Looking at the potential "Obama effect" in Hyde Park's future and impressions of the 2004 election

This page is presented by Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, a 501(c)(3) neighborhood organization, serving the community since 1949, its website www.hydepark.org, and its Development, Preservation and Zoning Committee.

This page contains some guesses and observations on what changes the neighborhood might expect as a result of candidacy and election of Barack Obama as President of the United States November 4, 2008. For expanded thoughts about the neighborhood, visit Profiles: Hyde Park and Kenwood.

See at bottom some impressions on the 2008 election in the neighborhood. Neighbors write their well wishes for the Obamas. Activists camp out to remind Obama of campaign promises. Effects. Who went to Washington?

Other websites: http://obama.uchicago.edu (Civic Knowledge).
Chicago Neighborhood Tours-- it gushes.

Suggested Resources
History calls on Obama to uncork a great speech
Civil Rights journey that led to Obama’s inauguration

Stanley Fish: Barack Obama’s Prose Style
April 14, Tuesday, 6 pm. 57th Street Books presents Il State Sen. Rickey Hendon on his bio of the Obama campaign, Black Enouth/White Enough: The Obama Dilemma. 1301 E. 57th St., 773 684-1300.


At a forum convened in October 2008 on 2016 Olympics and Housing, panelists from the University of Chicago and 2016 said the Obama's election as far more likely to have impact on housing costs and diversity than the Olympics..... the former will be at least four years, maybe more-- no one will get rich and few (on this side of Cottage Grove) will be affected by a two-week party....

Hyde Park has had several defining moments, is this another?: Lakeshore suburban resort after Paul Cornell won one of the first commuter stops in the country. Growth after the Chicago Fire to become a larger resort with mansions and hotels. Annexation to Chicago, then World's Columbian Exposition and founding of the 2nd University of Chicago and huge parks fill in an upper middle and upper class solid neighborhood while growing its cottage homes, commercial districts to serve much of the South Side and keeping the resort aspect too. In the 1920s the Illinois Central is electrified leading to a dense belt in the east and three-flat infill west. Decline of housing and commercial and changing demographics lead to a crisis in which the University, neighbors and city undertake massive urban renewal while keeping a varied historic housing stock. A sense of unease by some that the neighborhood is being left behind while the rest of the South Side starts to revive, infill and become a new Mid South, University growth and desire that the neighborhoods around it match its ambitions, and unease by others at prospects of change and especially threat to affordability for present residents, all put Hyde Park at a crossroads in the new millennium--destination community or not? -- and at that moment comes prospects of Olympics, Antheus Capital as a dynamic new player, possible Obama Effect, and the backlash side of a bubble.

Barack Obama is only partially a Hyde Parker, or a University of Chicago man... but it says something that out of the whole South Side and the many great schools in Chicago and the country, he chose to live in Hyde Park and teach at U of C.

Elizabeth Bracket, reporter and interviewer with WTTW Chicago and a Hyde Parker, told the Hyde Park Historical Society Annual Dinner February 21, 2009 said that the election will change Hyde Park dramatically: "Hyde Park will now be classified as the home of Barack Obama... Hyde Parkers are going to have to realize initially the stories were about how Hyde Park shaped Obama, but from no on it's going to be how Brack Obama shaped Hyde Park.," she said, as quoted in the Herald. She added that national reporters not only follow Obama back here but rent permanent locations, and in the process are getting a better handle on Hyde Park.

Favorite recreation: basketball, often with people who were or would become movers in the city and state- or join his cabinet.

The Obamas' first Hyde Park residence was in East View Park, a semi-secluded row of relatively expensive row houses in the 5300/5400 block of East View Park (South Shore Drive - old Lake Shore Drive) directly on Burnham/Promontory Point Park and looking over Lake Michigan. Their apartment was at first a professor's suite that was shared by several parties.

About the time of Mr. Obamas' run for the U.S. Senate, the Obamas bought 5040 S. Greenwood, a large house in the historic Kenwood Historic District, near Hyde Park Boulevard across Greenwood Avenue from landmarked Congregation K.A.M. Isaiah Israel. Information about the house, gathered from Jean Block's Hyde Park Houses and Construction News - May 28, 1910 includes: Original owner A. R. Clarke, a contractor who also owned and was the owner/architect. The architect was Bishop & Company. Built in 1910. 5040: A Historical Georgian revival home built in 1910 with four fireplaces, glass-door bookcases fashioned from Honduran mahogany, and a 1,000-bottle wine cellar…

You will be lucky to glimpse it and cannot take photographs. You have to keep walking on the other side of the street. The street is closed to through traffic and owners need special ID to enter. Those attending services or events at KAM and expecting to park in the lot must register a day in advance and have their names on a list. Traffic is also regulated on East Hyde Park Boulevard (5100) and when there is a motorcade or such, the street may be barricaded.

There are also times when 53rd Street sidewalk and streets between Lake Park and Harper have been jammed by celebrants since the election, especially Tuesday night and into the evening Wednesday, when Valois Cafeteria (say "VAL-wuz" if you expect locals to give you directions) offered free breakfast and sweatshirt sellers and bucksters turned 53rd into a real downtown street, and on into the weekend with throngs seeking newspapers with the famous headlines and photos selling for ten to a hundred times list on eBay.

53rd including Harper Court, as well as 51st/E. Hyde Park Blvd. near Lake Park, anticipated sites of redevelopment, are most likely areas for direct impact of commercial redevelopment-- and already sites of exciting new restaurants and music spots.

Effects/foci of Obama as a legislator include the movement to preserve and restore Promontory Point--moving toward third party review and within preservation guidelines. Fair treatment on the street. Schools. Payday loans. Obama sought many areas where changes, including in tax codes, would make things better for others, find effective solutions that could garner support across party and regional lines.

Who from the neighborhood are most likely to play a role on the national stage? Valerie Jarrett, daughter of a famous physician at U of C and who served at clinics in Afghanistan, wife of a famous black journalist, a top executive in the Habitat Company realty builders and managers, board head of several city agencies including Chicago Transit Authority (where she gained several service improvements), and Board head of U of C Hospitals and is on the Olympic Committee. She has sometimes been seen as for bureaucracies and less for people, especially those squeezed by gentrification.
Austan Goolsbee, UC Business School professor. Former nationally-leading Law School professor Cass Sunstein. Elena Kagan and Diane Wood (7th Court of Appeals) formerly of the Law School. David Axelrod, campaign senior advisory to Obama and guide to victory for
many others.

Meanwhile, some caution that if we want the new president coming to his home town we should respect his space and privacy. Others caution against tearing down property for redevelopment lest we leave gaping holes to show those who come to visit the president's town.

Hyde Park adapts as favorite son draws worldwide attention. Chicago Maroon, November 7, 2008. By Sara Jerome. Modifications here by Gary Ossewaarde

Rico Miller, a barber at the shop where Barack Obama gets coiffed, likes to tell reporters that the election has already brought change-- at a very local level. "The Senator got some grays dealing with what he's been dealing with," Miller says, as he buzzes a neat hairline on a client's neck. "He's getting a more presidential look. But it's all natural. No chemicals."

Hyde Park Hair Salon, on the corner of South Blackstone Avenue and East 53rd Street, had never fielded someone from the international media before the campaign. But now a barber sits near the door to direct reporters with video cameras and microphones to whomever can best meet their various demands. "We've had people from all over -- Switzerland, Japan, Russia, England," Miller said. "I mean, they're coming in from every part of the world." [From another article- to many questions the answer is "What's said in the barbershop stays in the barbershop" as in Vegas. Some of the interest could be echo effect from Barbershop I and II, movies centered on social and political dynamics in Chicago South Side barbershops.]

As the million-watt glare of the international spotlight has affixed itself to Obama over the last few years, some of the sheen has refracted onto Hyde Park. And even as the country waits to see if Obama can deliver change, many Hyde Parkers left their homes on Wednesday with an after-the-quake recognition that their neighborhood has already been altered forever. If it's anything like Crawford, Tx, known locally as "the Western White House," Obama's home on East 51st Street could host world leaders and provide a Midwestern gateway where the walls can speak of decisions that impacted the future of the world.

"I'd be surprised if this neighborhood were not known from now on as the home neighborhood of Barack Obama," said Rudolph Nimocks, executive director of the University of Chicago Police Department and a neighborhood resident [in Woodlawn] for almost 60 years. "It was such a historic event for the whole country, historians years from now will be in Hyde Park trying to document the event and all the ancillary things that happened because of it."

The South Side has been probed in this election cycle in part because the Obamas invoke it as a feature of their identity. Michelle Obama touts her South Side roots [and she and her family are as important and revered in South Shore as the Obamas and friends are in Hyde Park and Kenwood] to trump up her non-elitist cred[entials], and her husband is identified with this activism in South Side communities. It's no wonder Hyde Park has become [one] starting point for far-flung onlookers sleuthing for clues on what kind of man was elected.

"They want to know, who is this man? What's his personality like?" said Sterling Watson, a Hyde Park resident and the 75-year old former "Jazz Doctor " at at local radio station. "They wanted to know where he's from. I tell them, he comes from a place where if he wanted he could put on my show and listened to the sounds of Billie Holiday."

Watson said Hyde Parkers are proud to fill the role of unofficial campaign spokespeople. "Nobody here minds it," he said. "We all protected him and got him here."

But if the victory means change is about to hit Hyde Park, some local transformations may not be visible. Just ask Carol Almond, county clerk in Hope, AK. "With Hope, in particular, when yu say 'A Place Called Hope," everyone knows what you're talking about," she said. "There was, just overwhelmingly, this new sense of pride."

Will Burns, the newly elected state representative for Hyde Park's district [the west edge of Hyde Park and west stretching to downtown] and a former aid to Obama, agreed that this is a proud moment for the South Side. "If you're a 10-year-old growing up on the South Side of Chicago, this means you can be anything you want," he said. "The last domino has truly fallen. So it's just a matter of putting your nose to the grindstone and working hard. I can tell my daughter, who's a year old, Barack Obama did it; you can do it."

On Wednesday, South Side pride meant vying to pick up copies of a newspaper announcing Obama's win. Drivers and pedestrians beelined toward a newspaper stand on East 53rd Street when a Sun-times truck arrived, forming a line dozens long to score a copy of one of the victory-day papers that have gone for up to 100s of dollars on eBay.

But according to Hope residents, pride won't come on its own. In the small AK town, it was accompanied by Clinton-centric landmarks that drew visitors from across the globe. Fifth-ward alderman Leslie hairston anticipated the same sort of change on the South Side. "Just like Lincoln's home is a tourist attraction, Hyde Park is now a tourist attraction. We've also got the University of Chicago, the Robie House, the Museum of Science and Industry, and now the home to the new president of the United States," she said.

In fact, Hairston thinks Obama will stimulate the Hyde Park economy before he even touches the tax code. "For local businesses, it's an opportunity to expand their customer base. Now Hyde Park can be a destination place. We want to encourage people to shop in Hyde Park," she said. "I think that it will bring more prominence to the area as a residential neighborhood; I think it will also benefit the University of Chicago." But Hairston worried that potential gains for the real estate and business sectors could stagnate because the area lacks the infrastructure that would support a tourist industry. She expressed disappointment over the blocking of a new hotel, voted down on the same [precinct][ ballot that elected Obama.

Still, the Obama merchandise sector is thriving, with a competitive market for Obama-themed T-shirts cropping up at new concession stands on East 53rd Street. "Sales would pick up if the guy on the block didn't have his prices so low," said Fred Williams, whose t-shirts with the image of the new first family sell for almost double the amount of gear down the street, emblazoned with a close-up of Obama's face. "Go tell him to raise his prices of I'm not going to make any money."

Even with healthy enthusiasm, the residents of Crawford, TX, might remind Hyde Parkers that change isn't always a good thing. Donald Citrano, who owns a diner near President Bush's ranch, said that after the president's approval rating plummeted, the novelty of having a famous neighbor wore off. "After the start of the second term things started to fall off. People started coming down here to protest the war," said Citrano, who has catered events at the president's range. "Protesters -- they sure know how to mess up a good thing."


Power comes to Hyde Park. Crain's Chicago Business, November 17, 2008

By Steven R. Strahler, November 10, 2008

Hyde Park, a neighborhood that sets itself studiously apart, soon will be shoved into the international spotlight.

With local resident Barack Obama headed for the White House, the South Side home to such disparate institutions as the University of Chicago and Sister Rose Garrett's Kilimanjaro International craft shop confronts the unappetizing prospect of going mainstream. An enclave that nurtures its outsider sensibility, treasures its political independence and prizes its ethnic diversity now will be known globally as the home base of the world's most powerful an.

In other words, Hyde Park is fated to become identified with something many in the neighborhood have long fought: the established order.

"My guess is, it won't sit particularly comfortably," says Obama neighbor David Vitale, a former banker adn Chicago Public Schools executive. "When you own it, it's different than if you're pecking at it."

Hyde Park will gain cachet as a place to live, but at the cost, some Hyde Parkers fear, of becoming a version of Lincoln Park, with more Starbucks, Gaps and residential teardowns.

"The Obama Water Park? No! People haven't thought enough about (commercialization), and maybe they should," says Ruth Knack, president of the Hyde Park Historical Society [who tells this writer she said nothing of the kind].

Other residents are unsettled by the notion of Mr. Obama's election boosting the city's chances of hosting the 2016 Olympics, which would transform the borders of Hyde Park like nothing else since the U of C campus emerged from the 1893 Columbian Exposition. "I've said I'm going to boycott" the Olympics, says 100-year-old former Alderman and Obama supporter Leon Despres.

Not everyone shares Mr. Despres' worries. "I don't see anything but good news for Hyde Park," says Robert Fogel, a U of C economics professor and Nobel Prize winner who says a for-sale sign lasted only two weeks on a house on his block, not far from Mr. Obama's "It's nice to have as one of your neighbors the president of the United States."

Margie Smigel, a principal with MetroPro Corp. who brokered the sale of Mr. Obama's property nearly 20 years ago, says local property values will benefit from the neighborhood's new status. "It will give 'permission' -- 'Oh, Obama lives there,'" she says of the thinking of potential buyers who previously would not have considered Hyde Park.

Other economic benefits could follow as tourists find their way into the neighborhood. While nobody expects Hyde Park to turn into an urban Crawford, Texas, or Plains, Ga., some local businesses are ready to cash in on its proximity to power.

Kilimanjaro, International, which sells African antiques, fabrics and fine art from a storefront on 53rd Street, capitalized on the Obama phenomenon by hiring workers to produce Obama-related merchandise. "He's already creating jobs," owner [Sister Rose] Garrett says. Her shop, though, is an example of the one-of-a-kind Hyde Park retailer that might be at risk from neighborhood gentrification. Earlier th is year, it moved from a U of C-owned parcel down the street that the university has attempted to redevelop for six years.

Local aldermen are ambivalent about the U of C's performance as landlord and divided about how Hyde Park's heightened visibility will affect it. "The University's actions and non-actions are separate from the election of Barack Obama," says Alderman Toni Preckwinkle (4th), while Alderman Leslie Hairston (5th) says, "I just think it will speed things up." University officials did not return phone calls.

It's not clear how often Mr. Obama and his family will return to Hyde Park. Many neighbors already are up in arms about security measures that have blocked streets and alleys near the Obama house.

Hans Morsbach, who has owned Medici restaurants in Hyde Park since 1962, says that while there could be an Obama effect on his business, "I'm not counting on it."

Then there's the possibility that Hyde Park's close-up will reveal fault lines in it self-image. "Yeah, white folks and black folks live on the same block, but they ain't talking to each other," said the Rev. Jesse Brown of the First Baptist Church of Chicago, three blocks from Mr. Obama's house.

[Comments posted to the article include an objection to accusation by Rev. Brown the whites and blacks don't talk to each other, a nostalgic recollection by a former but frequently returning Hyde Parker that despite all that's gone, he still loves the Hyde Park that remains-- and hopes it doesn't morph into what he says Evanston has homogenized into.] Top

Impressions of the election in the neighborhood

Hyde Park Herald, November 12, 2008. By Kate Hawley

Revelers enjoy and election party ar Room 43, 1041 E. 43rd St, in [North] Kenwood as they watch and listen to President-elect Barack Obama on television as he mounts the stage and speaks to the nation from Grant Park Tuesday evening. Our neighbor is being celebrated in the world as we have celebration him for many years. The remarkable thing he has done focused the world on our neighborhood.

In Hyde Park, where Obama lives, and Bronzeville, the historic mecca of Black culture just to the north, anticipation was palpable from the minute the polls closed at 7 p.m. TV trucks and reporter clustered around popular local hangouts, but signs of enthusiasm for Obama were everywhere.

On 55th Street, Hyde Park resident Robert Bassett had rigged a laptop to project the TV news on the side of St. Thomas the Apostle Church rectory. "This is just a spontaneous moment to be able to celebrate in Hyde Park instead of Grant Park." he said, referring to Obama's massive rally taking place downtown.

Election results also flickered from a handful of TVs at the Reynolds Club, the University of Chicago's student union at 57th Street and University Avenue. Students jammed into the dining hall to eat while they watched, an others staked out prime seats in the McCormick Lounge. A cheer went up as Obama took Pennsylvania at about 7:45 p.m. Jake Malone and Molly Porter, third-year students, said they'd both voted absentee in that state. "Obama has it in the bag," Malone said. Porter gasped and knocked on the wooded arm of her chair.

Tiffany Bloomfield, a graduate student in psychology at the university, joined the boisterous crowd drinking in the surreal glow of television lights at the Woodlawn Tap, better known to locals as Jimmy's, at 55th Street and Woodlawn Avenue. She'd been campaigning for Obama in Gary, Ind., earlier in the day, she said, and at this point in the evening was feeling "pretty hopeful." A scream ripped through the room -- Obama had taken Ohio. "OK," better than hopeful," Bloomfield said, grinning. "I'm pretty much ready for him to get to work."

For the non-drinking set, the Chicago Park District and the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization set up an election party at Kennicott Park, 4434 s. Lake Park Ave. About a dozen teenage boys -- and one girl -- played board games and answered quiz questions about the Electoral College. Their reasons for liking Obama were many and various. "Obama plans things out - I can tel," said Darrius Holloway, 18, and broke into a smile." Another reason is that I live across the street from him at 51st and Greenwood."

Ulysses Davis, 17, added in a confidential tone, "He's pleasing a lot of crowds, you know. That's what we're looking for, someone who can please the world." He was proud that an African American was poised to take the highest office in the land, but for him the contest was about much more than race. "It's because of what he can do for the world," he said.

Then the moment came: Obama's win was a sure thing. On Martin Luther King, Jr. drive at 35th Street, car horns honked and people shouted "Obama!" from street corners. More celebrating broke out at Monumental Baptist Church at 729 E. Oakwood Blvd.,, where Shirley Newsome, a longtime neighborhood activist [and head of the North Kenwood Oakland Conservation Community Council], was among he roughly three dozen people watching a TV set in the assembly hall. It was a striking sight to see the usually prim Newsome dancing in her chair and shouting, "Landslide! Mandate!" as states turned blue on the electoral map. Rev. Clay Joyner paced the room, while his three sons, 11-year-old Clay Jr., eight-year-old Michael and one-year-old Timothy, giggled and hopped from seat to seat. "This is a proud moment in my life," Joyner said. "I wanted by sons to be here to see this. I'm just overwhelmed. To see someone of color they can look to and aspire to -- I hope they remember this day."

When Obama strode onto the Grant Park stage to make his acceptance speech at 11 p.m., the hundreds of people who gathered at Room 43, 1039 E. 43rd Street, rushed forward toward the giant screen at the front of the club and let out a powerful, ear-splitting shout. Arms went up in the air and cameras were held aloft. "It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to america," Obama said, and the cheering partygoers at Room 43 blended with the roar of the televised crowd in Grant Park.

After the speech, Norman Bolden, Room 43's owner, was on the club's lower level, swinging patrons around in wild dances. "Let's just say I feel like a floodgate has opened," he said, beaming. "Opportunity, possibility, barriers have been broken. Oh my Lord."

By midnight, the celebrating was winding down at the Hyde Park hair Salon, Obama's barber shop, at 53rd Street and Blackstone Avenue. As well-heeled guests said their goodbyes and camera crews packed up their equipment, Ishmail, the owner (he goes by just one name), remains. The shop has in recent weeks become a sort of pilgrimage site for Obama devotees; even Spike Lee had stopped by earlier that day. "It's so fascinating. It's so astounding," Ishmail said, looking a little dazed. "I need a few days."


Neighbors write their well wishes for the Obamas. Hyde Park Herald, January 14, 2009. By Sam Cholke

The Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference (HP-KCC) closed a "best wishes" book for the Obama family recently with more than 10 poster-board-sized pages with notes of congratulations, admiration and encouragement to the neighbor turned president-elect.

Before and even as president-elect, Obama has been a neighbor, and it's been exciting, said Brenda Sawyer of HP-KCC and the Friends of Blackstone Library. "For the people at East View Park, they knew the family when they lived there, so for them it was more personal and they were very excited," she said.

The book made the rounds of Hyde Park institutions over the last weeks collecting signatures from neighbors and living institutions like former 5th Ward Alderman Leon Despres and community activist and historian Timuel Black. The pages ended their circulation through the neighborhood at the Regenstein Library on the University of Chicago campus after making stops at Hyde Park Produce, Blackstone Library, Valois Cafeteria and 57th Street Books among other sites.

"It's a wonderful thing," said Ann Marie Coleman as she signed the book at 57th Street Books, 1301 E. 57th St. "People were just very excited to have the opportunity to participate in something like this," Sawyer said.

On Monday, Sawyer wasn't sure yet how they would get the book to Obama, who isn't accepting packages for security reasons. "The target is to get it there by the inauguration," she said. Top

Activists camp out to remind Obama of campaign promises

Hyde Park Herald January 14, 2009. By Daschell M. Phillips

A coalition of secular and faith-based activists gathered to set up camp on 51st Street and Drexel Avenue on Jan. 1 to support President-elect Barack Obamas' agenda for change. The activists organized and 18-day outdoor vigil titled "Camp Hope: Countdown to Change" with a tent and large signs that display ideas that Obama endorsed as a senator and spoke of during his presidential campaign.

Josh Brollier, one of the spokesmen for the group, said the idea seemed like a good way to congratulate Obama and promote his ideas for change. "We wanted to be a pre-inauguration voice stating we support Barack Obama's plans for change," said Brollier.

Bradford Little, Hyde Park resident and activist, said the group wanted to be a voice against corporations and others who don't like Obama's plans. "There are tremendous military and political forces working against him," said Little. "They don't want to keep the middle class and [Sen. John] McCain just wanted to win the war but we support Obama's more conciliatory approach."

The group's signs showed their solidarity with Obama on eight issues including withdrawing troops from Iraq, closing Guantanamo Bay prison camp, issuing a 90-day moratorium on housing foreclosures and developing policies on universal health care. The group also hosts community forums with guest speakers to discuss the issues in detail. "We want to bring leaders together to see what they want to do after the inauguration," said Brollier. "Obama said that he's going to need our help. we want to show him that we are active and working to make a difference."

Brollier said that they have been getting mixed reviews from people who pass by their campsite. "The neighbors have come to talk with us to learn more about what we are doing, and others have walked by and looked at us like 'what are you doing out here in all this snow,'" said Brollier. He said that Obama has also driven by, in his motorcade, and some of the volunteers said they saw him peering at the campsite signs. He said that Obama has also driven by, in his motorcade, and some of the volunteers said they saw him peering at the campsite signs.

The group plans to camp out at 51st and Drexel until Jan. 18th then head to Federal Plaza on Jan. 19th for a vigil at the Federal Building to celebrate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. For more information about Camp Hope, visit camphope2009.org.


Effects: Housing prices in the Kenwood area went back up in the 4th quarter of 2009 after dropping 25% or more due to the housing collapse.

Who from Hyde Park went to Washington?

Chicago Board of Education CEO Arne Duncan

From University of Chicago: (except as noted, these resigned before assuming their positions)

First Lady Michelle Obama (Hospitals Community Affairs)

Valerie Jarrett (vice chair of Board of Trustees, board chair Medical Center)- special advisor

Susan Sher (VP Legal and Govt Affairs Med. Ctr.)-Associate Counsel

Austan Goolsbee (Prof. Economics Booth School)- staff director and chief economist Economic Recovery Advisory Board

Cass Sunstein (Kalven Visiting Professor- continues)- White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

Former or degree:

Elena Kagan (Law School)- Solicitor General of the United States

David Axelrod (B.A.)- Senior Advisor to the President

Lisa Brown (Law School Graduate)- staff secretary