard petition. Only five names and addresses are scrawled on it. It is obviously a losing battle.</p><p>Ira Berkow, a native Chicagoan and former <em>New York Times</em> sportswriter, wrote a history titled &quot;Maxwell Street: Survival in a Bazaar.&quot; He called Maxwell Street &quot;the Ellis Island of the Midwest.&quot;</p><p>Go there now and you will find on the corner a trio of gentrified neighbors: Jamba Juice, Caribou Coffee and a TV-filled sports bar called Morgan&#39;s on Maxwell.</p><p>There is nothing wrong with change. A city is an organic thing. But when change eradicates important and vibrant parts of the past, a city becomes less alive.</p><p>There is a plaque on one building on Maxwell and some small informational stands, offering the most perfunctory history lessons, spaced along the chic, shop-filled block east of Halsted.</p><p>There are also three sculptures: A woman carrying a sack of groceries; a man presumably trying to sell tomatoes; a man playing the guitar. Produced by a company in Pennsylvania, these statues are not ugly. They are, in what they have to say about the price of progress, pathetic.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 23 Oct 2012 14:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-10/maxwell-street-blues-103349