WBEZ | Northwest Side http://www.wbez.org/tags/northwest-side Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Why are we still collecting taxes to prevent white flight in Chicago? http://www.wbez.org/news/why-are-we-still-collecting-taxes-prevent-white-flight-chicago-110325 <p><p>A controversial decades-old program to prevent white flight in Chicago is flush with cash and still collecting taxes from residents of the Southwest and Northwest sides &ndash; despite racial change and housing shifts.&nbsp;</p><p>The programs&rsquo; origins can be traced to the racial panic that gripped many white ethnic communities after voters elected Harold Washington as the city&rsquo;s first black mayor in 1983. Often that fear played out in the housing market with white bungalow belt families worried that blacks would move in and decrease their property values.</p><p>The money collected in the so-called home equity districts was used as a kind of insurance program &ndash; homeowners could file a cash claim if the value dropped upon selling.</p><p>The three little-known taxing districts are the <a href="http://www.nwhomeequity.org/" target="_blank">Northwest Home Equity Assurance Program</a>, the <a href="http://swghe.org/" target="_blank">Southwest Guaranteed Home Equity Program</a> and the <a href="https://www.swhomeequity.com/" target="_blank">Southwest Home Equity Assurance Program</a>.</p><blockquote><p><strong>MAP: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/why-are-we-still-collecting-taxes-prevent-white-flight-chicago-110325#wheredistricts">Where are the home equity districts?</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>In the decades since they were created, most neighborhoods have experienced a racial transition on their own; they are no longer white enclaves. And yet the three home equity programs are still there, still collecting money from thousands of homeowners and not doing much else.</p><p>Collectively, these taxing districts sit on millions of dollars and some activists want that to change.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">Save our neighborhood</span></p><p>The 1980s may seem a little late for <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/147.html" target="_blank">panic peddling and blockbusting</a> by unscrupulous realtors. After all, white flight had already happened decades earlier once blacks could legally buy homes wherever they wanted.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/home%20equity3_140611_nm.jpg" style="height: 349px; width: 620px; float: right;" title="A brochure explaining the home equity program on the Northwest Side. (WBEZ/Natalie Moore)" /></p><p>But segregation never really went away.</p><p>&ldquo;You had these bungalows near the stockyards, which to be blunt about it, wasn&rsquo;t exactly desirable real estate. These folks living in those bungalows &ndash; six rooms, a knotty pine basement, one bathroom and was there any racial acceptance? No!&rdquo; said Paul Green, Director of the Institute for Politics at Roosevelt University.</p><p>Historically, African Americans weren&rsquo;t a strong presence in the bungalow belt. And Green said longtime residents didn&rsquo;t exactly roll out the welcome wagon.</p><p>&ldquo;They were all basically white ethnic neighborhoods. The reality was is that the good people living there were afraid that they were going to lose the value of their homes, the only place they knew.&rdquo;</p><p>That fear gave birth to the white <a href="http://www.lib.niu.edu/1988/ii880524.html" target="_blank">Save Our Neighborhood/Save Our City coalition</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;You literally had racial change taking place mile by mile going west on 55th, 63rd, 71st. And those people didn&rsquo;t have anyplace to go,&rdquo; Green said. &ldquo;At that time there was very little reintegration after you had segregation. In other words, you look at the South Side of Chicago, you did not have neighborhoods that went from white to black to mixed.&rdquo;</p><p>The coalition pushed for an equity program to protect them from falling property values. Mayor Harold Washington, who understood white ethnic fear, got behind it. City Council considered an ordinance to implement the program. But black aldermen found the notion that whites needed home equity insurance racist. Washington publicly withdrew his support.</p><blockquote><p><strong>MAP: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/why-are-we-still-collecting-taxes-prevent-white-flight-chicago-110325#racemap">How the racial makeup of Chicago neighborhoods has changed</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Then in 1988 Southwest Side politician Michael Madigan stepped in. The powerful speaker of the Illinois House helped pass a state law that created three home equity taxing districts &ndash;&nbsp;including two on the southwest side. Another district was created on the northwest side.</p><p>Madigan declined an interview request.</p><p>&ldquo;The premise of the program was I think much more psychological. The psychology was people fear change and when you put into place this institutional mechanism, you create a way of responding to that fear,&rdquo; said Phil Ashton, of the University of Illinois at Chicago, who&rsquo;s studied home equity districts.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">How home equity districts work</span></p><p>All homeowners in a designated district pay a small tax, sometimes as little as a dollar and fifty cents a year. That money goes into a fund and homeowners voluntarily enroll in the equity program. If the appraisal is less than the original purchase price when they decide to sell, homeowners receive a cash claim for the difference.</p><p>It&rsquo;s worth noting that Oak Park started a similar program in the late 1970s to manage racial integration. No claims were ever paid out and the program ceased.</p><p>But liberal Oak Park is much different from blue collar Marquette Park, where angry whites jeered at and stoned Martin Luther King in 1966 when he marched for racially open housing laws.</p><p>A horrified 16 year old Jim Capraro witnessed that incident a block away from his home. And he carried it with him as a young man.</p><p>&ldquo;I remember seeing Stokely Carmichael speak in Chicago, a civil rights leader. When he was done speaking, a white kid kind of raised his hand and said &lsquo;what should white kids do to change this?&rsquo; And Stokely said &lsquo;white kids should go back to where they came from and change it there,&rsquo;&rdquo; Capraro said.</p><p>He returned home to the Southwest Side and led the Greater Southwest Community Development Corporation for decades in Chicago Lawn.</p><p>Capraro served on the board of the Southwest Home Equity Assurance Program until 2010. He wasn&rsquo;t active in getting it started but has thought a lot about its effect.</p><p>&ldquo;Does a program like this support racism or thwart racism? Even the people who aren&rsquo;t racist might end up getting hurt because the very act of a large number of people fleeing puts more supply on the housing market than would normally be,&rdquo; Capraro said.</p><p>Whatever the intent, none of the 20-odd neighborhoods in the three home equity districts experienced white flight. Take Chicago Lawn for example. Decades after the ugly backlash against Dr. King, it experienced a smooth racial transition during the 1990s. Today 63rd Street is a bustling strip with mosques, a Harold&rsquo;s fried chicken, and a Belizean restaurant.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/home%20equity2_140611_nm.jpg" style="height: 349px; width: 620px; float: left;" title="A boarded up building in Chicago Lawn. Neighborhood activists say fixing vacancies should be a priority of the home equity districts. (WBEZ/Natalie Moore)" />Meanwhile, farther west, union signs hang on the front porches of blondish brick homes. Here, in the Clearing neighborhood, the area is still mostly white.</p><p>Many other neighborhoods in the home equity districts are largely Latino now.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">&#39;Why should that money be sitting there?&#39;</span></p><p>At the Northwest Side Housing Center on west Addison Street, Polish signs hang inside the storefront. The office is crowded with people seeking help to keep their homes. The surrounding bungalow communities of Dunning, Portage Park and Irving Park used to house the largest concentration of Polish families in the city. Families like Ernie Luconsik&rsquo;s, a housing volunteer.</p><p>&ldquo;One of the reasons I moved to my area was because it was integrated. I found it fascinating that people got along and didn&rsquo;t look at people as any kind of color,&rdquo; Luconsik said.</p><p>These days there are nearly as many Latinos and Asians living in the neighborhoods.</p><blockquote><p><strong>CHART: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/why-are-we-still-collecting-taxes-prevent-white-flight-chicago-110325#districtchange">How the racial makeup of the home equity districts has changed</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>&ldquo;As a community-based organization and community residents who are supposed to be benefiting, where is the accountability about the funds and how they are being used?&rdquo; said James Rudyk, executive director of the Northwest Side Housing Center.</p><p>The Northwest Home Equity Assurance Program taxes approximately 48,000 homeowners. Fewer than 10 percent of homeowners in the Northwest Side district are enrolled in the program &ndash;&nbsp;even though all of them pay the tax.</p><p>The fund has $9.6 million.</p><p>&ldquo;Why should that money be sitting there? And if it&rsquo;s something that&rsquo;s not going to produce back, then stop it overall. Because it&rsquo;s something that&rsquo;s not being a benefit for the people or the community,&rdquo; community organizer Vanessa Valentin said. She said families could use that money for something other than claims: home repairs, small loans to prevent foreclosure.</p><p>Rudyk said they tried to organize around this issue several years ago, but got nowhere.</p><p>&ldquo;They have not returned our calls either or our request for a meeting. We were told why are we here, why are we questioning? This isn&rsquo;t our business,&rdquo; Rudyk said.</p><p>I know the feeling.</p><p>When I tried to talk to somebody from the three equity programs, no one agreed to a recorded interview. One of the programs wouldn&rsquo;t even give me their financials until the state attorney general got involved.</p><p>Judging the success or failure of the equity programs is hard. Did the psychology of having insurance keep white families from fleeing?</p><p>We may never know. While blacks never did buy many homes in the bungalow belt, today the northwest and southwest sides are no longer exclusive white enclaves.</p><p>UIC&rsquo;s Ashton said immigrants helped stabilize changing communities where the taxing districts exist.</p><p>&ldquo;Absent Latino homebuyers, white homeowners would&rsquo;ve struggled to find replacements for themselves when they were trying to move out through course of the 1990s. And they didn&rsquo;t move out because, I don&rsquo;t think, they encountered more minorities moving in,&rdquo; Ashton said. &ldquo;They moved out because they were getting old and their home was their major source of wealth and they wanted to retire or they were passing away and the family wanted to resolve the estate by selling the home.&rdquo;</p><p>Now those same immigrant families are facing a fresh set of challenges related to the housing downturn.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Residents want money invested in neighborhoods</span></p><p>Veronica Villasenor is a counselor for the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, which serves a low-income and working class Latino area.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m a Hispanic, I&rsquo;m a Latina. I know how my parents think. I know how my parents were victims of getting a mortgage that wasn&rsquo;t sustainable,&rdquo; Villasenor said. &ldquo;Just in general the community is not educated. I think the state should assign money to develop education programs for these families &ndash; financial literacy, for mortgages.</p><p>Where would that money come from? Villasenor has her eye on the $1 million cash reserve in the Southwest Home Equity Assurance Program.</p><p>That&rsquo;s the board Capraro used to sit on the board of that program. He said he can count the number of claims that went out. Usually because of an inaccurate appraisal, not because of a drop in home values.</p><p>Realizing the program was flush with cash, Capraro says the board took action.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We appealed to the legislature and actually got permission to do this: we were lending people money at interest rates that were much less expensive than a normal home improvement loan or home equity line of credit,&rdquo; Capraro said.</p><p>It was a popular program until the housing market crashed. Suddenly, a roof repair wasn&rsquo;t as important as hanging on to one&rsquo;s home.</p><p>Separately, the Southwest Guaranteed Home Equity Program has more than $53 thousand dollars in the bank. Last year it collected $185,000 but it hasn&rsquo;t had any recent payouts.</p><p>The Northwest Home Equity Assurance Program last paid out a claim more than 15 years ago.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Let them explain to community residents what&rsquo;s being done with these funds and how we can work together it&rsquo;s not work against each other it&rsquo;s work together for the benefit of the community,&rdquo; Valentin said.</p><p>In 2011, the <em><a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/watchdogs/8177235-452/taxpayer-money-set-aside-to-curb-white-flight-helped-some-flee-city.html#.U5XsW1fvn_Y" target="_blank">Chicago Sun-Times</a></em> investigated how families were cashing out of the program due to the housing economic slump, which is not what the taxing districts were designed for.</p><p>Put aside, for a moment, the reason these three taxing districts exist and focus just on the dollars.</p><p>Any community area would envy a pot of money that could potentially be reinvested back in the neighborhood &ndash;&nbsp;no matter what race benefits.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">Map: Where are the home equity districts?<a name="wheredistricts"></a></span></p><p><span style="font-size:14px;">(click on the districts for financial info)</span></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="300" scrolling="no" src="https://www.google.com/fusiontables/embedviz?q=select+col2%3E%3E0+from+1OVxIg4ZMZyPSe4FvVqVzWQasXgkF9WbsSNyMnsF4&amp;viz=MAP&amp;h=false&amp;lat=41.87606330248448&amp;lng=-87.73913351843261&amp;t=1&amp;z=10&amp;l=col2%3E%3E0&amp;y=2&amp;tmplt=2&amp;hml=KML" width="620"></iframe></p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">Chart: How the racial makeup of home equity districts has changed<a name="districtchange"></a></span></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/district%20change%20chart.PNG" style="height: 297px; width: 620px;" title="(WBEZ/Chris Hagan)" /></div><p>Chicago&#39;s three home equity districts cover 18 community areas. Those neighborhoods saw major demographic shifts from 1990 to 2010. For example, in Archer Heights White residents made up 90 percent of the population in 1990 but only 21 in 2010, a drop of 69 percentage points. In the same time Latino residents increased from 9 to 76 percent.</p><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">Map: How the racial makeup of Chicago has changed<a name="racemap"></a></span></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/maps.PNG" style="height: 381px; width: 620px;" title="Dot density map showing census numbers. (WBEZ/Chris Hagan)" /></div><blockquote><div>&nbsp;</div></blockquote><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;</em><em>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> Wed, 11 Jun 2014 14:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/why-are-we-still-collecting-taxes-prevent-white-flight-chicago-110325 Just months after closing 50 schools, Chicago issues RFP for more charter schools http://www.wbez.org/news/education/just-months-after-closing-50-schools-chicago-issues-rfp-more-charter-schools-108398 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/peck web.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Just two and a half months after a historic vote to close 50 schools, Chicago is laying the groundwork to bring more charter schools to the city.</p><p>Without fanfare, the district posted an official <a href="http://www.cps.edu/NewSchools/Documents/RFP_ForNewSchools.pdf" target="_blank">&ldquo;request for proposals&rdquo;</a> to its website Monday that invites charter schools to apply to open shop in what the school district has identified as priority neighborhoods&mdash;large swaths of the Southwest and Northwest sides.</p><p>Those heavily Latino areas <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/no-simple-answers-chicagos-severely-overcrowded-schools-107651">have struggled with overcrowded schools</a>.</p><p>The district wants what it&rsquo;s calling &ldquo;next generation&rdquo; charter schools, which could combine online and traditional teaching. It also wants proposals for arts integration charter schools and dual language charters.&nbsp;</p><p>Chicago is coming off a painful process to close 50 schools it said were underutilized; the district last December determined that <a href="http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/news/2012/12/05/20673/under-utilized-schools-continue-shed-students-map">half its schools</a> are underenrolled. District spokeswoman Becky Carroll said Tuesday in an email that &ldquo;while there were significant population declines in some parts of the city, there were also increases in other parts of the city.... There are many schools that are overcrowded or are facing overcrowding and we need to address that issue as we do any other.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago Teachers Union and others have argued for years that school closures are about making way for charters and weakening the union.</p><p>&ldquo;We are not surprised at all by this,&rdquo; said union president Karen Lewis . &ldquo;We were called conspiracy theorists, and then here is the absolute proof of what the intentions are&hellip;. The district has clearly made a decision that they want to push privatization of our public schools.&rdquo;</p><p>The district has been slowly shifting students to charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run. Around 13 percent of district students&mdash;and more than 20 percent of the district&rsquo;s high school students&mdash; are educated in charter schools. Teachers at charters cannot be represented by the Chicago Teachers Union.</p><p>CPS does not specify how many new charters it would like to open. Districts are required by state law to consider proposals for new charters every year, and CPS has run an annual RFP for at least the last decade.</p><p>Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, says this year&rsquo;s RFP represents a &ldquo;shift in strategy.&rdquo; In the past, the district named neighborhoods that lacked high performing schools as priority areas for charters.</p><p>&ldquo;Eight or nine years ago the focus was getting options schools in places that weren&rsquo;t served well&mdash;traditional West and South side neighborhoods&mdash;and certainly some of the charter school growth in those areas was a result of that focus,&quot; says Broy. &ldquo;Now we see a focus that shifts a little bit to different parts of the city where overcrowding has been a real issue going back 10, 12, 15 years.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>This is also the first time the district has named specific school models as priorities.</p><p>&ldquo;CPS is expressing a preference for models that they don&rsquo;t currently have,&rdquo; says Broy, who adds that his group had input into the RFP. &ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s really an RFP that seeks to add to what we offer in the city, while also providing an avenue for existing proven models to think about how they might want to expand.&rdquo;</p><p>Broy said a key challenge for any charter operator that applies will be finding an appropriate facility on the built-up Northwest or Southwest side.&nbsp;</p><p>In a statement sent late afternoon Tuesday, the district said its goal with the RFP &nbsp;&quot;is to seek out potential proposals to create more high quality school options for parents and this is merely one&nbsp;step in that process.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 13 Aug 2013 17:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/education/just-months-after-closing-50-schools-chicago-issues-rfp-more-charter-schools-108398 Why the Kennedy backs up at the Edens junction http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-06/why-kennedy-backs-edens-junction-107813 <p><p>If you&rsquo;ve ever driven the Kennedy Expressway to O&rsquo;Hare&mdash;or to the far Northwest Side&mdash;you know about this bottleneck.&nbsp; You sail through the Edens junction, and suddenly everything comes to a screeching halt. Traffic crawls along for the next few miles, until you pass Harlem Avenue. Then&nbsp;the highway&nbsp;opens up again.</p><p>Why does this happen? It all goes back to the original design.</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/06-24--Junction_8.JPG" title="Smooth sailing at the Junction--it's Sunday morning!" /></div><p>In the 1950s, when Chicago&rsquo;s expressways were being built, they were geared toward moving traffic to and from the center of the city. Crosstown travel was rarely factored into the planning. Therefore, there was no ramp from the inbound Edens to the outbound Kennedy. Likewise, there was no ramp from the inbound Kennedy to the outbound Edens.</p><p>The Kennedy-Edens junction was complicated enough, with three railroad lines and busy Cicero Avenue right there. Building two additional ramps would involve additional land clearance and be wildly expensive.&nbsp; Therefore, the planners didn&rsquo;t bother with them.</p><p>During the 1960s, a Crosstown Expressway was proposed as an extension of the Edens south along Cicero. This meant that a full Kennedy-Edens interchange would be built. But the Crosstown was never constructed, and the Kennedy-Edens junction remained as it was.</p><p>So today, if you&rsquo;re on the inbound Kennedy (I-90) and want to access the outbound Edens (I-94), you drive through the junction and take the first exit at Keeler. Then you turn left on Keeler, drive under the Kennedy, and take another left&nbsp;up the next ramp. Now you&rsquo;re on the outbound Kennedy, and can get&nbsp;to the Edens.</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/Keeler%20cross-under.JPG" title="The notorious Keeler cross-under" /></div><p>You can follow the same procedure going from the inbound Edens to the outbound Kennedy&mdash;drive through the junction, then use the Keeler exit/entrance maneuver. But most drivers follow a different route.</p><p>Want to get from the inbound Edens to the outbound Kennedy? Exit at Cicero-Foster,&nbsp;then drive west on surface streets.&nbsp;After a mile or so you can get on the outbound Kennedy at Foster, or at Nagle-Bryn Mawr.</p><p>Now you have all this traffic getting on the outbound Kennedy at Foster, and at Nagle-Bryn Mawr. Meanwhile, there&rsquo;s a significant curve in the expressway that slows&nbsp;things down in the stretch between these two entrances. Result&mdash;a three-mile jam back to the Edens junction.</p><p>So, how to solve this mess?</p><p>1&mdash;Eliminate the Sayre exit. This exit was actually meant to serve Talcott Avenue, which was Illinois Route 62 when the expressway was constructed. The exit is little used today, and is only a few hundred feet from the Harlem exit.</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/Sayre%20Exit-02%20%282012%29.JPG" title="Is this exit necessary?" /></div><p>2&mdash;Build segregated acceleration/deceleration lanes along the outbound Kennedy between Nagle and Harlem. There&rsquo;s&nbsp;lots of space for them, though the greenery would have to be sacrificed.</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/Kennedy%20west%20of%20Nagle.JPG" title="Kennedy west of Nagle--plenty of room for extra lanes" /></div><p>I&rsquo;m not a traffic engineer, so I don&rsquo;t know if this is the best solution to the problem. But the present arrangement sure isn&rsquo;t working.</p></p> Mon, 24 Jun 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-06/why-kennedy-backs-edens-junction-107813 Video: A 1981 'L' ride http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-05/video-1981-l-ride-107263 <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/05-22.jpg" style="height: 199px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="South Side 'L' at Pershing" /></div><p>A few months ago I posted my old super-8 movie of a 1981 ride on the Ravenswood (Brown) Line. Despite the amateur quality, response was favorable. So with the Red Line closing down, it seems an appropriate time to dig out another old &#39;L&#39; movie.</p><p>Today&#39;s film begins with a trip up the South Side &#39;L&#39; from 51st to the old subway portal near 15th. The action then shifts to the Northwest Side and the &#39;L&#39; along Milwaukee Avenue, between Sacramento and Paulina. The running time is about 8 minutes, with audio commentary.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="465" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/oM9HWK4zG-Y" width="620"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 29 May 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-05/video-1981-l-ride-107263 Four corners, four gas stations http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-05/four-corners-four-gas-stations-107132 <p><p>I grew up near a landmark intersection, though I didn&rsquo;t realize it at the time.</p><p>The year is 1961. Montrose Avenue, meet Austin Avenue. 4400 north, 6000 west.</p><p>Four corners. Four gas stations. What better monument to the American car culture of the mid-20<sup>th</sup> Century?</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/05-15--1961.jpg" title="Montrose-Austin, 1961" /></div><p>The Standard station on the northwest corner came first. Then, going clockwise around the intersection, there was Texaco, Mobil, and Pure. I&rsquo;m not sure in what order these other stations were built.</p><p>(There was actually a fifth gas station a few hundred feet east of the intersection. A tiny Sinclair station stood on the southeast corner of Montrose and Mason. Grandpa Price said it had been there since the 1920s. By 1965 it was gone.)</p><p>Next to the Mobil station there was a vacant lot where we played baseball. Like most Chicagoans, we called it &quot;the prairie.&quot; Other than that, I had no connection to the four gas stations on the four corners, and no stories to tell about them. They were simply part of the neighborhood.</p><p>During the 1970s, with gas prices rising, four stations became redundant. The Texaco was the first to go, converted into an auto clinic. The Standard became a bank branch. The Pure was an Arco for a while, and then a fast-food drive-thru. Today there&rsquo;s only one gas station at Montrose and Austin.</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/05-15--1979.jpg" title="Montrose-Austin, 1979" /></div><p>Chicago had a few places where three gas stations crowded the four-corner intersections. Montrose-Austin was the only place in the city where I ever saw four stations on all four corners, though I suspect this might have happened in the suburbs.</p><p>Were there any other four-corner intersections within the city limits that had four gas stations at one time? I&#39;d be interested in learning where they were.</p></p> Fri, 17 May 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-05/four-corners-four-gas-stations-107132 There in Chicago (#21) http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-03/there-chicago-21-106195 <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/21-2012-Milwaukee-Logan.JPG" title="Milwaukee Avenue at Logan Boulevard--view northwest" /></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/21-1934%20%28CTA%29_0.JPG" title="1934--the same location" /></div></div><p>How well did you find your way around the Chicago of the past?</p><p>We are just north of Logan Square, where Milwaukee Avenue meets both Logan Boulevard and Kedzie Avenue.&nbsp;The&nbsp;distinctive streetlight&nbsp;on the&nbsp;left was characteristic of streets under the jurisdiction of the Chicago Park District. The #17&nbsp;on the streetcars signify they are on the Kedzie line, which operated over this portion of Milwaukee Avenue.</p><p>Also in the 1934 photo, note the&nbsp;large advertising signs on the building roofs. The signs were set&nbsp;high so they could be seen from &#39;L&#39; trains at the Logan Square terminal, just south of here.</p></p> Wed, 27 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-03/there-chicago-21-106195 Where in Chicago? (#21) http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-03/where-chicago-21-106192 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/21-1934 (CTA).JPG" title="1934 (CTA photo)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">How well could you find your way around the Chicago of the past?</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The photo is from the Northwest Side of the city--which I&#39;ll define as somewhere west of the river and north of North Avenue. Though some of the buildings are gone, others remain. There are also clues to help you identify the site.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">If you think you know the location, send in your guess as a Comment. I&#39;ll post a contemporary photo tomorrow.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></p> Tue, 26 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-03/where-chicago-21-106192 Norwood Park, past and present http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-02/norwood-park-past-and-present-105835 <p><p>Norwood Park, Community Area 10,&nbsp;is one of Chicago&rsquo;s railroad communities.&nbsp;The original settlement was planned around the Chicago &amp; North Western commuter line.&nbsp;But that&rsquo;s not the beginning of our story.</p><p>In 1833 Mark Noble filed claim to 150 acres of land in the area. He built a frame house on a glacial ridge and lived the life of a gentleman farmer. Today his home, at 5634 North Newark Avenue, is the oldest building in Chicago.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/3-7 (1)--Noble's House.jpg" title="Mark Noble's 1833 farmhouse" /></div><p>Other farmers followed Noble.&nbsp;Then in 1868, a group of Chicago investors&nbsp;purchased 860 acres near the railroad for real estate development.&nbsp;Taking their name from a popular novel, they called their community Norwood Park.&nbsp;A town hall and shops were built across from the C&amp;NW station.</p><p>The new town featured wide lots with expansive front lawns. Instead of following the rigid Chicago grid, the streets were pleasantly curved&ndash;one of them even formed a circle. Three small parks were laid out and hundreds of shade trees planted.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</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/3-7%20%282%29--map%20-%20Copy.jpg" style="width: 518px; height: 385px;" title="" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">To promote development, frequent ads&nbsp;were run in the Chicago newspapers.&nbsp;It&rsquo;s worth quoting one of them&ndash;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;Only 11 miles from the Court House on the Chicago &amp; North Western, 30 minutes ride.&nbsp;Eighty feet above the lake on beautiful, rolling ground, perfect drainage.&nbsp;No malaria, no saloons, no nuisances of any kind.&nbsp;Good society, churches, graded schools, stores.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">New settlers arrived.&nbsp;They built large Victorian homes on the high ground near the ridge. As Norwood Park&nbsp;grew, the residents saw the need for city services.&nbsp;In 1893 they voted to become part of Chicago.&nbsp;Today the historic heart of the original town is&nbsp;called Old Norwood.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/3-7%20%283%29--homes%20in%20Old%20Norwood%20%28Nickerson%20Ave%29.jpg" title="Nickerson Avenue in Old Norwood" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">The eastern part of the community was not developed until after annexation.&nbsp;Though closer to the city, the land here was marsh.&nbsp;New sewers solved that problem, and bungalows began going up.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">By 1930 Norwood Park&nbsp;was home to&nbsp;14,000 people.&nbsp;A&nbsp;local shopping district had&nbsp;evolved near Northwest Highway and Raven, and a string of small factories&nbsp;lined the railroad.&nbsp;Then came the Depression and World War II.&nbsp;Building stopped, with large areas to the south and west still prairie.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Development resumed after the war ended. Now the families of the Baby Boom were buying cars and looking for ranch homes. The outer portions of Norwood Park&ndash;Big Oaks, Union Ridge, Oriole Park&ndash;were filling up. The population reached 27,000 in 1950, and 41,000 ten years later.</div><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/3-7 (4)--NW Hwy 1957.jpg" title="Northwest Highway-Raven, 1957 (author's collection)" /></div></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Still, it took a while to tie Norwood Park to the city.&nbsp;The railroad was fast, but expensive.&nbsp;Most residents who wanted to get downtown faced a long, slow journey, driving on surface streets or riding the Milwaukee Avenue streetcar.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The Northwest (Kennedy) Expressway was completed in 1960.&nbsp;The community&nbsp;now had convenient auto access to other areas, though traffic&nbsp;grows heavier each year.&nbsp;The O&rsquo;Hare branch of the CTA Blue Line has been an alternative since 1983.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Drawing a map of Community Area 10 should not be attempted by amateurs.&nbsp;That&rsquo;s because the boundaries are so complicated.&nbsp;Politics is the reason, of course.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/18--Am%20I%20Still%20in%20Chicago%20%288200-block%20W%20Catherin%20Ave--street%20lights%20end%20at%20city%20border%29.jpg" title="Catherine Avenue--street lights end at the city border" /></div><p>During the 1950s Chicago wanted to establish a land connection to the new O&rsquo;Hare Airport, and began claiming large swaths of territory.&nbsp;The boundaries of Community Area 10 were stretched west to Cumberland Avenue.&nbsp;But in the middle of all this Chicago land, there are several blocks that refused to join the city, and remain unincorporated.&nbsp;They are known as Norwood Park Township.&nbsp;</p><p>Today the Chicago community of Norwood Park is a stable, middle-class area.&nbsp;The population of 37,000 is&nbsp;largely&nbsp;White European American. About 12% identify as Hispanic. Local landmarks include the Noble home, Superdawg Drive-in, and Taft High School, inspiration for the musical <em>Grease.</em></p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><em><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/3-7%20%285%29--Taft%20High%20School%20%28aka%20Rydell%29-5601%20N%20Natoma%20Ave%20%281%29.jpg" title="Taft High School, aka Rydell" /></em></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 07 Mar 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-02/norwood-park-past-and-present-105835 Chicago's Rosemont Corridor http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-01/chicagos-rosemont-corridor-105151 <p><p>You can find a little bit of Chicago in the strangest places.</p><p>In 1945 the federal government transferred 1,080 acres of land near Mannheim and Higgins to the City of Chicago. The site was to be used for a new commercial airfield, the future O&rsquo;Hare.</p><p>Though Chicago held title to the airport land, the site itself was a few miles beyond the city limits. That fact might cause legal complications--could&nbsp;the Chicago police even issue parking tickets?&nbsp;Early in 1956, the city council opened hearings on annexing unincorporated land between the city and the airport.</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/Foster%20corridor.JPG" title="Foster Avenue--Chicago's 'Rosemont Corridor'" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Part of the plan was to annex forest preserve&nbsp;acreage along the Des Plaines River. The Cook County Board was controlled by Chicago Democrats, so that would be easily done.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">At the same time, the city was going to annex a 66-foot-wide strip of Higgins Road. This narrow corridor would stretch from the&nbsp;existing Chicago border (Canfield Avenue) to the airport land (Mannheim Road). Chicago would then have a physical link with O&rsquo;Hare.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Meanwhile,&nbsp;out on the prairie, the homesteaders in Park Ridge and Des Plaines were alarmed. Those city slickers were invading their territory. What would happen to their peaceful country&nbsp;lives?</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Now both Park Ridge and Des Plaines began their own annexations, trying to block Chicago&rsquo;s land grab. The newly-incorporated village of Rosemont followed suit. To help things along, Leyden Township officials volunteered to co-ordinate the new suburban&nbsp;borders.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago&nbsp;wasn&rsquo;t about to let a few little hamlets interfere with the greater good of his city. Daley&nbsp;met behind closed doors with officials from the rebellious suburbs on March 28<sup>th</sup>. When the meeting ended,&nbsp;the mayor&nbsp;announced that the matter was settled, and the Chicago annexation would go forward.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">By virtue of that strip along Higgins&mdash;which was only 33-feet wide in some places&mdash;O&rsquo;Hare was now connected to the City of Chicago. But the solution was only temporary. In 1959, in a different case, the Illinois Supreme Court questioned the legality of such &ldquo;shoestring&rdquo; annexations.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Otto Avenue looking toward Rosemont.JPG" title="Otto Avenue in Chicago, view toward Rosemont border" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Daley didn&rsquo;t wait for the court to take up the Higgins annexation.&nbsp; He reached a deal with Rosemont to swop the Higgins strip for a 185-foot wide strip along Foster Avenue, on Rosemont&rsquo;s southern border. Now the matter really was settled.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Today there&rsquo;s nothing to identify the little corridor along Foster as part of Chicago, except for a few city street lights. The old suburban street signs are still in place. And in a final bit of irony, the Rosemont land to the north has undergone massive redevelopment, while the Chicago land is occupied by single-story industrial buildings.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</div></p> Mon, 04 Feb 2013 07:15:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-01/chicagos-rosemont-corridor-105151 Lost landmark: The Buffalo http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-11/lost-landmark-buffalo-103767 <p><p>When I was young, I went to a Catholic grade school. And like all good Catholic kids in the 1950s, I gave up something for Lent &mdash; usually ice cream.</p><p>Then Easter would finally come. Lent was over. To celebrate, my parents would take me to The Buffalo.</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/11-14--The%20Buffalo%201973.jpg" title="The Buffalo in 1972" /></div><p>The Buffalo Ice Cream Parlor was located at 4000 West Irving Park Road (or 4000 North Pulaski Road &mdash; the address happened to work out that way). The place had leaded glass windows, dark walnut booths, a marble soda counter and murals with dancing cherubs. It smelled of sweet chocolate. As background noise, there was the comforting whirr of 20 malted milk mixers.</p><p>The awning over the main entrance said &ldquo;Established 1902.&rdquo; Actually, the 1902 date was when The Buffalo was founded at its original location, Division and Sedgwick. The business had moved to Irving Park in 1918.</p><p>After six weeks of ice cream withdrawal, a frozen turnip might have satisfied my ten-year-old palate. But I knew that The Buffalo&rsquo;s home-made product was something special, since my dad and I would sometimes stop in for a quick one before going to the Commodore Theater across the street. I loved The Buffalo, and so did most of the Northwest Side.</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/11-14--The%20Buffalo%201978.JPG" style="float: right; height: 376px; width: 250px;" title="The last days of The Buffalo, 1978" /></div><p>Then, in the spring of 1973, the papers reported that The Buffalo was going to close. The land had been sold and a Shell gas station would replace the ice cream parlor.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">The Buffalo&rsquo;s fans would not accept that death sentence. They made signs and picketed. They sent letters to the editor. When the city council held a hearing about rezoning for the gas station, 300 protesters showed up. Mike Royko wrote a column about the dastardly turn of events.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Three days before the April 30<sup>th</sup> closing date, the local alderman announced a reprieve: The Buffalo had been granted a temporary six-month lease.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">That was just long enough. By the fall the first Arab oil embargo was in effect. Who needed another gas station? The Buffalo got a new five-year lease.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Five years later, when that lease ended, The Buffalo closed for good, and the building was torn down. Ultimately a Shell gas station did go up on the site.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">There was some controversy over what had happened. One rumor said that The Buffalo&rsquo;s owner was happy to move out, but didn&rsquo;t want to rile the public. A new ice cream parlor calling itself The Buffalo operated for a while in Morton Grove. I went there once, but it wasn&rsquo;t the same.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The Shell station is still in business at Irving Park and Pulaski. I&rsquo;ve even bought gas there from time to time. Though life isn&rsquo;t always fair, we move on. &nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 14 Nov 2012 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-11/lost-landmark-buffalo-103767