What was the South Side like before the Dan Ryan? | WBEZ
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Curious City

The South Side before the Dan Ryan

Editor's note: This story was a call for help to complete a story about the expressway's impact on the South Side. That story is now complete. A hearty thanks to everyone who helped with stories and leads! 

Do you or your family members remember the South Side before the Dan Ryan Expressway was built? We want stories of what life was like on the ground in the neighborhoods surrounding the expressway changed the city forever. (Where exactly is the Dan Ryan? Check out page 10 of this traffic decoder map to see the span of it) 

The Dan Ryan cuts through nearly 12 miles of the South Side's neighborhoods. (Source: Google Maps)

Please call and leave us a message with your memories: 1-888-789-7752. Your voice and story may end up on our airwaves! 

Stumped about what to say? Here are a few suggestions to get your juices flowing, but feel free to share whatever story you’d like.


  • How did the Dan Ryan change your experience of your neighborhood?
  • Was it a convenience or inconvenience?
  • Did anything particularly good or bad result from its construction?
  • Do you recall any businesses razed or neighbors dislocated because of the construction? If so — what were they?
  • What do you remember thinking about the new highway at the time? Was it exciting or a pain?
  • Are there any places that are no longer around because of the construction that you particularly miss? How did your neighbors or friends feel about the Dan Ryan?

This story will air on Wednesday, June 5, during The Afternoon Shift. It’s part of a special collaboration between Curious City and the University of Chicago. We’re working with the students in a class called “Buildings as Evidence” to answer six questions about Chicago and this is one of them.

You can see how this group has been approaching their investigation and what they’ve found so far via their reporter’s notebook below:

Track the progress of the other investigations done by the University of Chicago class below:

Their findings will be posted on WBEZ.org in early June.

Keep up with all things Curious City via Twitter. Follow us @WBEZCuriousCity.


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