Posts Tagged 'South Side'

Then and Now, Yates-91st

1938–Yates Boulevard @ 91st Street, view north

2018–the same location

Eighty years ago, this was going to be Yates Boulevard, part of the system of Chicago Park District parkways.  The Depression had already delayed development of the plan, and World War II would postpone it a few years more.

Today the neighborhood is filled with post-war ranch homes.  The plan to extend the parkway system here was never implemented, and now this is Yates Avenue, and ordinary residential street.

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Then and Now, Michigan-111th

1907–Michigan Avenue @ 111th Street, view south

2918–the same location

On the far South Side, Michigan Avenue runs along the top of a glacial ridge.  Here the avenue developed into a major thoroughfare.  By 1907 it had a streetcar line and a ribbon commercial strip. Check out the building signs in the older photo, and you’ll spy a photography studio.

A century ago traffic was so light on this stretch of Michigan that small children could wander around aimlessly in the street—not advisable today, in the era of the automobile.  Looking down the block in 2018, many of the old buildings are gone.  However, the building in the right foreground has survived, while being extended and renovated and truncated in various ways.

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Then and Now, 112th-Avenue H

1937–112th Boulevard @ Avenue H, view west

2018–the same location

In 1937 this was 112th Boulevard, the last link in the chain of Park District boulevards that stretched from Jeffery-93rd via 93rd-Escanaba-100th-Anthony-Avenue L-112th to Eggers Woods at the state line.  Though settlement here was still sparse, there were grand plans for the future.

Today the East Side community is residentially mature.  The streets in the boulevard chain have lost their special designation, including what is now called 112th Street But except for parts of Escanaba, they all remain as wide as any arterial through street.

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Then and Now, Western-116th

1914--Western Avenue @ 116th Street, view north

1914–Western Avenue @ 116th Street, view north

2015--the same location

2018–the same location

In 1914 Chicago annexed the village of Morgan Park.  Western Avenue here was still a dirt road.  Contemporary maps indicate the west side of Western was part of Mount Hope Cemetery.

Today the area is fully developed.  Mount Hope Cemetery is still in business, but several blocks to the west.  The cemetery sold off some of its unused land, and the blocks bordering Western are now a residential community called Beverly Woods.

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The Alderman Helps Out (7-26-1914)

“Constituent service” was the name of the game for 3rd Ward alderman Jacob Lindheimer.  The Chicago Beach Hotel was operating a private beach for guests off 50th Street.  Neighborhood residents wanted access, but the alderman was advised that nothing could be done until the courts rendered a decision.

So Lindheimer paid a visit to the hotel’s manager, and presto!—half of the beach was thrown open to the public.  The episode was just another part of a Chicago alderman’s daily routine, one for the voters to remember when the next election rolled around.

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Joe Louis’s Home

Joe Louis was born in Alabama and grew up in Detroit. He spent his later life in Las Vegas.  But during the twelve years he reigned as heavyweight boxing champion of the world, he lived in Chicago.

Born Joseph Louis Barrow in 1914, he dropped his last name when he began amateur boxing as a Detroit teenager, so his mother wouldn’t find out what he was doing. As Joe Louis the kid fighter attracted the attention of John Roxborough.  Roxborough, one of the city’s gambling kingpins, became Louis’s manager.

In 1934 Louis turned pro. Roxborough began grooming him for a shot at the heavyweight championship, and that meant a move Chicago, where Louis could train under Jack Blackburn. Local promoter Julian Black joined Roxborough as a partner.  He found Louis an apartment on 46th Street off South Park Way (King Drive).

Joe and Marva

Louis quickly rose through the ranks with a string of knockouts. During one of his gym sessions he noticed Marva Trotter, a secretary at the Chicago Daily Defender newspaper. They started dating.  On the morning of September 24, 1935 Joe and Marva were married in New York.  Joe then went off to Yankee Stadium, knocked out ex-champ Max Baer in four rounds, and went back to his hotel and Marva.

The new couple settled in at the Rosenwald Apartments at 4648 South Michigan Avenue. The 454-unit complex had been built by white philanthropist Julius Rosenwald to provide decent housing for the city’s African Americans.  Louis later said that the Rosenwald “was the most fabulous building black people could live in at the time.”  Gwendolyn Brooks, Nat “King” Cole, and other prominent Chicagoans were also residents.

Louis continued winning in the ring until Max Schmeling stopped him in June 1936. Louis then rebounded with a new string of victories.  On June 22, 1937, he knocked out James J. Braddock at Comiskey Park to become the new heavyweight champion.

Marva was not at the fight. According to the Tribune, she listened to the action on the radio in their apartment at 4320 South Michigan Avenue.  After the fight, Louis had trouble driving back the few blocks home through the crowds.  “I thought all of Chicago was standing outside my house,” he wrote in his autobiography.  “Marva and I had to come out, I don’t know how many times, and wave at the people.”

Joe Louis’s Chicago Home

Exactly when the Louises relocated from the Rosenwald is unclear. According to the 1940 Census, Joe had purchased the three-story apartment building for $7500—about $140,000 in today’s money.  Their personal flat had five rooms.  At that time the tenants in the other five units paid rents ranging from $40- to $65-a-month.

One year to the day after he’d won the heavyweight title, Louis took care of his old nemesis, Max Schmeling, in just over two minutes. In the course of twelve years Louis would successfully defend his title 25 times, more than any other boxing champion.  Some critics scoffed at his challengers as the Bum-of-the-Month Club.  More likely, Louis was just too good for anyone.

Louis served in the army during World War II, mostly fighting exhibitions. When he came out of the service, his skills had noticeably deteriorated.  He won a few fights, but the magic was gone.  In October 1949 he announced his retirement from the ring.

Meanwhile, Louis’s marriage had also deteriorated.  Joe liked the ladies, and the ladies liked Joe.  Joe and Marva divorced in 1945, remarried in 1946, then divorced a final time in 1949.  Marva kept the two children and the apartment building on Michigan Avenue.

The rest of Louis’s life was not happy. He had trusted too many people with his money, and the Internal Revenue Service came after him for back taxes, which he couldn’t pay.  A boxing comeback was an embarrassment.  He had health problems and battled substance abuse.  His final years were spent as a greeter in a casino.

Joe Louis died in 1981. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  A few years after his death, his favorite local golf course—Pipe O’ Peace in Riverdale—was renamed Joe Louis the Champ Golf Course.  The apartment building he owned on Michigan Avenue during his glory years remains a private residence.

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Then and Now, Stony Island-63rd

194-1974-Stony Island @ 63rd

1974–Stony Island Avenue @ 63rd Street, view north

2018–the same location

In 1974 the Jackson Park ‘L’ terminal at 63rd-Stony Island was in its eighty-first year of service.  By that time the neighborhood was in decline, and many of the buildings that had gone up around the terminal had been town down.  Meanwhile, CTA had announced plans to replace the old station with an elaborate park-and-ride facility.

Today the ‘L’ line ends a mile west of here at Cottage Grove.  The South Side YMCA now occupies the site proposed for the park-and-ride garage, and the Obama Presidential Library is the area’s latest redevelopment project.

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