Then and Now, State-Balbo

1955--State Street @ Balbo, view north

1955–State Street @ Balbo Avenue, view north

2014--the same location

2014–the same location

In 1955, as it had been for decades, this stretch of State Street was a slum.  Taverns, pawnshops, and grindhouse theaters were among the most prominent businesses.  The Pacific Garden Mission served the needs of those locals who were down-and-out.

South State Street’s renaissance began with the opening of the Harold Washington Library Center in 1991.  Development followed, slow but steady.  The mission relocated in 2005, the expanded Jones College Prep High School now occupying its former site.  Today the neighborhood has been gentrified, and even has a trendy new name–South Loop.


5 Responses to “Then and Now, State-Balbo”

  1. 1 kyle L March 4, 2015 at 9:55 am

    I was reading “If Christ Came to Chicago” recently, and I recall that the author mentioned the Pacific Garden Mission being on South Canal in the Levee District. I assumed that Pacific Garden Mission had been in the same place for 100+ years, but it is interesting that they would leave that area to return decades later.

    • 2 J.R. Schmidt March 4, 2015 at 10:20 am

      According to its website, Pacific Garden Mission started at State-23rd in the 1870s, and moved around to a few locations before settling at 606 South State Street in 1923. The mission’s founder was Colonel George Clarke. That calls to mind a historic building that was moved around–the Henry B. Clarke House, which started at Michigan-16th, was moved to Wabash-43rd for over a hundred years, than brought back to its current site at Prairie-18th. I wonder whether the two Clarkes were related?

  2. 3 Becky L March 6, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    Hi, J.R.! Your comment was forwarded to me by one of our museum docents. I’m the curator of Clarke House Museum – the very home you mentioned. Yes, there is a family relation to its first owner Henry Brown Clarke (1802-1849). Col. George R. Clarke (1827-1892) is a nephew, the son of his sister Lucy (1803-1829) and Dr. Henry S. Clarke (1793-1953). Thank you so much for musing publicly, because now we can confirm the connection to Pacific Garden Mission and make mention of it on our tours!

  3. 5 Becky L March 6, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    Whoops, need to make a rank distinction here. He was Lieutenant Colonel – of the 113th Illinois Infantry.

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