Then and Now, 55th-Dorchester

1959–55th Street @ Dorchester Avenue, view east

2020–the same location

In 1959 most of the buildings along this portion of 55th Street had been cleared for urban renewal.  Trolley bus service here was also on its way out, with the 51st-55th line split and converted to motor buses later in the year.

Today the twin towers of the University Park Condominiums are located in what was once the middle of 55th Street, and the traffic lanes curve around either side of the site.


4 Responses to “Then and Now, 55th-Dorchester”

  1. 1 Bruce Donald Ervin March 9, 2021 at 12:10 pm

    Great photo from 1959! That’s my old neighborhood. Contrast the recent photo of 55th and Dorchester with the recent one of Milwaukee and Montrose and you see the nasty job that urban planning and urban renewal did on the streetscape. The North Side photo shows, still in place, some of the great architecture from the early 20th century when streets like Milwaukee and 55th were thriving business strips. The 55th St. strip from Lake Park to Cottage Grove needed significant work by the 1950’s, but there were alternatives to the massive clearance design that was used. The 1959 photo appears to show the construction of the Hyde Park Shopping Center in the back left of the photo. This replaced just a tiny fraction of the 55th Street businesses. Another tiny fraction moved to the 53rd-Kimbark Plaza (completed in 1963) and Harper Court (1966). But it’s hard to argue with the convenience and ecological wisdom of neighborhood business strips to which customers would ride electrically powered vehicles to do their shopping.
    As a 4 year old I was riding in the car with my family for our first shopping trip at the new Hyde Park Shopping Center when we saw the CTA crew cutting the trolley bus wires in June of 1959 one block west of where this photo was taken (sob!). Thanks for these great photos of old Chicago and the (mostly good) memories they bring!

  2. 3 Bruce Donald Ervin March 10, 2021 at 2:36 pm

    The other Hyde Park posts (50th and Lake Park, 55th and Cottage Grove) present modern scenes that you rightly describe, J.R., as almost suburban. Unfortunately, that was exactly the point the urban planners of the era were trying to make. They had this notion that density was inherently bad and green spaces inherently good. It flowed from the anti-urban, pro-rural bias of American culture. The good news is that in more recent decades some planners have listened to the insights of Jane Jacobs in The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Density, mixed use, lots of eyes on the street throughout the day and night is a good thing! Wide open green space stretching more than a half mile along 55th Street: not so good. Thank goodness for The Woodlawn Tap. I may’ve had my first drink there. Can’t remember if I was legal yet or not!

    • 4 J.R. Schmidt March 10, 2021 at 4:43 pm

      The rip-and-rebuild school no longer wins all the battles. I have a West Town “Then-and-Now” post coming up in a few weeks. During the 1970s, when the neighborhood was getting sketchy, plans were floated to replace the old buildings along this particular stretch of Chicago Avenue with a series of strip malls. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.

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