Posts Tagged 'Near South Side'

Then and Now, Roosevelt-Wabash

1972–Roosevelt Road @ Wabash Avenue, view west

2017–the same location

In 1972 service had been restored to this section of the South Side ‘L’ after a hiatus of more than twenty years.  The old Roosevelt Road ‘L’ station had been removed in the meantime.  Trolley buses were in their final months on the #12-Roosevelt line.  The neighborhood was run down and lightly-populated.

Today the South Loop has been revived.  The ‘L’ line once again has a Roosevelt Road station, now with a direct link to the subway station a half-block away.  Just to the west, the long Roosevelt viaduct has been truncated, so that it no longer passes over State Street.

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Gypsy Smith’s March (10-18-1909)

On this date 108 years ago, Chicago saw one of its strangest events.  English evangelist Gypsy Smith led a march through the city’s notorious Levee.

Rodney Smith really was a Romany—a gypsy.  By 1909 he’d become a famous and respected preacher on three continents.  Now he was conducting a revival at the Armory at Wentworth and 34th Street.

The Levee was Chicago’s red-light district, centered around 22nd and State.  Prostitution was supposed to be illegal in the city.  But officials had always allowed the brothels to operate, as long as they remained clustered in one area.

A few days before, Smith had announced he would lead a march through the Levee.  So on this evening, when he finished his sermon at the Armory, he quietly walked out the front door, and started heading north on Wentworth.  The 3,000 people in his congregation followed.

They walked silently, earnestly.  Men and women, young and old, all races, all levels of society.  Every so often, Smith would turn to face the group and walk backward while preaching to them.  Other joined the march along the way, until about 20,000 people were moving up Wentworth.

10-18--Gipsy Smith cartoon.jpg

By the time they reached 22nd, the sidewalks were jammed with spectators from all over the city.  They stood in horse-drawn wagons, or in open cars, or on the roofs of buildings.  Police estimated the crowd at over 50,000—bigger than any sporting event or election night rally.  One cop shook his head, saying “This could only happen in Chicago.”

Meanwhile, all the brothels had shut down.  The lights were off, the curtains shut, the doors locked.  Many of the prostitutes had changed to street clothes and were among the throng watching the marchers.

In many ways, it was a more civilized time.  The spectators did not heckle the marchers or throw things at them.  They merely watched—respectful or cynical or amused, but always orderly.

10-18--Gipsy Smith marchers.jpg

Now that the marchers had entered the belly of the beast, they began singing hymns.  Periodically they’d pause in front of a “resort.”  Then Smith would lead them in a short prayer before moving on.

The march ended, and Gypsy Smith left.  According to legend, some of his followers stayed behind to sample the delights of the Levee for the first time.  But the evangelist was not disappointed.  “Time will show that great good has been done,” he said.

Two years later, Mayor Carter Harrison Jr. shut down the Levee.

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Then and Now, Jefferson-14th

1937–Jefferson Street @ 14th Street, view north

2017–the same location

In 1937 the neighborhood around Jefferson and 14th Streets was mostly tired commercial buildings.  Here and there, you might spot an ancient frame cottage—though the Great Fire of 1871 started a few blocks to the north, the flames did not touch this area.  Public transit was provided by the 14th-16th streetcar line.

In 2017 every building in the older photo is gone.  So is 14th Street, with the UPS facility sprawling over its onetime site.  And if you’ve compared as many “then and now” photos as I have, you’ll notice that Chicago streets have a lot more trees today than they did years ago.

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Haven School

Chicago’s Haven Elementary School was located at 1472 South Wabash Avenue.  I often drove by the school in the early 1970s, when few people lived in the South Loop, and wondered how a neighborhood school could continue operating in that particular neighborhood.  It couldn’t—I took the picture in 1973, and Haven closed in 1974.

Haven School was named for early school board president Luther Haven.  The first school was built on the site in 1862.  Within twenty years it proved to be too small, and was replaced in 1885 by a new Haven, the building in the photo.  Today Coliseum Park occupies the property at the southwest corner of Wabash Avenue and 14th Place.

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Chicago Under Destruction, Part Two

I recently ran a few demolition photos from the 1970s.  The response was surprisingly enthusiastic, so I’m posting some more today.

Central Station--1201 S. Michigan Ave.

Central Station—1201 S. Michigan Ave.

The Illinois Central railroad opened this magnificent structure just in time for the 1893 Columbian Exposition.  Most Chicagoans simply called it Twelfth Street Station.  It was torn down in 1974.

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Commercial block--northeast corner Lawrence-Central

Commercial block—northeast corner Lawrence-Central

You can still find many of these 1920s commercial blocks around the city.  At this site, a chain pharmacy replaced the independent “mom-and-pop” drug store in 1975.  You may interpret that fact any way you wish.

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Commercial block--northeast corner Grand-Rush

Commercial block—northeast corner Grand-Rush

By the time I took this picture in 1975, very little was left of the old building, which fronted on Michigan Avenue and once housed the Midwest offices of Time magazine.  A Marriott hotel occupies the property today.

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Then and Now, 26th-Prairie

1948--26th Street @ Prairie, view east

1948–26th Street @ Prairie Avenue, view east

2016--the same location

2016–the same location

In 1948 electric streetcars still ran on 26th Street.  The large building behind the streetcar is part of the Mercy Hospital complex, which had occupied this site since its founding in 1869.

Today a senior residence facility stands on the northeast corner of 26th-Prairie. The current version of Mercy Hospital is two blocks to the west.  For the story of the mid-winter 1968 patient transfer between the  old and new hospitals, see my book On This Day in Chicago History.

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Then and Now, 18th-Clark

1948--18th Street @ Clark, view east

1948–18th Street @ Clark Street, view east

2015--the same location

2015–the same location

By the time the older photo was taken in 1948, the once thickly-settled neighborhood around 18th and Clark had evolved from residential to industrial.  Even though most of the local population had left, Old St. John’s Catholic Church still stood proudly on the northeast corner of the intersection, as it had since 1881.

Old St. John’s closed in 1962 and was demolished soon thereafter.  Seven years later, the ‘L’ along 18th Street was built to give trains on the new Dan Ryan route access to the Loop—though now the structure is used mainly for the Orange Line to Midway.  Meanwhile, several commercial and residential developments have brought new life to the area.

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