Sunday, January 22, 2012

What A Difference 45 Years Makes

We hear a lot about Uptown's buildings going up in flames about 50 years ago, as property values deteriorated along with the neighborhood, and it became easier for owners to abandon their buildings (and at worst, burn them) rather than maintain them.  That's one of the reasons so many new buildings were able to be constructed here over the past 20 years:  there were some blocks with six or seven empty lots on them, thanks to owner abandonment, neglect and fires.

In this article from 1967 that a reader sent in, the Tribune talks about a summer work program where teens and adults were paid $1.40 - $2.50 an hour to pick up glass and trash from derelict empty lots, and in some cases, build playlots on them.  It's a fascinating look into the problems of Lakeview and Uptown at that point in time.

(Yes, Lakeview was considered a "deteriorating neighborhood" then.  Believe it or not, one of the abandoned, overgrown lots that the crews cleaned up was at Roscoe and Halsted, and another was Belmont and Racine).

We thought it would be fun to revisit the locations of junky abandoned lots mentioned in the article and see whatever became of them, 45 years later:

  • Dover and Wilson - parking lot for Happy Wash
  • Hazel and Windsor - hard to say which corner.  There are two parking lots there and one scattered site housing site
  • 417 N Montrose - part of the Lakefront Trail
  • 731 W Montrose - part of the Carlton Healthcare high-rise
  • 901 W Montrose (where the Montrose Urban Progress Center that employed them was located) - part of the Pensacola Place high-rise
  • 4516-4522 N Racine (where the owner refused them permission to clean up the lots) - Truman College
  • 4611 N Racine - a fenced park next to St Martha Manor
  • 4633 N Winthrop - Townhouses
  • 4641 N Winthrop (where they got permission to put in horseshoe, basketball and volleyball courts on the blacktop) - scattered site housing
  • 4836 N Winthrop - still a playlot!  Located next to 4848 N Winthrop
  • 4860 N Winthrop - part of the 4848 N Winthrop co-op


  1. Out of morbid curiosity, I watched Newt Gingrich's victory speech in the SC primaries last night. One thing that struck me as odd is the number of times he accused Obama of being a "Saul Alinsky" Democrat.

    The average voter probably doesn't have a clue who "Saul Alinsky" even was, but Newt's repeating of this phrase was a clear warning shot as to the strategy his campaign is taking if he ends up being the Republican nominee in the general election.

    I often wonder if the local Uptown politicos and political activists (aka Shilleristas) understand just how quickly their world will be changing - and soon.

    Helen Shiller's departure and Hull House's woes are just a small example of the dramatic changes Uptown will experience over the coming months.

    This is not the 1960's, reloaded. This is 2012.

    Uptown will be a very foreign place for those hoping to a return to the burn 'em up, protest, replace 'em with social services that funnel money to politicians' campaign coffers, past. The legal battle over Shiller's insistance in putting a Day Labor Center on Sheridan Road should have been a clue.

    Take heed. Newt Gingrich has this political group in his sights, as does a segment Democrats. Helen Shiller did so much damage to "the people's cause" that even some of the most liberal of Democrats can't find a way to support the "Saul Alinsky" tactics that Uptown experienced over the last few decades. It just doesn't fly anymore.

  2. It cracks me up when people say Obama is some kind of radical leftist. He is not.

  3. Can I bag about where this article came from? ProQuest has a database of every single Tribune issue from 1849 to 1987. These are completely searchable PDFs I have read thousands of historical articles and have found out all about the people who used to call Uptown home. Here's the URL
    You just need your library card # to get on.