Early history of HPKCC and its role in Urban Renewal: Records and timeline

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.

Excerpts from early records of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and a timeline through 1978.
For some interpretations see also records in our 60th Anniversary Kickoff page.

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HPKCC huge archives in U of C Regenstein Special Collections Research Center now have a digital finding aid:
About it: http://news.lib.uchicago.edu/blog/2012/02/24/hyde-park-kenwood-community-conference-records-available-for-research/
To: http://www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/scrc/findingaids/view.php?eadid=ICU.SPCL.HPKCC


August 26, Sunday, 2-4 pm. Hyde Park Historical Society and Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference invite you to attend Hyde Park-Kenwood Stories: An Oral History Program Remembering the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference. Do you remember Urban Renewal and the development of 53rd Street in the 1950's and 1960's? Did you ever volunteer for or purchase items from the Garden Fair? Were you ever a part of a HPKCC committee or group to improve public parks or schools? Revisit the past by telling hour stories about the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference. Bring photos and artifact to share with everyone.
Sunday, August 26, 2012 2-4 pm, Montgomery Place, 5550 S. South Shore Drive. Reception follows. Space is limited- rsvp by Friday, August 4.- Lala rodgers, 773 401-0474 or hporalhistory@gmail.com. Sponsored in part by Hyde Park Bank; promotional photos from Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Regenstein Library.

Most extant and available material from this period is now archived in the Special Collections Research Center, Joseph and Helen Regenstein Library, The University of Chicago.

HPKCC was officially founded September 21, 1949 but some documents cite the November 8 public meeting or even later. Earliest Hyde Park Herald reference to HPKCC as an organization is in 1950. HPKCC WAS AND REMAINS A MEMBERSHIP-BASED ORGANIZATION.

The following pieces are best understood in contexts and detail provided by Urban Renewal homepage and the two Urban Renewal Timeline pages. Granted, many of the claims given below are "organ" if not propaganda, but they supply details to gauge the scope of activity at various stages--including the general curve of the organization's viability, and many hints at what worked/works with community organizations and what didn't/doesn't under varying circumstances.

Remember again that HPKCC was but one of several organizations and institutions active in community conversion. Many hands labored as independent agents or provided their considerable expertise on a volunteer basis. And without the help of the City and higher levels of government, the University of Chicago and groups and orgs from other parts of the city--and favorable conditions--the effort would have quickly evaporated. And the Conference, or at least some of its leaders and members could be untactful, confrontational, and verbose. Keep in mind also that much of the work was done before the Civil Rights movement really caught hold but in the cusp of the long precedent of the New Deal and efforts to either sustain or extend that or to peel it back (and ditto public housing). Also, most of the demolition-rebuilding phase was over before the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed.

The Conference reached a high plateau in the mid 50s and early 60s with thousands of members, over 60 block clubs (the heart-eyes-and legs of the organization) and much foundation support. Some of the annual meetings even had skits! It was in decline and shrinkage in the late 1960s, some would say steep in terms of decline in revenues especially from grants and subsequent reductions in staff, but worked to find its way in that time of turmoil when the interests of activists turned to black power, antiwar, and rage at the U of C. By the early 1970s the Conference roared back, as much a social services organization as civic and with lots of money, seeking power, and by the mid-70s seeking to work (some thought muscle) its way into development and decision-making control. A decline by 1980 left the Conference one of a constellation of organizations, seldom again to be at the center of community conversation, although it gradually become stronger and active in more spheres after reconstitution in the early 1990s and particularly the early 2000s-- most notably as a convener of input on development proposals and economic diversity issues; active on parks, schools, disabilities, and quality of life; and a disseminator of information important to homeowners and associations. Its expanded role was largely enabled by funding from its Garden Fair and Used Book Sale committees, strong leaders, and a collaborative approach.

Three early publications were based on the Conference experience and were followed in the late 50s and early 60s by at least 3 major studies (these latter listed in Urban Renewal home.) The early works were Neighbors in Action by Herbert Thelen and Bettie Sachet, The Power of Words by Stuart Chase, and The Dynamics of Groups at Work by Herbert Thelen. Top

From answer to a member who asked what the Used Book Sale funds... by Jane Ciacci, HPKCC 1st Vice President

....the profits of the sale are currently the Conference's major source of support for its ongoing expenses, such as the office in the Hyde Park Bank building, and space rental and other expenses for community events throughout the year. For example, [February 2010] is our Schools Committee's biennial award ceremony for Local School Council members and volunteers, with speaker Jacqueline Edelberg (author of How to Walk to School- Blueprint for a Neighborhood School Renaissance). In April, the Condos and Co-ops Committee expects to host a forum on condo issues with Attorney John Bickley, who has worked with the committee for several years to provide these popular forums on topical questions.

In 2009, we hosted the HPKCC Forum "Challenging the Next Decade,"to kick off our 60th anniversary year, and added two organizations as committees > of the Conference, the Friends of Blackstone Library and the South Side. Preservation Action Fund, which commissioned a structural engineering assessment of the Harper Theater Buildings, paid for with grant funding obtained by the Fund.

Our Development, Preservation & Zoning Committee is particularly active, and collaborates with a number of other community groups, including the 53rd Street TIF Advisory Council and its committees, Coalition for Equitable Community Development, Hyde Park Disabilities Task Force, Hyde Park Historical Society and its Preservation Committee, Interfaith Open Communities, Older Women's League of Hyde Park and Illinois, Southside Solidarity Network.

The profits of the 2008 book sale made possible a $2,500 donation to the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club to help fund transportation for the Summer Teen program in summer 2009.

As you probably know, you can read more about the various activities of the Conference and its committees at http://www.hydepark.org/hpkcc/index.htm and our quarterly Reporter for members.

The Conference: What's It All About?

Adapted from the Spring, 2003, Conference Reporter. By Executive Director Betty Fromm. Updated October, 2003 by Gary Ossewaarde

HPKCC has held a series of Community Forums on the future of the neighborhood and its connections to its neighbors. Winter, 2003, between January 18 and February 12, the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference sponsored or co-sponsored four community forums--one on the proposed new zoning code and three on the aldermanic elections. (Follow ups are expected on zoning issues and applications.) The next is on Condominium law and issues. Future possible topics include the University and the Community, Transit Options...

On January 29, the Conference and the South East Chicago Commission held a forum on the proposed revision of the city's zoning code. Presenting the revision were Tim Barton, Zoning Reform Commission staff, and Peter Skosey, Metropolitan Planning Council.

Earlier in the month, January 18, the Conference partnered with the Hyde Park Chapter o the League of Women Voters to give aldermanic candidates in both the 4th and 5th wards an opportunity to "present the case" for their election to office. This forum was followed up by separate Conference-sponsored forums for 4th and 5the Ward candidates--February 5 and 12. Question-and-answer sessions followed opening statements by candidates in the two wards. (An unexpected question in the 4th Ward--one concerning police brutality--came from a former death row inmate.)

Ongoing Commitments

In collaboration with our aldermen and other individuals and organization in Hyde Park and Kenwood, the Conference has been working hard to bring improvements on many fronts--parks, transit, development, and neighborhood safety, among them.

Transportation. The Conference has spearheaded efforts to improve public transportation for the Hyde Park-Kenwood community, through the Transit Task Force. Members of the task force meet regularly with CTA officials and monitors the #6 bus schedules. It has also surveyed ridership and come up with and developed public support for new transit ideas and changed bus routes.

Community Parks. During the past year, Conference members have worked closely with Jackson Park Advisory Council, the Nichols Park Advisory Council, and the Promontory Point group in efforts to preserve and protect the parks.

Neighborhood Safety. Because of Conference concern over neighborhood safety, The Reporter has included columns written by Sgt. Scott Oberg, 21st District. The Conference supports the CAPS program, through reports to the board on CAPS activities and by publishing a schedule of CAPS meetings and a description of beat boundaries. It also makes WhistleStop whistles available to community residents.

Identifying and monitoring new issues in the community--e.g., new development, threats to economic diversity, accessibility—is also an important focus of HPKCC. Conference efforts include board review of development proposals, as well as holding community meetings when appropriate. Zoning changes and how they will affect Hyde Park Kenwood brought city planning officials to a Conference-sponsored forum. And we're not necessarily working just in traditionally-bounded Hyde Park and Kenwood any more.

HPKCC has not only organized or supported task forces and committees in Hyde Park-Kenwood, but is has also provided special help to them. The Conference, for example, maintains the database for the Jackson Park Advisory Council and serves as fiscal agent for server al organizations.

HPKCC works with individuals, too. A member of the board has worked on a grant proposal and budget development in support of CAGL, the innovative learning program for grade school youngsters.

Special focus

Focusing on special needs is another Conference commitment. Because of the many condos and co-ops in Hyde Park-Kenwood, HPKCC conducted a survey to determine ways in which the Conference can provide services to condo/co-op association boards and resident owners. One result of the survey is the development, by the Conference, of a directory of trades people. (Complete results of the survey appeared in an earlier edition of The Reporter. )

Communicating with the Hyde Park-Kenwood community is another important function of HPKCC. It does this by providing up-to-the-minute information on critical issues through its web site, www.hydepark.org, and by presenting more detailed discussions in The Conference Reporter. Check hydepark.org for continuing updates on the zoning revision. HPKCC also welcomes community input--commentaries, letters to the editor, etc,--for either medium.

If you have any ideas for programs, projects, or issues to address, let us know. Call us, write us, or e-mail us at hpkcc@aol.com.

To sum it all up, the commitment of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference is well-encompassing, and continuing. Come on aboard.


1949 (c March 1950-issue?) report to members and community. Leslie T. Pennington*

*(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.'")

All of us are rightly impatient, for amid the issues pressing in upon us time is of the essence. Yet only the full weight of massive resource can meet these issues adequately, and it takes time reliably to accumulate this massive resource. We are already beginning to face specific issues, and several times...we have wished that the massive organization of community resource had had more time to mature. We must remember that a lost battle in these preliminary stages may help us to win the war. While we have lost one or two specific battles where the lines have not been clearly drawn, there have already been specific victories. In at least one block where property owners were individually prepared to sell, block organization of white and Negro neighbors has restored confidence and created a new neighborhood morale.

Meantime... we are steadily gaining strength, accumulating experience, and working out the structure of organization to deploy our forces and to concentrate our resources at those points where concentration is needed.

From 40 members of 7 organizations on November 8 we have moved to 167 on December 12, 193 on February 1, and 350 of some 50 organizations at the present time. As Herb Thelen has suggested, our method is "the personal involvement of friend by friend fellowship by a rapid development of cohesiveness among many friends." The increasing number of residents from all parts of our community who are expressing hearty endorsement of our policy and eagerness to work, is reassuring evidence that most of our neighbors really believe in the future of our community and in fair play among all of its peoples.

A new edition of our Statement of Policy, slightly revised and amplfied...will soon be planographed...for wide public distribution. [Continues with new organization additions, a new executive committee, and meetings with leaders of institutions and government bodies. ]

From our first formulation of policy we have realized that constructive action in our own community would of necessity involve us in responsible city-wide action on the same issues...

[Attached was an Outline-Background of the Conference Problems

[And an outline of the planning-working groups an their purposes/organization. These were:


1955 or 1956 report on Activities and Accomplishments (Materials were not dated or signed)

The Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference was organized in November 1949, to unite Hyde Park-Kenwood residents of all races and creeds in efforts to maintain and improve the community.

BLOCK ORGANIZATION. Neighbors on 316 blocks, organized into 57 block organizations, set standards for block maintenance and improvement. They paint and landscape, rehabilitate property, encourage people to invest in their homes; turn vacant lots into playgrounds; secure traffic signs and signals; light up dark streets; get sidewalks repaired, streets and alleys cleaned, rats eliminated, abandoned cars removed; replace rumor with fact. They participated in planning for Urban Renewal by discussions of proposed plans at block meetings and making suggestions to the Conference Planning Committee.

BUILDING AND ZONING. The Conference has prevented countless illegal conversions and helped to correct over a thousand building and zoning violations. Complaints from block groups and individuals are sometimes settled by neighborly calls; all are investigated before they are reported to the City. The Conference supplies detailed information for the inspections, supporting evidence, affidavits and witnesses to the Building Department and the Corporation Counsel's office; attends all public hearings on zoning variations and secures interested neighbors to give testimony; has set the pattern by which all community organizations now work with the Building Department.

COMMUNITY FACILITIES AND SERVICES. The Conference has spearheaded successful attempt to get more adequate street lighting and street cleaning. It handles numerous complaints of abandoned cars, illegal parking, broken sidewalks, traffic obstructions, noise and smoke nuisances, alley conditions.

REAL ESTATE COOPERATION. The Conference recently organized a series of meetings with real estate firms and owners to discuss community goals and best ways of implementing them. Relationships developed thus far are proving valuable in exchange of information and in handling tenant problems in individual buildings.

LEGAL PANEL. Twenty-five community lawyers provide consultant services for all phases of Conference work. The Chairman of the Panel played an active role in drafting amendments for revision of the Municipal Code and in framing new legislation. (Fines are now mandatory when courts determine violations of building and zoning ordinances; the city can get injunctions to secure compliance with building laws; defendants proved guilty in zoning violations can be required to bear court costs.)

PUBLIC SCHOOLS. The Schools Committee has worked on problems of human relations in the schools; united PTA's and other agencies to obtain adequate school facilities (to date, school funds have been appropriated for six additions), secure more teachers, and initiate a visiting social counseling program. It makes annual recommendations on the School Board Budget and conducts institutes to acquaint teachers and principals with services available to them.

PARKS AND RECREATION. The Conference has helped block groups create play areas for children; publishes a yearly recreational directory of the area; played an active role in saving Wooded Island from being taken over for Army installations; initiated and coordinated efforts to retain the Promontory for recreational use only (succeeded only in getting the fence lines moved to allow more space for civilians and in securing promises from the Army to restore a sidewalk around the outer rim of the Promontory); is now working on development of existing park areas and expansion of community's recreation facilities.

PLANNING AND URBAN RENEWAL. Planning and Survey Committees and 200 volunteers produced Community Appraisal Studies in 1050 and 1951 on which present planning is in part based. The Planning Committee asked the Chicago Land Clearance Commission to survey the area (survey disclosed enough blight to qualify area for redevelopment, this beginning Hyde Park Projects A and B); is working closely with the Planning Unit of the South East Chicago Commission; is setting a pattern for involving citizens directly in planning. Our area was chosen for the pilot urban renewal project largely because of the record the people were already making in helping themselves.

CONSULTANT SERVICES ON COMMUNITY PROBLEMS. Since the Conference was founded, 37 similar organizations concerned with neighborhood conservation have been formed in Chicago. Over half of these have secured the advice and counsel of the Conference on organizational structure, block work, work with City agencies, and similar problems. Neighborhoods facing similar problems in other cities send requests for help and there is a constant stream of visitors from Europe, Asia, and Africa who study the work of the Conference and return to their countries with a new view of democracy in action. Potential leaders in other organizations have been trained at the Conference's community clinics. Requests for Conference participation in city-wide and national conferences are too numerous to fill.


From the Original Policy Statement Adopted unanimously by 300 citizens from 50 civic and religious community organizations December 12, 1949 and amended and reaffirmed by the HPKCC Board of Directors January 19, 1955


We stand for basic human rights, taught in common by our religious faith, by ethics and by the Constitution of the United states, among them the rights of all persons, irrespective of race, creed, or national origin, peacefully and lawfully to bargain for, rent, buy and occupy living space, to entertain guests in their homes, and to travel in our community, unmolested.

Population pressures of intense overcrowding of Negro districts are leading Negroes to seek living space in other parts of the city, including our own community. We believe this to be inevitable and essential to the welfare of the city as a whole. We believe that this population movement can and should be used creatively by the cooperation of Negroes and whites to build up the standards, morale and character both of our community and of the city.

We are fortunate in that our community is one of the leading educational, religious and cultural centers of Chicago. We are fortunate also that it is made truly cosmopolitan by our large Jewish population, by the Japanese-Americans whom we have welcomed, to our great advantage, in recent years, by the international and inter-racial character of our leading educational institutions and by the number of Negro families who have dwelt happily, peacefully and as good citizens among us for more than twenty years. The nature, character and resources of our community should enable us to develop a positive program for the creative solution of the problems we now face, which will be of substantial benefIt to all of us and set an example both to the city and to the nation.


The chief obstacle to such a program is fear--the fear of white residents that they may lose property values, community standards, status and security; the fear of Negroes that they may be hemmed in, that they may be unjustly excluded, unwelcome and insecure in neighborhoods now open to them both by law and by the principles of ethics and religion. It is those fears which have created the patterns of racial segregation. The chief danger is that these fears, leading Negroes to cluster in new districts and whites to flee, exploited as they are by those real estate dealers bent only upon quick profit, will spread the pattern of segregation into areas adjacent to Negro districts. These fears are chiefly based upon prejudice and misapprehension. While property values may decrease slightly when Negroes first move into white neighborhoods, they do so only because of white panic; they soon rise again, even above the old levels, because property is dearer on the Negro market. Whites who are free from fears need not lose property values. There is no need to sell. Our real concern is to prevent urban decay which is caused by overcrowding, exploitation and over-use of property, by its under maintenance and neglect, and by the actual change in an area from residential to transient rooming-house, commercial or industrial use. Occupancy by non-whites or persons of differing religious faiths has no essential relation to these things.

Studies made by the National Association of Real Estate Boards indicate that Negroes, as compared with whites of the same economic status, take as good or better care of their property, both as home owners and tenants, that they are good home buyers and good credit risks for home loans. There is evidence that most of our new Negro neighbors are raising, not lowering, the standards of property care and maintenance in our community. Good persons make good neighbors, regardless of race, creed or national origin.

Attempt to keep Negroes out, which, taken collectively, mean to hem Negroes into ghettoes, are twice evil. The violate our basic rights. They subvert our attention from the true problem [:] how to maintain and advance the standards and values of our living community.


We should enlist all residents and property owners of all races and creeds in a concerted movement to keep up all standards set by law, such as sanitation, fire prevention and zoning; and to make sure that the city authorities in health, education, fire prevention, police, street and electricity departments, zoning and building departments, maintain effective services for all residents of the community.

Against the evils of overcrowding we should work to establish and maintain occupancy standards which would limit the number of persons living in a given room and, in property converted, to multiple-family use, provide each family unit with adequate facilities such as kitchen and bath.

Beyond the establishment and maintenance of such occupancy standards we should work together to sustain and revitalize our community by creative programs of planning and improvement.


We should engage all citizens and property owners, religious and civic organizations and movements in a community-wide program of constructive recreation and leisure-time activities for children and youth, making sure that all available playgrounds and leisure-time centers are properly supervised, equipped and used for the benefit of all children and youth of the community, and that additional facilities are secured as needed. Juvenile delinquency is the ugly name for the failure of a community to provide for a wholesome and constructive life for its youth. Inter-group prejudice, hostility and violence often appear first in teen-age gangs which have no constructive outlet for their energies.


We should promote inter-cultual and inter-group education in churches and synagogues, schools and community organizations. Residents of all races and national backgrounds should be welcomed into the full rights, privileges and responsibilities of all civic and religious organizations within the community. Members of all minority groups should be welcomed, not primarily as such, but as persons in their own right, with their own living interests, relationships, responsibilities, and distinctive abilities in the fields of common life and welfare. This Community Conference has included them as full participating members from its first beginning, and shall continue to be open to them on an equal basis with all community residents of all races and creeds.


The solution of these problems in our own community cannot be disengaged from the same issues in the city as a whole. We must therefore work with city-wide agencies in a city-wide program--with such agencies as the Commission on Human Relations, the Chicago Council Against Racial and Religious Discrimination, and other city-wide religious, educational, inter-cultural and social service institutions. Through them we must promote and sustain the inter-cultural program of our city schools, a more adequate program of slum clearance, of both private and public housing, and of city planning, to serve the welfare of all citizens without discrimination. We must support the Mayor and the Chicago Police Force when they serve and protect the rights and welfare of all the people, and by eternal vigilance hold them to this responsibility and public trust. We must enlist reliable and public-spirited real estate interests, both white and Negro, to reform those practices of business and real estate which now promote and perpetuate racial discrimination and segregation, to sustain and advance the standards and values of our living community without false discriminations based upon race, creed or national origin.



We seek to strengthen the Conference by enlisting increasing numbers of persons in active Conference membership. We seek to engage increasing numbers of persons in active participation as members of Conference committees and block organizations. In all of this we seek to provide information regarding he nature of community problems and their alternative solutions, and to provide the opportunities required for the public exchange of views which will lead to community decisions. Our principal concern is with the residents of the community. It is in their interest that we enlist participation in these decisions by men and women whose income is from property or business here, and by members of the many educational, professional and religious institutions in the community. Responsible participation by the full community is needed to protect what we now enjoy, to plan what we need for the future, and to solve the problems that arise as we work to make our plans effective.


We support sound continuous planning relating to land use, population density, old and new housing, schools, recreation, institutional needs, shopping facilities, traffic circulation, and parking. The physical plans should be prepared by professional planners. These plans should be the result of consideration of the various alternatives. Such planning should be sufficiently flexible to adjust to changing conditions, and it should provide for review and revision. It should include planning for community services as well as physical facilities. it should seek the greatest attainable advantages at the least inconvenience to affected interests. While aiming at must new construction, it should retain existing serviceable facilities to the fullest extent that balanced development permits. Such planning should include accommodations for families of different income levels.


Specific problems we must currently and accurately identify and find solutions for through the resources of both our own and other agencies include (1) how to maintain the present interracial character of our community; (2) how to maintain a reasonable balance between the tendency of property values to increase as our program succeeds and the financial ability of present families to live here; (3) how to promote and support realistic and fair relocation policies and procedures in connection with the projected land clearance program; (4) how to obtain priorities for resident families and businessmen affected by land clearance so that they can remain here; and (5) how to effect fair policies and procedures in matters of property acquisition.


December, 1958 Conference News Letter: The Plan Passed-Now What?

For nine years, Conference members and other community residents have worked to achieve a realistic and attractive physical PLAN for the area. With the passage of the Final Plan by City Council on November 7, that goal has been reached. WHAT NEXT?

Among answers to that question are a dozen more questions--questions Jim Cunningham raised in his annual report at the annual meeting--questions like these:

Cunningham was quoted as saying, "In some ways the next 5 years will be as tough as the past; but we will have the tremendous satisfaction of working to implement a plan we believe in and support. The plan is approved; we have taken a giant step toward realizing our goal of a stable, interracial community of high standards."


Excerpts from the 1973 Annual report.

From the President. ...Behind us we have a traditional mode of operation which has helped this organization become a sizeable, relevant, unified, effective and stable force in the community. Before us we have a new mode of organization which offers even greater opportunities and challenges in shaping the future of Hyde Park-Kenwood.

...In its earliest years this organization concentrated on purely physical problems. In later years, particularly since 1969, the Conference has responded to basic socio-economic issues, devoting much energy to solving problems through collective action of residents and by creating new institutions.

Now the Board of Directors of the Conference proposes three new goals for the future:

  1. playing a more active and aggressive role in the governmental and private institutional decision-making that affects Hyde Park-Kenwood.
  2. creating institutions to affect large-scale improvement in problem area where existing institutions are inadequate and where community-controlled development is feasible and effective.
  3. developing structure and programs that will engage the community and create a larger membership

The last three years have seen this organization become not only viable, but powerful. Now we must mobilize our power base--which depends on broad representation, effective programs, and financial stability--to implement the new goals before us.

[Rolled out here was the Community Development Corporation- for economic and commercial development, housing management and rehabilitation, and social service facilities. Research project--was this a major reason for the collapse of the Conference later?--too soon, to un-Hyde Park, maybe mismanaged as grant and federal resources dried up? GMO]

Report of the Executive Director, Sharon R. Jeffrey

Today we are part of a community organization that is larger and more effective that ever before in its 24-year history. With a membership of 2,200, a budget of $220,000, 25 active programs, 25 staff members and 400 active volunteers, the [HPKCC] is well-prepared to forge in the new directions being established by the Board of Directors.

...The Conference's great strength is that it responds to the community in substantial programmatic, problem-solving ways. Basically, the Conference has developed five ways to mobilize volunteer resources and solve community problems...

  1. To create new institutions in response to community needs;
  2. To influence larger existing institutions to become more responsive to community concerns;
  3. To develop new Conference-based programs;
  4. To organize community-wide celebrations; and
  5. To assist other community groups with projects that have proven successful in Hyde Park-Kenwood.

[An example of the first category (unique, she says, to the Conference)- creation c. 1970 by HPKCC volunteers of the Sojourner Truth Child Care Center, a Recycling Center, a rehabilitation foundation for deteriorated buildings--has certification and is in rehabbing a building in the 800 block of 52nd under Al Raby, and planned a health center. For a more complete description of programs and actions, see 1973 in the Urban Renewal Timeline-2 page.]


A narrative of HPKCC in the context of the HPK Urban Renewal Story

view by itself

We present here a comprehensive, broad narrative of the history of Urban Renewal, largely from the viewpoint of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference. We know there are many sides, interpretations, gaps and sidebars to the story, as there are to the story of Urban Renewal in which the Conference figured so strongly, but very far from exclusively. Why don't you send us your memory or story? Visit also the other Urban Renewal pages, a set of documents from early urban renewal, and the Story of the Conference (in construction).

We start with the contextual recollections of Oswalda (Ozzie) Badal, who has been involved since the beginning and served as HPKCC volunteer and staffer in the early days. These memoirs were shared with the Hyde Park Historical Society after a HPHS-commissioned Year of Reflection on Urban Renewal in 1995 and printed in its Hyde Park History newsletter for Summer/Fall 1995 (available on request from the Society).

See also perspectives on our 60 years in 60th Anniverary 2009 Kickoff page.


Oswalda ("Ozzie") Badal- one of several special persons who made a difference to the Conference and Hyde Park

[Raised on the South Side, Ozzie came to Hyde Park at 16 in the 1940s to start at the U of C (many did come an an early age in the 30s-50s). She worked at Roosevelt's library and volunteered at HPKCC--turning her position into a paid one as liaison between the city and the neighborhood and its organizations. Because this experience in this pioneer urban renewal program, the city hired her to lead the program in Hyde Park with planner Jack Meltzer. She was Director of Building and Zoning Programs 1953-61, at a time when community transformation through bringing cases (including illegal conversions) to zoning court, had a column in the Hyde Park Herald "...In Court This Week". She served as Acting Assistant Director of HPKCC 1961-64 and then headed relocation services re urban Renewal. She became assistant commissioner for special service to the elderly and low-income families then deputy director in health systems planning (Chicago Health Systems Agency) (though 1979). She was also active in many aspects of community life including the HPK Development Corporation, the HPK Community Conservation Council, SECC, Harper Court Foundation, and the League of Women Voters and in later years the American Mexican Foundation which grants scholarships. Upon her death in 2012, she bequeathed $300,000 to Montgomery Place Retirement Community where she lived after many years in the Promontory Apartments.]

The Hyde Park-Kenwood Urban Renewal Story

The community of Hyde Park-(South) Kenwood was the first are in the nation designated as an "Urban Renewal Project". Its boundaries ran from 47th to 59th Streets, Cottage Grove to Lake Michigan. It is a colorful community with an interesting history.

Growth of the Community
The chronological development of Hyde Park-Kenwood started when the "town of Hyde Park" was incorporated in 1861, and Paul Cornell, known as the father of Hyde Park became its first elected supervisor. By the time the City of Chicago annexed the Town of Hyde Park in 1889, its boundaries encompassed far more area than the present day community. The following year (1890), the University of Chicago was founded by a gift from John D. Rockefeller. At that time the community was primarily composed of single family homes with the larger, more fashionable mansions built by wealthy families in Kenwood between 1885 and 1895. With the announcement and plans for the Columbian Exposition of 1893, which located at the southeastern edge of the community, a tremendous real estate and building boom resulted in the addition of many spacious walk-up apartment buildings. In the1920s, small apartments and hotels were built to meet the needs of an increasing number of elderly people and single men and women. In the same period through the 1930s, stores, churches, banks and schools were built leaving little open space in the interior of the community.

During World War II, Hyde Park-Kenwood like the rest of the nation underwent the pressures of a severe housing shortage for people drawn to the city to work in the defense industry. Many of the large private homes and spacious apartments in the area were converted into smaller units--many of these conversions were illegally made and were accompanied by a noticeable decline in maintenance.

Up until World War II the residents of the community were mostly well-to-do families. In addition to faculty and staff of the University living in the area, there was also a unusually high percentage of professional and business people. The newcomers who entered the community during the war years and occupied the converted units were for the most part of lower income--people coming from rural areas and the South seeking jobs. The conversions of apartments and homes begun during the early 1940s continued after the war with no new building occurring.

The changes in housing stock resulted in an increase in the population of the area from about 65,30 in 1940 to 71,700 in 1950. By the end of the 1940s, the community was showing signs of deterioration because of conversions, decreased property maintenance, and increased population all of which were overtaxing the community's facilities and services (schools, parking, police and fire protection.)

In the 1940s, to the north and west of Hyde Park-Kenwood, the population was largely African-American and rapidly increasing in number by families migrating from the South. Chicago's overall African-American population increased by 42% between 1940 and 1950. Adding to space problems in those particular areas was massive displacement for the Lake Meadows and Prairie Shores developments so that by the time restrictive covenants were finally outlawed in 1948 (which opened up areas previously closed to African-Americn's), it was not surprising that in the late 1940s, that population began to grow in Hyde Park-Kenwood.

The Community Reacts
In 1949, a few people in the community felt action was necessary to stem the growing physical deterioration and to work at developing good race relations. Amongst these early leaders were Rev. Leslie Pennington of the First Unitarian Church, the 57th Street Meeting of Friends, Rabbi Louis Weinstein of KAM, academicians Harvey Perloff, St. Clair Drake, Herbert Thelen, financial and real estate leaders Earl B. Dickerson, Oscar Brown Sr., and Jerome Morgan.

"Panic peddling" was in full operation at that time and neighborhoods around the city turned from white to black rapidly. The early leaders determined that a new effort was needed to prevent this kind of change from happening to Hyde Park-Kenwood. Their belief was that blacks and whites are able to live together. Since there was no one organization already in existence able or willing to act directly on both the physical and racial problems, a new group--the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference--was founded. Its goal was "to build and maintain a stable interracial community of high standards"--a goal which was eventually adopted by the rest of the community.

With the advice and help of Tom Wright, executive director of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations and Herbert A. Thelen of the Human Dynamics Laboratory of the University of Chicago, and under the guidance and leadership of its first executive director Julia Abraham son, the Conference set out to encourage the formation of block organizations so that new and old neighbors could meet, know each other and find common grounds on which to work cooperatively.

An extensive survey, developed by a Conference committee headed by St. Clair Drake and Everet Hughes and utilizing people in the new block group organizations was carried out in the area in 1950. The results pinpointed the vast number of problems, and a program which defined general community objectives was developed. This survey served as an important factor in future planning activities for the area.

The program that evolved identified five specific aspects to the program: (1) the panic and fear of the white residents, and the block busting techniques of unscrupulous real estate brokers needed to be combated through a program of education and through presentation of facts; (2) a self-help program to arrest continued deterioration in the community through strict enforcement of zoning and building code laws needed to be developed; (3) additional space for overcrowded school facilities and for playground and recreational facilities needed to be found; (4) improvement of city services (such as street cleaning, garbage collection and street lighting) was needed; and (5) redevelopment of pockets of slums and a conservation program were needed.

In 1952, a a result of a public indignation about the rising crime rate, and sparked by the abduction and attempted rape of a University faculty wife, a "Committee of Five" headed by the now U.S. Judge Hubert Will formed another organization--the South East Chicago Commission which directed much of its efforts toward improving law enforcement. The Commission also devised more comprehensive and effective approaches to the problem of the more serious illegal conversions of buildings often using such power tactics [as] getting insurance and mortgage cancellations for slum buildings. In some instances, its executive director Julian Levi along with other attorneys from the community served as "special" Assistant Corporation counsel, without compensation, in trying cases involving violations of single family zoning. The Commission's most important program, though, was its role in urban renewal. The Commission's major support came from the University of Chicago and it attracted additional support of business, real estate and other institutional interests. It represented the communities conservative interests who looked with concern at the Conference's idealistic goals for a stable interracial community.

The role of the University administration was an asset and vital factor for the community. While community residents were moved to action by the deterioration and racial changes earlier, the University had remained aloof until the effects of increased blight and crime brought the community's problems onto its front door. Reduction in enrollment because of fear for the safety of students indicated to the University that it could no longer remain disinterested. It could not afford to move the University elsewhere so it decided something had to be done to improve the climate of the community.

Over the years, there were many conflicts and disagreements between the Conference and the Commission. Each had its own constituency--the Commission represented the University and the Conference represented the grass roots residents in the area. A constant effort was made, however for recognition and consideration of the needs of both groups, and in the final analysis these efforts benefited both the University and the community residents.

Embarking on Revitalization
The long range conservation program for the Hyde Park-Kenwood area involved three separate projects.

The first was a slum clearance project called Hyde Park A an B which centered around 55th and Lake Park.The area survey conducted by the Conference in 1950 clearly indicated this as the central core of blight in the community. In 1953, the Commission and the Conference together approached the Chicago Land Clearance Commission in an unprecedented move and asked that the city agency examine this particular area. In 1954, 47 acres of land was designated for total clearance and three years later, Webb & Knapp of New York City, was selected as the developer for this project. The Hyde Park Shopping Center, which houses the Co-op, highrise apartments and about 250 townhouses were built on the cleared land.

The second major project was the South West Hyde Park Neighborhood Redevelopment Corporation Project. It was organized and spearheaded by the University of Chicago under a State authorized program in order to provide needed student housing. The plan under this project (approved in 1956) involved the acquisition and demolition of about 15 acres of land between 55th and 55th Streets, Cottage Grove and Ellis avenue, plus a rehabilitation program for the remaining buildings running south of 56th Street to 58th Street covering an additional 40 acres. This project, after court battles establishing its legality, was not implemented until the end of 1962. The cleared land had been designated for student housing but eventually was developed into playing fields for University sports activities.* During the long delay due to the litigation, student housing was provided through the University acquiring and rehabilitating many existing small apartment buildings scattered throughout the community. These were primarily structures built in the 1920s. In the final analysis, this approach to the problem served the community well since there was no market for these apartments and the buildings were increasingly becoming a problem.

[*except Pierce Tower dorm and Court Theatre/Smart Museum]

The third and main project was the Hyde Park-Kenwood Urban Renewal Project. When the Chicago Land Clearance Commission agreed to investigate the possibilities of a clearance project in the community in 1953, it was on the condition that they would undertake the project only if it was part of a larger conservation plan for the over-all community.

Because of this condition, it was necessary for the community to take steps to begin such planning. The University of Chicago and the Commission worked on two fronts toward this end. They jointly applied for and received a $100,000 grant from the Field Foundation to establish"planning unit" to begin planning a conservation program. They also worked closely with other private and public organizations toward the enactment of the U.S. Housing Act of 1954 to provide federal financial assistance for this type of conservation program. Upon the passage of the 1954 Housing Act, the process of designation Hyde Park-Kenwood as the first urban renewal project in the nation began and the city subcontracted the planning job to the Planning Unit established by the University and the Commission.

Planning Begins
The Conference has worked closely with city agencies in the development of the the clearance project. They now insisted that there be full citizen participation in the development of an urban renewal program. The Conference and the community were very fortunate in that Jack Meltzer, the director of the Planning Unit, wanted citizen participation just as strongly as the residents insisted upon it.

In 1956 the area was officially designated a Conservation Area and a Conservation Community Council (CCC) consisting of 11 residents of the community was appointed by the Mayor which for most of its years of its existence was led by Edwin A. Rothschild. The CCC is responsible for the first step in the approval process of an urban renewal plan and subsequently plays the same role for amendments to the Plan with respect to changes in property acquisition and land use designations. The HP-KCCC also undertook reviewing redevelopment proposals to make its recommendations to the city although this was not one of its legally required functions.

That same year (1956), the Preliminary Plan was completed and approved, which enabled the federal government to reserve $25,835,000 of federal money for the project. These funds would be released provided that (1) the final plan was satisfactory and (2) the City of Chicago would provide and additional one-third of its share of the total estimated $39,500,000. the Preliminary Plan was then presented to the community, too.

By this time, progress had been made toward checking deterioration in the community through the efforts of the block organizations and the staffs of both the Conference and the Commission. Both organizations worked very closely on several court cases which served to enforce the single family zoning for the mansions in Central Kenwood, returning mansions previously converted into rooming houses back to single family use.

While these two organizations were fighting those particular cases in court, a group of young matrons living in the area embarked on a positive program of attracting families to purchase these large homes for single family use. The Kenwood Open House, an event where several homes were opened to the public each year for a tour, and the development of enticing brochures which were taken to large concerns in the city in a effort to attract young executives to the area, were the two major means used by the Kenwood "Ladies". Needless to say, their efforts were extremely successful. Kenwood was the earliest area within the community to stabilize and where homes are sold by whites to blacks, and by blacks to whites in a free flow without regard to race. (The Kenwood Open House Committee continues to meet and to serve as the watchdog for that part of the community.)

In Hyde Park itself, by 1956 block groups were so alert to watching for and reporting to the Conference any signs of illegal conversions in its many apartment buildings that it led the Building Commissioner to comment that even a stick of lumber for a bookcase could not be delivered in to the area without a report being made to the Building Department. But much remained to be done to improve the maintenance of standards in apartment buildings, many of which were owned by absentee landlords. Block groups had also achieved some successes through close cooperation with the city for such services as street cleaning, garbage collection, clearing of vacant lots for playlots and the like. In many instances, they supplemented these services by doing the job themselves. The city's program of posting for street cleaning was born out of the posting of flyers by block groups in order to get streets and curbs cleaned.

The Planning Years - 1956-1958
When the Preliminary Plan was presented, a special "planning committee" of the Conference undertook the role of the middle man in the citizen participation program that followed. Members of this committee were residents of the community and [it] was mostly composed of laymen although there were a few who were professional planners. The members of this committee presented the proposals of the Preliminary Plan to block group meetings, got the reactions, comments, criticisms, and suggestions from the residents and relayed them to the Planning Unit. These initial meetings were often followed by block groups meeting directly with Meltzer where the difficulties and problems of proposals were discussed, debated, argues and sometimes changed or modified.

Over 300 block and area meetings were held during the two years the plan was discussed in the community. There were many changes in the plan as a result of the interaction between planners and community--some were major and some minor. The people in the community were asked to look at the plan not in terms of their own property or block, but in terms of the overall community needs and conditions--a highly difficult undertaking. By the time the discussions came to an end, those who were concerned about any proposals under the plan knew more clearly the reasoning behind them even though, regardless of the logic presented, many felt the planning was done for the direct benefit to the University and other institutions and with less regard for the community's residents.

Because discussions of the proposals in the program were held via the block group organizations, the participants in its development included residents of all economic, cultural and racial levels. It was interesting to note that on several occasions where strong protest arose over similar proposals--one of which would be in a lower income, working class, block and another in a middle class University faculty block--the arguments raised by both were identical with the only exception being the difference in their articulation of the protest but not in the feeling or meaning.

The "final plan" was released for community discussion early in February 1958. After a month of meetings to review it at the block level, public hearings were conducted in March by the CCC. There were additional changes and modifications made and the CCC approved the plan and submitted it to the city. When the final revised plan was presented to the City Council late in 1958, it received wide community support. The City Council's Committee on Planning and Housing held its public hearings on plan. There were 135 witnesses, 90 of whom were individuals or representatives of groups from within the community, who testified at the five days of hearings. Major opposition to the plan came from Msgr. John Egan representing the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago and was backed from within the community by a local group of residents known as the Hyde Park Tenants and Homeowners Association. Their opposition centered on the failure to provide public housing in the plan, and to secure definite commitments for new middle-income housing. The destruction of sound buildings, the prospect of displaced families being relocated into crowded neighborhoods, and the ambiguity of rehabilitation standards were also questioned. In response to some of these concerns, prior to the submission of the plan to the full City Council, a commitment was secured from the Chicago Dwellings Association to provide two million dollars of middle-income housing, the rehabilitation standards were clarified, and there was a reduction of clearance in the northeast corner of the community.

There was, in spite of--and in some case because of---the vigorous opposition of the two above mentioned groups, overwhelming community and city-wide support for the plan. The Committee on Planning and Housing unanimously recommended that the City Council approve the plan with a strong recommendation that a minimum of 120 public housing units be included in implementing the program.

On November 7, 1958, the City Council approved the Hyde Park-Kenwood Urban Renewal Plan and the federal government authorized the City of Chicago to proceed with its execution in January, 1959.

The Urban Renewal Plan
The urban renewal plan called for a clearance of 101 acres of land. This was about 20% of the area excluding the land clearance project and the University's campus area. Of the buildings proposed for demolition, 78% were substandard. An integral part of this project was the large scale rehabilitation program involving close to 2,400 remaining structures.

The plan provided for expanded space around existing schools for building new plants or additions to the old ones, or for needed play space. At t he time these proposals were made, schools were overcrowded, but as the population dropped in succeeding years, school expansion was not necessary in many instances. Some of the designated school sites still provide open space for the schools while others have been redesignated for other uses.

Although the community is almost surrounded by park land--Jackson Park on the east, Washington Park on the west, and the Midway on the south, there was little in the way of park and playground facilities within easy walking distance of the interior of the community. These were also provided for in the plan and except for one park/playground site, the Conference's Parks and Recreations Committee headed by Barbara Fiske, provided the vehicle for the community to participate in planning the new parks and playgrounds. John Hawkinson, a local artist, helped the committee and the block groups in designing the parks and playlots in their immediate areas through the creative use of sand boxes and simulated trees and equipment.

Shopping facilities which originally ran the length of major through streets were considered obsolete. Along 55th Street many of the stores were vacant or had marginal uses. These were eliminated and new commercial space was provided in smaller shopping centers. Most of the displaced businesses either closed or moved out of the community. Some remained in the community and moved into existing spaces not scheduled for demolition. Several displaced businesses banded together, formed a cooperative and built the Kimbark Shopping Center with several of the key businesses [long] in occupancy.

Space was also provided for institutional expansion for churches, hospitals, private social welfare agencies, as well as for the University.

Small spot clearance areas were designated for off-street parking. The community wanted off-street parking but it turned out that residents did not want to pay for the privilege. Therefore, most of these sites were later redesignated for other uses, usually for housing development.

The remainder of the land cleared was for the development of about 3,000 new dwelling units. The Chicago Dwelling Association built its commitment of $2 million of middle income housing in the multi-apartment structure housing elderly persons and families at 51st and Cottage Grove. Additional moderate/middle income family housing units were developed under special FHA insured programs including the cooperative built by the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union at 48th and Lake Park. The CCC adopted the Conference's recommendation that the public housing sites should be scattered and after much heated discussions and hearings, six family units were designated and built in the 5600 Dorchester block, another six in the 5100 Blackstone block, and 18 "modular" units at 50th and Blackstone. Two developments for elderly housing were built--18 units at 55th and Woodlawn and 8 units at 53rd and Woodlawn. Another 64 units of family housing is located in a [CHA] building at 50th and Cottage Grove on land the CHA had acquired prior to the approval of the Urban Renewal Plan and was the only site of public housing built on the periphery of the community. These 120 newly constructed units were supplemented in subsequent years by public housing eligible persons and families using CHA issued Section 8 certificates which allowed them to rent units at market rate. The eligible family or individual pays 30% of their income toward the rent and CHA pays the landlord the balance. There has been a constant danger of concentration instead of dispersal through use of Section 8

The rehabilitation phase of the urban renewal plan was slower in getting started and did not really begin until 1964 after it was stimulated by new development on some of the cleared sites. It continued at an accelerated rate in the 70s and 80s and most often occurred when properties (single family and multi-family) changed ownership or when rental apartments were converted to condos. As housing prices rose, more rehab took place, and areas where it was felt no change would ever occur, are even now joining the rehab/condo parade.

Officially the Urban Renewal Plan will come to a close within the next three and a half years [1999]. There are still some problems--maybe they'll be resolved by closing time or maybe they will be resolved later when renewal activities in North Kenwood-Oakland finally get underway. Nonetheless the purpose of the urban renewal--to stimulate the physical up-grading of he community--has certainly occurred throughout Hyde Park-Kenwood marking it a successful program.

It was not, however, just an Urban Renewal project that made the revitalization of Hyde Park-Kenwood Community a reality. It was the in-depth involvement and participation of hundreds of residents to make the program work. They are too numerous to name but they were blue collar workers, white collar workers, postal worker, school teachers, small business owners, government workers, executives, lawyers, University faculty, staff and students. Leadership came from all walks of life--especially at the block club and regional area levels.

Looking back, those were noble goals that were set some 45 years ago by the organizers of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference--to build and maintain a stable interracial community of high physical standards. To the credit of those early leaders, and the dedicated and enthusiastic involvement of the community's residents, the goal has been achieved.


A timeline of HPKCC in context through 1978

From the larger timelines- see URT Part I.


Spring of 1949, the various parties mentioned in Urban Renewal Timeline-1949--clerical, university faculty, commission on human relations, are talking to many colleagues. UC Professor Herbert A. Thelen, of the Education Department invited Thomas H. Wright of the Commission on Human Relations 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... - this time saw the upswing of what would be called McCarthyism.

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 the 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 (unaware of separate 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 and 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.

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.


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 Thelan 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 Thelan, 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 makes 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 Everett 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 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 and ruled unconstitutional "steering" in courts under later Civil Rights laws, when practiced in Oak Park). (UC President Randel in 2004 referred to the then UC approach as a moat mentality through much of the Urban Renewal period; others have said that "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 an office and preparations 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 organized 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.

Refer also to the 1950 report to the Conference in the Records section above.

1951 The sample survey is taken. Report is issued in autumn 1952 but reflects '51. HPK part is issued June 30, 1951 and widely distributed but met with silence by the community movers. Findings for HPK: 8% of dwellings need replacement, 9+ are overcrowded, 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 the proportion professional 4 times higher than city average but these are declining. HP and south K 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. Actually, this urban prescription went back to the 1920s and the Progressive/City Beautiful movement earlier.)) 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.

Block clubs were 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.

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.

1953 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.

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

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

1955 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.

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

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.)

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


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

See above for HPKCC official position on the plan, City Council passage, and what's next.

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- do's 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 plans 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!

1959 May, first Hyde Park Garden Fair, to become a major part of HPKCC later.

HPKCC still maintaining widespread programs--including (earlier) demonstration housing, committees on schools, appearance of the community, parks, recreation, jobs for teens, youth recreation and services, tenant/landlord relations, school volunteers, safety-rights-justice, women's rights, medical care, air and water pollution. September 6, 1967, Laura Fermi spoke to a women's group on air pollution and the environment. In 1966 HPKCC gave Gov. Kerner an award for efforts on behalf of open housing.

1964-66 there was division in HPKCC over assisting efforts to stop (including with civil disobedience) a superhighway in Burnham and Jackson Parks

[New materials and records about the Conference became available to this writer from the possessions of Nancy Hays, who was on the board of HPKCC from about 1962-68. As assessed, these will fill in this period.]

1968 The Conference goes into considerable debt and decline at this time as grants dry up and enthusiasm/membership, block clubs wane. The neighborhood also shakes in this time of urban riots and local gang violence plus activist attention to Vietnam, civil rights, and black causes.
1969 Despite its problems, HPKCC, with Kai Nebel Chair and Donald Clapp Exec. Director, was doing an awful lot!: gathered info through a community goals/concerns task force-Most desired: community safety, quality education, better race relations, youth services, low-income housing, and completion of urban renewal.
Safety: "Rights and Justice" program including "facts not rumor" media and mass distribution supplement. Conference staff was directed to field incident reporting. Noted: crime was down 22% in 1968.
New schools committee formed under Dr. Sid Kraus. CPS financial crisis topped its agenda, 2nd bringing resources to local schools.
Race: Annual mtg had forum a on "The Black Revolution-Implications for an Integrated Community." Set up dialogue meetings. Worked with KOCO on 47th Pl. rehab of substandard housing, a black community organizer was hired.
Youth services--report on new facilities coming
Protested setting up antiballistic missiles near metro areas (specifically on Promontory Point and Jackson Park)
Urban Renewal- Richard Wexler, chair, working with the CCC and DUR on recommendations for finishing Urban Renewal. Spec., recommending demo of Alport Bldg 53rd Harper and seeking a redevelopment plan for 53rd............. Pushing for low and moderate scattered site housing in conjunction with CHA.
Air and Water Pollution--reporting violators, and publicizing citizenship
Parks--vigilant on Jackson Park, any efforts to further degrade. More sculptures were commissioned for parks.

At this time HPKCC was recovering rapidly from a much declined, conflicted period and emerging from debt. David Truitt attempted to bring new constituencies into leadership positions and make the organization more accessible.

HPKCC and others fight off a proposal for a gas station at 55th and Cornell- the proposal re-emerges and is defeated again in 1973 under Conference mobilization.


HPKCC organizes the first annual Wooded Island Festival, beginning of a turnaround in the large parks.

At this time the HPKCC budget was about $96,000- in 1973 it would be twice as large. President was David Truitt. HPKCC was moving into a service organization phase with many new programs. See 1973, 1975, 1976 for description of this peak active era.

1972 February 23. Project WhistleSTOP comes to Hyde Park thanks to Hyde Park Bank and HPKCC. There had been an earlier version. Leader of teh initiative was Ross Lathrop. HPKCC and the U of C Police would separately revive the program again in the late 1980s.

HPKCC income was in the $218,000 range, little of which was from grants. Total for 1972 as $180,000, twice that of the year before. Budget items: basic prog incl. salaries $68,o00, WhistleSTOP, cluster classroom, child care task force, operation identification, health care task force, careers for teens, tenant community action center, recycling center, Operation BurglarFREE, alternative schools task force, Wooded Island Festival-in all 25 programs, and staff. This is the year the Community Development Corporation was rolled out--maybe too soon and one cause of the Conference's later collapse?

HPKCC Safety programs are credited in part for a significant drop in crime. Local banks helped sponsor these programs.
Work of the Tenant Action Committee under Arvis Averette was successful in getting major improvements done in buildings, blocked emptying of a large building in the 5300 block of Dorchester, won a case allowing tenants to sue in housing court, and disseminated much tenant information.
The Condos Committee won a change in unit classification (to single-family) that saves owners a bundle in taxes, also developed lists of tradesmen, held seminars and forums.
Careers for Teens put many to work or at least promoted skills-but OEO funding died.
Women's Committee/Sex Roles Committee held rap groups and made job referrals.
Celebrations included the Wooded Island Festival, Spring Benefit, Garden Fair, and the school-year long Fantasy Fair.

Issues the HPKCC fought on: restoration of IC train schedule by ICC (won)--important to neighborhood viability, compromises on Osteopathic expansion,
stopping conversion of the Madison Park Hotel into a shelter (community meeting led by George Custer).
Helping organize around parking issues with new high-rises at 47th and Lake Park,
defeating (again) plan for a gas station at 55th and Cornell- later the site became DARE residential assisted housing thanks to many especially Rebecca Janowitz.

1974 Quality of life issues loom large. December 11, Sonja Gilkey, Marcella Gewirth and others mobilize against high-sodium lights deleterious to trees--and stop city crews. At the other end of the spectrum, HPKCC sponsored a Discover Hyde Park business coupon book. See 1976 for range of activities.

In February a runoff for alderman is forced between Al Raby (head of HPKCC) and Ross Lathrop (headed HPKCC Safety Committee-introduced WhistleStop) to replace retiring Leon Despres. The machine candidate backed by Marshall Korshak came in a poor third. In April Lathrop wins, but will be ousted in 1979 by Larry Bloom supported by IVI.

HPKCC is highly active on issues and institutions, including schools and parks (this is before local school councils, Friends of the Parks, "settlement" of discrimination against south side parks, and formation of park advisory councils.) HPKCC produces another in its more than two decade series of guides to area schools. It runs a recreational swimming program also.

September 28, HPKCC holds 4th annual Wooded Island Festival. The Island at this time is named Paul H. Douglas Nature Sanctuary, part of efforts to turn parks around and free them from gangs as well as to honor a local and national environmental hero.
October, the HPKCC Environmental Committee learns that the Park District "hid" $268,709.68 from the Army Corps for post-NIKE base restoration in Promontory and Jackson parks. Presidents in the early 1970s included David Truitt, in the mid 70s Al Raby.

1976 According to a Conference brochure, here is what HPKCC was doing in 1976: Block Club Task Force, HPKCC Community Development Corp (affiliate) technical assistance and business recruitment, environment-parks committee fought super-highwaying the Drive through the park, proposed an EPA center in the area and protested park neglect esp. Jackson. Housing continued code enforcement, surveyed housing stock and preferences, and supported Chicago open housing ordinances and US Housing and Development Act. Condos and Coops association was active and held an Energy Conservation Fair. Schools was active, holding open houses in schools, publishing a directory to schools, taking positions such as on drop out rate, impact of magnet schools, speech therapy, desegregation and "continuous progress program." Transportation sued over lack of hearings on big fare increases and gains included many more buses on the Jeffery and a Culture Bus. WhistleStop was at a peak, so was BurglarFREE and Safe Homes. There was a big turnout at the Wooded Island Festival. The Conference was still in the YMCA, since about 1970 under David Truitt. Presidents since included Mary Houghton and Al Raby.

August 30, HPKCC holds an overflow crowd meeting for forum on "Rentals vs Condos." Most are pessimistic about the future of rental housing in Hyde Park.