Posts Tagged 'South Side'

South Side Masonic Temple

“If a single building symbolizes Englewood, that would be the South Side Masonic Temple, at 64th and Green. It has been abandoned for years, and several attempts at adaptive re-use have failed. Its future is uncertain. Yet even with broken windows and falling bricks, the temple is an impressive reminder of past glory. Will it be brought back to life? Will Englewood be brought back to life?”

I wrote those words when I was blogging at WBEZ in 2012.  Last week I happened to be in Englewood and came across this sight—

Built in 1921, the temple was abandoned in the 1980s.  Preservation Chicago had it on the “endangered” list for perhaps a decade.  Now we’ve lost another bit of our history and our culture.

I don’t know what is planned for the southwest corner of 64th and Green Streets.  Here’s hoping it will be something worthwhile.



Then and Now, 120th-Union

1900–120th Street @ Union Avenue, view east

2017–the same location

As the name suggests, the West Pullman community developed west of railroad-car tycoon George Pullman’s company town.  This particular business district grew because of its proximity to the Illinois Central commuter station at Halsted and 121st Streets.

Though Metra trains still stop at Halsted-121st, the businesses here are long gone, and vacant lots are common.  However, some new residential construction is now in evidence.


Errand of Mercy (1-4-1968)

It was a typical January day in Chicago.  Temperature near zero, snow on the ground, periodic gusts of wind.  What better time to move 160 hospital patients?

Mercy Hospital had been operating at 2537 S. Prairie Avenue since 1869.  It had treated victims of the Chicago Fire, and had tended to ex-President Theodore Roosevelt after he survived an assassination attempt.  But now the building was nearly a hundred years old, and being replaced.

A new hospital had been built a block away, at 2510 S. South Park Way (King Drive).  The price tag was $26 million.  With 517 beds, it was bigger than the ancient red-brick structure, and featured the latest in medical equipment.  Pride of the facility was the 35-million-volt radiology machine for cancer treatment.

The architecture of the new Mercy Hospital was stunning.  The building was all glass and stone and steel, the height of 1968 fashion.  More than one observer was reminded of the nearby Circle Campus.

Bad weather or not, the transfer from 1869 to 1968 could not be delayed.  The new building was ready and waiting.  Shortly after 8 a.m., they began the move.

The Metropolitan Ambulance Association had provided 20 vehicles without charge.  The patients were bundled onto stretchers and, one by one, shuttled from Prairie Avenue to South Park Way.  Meanwhile, office staff walked the thousands of medical folders over the same route.  They often stopped to retrieve documents blown away by the bone-chilling wind.

Most everyone seemed in good spirits.  The first patients transferred were a 27-year-old woman and her two-day-old baby.  “You know, that was kind of fun,” she said—the mother, not the baby.

A few people admitted they would miss the familiar old Mercy.  One patient was crying as she was brought into the new building.  The woman had just given birth to her seventh child.  She also happened to be a part-time nurse in the hospital’s emergency room.

“Wednesday night in the old hospital, I was up three times during the night, looking around,” she explained.  “I have very, very mixed emotions.  I had looked forward to a new hospital, but . . .”  And then she broke down again.

By 4 p.m. the transfer was complete.  The old Mercy Hospital closed its doors forever.  A few months later, the historic building was demolished.


Then and Now, Wentworth-69th

1957–Wentworth Avenue @ 69th Street, view north

2017–the same location

The 1957 photo features Chicago’s last streetcar line, and one of the ribbon commercial strips that developed along those routes.  The streetcars would be gone the next year.  This particular commercial strip would eventually go, too.

In 1972 the new campus of Kennedy-King College opened on this site.  Spanning Wentworth Avenue, the buildings were a classic example of Brutalist Architecture—which you either loved or hated.   The college relocated to 63rd-Halsted in 2007, and the buildings here were bulldozed.


Then and Now, Halsted-26th

1955--Halsted Street @ 26th Street, view south

1955–Halsted Street @ 26th Street, view south

2015--the same location

2017–the same location

In 1955 the streetcars had been gone from Halsted Street for two years.  Yet the overhead wires remained, for a planned conversion to trolley buses that never took place.  Why the street hadn’t yet been repaved is anybody’s guess.  Perhaps the older photo dates from early in the year, before local resident Richard J. Daley took office as mayor.

Today much of Bridgeport has seen rehabbing and new construction.  A block south and on the right, the old Stearns Quarry has been transformed into lovely Palmisano Park.



Then and Now, Baltimore-133rd

1900--Baltimore Avenue @ 133rd Street, view north

1900–Baltimore Avenue @ 133rd Street, view north

2016--the same location

2017–the same location

In 1883 Adolph Hegewisch opened a factory near the rail yards at 135th Street and Brandon Avenue.  Sub-dividers soon followed.  By 1900 the neighborhood had been annexed by Chicago, and Baltimore Avenue had developed a fledgling commercial strip.

In our time Mr. H’s factory is gone, but Chicago’s most remote community proudly bears his name.  Many of the old buildings still stand along Baltimore Avenue.  Trees, vehicular and pedestrian street lights, decorative signs, and repaving are features of a recent spruce-up.


Chicago’s First Trolley (10-2-1890)

This was the date “modern” mass transit came to Chicago.  The first electric streetcar line began operating on the South Side.

In 1859 the city got its first street railway.  Rails were sunk in the middle of State Street, between Randolph and 12th Street (now Roosevelt Road), and horses pulled the iron-wheel carriages along the track at 3 miles-per-hour.  The service was popular, and soon extended.  Other lines sprang up on other major streets.

One of Chicago’s early electric streetcars

Cable cars came to Chicago in 1882.  First developed in San Francisco, the idea involved having a continuously-moving cable sunk below track level, running in the direction of travel.  Within a few years, Chicago had the largest cable car system in the country.

The later 19th Century was the age of electricity.  Cities were beginning to string overhead wire for street lights and telephones.  Naturally there was talk of running street railway cars using electric power.  After a few false starts, a successful electric line was launched in Richmond in 1888.

A live electric wire was strung over each set of tracks.  A pole on top of the car connected to the wire, gathering power to run the car’s electric motor.  The pole was called a “trolley,” so the new vehicles were often known as trolley cars.

Like most big cities, Chicago had many competing local transit companies in 1890.  The city’s initial electric line ran on 93rd Street, between Stony Island and South Chicago Avenues.  Rival railways tried to sabotage the effort, spreading dark rumors about passengers being accidentally electrocuted while riding the “death cars.”

1940—The pioneer 93rd Street line (at Jeffery Avenue)

But the trolley cars were triumphant.  They were cleaner, faster, and cheaper to run.  By 1906 both horse cars and cable cars were gone from the city’s streets.

The various local street railway companies were eventually unified.  During the 1920s Chicago operated a fleet of over 3,000 cars on 172 routes over 1,060 miles of track.  With 3.6 million fares each day, it was the largest city transit system on earth.

After World War II, in the name of progress, Chicago replaced its streetcars with buses.  The pioneer 93rd Street line was abandoned in 1951.  Seven years later, the last trolley ran on Wentworth Avenue.

Today many cities have recognized that electric transit is green, and rebuilt their streetcar lines.  Chicago has no plans to do this.