WBEZ | Chicago’s West Side http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago%E2%80%99s-west-side Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en The rise and fall of Humboldt Park http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-07/rise-and-fall-humboldt-park-100702 <p><p>Humboldt Park is a large, 207-acre park on the West Side. Humboldt Park is also Chicago Community Area #23 on the West Side.</p><p>Humboldt Park (the park) is not located in Humboldt Park.</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/ZZ--Humboldt%20Park%20Border.JPG" title="Community pride on Humboldt Boulevard" /></div><p>The official community boundaries were drawn up by University of Chicago scholars in the 1920s. They decided that the park was part of the West Town neighborhood. Why they did this is too complicated to explain here. Or maybe it was just another UofC joke.</p><p>In any event, the subject today is the Humboldt Park Community Area. To keep things from getting too confusing, I&rsquo;m going to refer to it as HP.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">In 1869 Chicago annexed much of the current West Side. Work also began that year on building the three great West Side parks. HP, the area west of Humboldt Park, was mostly prairie. The few settlers were connected to the city by Whiskey Point Road (now called Grand Avenue &mdash; why did they ever change that name?).</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/ZZ--Map.jpg" title="" /></div></div><p>The Great Fire of 1871 caused Chicago to adopt new building laws. HP was part of the city, but was outside the fire code limits. Low-cost frame houses could still be built there. Several developers moved in. HP began growing.</p><p>Most of the new residents were blue collar. Many were employed at the Chicago &amp; North Western Railroad&rsquo;s 40th Avenue (Pulaski) shops, or in factories along the Belt Line Railroad to the west. Germans and Scandinavians were most numerous.</p><p>More people moved in when streetcar lines arrived in the 1890s. Block after block of brick cottages were built. They followed a few simple designs and looked very similar. More often than you&rsquo;d think possible, residents would get confused and try to enter the wrong house.</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/ZZ--3400-block%20W%20LeMoyne%20St%20%28row%20houses%29.jpg" title="Row houses on Le Moyne Street" /></div><p>North Avenue, which had both a streetcar and an &lsquo;L&rsquo; line, became the main shopping street. The area around North and Crawford (Pulaski) had several banks, theaters, and restaurants. Two-flats and apartment buildings lined the surrounding side streets.</p><p>HP&rsquo;s population reached 80,000 in 1930. The Germans and Scandinavians had now been joined by Poles, Italians and Russian Jews. One observer noted that these diverse groups all got along well with one another &mdash; unlike their compatriots in Europe, who would soon be fighting World War II.</p><p>Well into the 1950s, HP looked much the same. The number of residents leveled off at about 75,000. People had jobs, the stores did good business. Yet the times were changing, as seen by the fate of the local &quot;L&quot; line.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ZZ--North%20Ave%20shopping%20strip%20%28view%20east%20from%20Kedvale%20Ave%29_0.jpg" title="North Avenue commercial strip" /></div></div><p>The Humboldt Park &quot;L&quot; was a branch of the Logan Square main line. It ran over the alley north of North Avenue as far west as Lawndale. There were grand plans to extend the line farther west, as traffic dictated. But instead, the number of riders started dropping. In 1952 CTA shut down the line.</p><p>But the most traumatic event of the decade was the 1959 fire at Our Lady of the Angels School. The blaze killed 92 children and three nuns and tore the heart out of the neighborhood around Chicago and Hamlin.</p><p>During the 1960s, the ethnic makeup of HP was transformed. Hispanics moved into the eastern section &mdash; the earliest settlers were Puerto Rican, with Mexicans coming later. In the blocks south of Chicago Avenue, African-Americans became a majority.</p><p>At the same time, Chicago&rsquo;s economy was evolving. Thousands of manufacturing jobs left the city. In HP, many small factories closed. So did big plants like Helene Curtis Cosmetics and Schwinn Bicycles.</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/ZZ--Abandoned%20factories%20%284300-block%20W%20Chicago%20Ave%29.jpg" title="Shuttered factories along Chicago Avenue" /></div><p>The city created an industrial park on abandoned railroad land near Chicago and Pulaski. A new municipal incinerator was built on the site, along with warehouses, factories, a CTA garage and Orr High School. However, many parcels within the property remained vacant.</p><p>Economic uncertainty brought tough times to HP. During the late 1970s, an arson epidemic devastated the community. As vandalism and violent crime rose, more businesses left. Courtesy Motors, at one time the city&rsquo;s leading auto dealer, shut its doors for good.</p><p>HP has spent the last three decades hanging on. Some new construction has taken place, though the continuing recession has put many plans on hold. The 2010 Census reported a population of about 56,000. Most of that number were either Hispanic or African-American.</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/ZZ--New%20construction%20%28600-block%20N%20Kedzie%20Ave%29.jpg" title="Newer apartments on Kedzie Avenue" /></div><p>Despite the loss of an &quot;L&quot; line, the departure of manufacturing jobs and an arson epidemic, this West Side neighborhood is still holding on.</p></p> Fri, 13 Jul 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-07/rise-and-fall-humboldt-park-100702 When someone else’s art lands in your neighborhood http://www.wbez.org/story/abductions/when-someone-else%E2%80%99s-art-lands-your-neighborhood <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Sculpture2.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><b>Ten sculptors have put up outdoor pieces in Chicago&rsquo;s East Garfield Park neighborhood. The installation&rsquo;s supposed to stay up for a year. The group says the purpose is to expose people to art that they might not be able to see otherwise. But, then again, residents never asked for the opportunity. So what happens when someone else&rsquo;s art lands in your neighborhood? We report from our West Side bureau.</b><br /><br />Before looking into how the 10 pieces are going over in East Garfield Park, I ask Chicago sculptor Terrence Karpowicz to show them to me. He led the installation.<br /><br />MITCHELL: To me it looks like a huge, three-fingered claw. What is this?<br />KARPOWICZ: This is a sculpture by Fisher Stoltz titled &ldquo;Moonbench.&rdquo; I see it as a rendezvous point for the local community. They can actually come and sit down and converse.<br />MITCHELL: Yeah, there&rsquo;s a marble bench here.<br />KARPOWICZ: Actually it&rsquo;s granite. There is an electrical element that lights up at night so that the white marble sphere glows. Come on and sit down.<br />MITCHELL: Yeah, now that we&rsquo;re sitting down, this granite is very cold on my fat rear end.<br />KARPOWICZ: It warms up in summertime.<br /><br />The sculptures stand as high as 14 feet. They&rsquo;re spanning a half-mile boulevard called West Franklin for the next year. The artists are all members of a group called Chicago Sculpture International.<br /><br />Karpowicz takes me to a pile of rings made of industrial tubing.<br /><br />KARPOWICZ: That&rsquo;s a sculpture by Dusty Falwarczny. The title of the sculpture is &ldquo;Scrap.&rdquo; I measure that one as, probably, a three-shopping-cart operation.<br />MITCHELL: You measure the volume by shopping carts?<br />KARPOWICZ: That&rsquo;s how many shopping carts it&rsquo;ll take to get that to a scrap yard. Because you see a lot of hardworking men with shopping carts and they pick up debris and take it to recycling places.<br />MITCHELL: Have you ever lost one of your works to shopping carts?<br />KARPOWICZ: No, thank goodness.<br /><br />And there&rsquo;s more to see. Karpowicz shows me a giant, spiky sphere made of orange traffic cones. And there&rsquo;s a stainless-steel piece called &ldquo;Abduction.&rdquo;<br /><br />The installation is definitely capturing attention in the neighborhood.<br /><br />MAN: Oh, man, that&rsquo;s cool. Who did that?<br />WOMAN: It beautifies the neighborhood.<br />MAN: It&rsquo;s really nice for the block.<br />GRANT: I like them.<br />MITCHELL: What&rsquo;s your name?<br />GRANT: My name is Felincia Grant.<br />MITCHELL: Do any of the pieces stick out to you -- that you can really relate to?<br />GRANT: The one that&rsquo;s all the way down on Franklin and Kedzie. It looks like a hook. Actually, to be honest with you, I had a nephew that was--there used to be a tree there. My nephew ran into this tree. And that&rsquo;s where he died. And that piece, right there, it was put where the tree was.<br />MITCHELL: Does it remind you of him?<br />GRANT: Yeah. He had these hooked attitudes at times. He made a lot of bad choices. But he was a good kid.<br /><br />It&rsquo;s easy to find people who admire at least some of the 10 new sculptures in East Garfield Park. It&rsquo;s harder to find folks who have a beef with the installation, but they are around.<br /><br />FIELDS: My name is Cy Fields.<br /><br />Fields is pastor of New Landmark Missionary Baptist Church, a few blocks southeast of the parkway.<br /><br />FIELDS: It seems like they just plopped artwork in the community and just sort of said, &lsquo;Well, here it is and, surprise, I hope you enjoy it.&rsquo; I&rsquo;m not against community beautification and artwork, but I think the process and the end goal are very important. Many schools are struggling to have art classes in the schools. Can the artists come and teach the kids in East Garfield Park? Communities of color--African American and Latino--have their share of capable artists. Will their artwork be able to go to the North Side or to other communities as well? Let&rsquo;s have a cultural exchange.<br /><br />Fields isn&rsquo;t the only one talking about race. An unemployed interior decorator named Tony Green wants to know why the sculptures ended up in his neighborhood.<br /><br />GREEN: Only in the black community with no blacks involved. That&rsquo;s not personal, is it?<br /><br />These are fair questions. Karpowicz&rsquo;s group got an alderman&rsquo;s approval to put the sculptures up. But the group did not work with residents to choose the art or get them involved any other way.<br /><br />MITCHELL: How about helping artists in this community display their art here on the boulevard?<br />KARPOWICZ: Well, if those artists were members of Chicago Sculpture International, which they certainly can become part of, they&rsquo;d be the first ones on the list. It&rsquo;s not about shutting anybody out. It&rsquo;s about inclusivity.<br /><br />But then Karpowicz tells me the group&rsquo;s got a hundred and forty-nine members and not one is African American.<br /><br />MITCHELL: Why is that? Something like a third or 40 percent of the population here in the city is African American. <br />KARPOWICZ: We don&rsquo;t reach out, we don&rsquo;t publicize. As a result of an exhibition like this, if there are sculptors out there who happen to be African American [and] they want to be sculptors, the door is open. It&rsquo;s always open.<br /><br />He points out annual memberships cost only 25 dollars.<br /><br />Karpowicz and I keep talking as he shows me some sculptures toward the end of the parkway. He reminds me they&rsquo;ll be up in East Garfield Park only a year.<br /><br />KARPOWICZ: A lot of the people who live around here probably wouldn&rsquo;t venture downtown to see sculpture. And this is our opportunity, as part of the sculpture community of Chicago, to bring art to the communities.<br />MITCHELL: Where we&rsquo;re standing right now, we&rsquo;ve got a vacant lot on this side and we&rsquo;ve got another vacant lot we&rsquo;re standing in right now. The population here--they&rsquo;re not going to be buying these pieces afterwards.<br />KARPOWICZ: No, they probably won&rsquo;t, Chip, but I think they&rsquo;ll appreciate art a lot more. They&rsquo;ll appreciate sculpture. Next time they see a piece of art, they&rsquo;ll say, &lsquo;Oh yeah, we had one of those in our neighborhood once.&rsquo;<br /><br />If this installation works out, Karpowicz says his group&rsquo;ll try to bring sculptures to other Chicago boulevards. Next time, he says, the artists will try harder to get the neighborhood involved.</p></p> Wed, 08 Dec 2010 22:46:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/abductions/when-someone-else%E2%80%99s-art-lands-your-neighborhood