Monday, December 27, 2010

Unknown Chicago on Englewood

View north on 63rd & Halsted in 1935
I really like this picture above. It was in this morning's post on Englewood from John R. Schmidt's Unknown Chicago. Every Sunday, the Chicago Now blog will quiz you on Chicago Trivia or will present pictures for you to guess where this picture was taken. This picture was from such a post on December 19th.
This morning Schmidt, gives us a rundown on the history of Englewood. From it's days before its annexation to the City of Chicago to it's current more blighted days now. There is a nice gallery of pictures. Here's my next favorite from the past.
View North on 64th & Halsted in 1955
Englewood it's safe to say once had it's own downtown. It had theaters such as the Southtown and Englewood Theaters. In fact there are a couple of pictures of the Southtown in the Unknown Chicago gallery, I just won't post those here. Hopefully some developer can bring a movie theater to 63rd & Halsted to further help redevelop the former Englewood downtown.

You know I barely remember the former shopping district as it was only recently demolished to make way for Kennedy-King College (pictures of which are also included in that gallery). My aunt used to work at Paddors near 63rd & Halsted. My parents would drive and they would be diverted around this intersection. By 1996 we could actually drive through the 63rd/Halsted intersection.

In the early 20th Century, Englewood had over 90,000 residents. Also:
The focus of the community was 63rd and Halsted.  With three major department stores and hundreds of smaller businesses, this became the busiest shopping district outside the Loop.  More than that--it was the busiest outlying shopping district in the world.  For decades the stores here rang up more sales than many medium-size cities.
Schmidt then tells us that Englewood survived the Great Depression and the second World War but after 1950 challenges came to Englewood which set the tone for the second half of the 20th Century:
Shopping malls began drawing traffic away from 63rd-Halsted.  The marginal stores closed, and many of the better ones left.  The fabulous Southtown Theater, with its duck pond in the lobby, was a major casualty--it was converted into a discount store.

Meanwhile, expressway construction and urban renewal in other parts of the city displaced many African-Americans.  Some of these familes settled in Englewood.  Panic-peddling and white flight followed.  In 1950, blacks were 11% of the local population.  That number increased to 69% in 1960, and 96% ten years later.

During the 1970s, the city made a concerted effort to revive the 63rd-Halsted shopping center.  Traffic was diverted away from the intersection, and the two key streets became bus-only malls.  The experiment failed.  The last two anchors, Sears and Wieboldt's, eventually pulled out.
If you hear a lot about Chatham turning into Detroit as you may have heard the blogger at ChathamNOW say when he blogged at the CAPCC blog. That could be more true for Englewood with the departure of major institutions, abandoned homes, and vacant lots.

Oh yeah, major institutions, most likely will include Chicago State University. It started in Englewood as the Cook County Normal School to train teachers. In 1972, the University has moved to it's current location on the southeast corner of 95th & King Drive. There are also pictures of the normal school in that blog post's gallery.

Don't think Schmidt is down on Englewood:
And yet, the community has not given up.  Much of the southern section remains stable.  Here and there, some houses have been built.  In 2007 a new campus for Kennedy-King College opened at 63rd-Halsted.  There's hope the college will revive what's left of the shopping district.
Yeah and that was indicated in a blog post from last month. Schmidt closes by taking about this abandoned building, South Side Masonic Temple
Location 6400 South Green Street
If you're driving along Halsted looking to the west you should be able to see it from there. To Schmidt this building is a symbol of Englewood. It sits abandoned waiting for a successful attempt at revilatization. The question here is whether or not it will be revived and will Englewood be revived.

Also I have read out there that the parties that restored the Grand Ballroom @ 6351 S. Cottage Grove Ave. Were interested in restoring the Masonic Temple. Of course financially it has to be worth the risk that any developer would need to take. Let's hope Englewood takes off again in the 21st Century.

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