Urban Renewal Timeline-Part II 1964-present.
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Timeline of Hyde Park Urban Renewal and beyond, related Hyde Park development
Part I, 1930s-1964

A service of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and its website www.hydepark.org and Preservation and Development/Zoning task force. Join the Conference: your dues support our work.

Tracking also leading issues, such as an interracial and mixed income community, quality of life, and redevelopment as they continued to evolve into the present.

Much of the following, starting with 1953, is based on the timeline in the Hyde Park Herald Retrospective Edition of July 21, 2004. Detail--sections on the first few years are long--is also given to the formation of the community participation or movement side of the Urban Renewal era, especially Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference. This timeline is still being written. Alternative interpretations, corrections, and additions are welcome. We note with sadness the cutting of another of the ties that bind us to that era, Irv Horwitz, who figured so prominently in the early period of planning and demolition and went on to run the regional branch of HUD for 23 years.


1930s and 40s. Hyde Park's apartment and East Hyde Park 1920s high rise boom that especially flourished after electrification of the Illinois Central was over and Kenwood had passed its blo0m. Little new building was done and the clock and wear and tear were ticking on neighborhood structures. A map produced by WPA in 1939 showed a high proportion of blocks with structures 3 to 4 decades old. During the war material was lacking for upkeep, then landlords became increasingly disinclined to so invest when they could charge higher and higher rent as population went up and blacks pressed to move in Population continued to grow significantly in virtually-white HPK as the fast-growing but segregated "black belt" could not be completely be held back in nearby changing neighborhoods by covenants, "improvement associations" or violence and as rural whites moved north or city-ward to find jobs--especially with the defense buildup and war, heavily centered in Chicago. The number of units grew twice as fast as the local population as units were doubled up and cut up. Proportion of land covered by structures was very high. Localized blight spread out, especially where quickly-built 1893 World's Fair housing was concentrated or lined up such as along 55th Street. Bars proliferated (as well as jazz clubs) especially on 55th and Lake Park as lower middle and lower income whites poured in.

Still most Hyde Parkers were still upper middle and upper income, with four times the proportion professionals as in the city as a whole. (In 1950, the largest ethnic groups were German and Russian Jews- together 40%). (The conversions--light compared to the whole area north and west of HPK--, by the late '30s had been mainly along Lake Park south to 53rd, scattered in a belt between Kimbark and Dorchester from 51st to 58th, and scattered along 55th and in the west blocks of the neighborhood.)

Hyde Park and Kenwood remained nearly exclusively white (except a couple of areas supposed to be for staff to live not too far from wealthy employers, and enclaves such as Filipino by 55th and Woodlawn--still, there had been African Americans born and raised in Hyde Park including near 51st and Lake Park as well as in Woodlawn and went to school here including Hyde Park High and its branch at Ray School, including the Griffins (Ida Mae Cress, who helped found The Woodlawn Organization and was a classmate and later friend of Leon Despres. The pockets of southwest Woodlawn and the 64th and 71st Cottage Grove were early leapfrogs of African-American Families.) The University and its real estate arm helped real estate firms, landlords and property managers enforce the restrictive covenants, and would well into the 1960s. The covenants went with the property; an owner who violated them in rental or sale was likely to be sued, if not bombed. That's why the suit of 1938 against an interracial sale was called Lee v. Hansberry and.... When it got to the Supreme Court, the petitioners are flipped, so it it known to us as Hansberry and v. Lee. The Supreme Court decided that in Hansberry's favor on a technical aspect, in effect that Lee could not enforce the covenant against all possible buyers. The decision had no practical effect, but encouraged African American property buyers such as Hansberry and lawyers such as Earl B. Dickerson (who was sued because his Supreme Life Insurance provided the up front money for Hansberry and was himself one of the leading lawyers and leaders of a set of pro civil rights lawyers and political movers of the South Side) to push for complete nullification of covenants, which came in 1948 with Shelly v. Kramer. (Note that Carl Hansberry was one of the principle "converters" of apartments into "kitchenettes" in the old "Black Belt". Once the covenants went, Hansberry was able to buy much property in the Hyde Park and Woodlawn areas. Someone was taking him into court on every kind of building violation, most very technical or even made up, over a thousand at any time vs. a handful for the bevy of slumlords of the time--it's not hard to guess that it was the University and its arms possibly including SECC doing this, into the 1960s.) There was much fear among whites in this area of turnover to blacks--and such turnover seemed exceedingly likely if covenants could not be enforced. Washington Park was seeing heavy turnover in the 40s and 50s, and neither black nor white kids could walk down Cottage Grove without being stoned by the "other side." One can only speculate what would have happened with Hyde Park if there had not been wide parkland-- Washington Park and the Midway. Would that have meant the University would have left? If it had, mediating groups such as the Conference and SECC could have done little to prevent at least turnover and might not themselves have been formed or survived.

Yet, many felt less a disjunction between HP or K and its neighbors than might be thought-certainly than later. The memory of many who came to Hyde Park in the mid-late '40s and never left is that this area (HP/Kenwood/Oakland/Woodlawn) was a seemless community that teemed with activity, where south of the Midway professors lived in faculty housing and students lived in dormitories. 63rd Street and 47th Street were vibrant commercial areas... These people's views of subsequent history is that mistakes were made, land was cleared in the areas adjoining Hyde Park then remained so for fifty years; blacks stopped shopping the local businesses in favor of by-then supposedly desegregated downtown, malls and business strips (although that came in fact much later than generally thought today), and the black middle class moved to Hyde Park or further and further south. Kenwood-Oakland became the site of numerous public housing sites, which in the beginning were inhabited by people from all walks of life--changes in policies led to the "projects" deterioration until they failed and were cleared to make room, with abandoned tracts, for new, more expensive housing.... In the mid 1950s, blocks of houses and other housing in the 31st to 39th area--only part of which could be called slum--was bought up by New York Life using pressure tactics and turned into Lake Meadows-- those residents moved mainly to newly opened-up Woodlawn.

In the 1930's leading UC sociologist Louis Wirth develops a theory of revitalization calling for spot renewal (clearing/thinning/replacing the worst while rehabbing the salvageable) and urges the U of C to strategically buy up deteriorating structures in the neighborhood toward such a strategy. He is often ignored except by criminologist Don Blackiston, whose idol was Wirth (he met and came to U of C to study with Wirth and in more recent books such as Richard Courage's The Muse in Bronzeville. (Blackiston and would be Julian Levi's first hire for the later South East Chicago Commission (SECC)). Several studies were conducted of growing juvenile delinquency and illegal conversions of both walk ups and homes in the area. Gambling was concentrated in the bars along Lake Park and at newsstands such as along 55th. Juvenile delinquency had tripled in the 30's with a major concentration of unsupervised youth gangs in walkups around the 55th -Dorchester corner, according to mapping studies by George Williams College. A 1954 SECC preliminary urban renewal map shows virtually every structure on Lake Park to Dorchester 57th to 54th and most Lake Park to 52nd dilapidated, sharing sanitary facilities, and/or with faulty design/excessive land use. Just as bad was the north side of 53rd to 52nd Lake Park to Harper.

1946-49 The players assemble but are still isolated

The U of C had a Committee on Planning in this age when "planning" was in vogue everywhere and Hutchins was just one who thought out whole "new world orders." One cannot understand either the community-organization or the University or the governmental approach to renewal without understanding that--and the backlashes and whiplash against it that started with Erhardt in 1949 Germany to (by 1953) the Eisenhower administration that expelled housing "planners" including Elizabeth Wood while helping the UC "save its mission", which meant keeping its surroundings white and free of the supposed criminal class tainted with WEB DuBois communism.

1946 Thomas H. Wright, Chicago Commission on Human Relations, talks to U of C officers, Hyde Park Planning Association (a white-pressure group), and American Veterans Committee urging action to stop the neighborhood deterioration and form a working group on race relations. He got nowhere. He did better with Rev. Leslie T. Pennington of First Unitarian and chair of the Hyde Park Community Council--an umbrella of organizations basically dedicated to things as they were and in any case dependent on agreement of all its constituent groups. Pennington was interested himself in forming a group to mediate race relations and the moving in of blacks- increasingly thought inevitable, even complete turnover, once the covenants were declared unenforceable. Pennington and Wright contacted faculty of the UC Committee (dept. ) on Planning.

Faculty on the Committee on Planning who were members or involved with Temple K.A.M., which was starting to experience white flight in its vicinity, set up a Community Planning Unit to study white flight. They also went with the temple's sisterhood to Thomas H. Wright, head of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations. They conferred with Kenwood Improvement Associations but found them mostly dedicated to keeping blacks out. The Sisterhood and Rabbi Jacob Weinstein are credited with formulating an action mode that led into the future two-pronged "interracial/integrated community"-"high standards" approach: form something like the improvement associations, only to forge and put in practice voluntary agreements to enforce occupancy standards, not racial restrictions. But we have now jumped into 1949. Meanwhile...


Real estate restrictive covenants are declared unenforceable by the U.S. Supreme Court in Shelly V Kramer. Movement across the "race line" (Cottage Grove) accelerates.

The dynamics of "Bronzeville" and the greater "black belt", the politics and economics of confining versus expanding the ghetto, resistance to economic, and fights and greed over building (where?) and managing public housing all loom much more in the Hyde Park picture. So do the stories of hundreds of Bronzeville residents who both wanted to live in a better place and better housing and felt they must pioneer for their people, while hesitating to leave communities that had been home and needed their leadership- people like Earl B. Dickerson, Oscar C. Brown, Sr., and St. Clair Drake who would figure in Hyde Park life, decision-making, and the Conference.


Spring of 1949, the various parties mentioned above--clerical, university faculty, commission on human relations, are talking to many colleagues. Professor Herbert A. Thelen (one of the main founders of the Conference in 1949) , of the Education Department invited Wright to address his seminar on race progress. This led to decision that the fall seminar's project would be to apply group dynamics to a transition neighborhood by seeing what they could do in Hyde Park--just an academic exercise, one must understand... But Thelen, who would live to age 94 and die in 2008 and received the Chicago Commission on Human Relations Award in 1951 for his work, was one of the most pivotal persons in the shaping of future Hyde Park, assuming that without the block clubs both for their activism and for their defusing the racial fears and separation, the neighborhood might well have flown apart and it have been too late by the time the University acted.

About this time (there are alternate time frames), concerned clerics approach U of C Chancellor Robert M. Hutchins about concerns and need for the university to become engaged with doing something about state of the community and are rebuffed. Conditions cited include overcrowded and deteriorating housing and commercial space, increasing crime, social and racial tension and change.

September 1949, The Social Order Committee of the 57th St. Meeting of Friends including Julia Abrahamson (ignorant of the Wright, Weinstein, and Thelen efforts), deciding that race and housing are the most urgent community issues, invites Wright. He tells them no one anywhere is leading the way on these matters and challenges, : "By God, this is just the group to do it." The committee sets out to invite lots of groups and organizations to send representatives to a meeting November 8 at the Unitarian Church.

At the meeting which preceded formation of the Conference, Rev. Pennington asked and Thomas Wright of the HR Commission, a black leader framed the objectives in terms that, with the Thelen team’s leadership in the field, would lead to the creation of eventually about 60 block clubs in Hyde Park and South Kenwood.

Rev. Leslie Pennington presided at the meeting of November 8, with 40 present: leaders of the Friends, K.A.M., Isaiah-Israel (not yet merged); former Alderman Moss, First Baptist (biracial), Hyde Park Baptist (not yet interracial and not yet Hyde Park Union Church), Kenwood Community Church, Rev. Cole from Woodlawn, the ministerial race relations committee, at least nine African-Americans--including Earl B. Dickerson (Supreme Life Ins.), Oscar Brown, Sr. (lawyer, housing project manager)--, Prof. Harvey S. Perloff of the U C Committee on Planning, Prof. William Bradbury (College, author), Herbert A. Thelen with 8 students (including George Cooley, future city an park planner and several times president of HPKCC), Russell Babcock of Governor Stevenson's Commission on Race Relations, and a rep. from UC Student Government. There were also observers from various human relations commissions. Pennington phrased the question, "How shall we meet the challenge of the changing population--through conflict or cooperation?" Wright said this involved: not extending the ghetto, raising/meeting community standards and services, integrating new arrivals, dealing with the general housing need. Pennington: What do we intend to do? Audience: If we "go to work," can we succeed, has anyone?--Has anyone really tried--we blacks are not "the menace"- we have just as much stake and want the same standards you do. But we have all these problems, from alleys to taverns, crime, absentee landlords and blockbusters. Put our preachments into practice, at least we will have tried. Is there any existing organization that can or will do it? No; bypass the "shakers"; we must organize until we are strong enough to buck the opposition. Pennington and Wright were delegated to form a steering committee and have a larger meeting the next month.

(Much later, the Unitarian-Universalist association wrote the following in its biography of Leslie Pennington: "In 1949 a group that evolved into the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference gathered to address the problems of a radically changing neighborhood, where property values were falling and crime was increasing. At their first meeting, held at the Unitarian Church, Pennington was elected Chair, a position he held for three years. The Conference, Pennington wrote, came to be 'recognized as one of the new and prophetic interracial movements in America.'")

This same night, November 8, a major riot broke out in Englewood (64th and Peoria) when an integrationist labor leader had guests over to his house ("going to sell to", it was rumored)--the riot lasted 4 days.

December 12, the meeting was held at the new Community House of Congregation Isaiah- Israel that would lead to formation of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference. 300 showed up representing some 50 organizations, including every church and temple, PTAs, the recreation centers, and faculty of U of C and George Williams College. Professor Thelen had his students in tow, acting as meeting and small-group facilitators and taking notes, even on facial expressions. Pennington, then Wright spoke. Then students acted out "socio-dramas" centered around a Negro moving onto a block. At the start, people of both races were in shock at what they saw, by the last scene some were wiping tears. Next there was breakout into small discussion groups to develop in effect a set of goals and "to dos"--ranging from after school and jobs for teens programs to housing code and police enforcement to fixing infrastructure and services to mentoring and integrating individuals into their blocks. The suggestion of forming block clubs was perhaps the breakout idea--in part to handle rumor-mongering. People realized the city had to be recruited and problems solved citywide. A statement was approved saying that the problem is fear and action was needed to be directed to reversing urban decay. This was to addressed 5 ways: (See Policy Statement in Early HPKCC UR Records)
1) dispel fear with education,
2) occupancy standards and planning,
3) programs for youth
4) commitment to integration
5) work with city agencies
No one dared vote against "going to work" on this
agenda, and probably few thought anything would come of it (according to reported post-meeting conversations), but it quite well describes what the Conference would do over the next decade. And so the nightly committee, then block club meetings, began.

1950-early 50s

In 1950 HPKCC starts establishing or allying with block clubs; there would be 60+ by 1956 when the first executive director, Julia Abrahamson, left. U of C Prof. Herbert Thelen held clinics on block club group dynamics. Equally important were well-attended public meetings and strong volunteer committees. One gets the impression by noting the committee and project leaders to start with that without the University of Chicago faculty "how to," even the strong involvement of religious leaders and professionals might not have been enough to get the ball rolling and galvanize a community in fear and apathy.

Looking back from 1975 in the Herald, Herb Thelen, a leader on block clubs along with Irv Horwitz and others, said "[The Conference] started because people were upset. The original basis of thought was self-help." [i.e., could the block approach--used in the past to keep blacks and others out be used again, this time for inclusion and stabilization?] "It would be much harder. Before, people would worry about what would happen if blacks moved in, but they kept this worry to themselves because they thought other people weren't worried. And there was a real loneliness. When blocks first got together it hardly mattered a lot whether they talked about their kids, played poker, or seriously discussed putting in a tot lot, it didn't matter because people just needed each other." Also, as quoted in the March 5, 1955 Nation, " It is only through working together that people acquire meaning for one another, and the meaning people have for one another make the neighborhood their home."-that's the meaning of the block club movement to its creators.

The Conference chose early to be an organization of individuals--how to have one of thousands that could reach intelligent, realizable decisions? Leadership was in the steering committee (composed of reps selected by the committees) and 4 main committees : Block organization (Herb Thelen and Russell Babcock), Planning-Zoning-Reconversion (Harvey Perloff) subdivided into Planning (Martin Myerson-UC) and code Enforcement, Community Survey (St. Clair Drake of Black Metropolis fame and fellow sociologist Everrett Hughes), and Community Organizations (really entities from schools and religious to restaurants. Lucy P. Carner-Welfare Council, Jerome E. Morgan of Midway TV, and William Bradbury).

The steering committee made the decision to stretch the reach to 47th partly at behest of KAM (trying to staunch the move of its congregants to the North Side and North Shore) and because of the mansion district. North of 47th was thought already too blighted and far away from the central focus--which led to lasting bitterness and turf-consciousness in North Kenwood. The decision to stop at 59th was do to the traditional boundary of Hyde Park since the township was annexed and the Midway's being a natural (and often turf-fight) boundary, with not much of a stopping place to the south until Oak Woods Cemetery. It looked, however, as if Woodlawn was being written off, especially to land-annexing U of C.

The meeting of February 1, 1950 was probably the watershed at which the Conference took off rather than collapsing or becoming a set of entities. This meeting of several hundred including lots of specialists was at KAM Community House. Most of the very long meeting was conducted as committee working strategy sessions. What they did:
-Blocks: drew up 20 equal-population areas; training and communication mechanisms. Thelen's was the first, their exemplar direction was visitation--going directly to new neighbors or problem owners/tenants, concentrating on improvement projects, and researching/getting out the facts on rumors.
-Enforcement (the choice of terms seems significant, note that SECC would later be sniffed at for that- see below as to why most thought it necessary): tried to make an example of a building being cut up at Drexel and Hyde Park Blvd. (took years and not really "won," but lots of battles followed. Getting city building cooperation and "special proceedings" wasn't at all easy. Committees and politicians together eventually got the area wide comprehensive building inspection.
-Planning/Zoning: Perloff and Ald. Merriam sought a conservation area (a formal Community Conservation Council would be appointed in 1958.) Merriam asks the city that HPK be used as a test laboratory (demonstration project). Components would be a house-by-house inspection and treatment of each block as special entity (spot renewal rather than areal bulldozing). Despite the political and economic interest odds, the city agrees. (Go to 1952.)
-Planning: Another tactic that was tried but failed was drafting and enforcing a Community Conservation Agreement (an interracial, "high standards" version of the former restrictive covenants? the Metropolitan Housing and Planning Council backed this). It was debated and revised to death by dozens of players, but it basically fell for the same practical reasons that historic, conservation, and special assessment districts often do: will this reduce my property value and ability to sell, are any conversions/subdivisions to be allowed, who assumes liability? Its replacement vehicle would be the Redevelopment and Conservation Project, 31st to the Midway--but this will only start to gel c 1953, come of age in 1956 and be finalized in 1958.
-Community Survey Committee's purpose was to do the research and inquiry needed to field rumors, determine how much work needs to be done and where, and tell older residents what their new neighbors were doing to improve their properties. It sought to be non-confrontational--i.e., after a biracial party went to dinner at all the restaurants, a letter was sent to all restaurants saying that only one did not serve persons of color--that restaurant promptly integrated. They went to every PTA and private, parochial and nursery school and got them to accept black members/students. Committees dealing with employers and hotels got nowhere, churches not far at this time. Some volunteers, it was said at least later, lacked tact and sensitivity.

In sum, t
he Conference soon expanded to major monitoring and intervention in building code violations such as conversions, interacting with government agencies and programs, setting up a Planning Committee to explore urban clearance and renewal programs, working for open occupancy, and above all "an interracial community of high standards". Some of its key functions were as a channel of information and rumor-stoppage, as an army of volunteers, especially on code violations and crime-watching in tandem with South East Chicago Commission, and proactively preparing areas for blacks moving in. HPKCC would later have a large staff and receive major grants, including from the Schwartzhaupt Foundation (which praised conference management, organization, focus, idealism, and results).

March 17, 1950 a committee of 3 met with UC's Hutchins and business manager for only time, the meeting is brusk and useless. Relations become very bad with existing community organizations, (some of them having UC funding). Hyde Park Community Council, 55th St. Business Association, Hyde Park Planning Assn, Woodlawn Inc. did suspect motives and feared the Conference threatened neighborhood collapse and turnover and was dominated by radicals--–with perhaps spillover into pink and red connotations, with Cold War tensions high. But all the others except what became the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce eventually disappeared.

The University real estate office and most local realtors, et al in the early '50s fought the Conference on the interracial community idea--at first only one realtor would assist Pierre de Vise's service to proportionally integrate blocks (akin to what was later challenged as unconstitutional "steering" in courts under later Civil Rights laws, when practiced in Oak Park). (Decades later, UC President Randal referred to the UC approach as a moat mentality through much of the Urban Renewal period; others have said "interracial" for the university was an accommodation rather than a commitment to diversity.)

June 6, 1950 HPKCC holds a public report to community meeting 750 attend. Getting and office and preps for incorporation, elections, better discipline follow in next months. Leslie Pennington was the first president, Julia Abrahamson first director by early 1951.

August, 1950 HPKCC is looking for experts (city agencies, UC) to enlist to do a formal community study and start planning/mapping to find whether part of the community should/can be designated 'suitable for redevelopment.' This year such a pilot (demonstration) study was begun for the area north of Kenwood--and was agreed to be extended to the Midway: 31st to Midway, Rock Island to Lake. Led by Michael Reese (later to lend HP urban renewal Jack Meltzer), South Side Planning Board, Metro Hsg & Plg Council (MPC), Draper & Kramer, Pace Arch. Assocs, CHA, Chicago Plan Commission, Chicago Land Clearance Commission, Park District, Mayors commission, Chicago Dwellings Assn, depts. of UC, IIT, Harvard, Ald. Merriam in city role--led to clearance and redevelopment ( Lake Meadows etc.) to north, conservation in HPK. HPKCC was hq for a vast community survey org'd by Louis Wirth, Leo Shapiro, Myerson, Thelen, Philip Hauser, NORC. Director D. Reid Ross. It first surveyed dwellings then did a scientific sample of 1600 families--where, how long and how they lived, how they thought of neighborhoods, housing, amenities.

This year a massive petition about purse snatching is presented to the mayor and police commissioner, resulting in increased police coverage. For the first time? some call on U of C to set up its own police department.


The sample survey is taken. The full report will be issued in autumn 1952 but reflects '51. HPK part is issued June 30, 1951 and widely distributed as HPKCC's "Report to Community" including key chapter "Threat of Spreading Blight." The Report is met with silence by the community movers. It will be cited in 1958 by the Herald as the fount of the Urban Renewal Plan for Hyde Park-Kenwood. Findings for HPK: 8% of dwellings need replacement, 9+ are overcrowd, 10 have no private sanitation, 8% is non white, 36% moved in past 3 years (mostly low income white and most moving rel. to converted units yet high tenant occupancy, income is still relatively high and proportion professional 4 times higher than city average but these are declining. HPK are called in better shape than north of 47th but threatened: high conversion, overcrowd, aging stock overused. The usual places are especially cited--a rim of blight on 3 sides and all of 55th gradually becoming another: , creeping blight is the challenge. Among pluses, people were inclined to stay and vacancy was low. Meantime, teams from 3 universities are studying housing and infrastructure for the whole project area. (Parts by non-UC schools seemed at the time and today rather radical/counter-urban (would shock Jane Jacobs), certainly out of tune with the HPK type neighborhood, calling for neighborhood separation by functions, i.e. residential, working, recreational and a 2/3 cut in population.) The study calls for community-wide education and organizing, encouragement of private investment, and broad engagement of government agencies. Specifics include major clearance, arterial street widening, more parking, closure of residential streets to through traffic, improvements to public transportation, schools, and parks- all of which were eventually incorporated into the actual urban renewal. Nothing immediately came of the study.

Surprisingly, there is still some vacant land this late in East Hyde Park. Sinai Temple at this time was built (redeveloped for condos in the late 1990s). Soon, the east most parcel left on 56th would house the later-infamous Shore Motel and Morton's Steak House--driven off Lake Park by urban renewal. (In 1991 Montgomery Place retirement home is built on the long-vacant site.)

Lawrence Kimpton succeeds Hutchins and decides to act on the community, but to have university goals and control govern the process, including, as Julian Levi would say, having "the kind of community in which the students and faculty of the University will live." (The areal focus at first was close to the UC.)


In March a large community meeting is held by UC over growing concern with escalating crime. May 12, a faculty member's wife is abducted. By the May 19 follow-up to the March meeting, the community is in an uproar.

May 19 meeting: Kimpton announced formation of South East Chicago Commission to handle crime and other issues, opening the next morning--he gave out the phone number. The focus of this mission was large, 39th to 67th Streets, even though Kimpton at first would envision the clearance/urban renewal part for only 50th to 59th to the tracks.

Julian Levi is appointed executive director of SECC in the fall. He is determined to be very bold. Don Blackiston is hired as Law Enforcement Officer. By the end of the year, Levi was researching planning and renewal programs with an eye to gaining control of the process and ensuring it served UC interests- SECC as the "political arm of the University." This soon came to include remaking Hyde Park. He imaginatively leveraged the prestige, power and finances of the university and pursued every avenue for funding and help, from Chicago to Washington, writing and having enacted his own laws where necessary. Meticulous cross-indexed files were kept on all suspected violators of housing or criminal codes. And Levi was prepared to use every trick, especially to hassle and drive out undesired real estate practitioners or get needed land and control its redevelopment.

This year? University completes new Physics labs and accelerator on Ellis between 56th and 57th, having moved houses a block north on rollers (houses demolished at end of decade.)

Block clubs are becoming more sophisticated and things they cannot handle are tackled by sets of blocks, the Conference and other groups or by government. Among government, in these years the city and wards finally systematized street cleaning and timing and set up the sidewalk repair and replacement program with surveys and cost-sharing formulas. Street recreation programs were set up jointly.
And on a lighter note, some of the HPKCC Annual Meetings featured skits- one portraying a Winnetka couple agonizing over buying a Kenwood home.

Late 1952 is when the city conducted the house-by-house inspection, starting with notices of the inspection to over 1,000 owners and how to comply with the code. Compliance board hearings were held by Roy Grahn with Conference volunteers. The actual inspection only found 25 out of compliance, which was met with derision but both sent a message and provided the structure-by-structure information the Conference, SECC, and the block clubs needed.


July, Hyde Park Herald is sold to Bruce Sagan and changes from conservative to a prod to action, often a critic of plans and inaction alike, and a key source of information for residents when a lot of information about plans and meetings was hard to get.

Neighborhood Conservation Act of 1953 is passed. Allows three to form a development corp. to stop blight in a community (go to 1956, 1958).
At this sane time,
blocks of houses and other housing in the 31st to 39th area--only part of which could be called slum--was bought up by New York Life using pressure tactics and turned into Lake Meadows and later Draper and Kramer's Prairies Shores-- those residents moved mainly to newly opened and turning Woodlawn. at the same time, several leading black business and civil rights activists moved from Bronzeville into Hyde Park, exacerbating economic differentiation among blocks and neighborhoods, many turning into areas composed completely of disadvantaged.)

SECC and Conference go to Chicago Land Clearance Commission to ask investigation of a clearance project. CLCC agrees on condition this be part of a comprehensive community conservation plan. The Conference and SECC jointly apply for a grant from Field Foundation.

October 21, Field Foundation grants $100,000 to U of C for neighborhood planning, start of U of C assumption of leadership in urban renewal. They also start working for a Federal Housing Law to underwrite planning and conservation efforts. Achieved 1954.

The Metropolitan Housing and Planning Council (today MPC) starts studies leading to a wide-ranging publication report on community conservation in Hyde Park showing code and street violations, people living in dilapidated structures, etc.

A key resource, as it turned out in the main non replicable, was a host of federal and state legislation on housing and renewal making lots of money available to communities that really wanted a conservation program. This year Congress passed the Neighborhood Conservation Act, which allowed as few as three to form a redevelopment corporation with powers to fight blight within a defined area, not just the property they bought. The various legislation state and federal was intensely fought over and bent by everyone from politicians (including some with strong regional get-back-at-them motivation) to developers (who used as a private trough the vast public housing going up) to Hyde Park business-political leaders and the University. None were bashful about going personally all the way to the White House.


June 16, the 5500 Blackstone block became 45th HPKCC-affiliated block club. Staff would grow to eight.

June 30 the Herald published the site boundaries and plans passed by the Chicago Land Clearance Commission for the 47-acre "Hyde Park A and B" Plan. The final boundaries would be essentially these, but how the redevelopment plan would change. Actually the plan from the air looks rather tame compared to the final and alternatives, only because Harry Weese kept a linear 55th Street. He proposed a pedestrian flyover at Dorchester. His streetscape and housing had more variety, on 55th and on Harper, than I.M. Pei's later design would. Weese's shopping center was futuristic and would parallel 55th with parking in back. Elevator buildings are between 55th an 56th south of Lake Park in Weese's plan.

In this year, Jack Meltzer became formal director for planning at South East Chicago Commission. He became the public face, explainer to block clubs et al, and mediator of Urban Renewal though 1963.

The federal government enacted the 1954 Housing Act, largely with the University working behind the scenes.

About this time Congregation Rodfei Zedek built an award-winning modern facility at 5200 South Hyde Park ( replaced as part of a new campus with school and recreational center in the early 2000s). The old temple at 54th and Greenwood was not successfully re let by the University and was demolished.

August 25, Murray School opened to relieve overcrowding. Land was reserved for future expansion north of Nichols Park (created later in urban renewal). Shoesmith would be built later (announced January 19, 1955) to relieve more crowding, and land cleared next to Ray school anticipating a need for expansion that never came about because urban renewal led to decreased population.

But this did not satisfy residents and business- as reported in the May 26, 1954 Herald, a delegation of Hyde Park leaders brought to Schools Supt. Benjamin Willis a petition signed by 10,000! It called for a new bond issue, to be approved by the legislature for vote, for new schools and classrooms. Dr. Philip Hauser (UC and former director of the US Census) said that due to the baby boom the need for classrooms at a 30-1 ratio would double over the next 10 years. (He did not count on the massive depopulation of HP under urban renewal.) The delegation elected at as big public meeting the prev. Wednesday at KAM, consisted of Clarence Buetel, pres. of South East National Bank, Paul R. Wilkinson, pres of National Bank of Hyde Park, R.O. Byerrum, pres. of University Bank, William Birenbaum, pres. of Hyde Park Community Council, Mrs. Julia Abrahamson, exec. sec. Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, and Hauser. Buetel stressed that this is an investment. Mrs. Frayn Utley, a HP resident and on the School Board said in the meantime economies were being made to allow capital spending but the matter is "complex." Sponsors of the meeting were: 55th st. Business Men's Assn, 53rd St. Business Men's Assn, Kenwood Chamber of commerce, Hyde Park Community Council, HPKCC, Hyde Park [Churches?] and Synagogues, Lions Club, SECC, and the Herald.

UC Human Dynamics Lab published Herb Thelen's and Bettie Belk Sarchet's study of block club/organizing and related activities of the Conference, Neighbors in Action.

In this year the city contracted with the University to do the planning for urban renewal. Jack Metzger would lead the team, with Julian Levi providing criteria and having control over the process.

The Emil Schwarzhaupt Foundation began to heavily fund Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, which continued to work to influence planning.

October 13, newly formed Kenwood Open House Committee held its first open house, showing nine homes, starting reversal of a wave of conversions and turnover. The Committee learned that block busters worked by buying houses as they came up, cheap (and using that to scare neighbors), re"selling" them under contract to African Americans at significantly higher prices, telling the buyers to pay the rent by cutting up and renting rooms, then, since the realtor kept the deed, waiting for the "buyer" to miss a payment, repossess, and starting the process over. In succeeding years, by diligent work among neighbors and demonstration that this was about high quality, not race, KOHC leaders Eleanor Petersen, Linda Gray, Lester Dugas and others held larger and larger open houses with very large numbers coming to view and more and more to buy, until a few years later the numbers started to go down because the number putting up their homes for sale dropped precipitously. Mission accomplished. A notable Hyde Park/Chicago Institutution, Mostly Music started as post-OHC tours and receptions, often ending at the home of Ezra Sensibar.

Brown V Board of Education decided by the Supreme Court. But realty interests would continue to insist it applies only to education, until the Supreme Court said it does not, a couple years later.


By early 1955 the Conference took stock and charted its future in an era in which renewal with much demolition and dislocation would soon occur (See 1955 addenda to Original Policy Statement and 1955/56 report above.) It expressed concern for all the balances and subtleties in redevelopment that still cause anguish and wrangling in the 21st century, including fears about what renewal does to affordability and displacement it could cause.

April 6, election of Leon Despres (who would serve for 20 years) ensures that a fighter for open occupancy and a liberal view of urban renewal remains in the aldermanic post. Among his strategists was Victor de Grazia, who helped build IVI into a statewide force, worked for Gov. Kerner in the early 1960s, and later with Dan Walker wrote the Walker Report after the 1968 convention, help create Walkers victories and serve as deputy governor.

May, 1955, newly-elected Mayor Richard J. Daley presides at start of demolitions, at a house at 5456 S. Blackstone. Already familiar with urban renewal legislation and Hyde Park issues and lobbying as a leader in the legislature, he would become the key supporter of urban renewal in Hyde Park.
It can be argued that this was the key year renewal itself kicked into gear and really seemed likely to happen-- although it could have fallen apart in the next couple of years, partly because of the possibility that the feds would not lock up enough funds to clear and then redevelop enough, especially in the key Lake Park-55th clearance sector (Hyde Park A and B). But from 1955 on the University was in control of the process and guessed correctly that everyone would have to go along. Top university leaders including Julian Levi met several times with President Eisenhower in these years. Eisenhower called the UC an "American Acropolis" and was helpful, even if his actions on public housing exacerbated the pressures on the South Side.

The UC's Planning Unit urban renewal team, now under Jack Meltzer, under funding from the Field grant, drew up preliminary maps and studies (see Alternatives). Area to be cleared was more broken up (and did not include "B" c 54th-Blackstone) than the final, and of course did not yet envision, or at least identify, spot renewal (hundreds of buildings).

A Herald article warned that the nightlife is being "renewed" out of the neighborhood and called for bringing in a jazz club--c. 45 years before the University would take up the call.
See alternative plan by Harvey Perloff and Bertrand Goldberg for 55th in Alternatives. Perloff's version included bowling, skating jazz club, restaurant, bookstore and much more besides a shopping center going down 55th, adjusting to the "built up" situation. Two Le Corbusier style high rises were included but on the south of 55th. The University shortly thereafter disbanded Perloff's department. This year, the Compass Players, predecessor of Second City is born in the Compass Tavern at the ne corner of 55th and University that will soon be urban renewed away in 1960. (Later Julian Levi, asked about why the players weren't accommodated, says it wasn't brought to his attention.)

June 8 UC announces it will demolish prefabricated post WWII student housing on 58th near Cottage Grove.

The University rolled out versions of and Hyde Park A and its Master Plan , including south campus (Eero Saarinen) (early version with a cross-town expressway) and an enormous plan for the area Cottage to Woodlawn, 55th to 58th. It would be several years before the Law School would be built, or Woodward Court dorm (both by Saarinen) at 58th and Woodlawn where Ida Noyes Dudley Field had been. In 1955, a University administrator told UC trustees Woodlawn neighborhood "has gone beyond any possible hope of rehabilitation." To the north, the central component of the University's plan was control and redevelopment of the area south of 55th from Woodlawn Ave. to Cottage.


January 25, UC announced design for law school, Eero Saarinen. A major fight would develop over the law the UC wrote to get the remaining land between 60th and 61st. (Some at Stony Island would be leased long term for a dollar to The Woodlawn Organization for housing.)

Hyde Park urban renewal was under intense fire at all directions state and citywide- and from the Defender and the Archdiocesan paper as elitist, selfish, and displacing low-income blacks. The Herald said that "a demonstration that neighbors of all races can live in a community of peace and self-respect is worth whatever price must be paid."

HPKCC membership is at a peak at c. 4,000 and with over 60 affiliated block clubs.

In 1956 the South West Hyde Park Neighborhood Redevelopment Corporation Project was approved by faced lawsuits until 1962. 15 acres would be cleared in the 56th Cottage to Ellis blocks, another 40 acres to the south was slated for rehabilitation. During the stalled period, the University bought and rehabbed many troubled apartment buildings in the neighborhood for student housing. Ultimately, it used the cleared land in the project area for athletics, theater and arts except for Pierce Tower.

In 1956 HPK was designated a Conservation Area and the Conservation Community Council appointed. The 11-member council was headed by Edwin A. Rothschild. It would give 1st-approval to plans and pass on amendments to land use designation and acquisitions. It also reviewed redevelopment plans, although that was not in its formal mandate.

August 22, Herald published the famous full-size edition of the urban renewal "Preliminary Plan" as it then stood, largely developed by SECC and Jack Meltzer. Thousands of copies were given to HPKCC and SECC for their public meetings on the plan. (There were several special editions at critical stages in plan development and revision.) The CCC public hearings are preceded by over 300 meetings with block clubs, gen. facilitated by the Conference Planning Committee and many attended by personally by Jack Meltzer (chief planner with the UC-SECC Planning Unit, the city-contracted plan developer). The Feds set aside $25 m of the expected $39 million cost, the city to provide the remaining third (which it did mainly in services, schools, etc.)

September 12, the Gourmet restaurant closee at 47th and Harper as Land Clearance pulled into gear. As moves accelerated, in September 26 Cohn and Stern--a survivor business!! moved down 53rd as its old building prepares for demolition; it would later be one of the few local businesses to locate in the new Hyde Park Shopping Center. Design of the shopping center would later prove to be problematic and the center was re-sited and redone (more attractively most think) in the mid 1990's. Stern and Cohn closed about 2000.

That year a bill, lobbied for by Hyde Parkers, for the first time gave compensation to business owners renewed out.

The Kenwood Open House Committee was busily stabilizing and promoting Kenwood. SECC and the Conference fought successful lawsuits to enforce single-family requirements there.

1957-first main year of the wrecking ball

March 3, fight over started over proposed Robie House demolition by Chicago Theological Seminary. At the end of the year, Webb and Knapp's Zeckendorff (see following) buys it and uses it as headquarters during the main years of urban renewal. This fight was a major precursor of preservation organizations and ordinance in Chicago.

April 3, 1957 City Council approved the redevelopment plan for A and B of Webb and Knapp of New York, William Zeckendorff principal. Hyde Park A and B were put up to competitive bid, but the University got to veto and choose who got selected. This plan called for 267 row houses and 528 apartments north and south of 55th, and a nine-acre shopping center, now to be on the north side west of Lake Park. Some like, others grumble about the University Apartments plan ("segregation by income", "monstrosity"). See below on the story of the apartments. On the Shopping Center, a leading pol will later say one had to have come over on the Mayflower to be allowed to locate there. The University's Lake Park Associates continues to own and its HSA to manage the center. The town housed stress flexible spaces, although parts of the layout are not as modern homemakers prefer--but the structures remain highly popular in the 2000s, as does now-University Condominiums (the 2 high rises in the middle of 55th).

Chicago passeds its first comprehensive zoning code rewrite in a long time. Connection and impact to Hyde Park urban renewal and redevelopment might make an interesting study. For discussions of possible impacts of the Code as it became increasingly obsolete by the 1980s can be found in Zoning and Development. See also TIF News home and General Development and Public Policy.

June 19, a Hyde Park mainstay, Watson's Jewelry at Woodlawn and 55th prepared to move--it was iin the heart of not of Hyde Park A but of the spot urban renewal--which was quite thorough along 55th from Lake Park to Cottage Grove as well as Lake Park.

By August 14, James T. Farrell, novelist-chronicler of South Side change since the 1910s (Studs Lonigan series) calls 55th Street "Berlin after the War."

July 3, U of C, its campus specifically excluded from the project, nevertheless did much demolition and building replacement even on the main campus. This date UC announced demolition of Stagg Field stands for the new Library (Regenstein) including removal of the Chain Reaction commemorative plaque. Later the Southwest Hyde Park Acquisition, a piece of special legislation, would demolish 3 blocks south of 55th for new UC athletic facilities--except a couple of buildings that successfully showed they were not "deteriorated." However, this acquisition area was scaled back from that shown in the 1955 Saarinen Master Plans (in Alternatives). (Acquisition and demolitions must have been finished by June, 1966). A fight would also ensue over another special legislation acquiring the south campus for the University (see 1958). Anthropologist Sol Tax holds public meeting, writes in Herald against UC trying to take all SW Hyde Park, produces map showing rate of racial turnover block by block west of Woodlawn and 53rd to 59th 1950-57. While a few blocks along Cottage had almost completely turned over by 1950, the story elsewhere varied enormously--a few single family blocks near 53rd not having turned, a few turned to 20-50%, and many changing to two-thirds to 90 percent African-American in 7 years.

October 2, Faulkner School for Girls leaves Kenwood, illustrative perhaps of continuing problems there. But on November 6, the Kenwood Open House Committee welcomed 50 new residents to Kenwood.

Kenwood story

Kenwood would be a tug-and-pull for a long time between converters and re converters, with fine single homes and slum/drugs/institutional uses side by side. By the 1960s the flight of mostly wealthy Jewish residents peaked. These were replaced by middle class black and white families glad to take the homes at a big discount and rehab or restore them.

A summary from the Chicago Maroon, September 2004, says "Overall, Kenwood has weathered the social and economic storms of the last century better than the other...neighborhoods of the area. [The writer speculates that b]ecause the neighborhood never became very poor, future gentrification probably won't become an issue. Kenwood is now a relatively sleepy neighborhood, filled with huge houses and trees and wide streets." Problems with burglary and sometimes violent crime has never gone away, however.

October 23, Anderson's Ace Hardware, being chased around by Hyde Park A clearance, was helped to temporary 55th Street quarters by 60 Hyde Parkers with Co-op carts. Anderson's was later one of the few to survive and become a fixture at Kimbark Shopping Center (cooperative) until later (2003) owner is bought out into retirement and the structure torn down to be part of a new CVS store.


February 5. Illustrative of growing battles over schools--overcrowding, makeshift additions, racial turnovers and tensions, and general urban renewal displacement, Murray School parents resisted transfer of students to Ray and Harte.

February 19, Herald published the "final urban renewal plan." (More changes would come.) Hearings were held by CCC after much block club review.

The Conservation Community Council in late April issued its final recommendations on changes (inclusions and exclusions, redirections to demolitions.)

June 4, city started on the parking lot on 52nd-53rd Lake Park. Relocation and widening of Lake Park, with near-complete demolition as on 55th, was a key element in the program.

(Year uncertain) the Herald endorsed the full Urban Renewal Plan and reprinted the full details, citing for need, inter alia an extensively quoted report on blight by HPKCC in 1951. Herald editorial: "The Herald is proud to once again print the full details of the Urban Renewal Plan for Hyde Park-Kenwood. The program consists of many things. First and foremost is the hope that all the public moneys spent in our neighborhood will stimulate a program of private rehabilitation which will stem the growth of blight and increase the physical life of residences in HydePark-Kenwood. To help stimulate this program, there will be an extensive expenditure of public money for new housing, new streets, new schools, playgrounds, and parks. The Urban Renewal Plan proposes the demolition of areas running along 55th, Cottage Grove, 47th street, and Lake Park. This program has been the culmination of many years of effort in Hyde Park. The Herald looked back six and a half years to a publication put out by the Hyde park-Kenwood Community Conference in June 30 of 1951. It was called the "Report to Community " and said in part, under a chapter titled "The Threat of Creeping Blight,"...

Late in the year, 5 days (!) of testimony were taken from 135 by the City Council Committee on Planning and Housing. Modifications requested by Msgr. Egan of the Archdiocese and the HP Tenants and Homeowners Assn. included an extra $2 million for new middle income housing (put into one seniors structure at 51st and Cottage) , clarification of rehabilitation standards, reduced clearance in the northeast corner, and 120 units of public housing (partly at belated insistence of Ald. Despres- this latter endorsement alarmed many, fearing it would derail the whole- so in 1959 a campaign led by U of C was mounted to replace Despres).

November 7, City Council passed full Hyde Park Urban Renewal Plan. Later in the year the Community Conservation Council was formed, an appointive body to look over plans for reuse/redevelopment of urban renewal cleared land for up to 40 years--but often its decisions were decisive. The CCC became highly zealous for teardown even of marginal buildings, especially tenements, in conjunction with SECC and Meltzer and especially mixed use buildings on west 55th, where the UC also had interest in clear-out--businessmen expressed dismay. Businesses saw that funds and other support were not yet available for commercial (vs residential) rehab (despite the 1956 compensation act) (per study by Brian Berry for U of C). Efforts to get commercial northeast of 55th Woodlawn went nowhere. For HPKCC's official reaction to passage-and its questions, see the Early HPKCC Records page.

Southwest Devevelopment Corporation came into focus. Officers included UC Pres. Kimpton and Julian Levi. It had power under a 1953 act to fight blight in the community. Kimpton and Levy lived in the district although remotely from the "blight." Demolition of structures 55th-56, Cottage to Ellis started early in 1958, sparing only 4 to be used as dorms. St. Clair Drake, sociologist, studied the area, conclude little is blighted, and so testified to the CCC. Prof. Philip Hauser said that once "exploitative land use has started experience shows it cannot be stopped." CCC voted for the Corportion 2-1. Drake's appeal was lost in state Supreme Court. Interviewed residents said their bread was being taken out of their mouths--"we won't be here when Hyde Park has been done over." The racially mixed block of 5600 Drexel was especially well organized and resistant. It even had a grocery store. This block became stable until 2004, when the University hospital indicated they wished to buy the east side, with most gone by 2012-13. Into the 60s, a building on the west side of Ellis housed a major block club and Youth Project. There was an outcry in the mid 60s when SWHPDC tore it down. Two buildings on the north side of 56th long served as student housing until the 55th garage and Ratner Athletic Center were built in the 1990s. Several of the buildings torn down in the mid-50s and beyond, including on Ingleside were of sound condition. The same was true of buildings demolished for Hospital expansion to the southwest.

By this time the University was aggressively buying threatened buildings for graduate (and sometimes undergraduate) housing as far north as 51st, to the Lake and into Woodlawn.

August 13, construction started on the 55th island for high rise University Apartments ("Monoxide Island"), the most visible landmark of Hyde Park Urban Renewal.

September 18, U of C started its student bus service, at first on Woodlawn Avenue.

HPKCC was most active on Urban Renewal planning including disseminating much information and marshalling witnesses--and the feds did a study on community participation in planning- dos and don'ts. Code enforcement full time--an increasing proportion of complaints settled in discussion and of those that went to court strong fines became routine even though there was not a general building dept. inspection.
Tenant Referral Office. Working with/ seeking cooperation of real estate offices. Moved into youth services, a major future area. Schools Committee made a set of recommendations including boundary changes that were accepted. Two new playlots and two parking lots were secured. Held celebrations. Assisted Julia Abrahamson in preparation of her book on the Conference. Started preparing for its role in a post-renewal world.

The HPKCC Block committee planned reorganization of block club structure. Number of clubs averaged 50 in 330 block strips. The clubs worked most on Urban Renewal (all), a much smaller proportion of clubs worked on such issues as building and zoning, youth recreation, crime, cleanup, traffic/parking and infrastructure . Only 11 held parties, the main things clubs were known for more recently!


May 26, Walgreens signed lease for Hyde Park Shopping Center store. Center under construction.

May, first Hyde Park Garden Fair, to become later a major part of HPKCC.

June 10, Some private development could be expensive, as "Roman atria" townhouses proposed for Madison Park at Dorchester.

July 1, Webb and Knapp advertiseed its post-demolition townhouses in Central Hyde Park (A, B) for $19,865 to $35,000. Low rise townhouses around enclosed play areas are built from 55th to 57th Blackstone to Lake Park.

August 1, groundbreaking for University Apartment towers in 55th Street.

October 1, Hyde Park Co-op opens new store in the new Hyde Park Shopping Center-the largest grocery store in Chicago at the time.

Some time here (Maybe Dec. 9? or early the next year, Mayor Daley came to open the Hyde Park Shopping Center. He is reported to have said "I'm glad to be here in Oak Park."

December 9, Mayor Daley started demolition for the Urban Renewal spot program at 5006 Ellis.


July, residents moved into new townhouses on East Park Place south of 55th Dorchester to Kenwood--and the Post Office can't find them!

September 7, city proposed one-way traffic for 57th Lake Park to Stony, as part of changes for traffic on the Drive in Burnham and Jackson Parks. (Many think part the traffic streamlining including elimination of buzzing through and to insulate Hyde Park with cul de sacs and on-way and short streets. This particular change is said to have been the final death knell for the Artists Colony buildings- others dispute that.)

Demolition along the west half of 55th continued. The south side between Greenwood and University is among the first, for construction of Pierce Tower (Harry Weiss) dormitory and dining facility (a west tower is never built). The South West Hyde Park Redevelopment Corp. plan for the south side of 55th was envisioned as running from Woodlawn to Cottage Grove.

The Compass Tavern, home to Second City, was demolished on the northwest side of 55th at University to make room for the new fire house. The low rise to the east was spared by a special arrangement for Jimmy Wilson's tap, moved from where Pierce Tower dorm is now (sw corner of 55th and University). Further east at Woodlawn, a "scary" rooming house north of Jimmy's (Woodlawn Tap) will soon be gone, as would be an enormous apartment complex on the east side that is now St. Thomas School parking lot. The modernist quadrangle of the Lutheran School of Theology was be built in 1966 north of the new "berm" on the north side between University and Greenwood.

November 9, ground broken for Shoesmith School at 50th and Kenwood.

1960 businessmen and residents formed a savings and loan to get around continuing bank red-lining and refusal to lend to blacks, no matter how good their credit. The banks eventually did turn around, but banking laws were not fully reformed until the 1990s. The S and L stuck around until about 1991. South Side African-American business, civil rights and political leader Earl Dickerson was one of its mainstays.

[This site would like to know the story of how a lawsuit settlement spared the Deco Arts building at 55th and Lake Park (in exchange for its fix up, especially window facades), although the case could have been made that the building made the street and sidewalk take a accident-causing bend at 55th.


April 12, Kenwood Open House Committee holds fundraising ball in a home for 200 neighbors!

University Apartments are finished and opened. I.M. Pei arch, August F. Kommendant engineer.

University Park Towers gets preservation nod

Hyde Park Herald, September 8, 2004. by Mike Stevens

The 43-year-old University Park Condominiums building in the middle of 55th Street at Dorchester Avenue was nominated recently for listing on the National Historic Register. The listing would put the I.M. Pei-designed building among the nations's most historically significant properties as well as provide a possible tax break on future renovations. Condominium owners could also expect a likely jump in their property values with a listing.

The two poured-concrete condominium towers represent an excellent example of community planning and is a well preserved example of an ambitious urban renewal development of the 1960s, said David Blanchette, a spokesman from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency. "This is a specific example of a particular time period of the city and it's wonderfully preserved," Blanchette said.

The 706,300 square foot development was the design anchor to the first major Hyde Park redevelopment at the beginning of Urban Renewal. "[The University Apartments] were part of the project that kept the University of Chicago in the neighborhood," Margaret Duggar said. Duggar, a retired English professor, has lived in the building for more than 3o years and heads up the ad hoc committee of building residents pursuing the Historic Register listing.

The 35-page nomination application high-lights the building's crisp-lined modern feel of the International Style. In addition, the buildings close-set recessed windows mark the development of an innovative concrete-pouring technique by Pei and engineer August F. Kommerdant, the application states. Styrofoam forms allowed all exterior load-bearing walls to boast almost floor to ceiling windows separated by slender concrete columns.

Pei's design, which placed the building in the middle of 55th Street and lifts 9-stories of apartments above green-space and an open-air courtyard on the ground floor, followed principles laid out by Le Corbusier. The Swiss-born architect believed that multi-unit buildings should be placed in park settings and along transportation routes. Le Corbusier's philosophy also promoted the inclusion of shops on the ground floor of such buildings to involve non-residents in the structure, said Hyde Park Historical Society member Devereux Bowly. Because of this, the white concrete apartment towers do not involve the community as much as they could, Bowly said.

Many Hyde Parkers, forced to hike around the nearly 4-block development, say the problem has gotten worse since a security fence closing off the courtyard to non-residents went up in 1978. "We're stuck with it for better or worse. But if you understand the context both locally and nationally [a historic listing] is more understandable," Bowly said. Pei later designed the glass pyramid entrance to the Louvre in Paris and a National Gallery of Art addition in Washington D.C.

The Biltmore (later known as Alport) building, northeast corner of 53rd and Harper was condemned by the Chicago Conservation Board and enters a long fight over demolition, blocked by powerful political ties.

May 31, 1961 15 merchants announce plans for a co-op shopping center at 53rd and Kimbark.

November 29, Hyde Park Police Station at 5233 Lake Park closes for demolition under Urban Renewal. The expected replacement never appears.

Demolition on 55th continued westward, now reaching Ellis. By the end of 1961 or the next year Peterson's Warehouse, the Frolic theater and others were gone. Many of these housed Appalachians and African-Americans either escaping overcrowding or displaced from other Hyde Park urban renewal or the massive Lake Meadows and pre-Dan Ryan projects clearances. West of Ellis was slated for student housing but now has the athletic facilities (the Ellis end only receiving its full use with Ratner, 2003.) All that will stay on 55th between Cottage and the Deco Arts Bldg. at Harper Ave. are the now Woodlawn Tap (Jimmy's)/UC Dialysis Center/Starbucks building west of Woodlawn, St. Thomas Apostle Church, and the half-block east of Kenwood anchored by University National Bank (substantially remodeled more than once). Bars went from 20 to one. The Woodlawn building was spared due to a big campaign, including by students--the first "save Jimmy's" campaign. At the turn of the millennium, the university went to substantial expense to redo the Woodlawn building, including financing keeping Woodlawn Tap and bringing in Hyde Park's second Starbucks.


Starting in January, UC C.O.R.E (Congress on Racial Equality) students sat in at President Beadle's house against UC "segregationist" housing policies in its off-campus rental. This was not yet the make-break for opening the community (HPKCC committees had gotten nowhere in the early 50s except in eating accommodations.) CORE had sent out testers--UC Realty gave contracts to every white student and none to the blacks. Beadle agreed in principle but said the rate had to be "tolerable." As demonstrations continued, Beadle agreed to a meeting at Ida Noyes Theater. The report of Profs. Alison Dunham, Philip Hauser, George Schultz appears to waffle. (They referred to maintaining integration in a predominantly Negro area not through maintaining a partially or predominantly white but an ALL white building as acceptable. )

August 22, first Hyde Park Garden Walk--70 gardens.

A tale of two neighbors. On Harper between 53rd and 54th streets stood two venerable hotels that by the early 50s were slipping into bad use ("threat properties". Harper Crest was bought by the University and remains a nice dorm. Hyde Park Arms remained a transient hotel but a decent one. Other buildings in the two blocks range from undergoing conversion to high-scale condos (one high rise having come close to needing demolition) and seniors housing and single houses of varying conditions.

About this time structures were torn down at a couple of nodes on 57th not far from the campus. These include the large Beatrice, south side of 57th at Dorchester (north of a pre-Civil War wood mansion) and the northeast corner of 57th-Dorchester. For several years these were community gardens--their rebuilding would cause a fuss. The stretch on the south (including along the east side of Dorchester and over to Blackstone where the notorious World's Fair vintage Harvard Hotel had stood) later became the townhomes the CCC forced to be downsized. The northeast corner was c. 1970? built as a dormitory for McCormick Seminary (requiring reconstruction by 2001). One house in the 5600 block of Dorchester was torn down for several units of public housing--one of the few blocks that didn't yell "NIMBY!" More was built on 55th east of Woodlawn (?) and in the 5400 block of Blackstone (?)


March 13, 1963. Harper Court development proposal was rolled out, spearheaded by Muriel Beadle. May 27th, 1964 it is given an old cast iron people and animal fountain (still used as a planter) by the Humane Society.

Demolitions and reconstruction are largely wound down, along with the documentation.

June 19, Julian Levi discusses merger of SECC and HPKCC and questions whether institutional and individual needs could be fairly represented in one organization. That year, Jack Meltzer leaves as director of planning for South East Chicago Commission.

July, TWO led by Arthur Brazier led a sit in at City Hall demanding the University provide equitable relocation and commit to low-income housing. The agreement was that the University will not acquire or build south of 61st and that TWO would get public housing along Stony Island (land leased from the University for a dollar a year) and on the west side of Cottage Grove via the City. Land price speculation and escalation in Woodlawn slows or stops. This agreement was considered by many a historic landmark in urban organization.

October 9, Kimbark Plaza opened. Its cooperative organization, layout with (too little?) parking in front, and very awkward delivery layout in back would lead to problemss. Still, it has been an anchor for nearly 60 years. More about Kimbark in the main UR page. Elm Park would open in left over space to the north the next year.


August 26, Hyde Park Herald editorial called for a new high school--great controversy ensues (was it racist, elitist, island-creation??)

September 30, Chicago's first condo conversion of an existing building (and by existing renters) happens in Kenwood, 1344 E. 48th. Soon there would be condomania and condophobia.

November 4, arts and nightlife revival (after urban renewal implosion and loss of 2nd City) get a new boost with opening of live theater and dance in Harper Theater-though short-lived it was very lively and a major force in the city's art life.

South campus redevelopment continued with start of construction on School of Social Service Administration (Ludwig Mies van der Rohe) and (then, now Edelstone) National Opinion Research Center to the south of SSA.

By this time the Tropical Hut at 57th and Kenwood stood surrounded by rubble.

Continue with Timeline, 1964-present