Jane Addams attracted national attention when, with with her friend Ellen G. Starr, she founded Chicago’s Hull House in 1889. The facility was located on the city’s near west side, in a densely urban neighborhood populated primarily by struggling immigrants. Modeled after the settlement houses in London, the mission of Hull House was to assist immigrants by providing a center for a civic and social life, improve the quality of education, and to investigate and improve the conditions in the industrial districts of Chicago.
Hull House provided kindergarten and day care facilities for the children of working mothers; an employment bureau; an art gallery; libraries; English and citizenship classes; and theater, music and art classes. By virtue of its efforts, the Illinois Legislature enacted protective legislation for women and children, setting the stage for passage of a Federal child labor law in 1916. As her notoriety grew, Addams was appointed to Chicago’s Board of Education, helped to found the Chicago School of Civics and Philanthropy, and led investigations on midwifery, narcotics consumption, milk supplies, and sanitary conditions in Chicago. Yet despite her laudable work, when Addams opposed the country’s entry into World War One, she was branded a traitor by the press and expelled from the Daughters of the American Revolution. Fortunately, history treated Addams with more respect; fourteen years later she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her humanitarian work and pacifist ideals.
Of the 13 buildings that once comprised the Hull House complex, only the original home and adjacent dining hall escaped the wrecking ball when a six square block area was razed to make way for the Continue reading
After a few housebound weeks in Illinois’ sub-freezing winter weather, a thirty-six degree day felt positively balmy. Although the weatherman called for yet another dreary, overcast day, no snow or freezing rain was forecast, so I seized the opportunity to visit the Morton Arboretum, a 1,700-acre park in the Chicago’s western suburbs.
The Arboretum was established in 1922 by Joy Morton, who is best known as founder of the Morton Salt Company. Although Morton’s head was in the salt business, thanks to his father, J. Sterling Morton, who founded Arbor Day and served as Secretary of Agriculture under President Grover Cleveland, the younger Morton’s heart belonged to trees. “Plant Trees” was the Morton’s family motto. And plant they did, over many years creating a horticultural showcase on their private estate. At the age of 65, Morton began developing the property into an Arboretum, with the mission to “collect and study trees, shrubs, and other plants from around the world, to display them across naturally beautiful landscapes for people to study and enjoy, and to learn how to grow them in ways that enhance our environment.” Continue reading
They say all things come full circle. In September of 1969, I hopped aboard the Red Line of the EL and rode down the Dan Ryan Expressway for my first day at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The neighborhood around Roosevelt and Halstead Streets was not safe in those days. One block south was Maxwell Street, for years home to the world’s largest open-air market. By the time I arrived, foot traffic had been reduced to sullen gang members, panhandlers, and furtive drug dealers lurking in shadows between the neighborhood’s disintegrating, grime-covered buildings.
To the north, the university squatted across several blocks, a barren heap of concrete where saplings withered and stoned-out hippies lounged in the Student Union, strumming anti-war ballads on guitars. Barely seventeen at the time, it was more than I could handle; I dropped out before the end of the first semester, got a job, and never looked back. But last month, during my annual trip to visit my family over the holidays, I was invited to have lunch with a professor friend who teaches at the UIC. It had been more than 40 years since my last visit and I wasn’t sure I remembered how to get there, so I asked my Dad for directions.
“Halsted and Roosevelt? You mean down by Maxwell Street? You can’t go down there alone; it’s dangerous!”
I explained that, according to my friend, the neighborhood is now quite safe. Continue reading
I am on my annual pilgrimage to the Chicago area to visit family over the holidays. The day after I arrived, freezing rain coated everything with ice, creating dangerously slick driving conditions. The following day, more freezing rain was followed by eight inches of snow. Since then, it has snowed almost every day and the temperature has barely climbed above ten degrees. Although I don’t venture out much in this kind of weather, I managed to brave the horrid conditions one rare sunny day to take photos. Frost and ice had coated the naked tree trunks and tall grasses, transforming barren forests into a fairyland. Despite my double-lined winter coat, knit cap, hood, boots and gloves, I just about froze to death. I swear the metal earpieces of my glasses froze to my cheekbones.
I was feeling pretty proud of myself for enduring the elements until happening upon these teens jumping around on the rocks at the edge of the Illinois River, wearing only lightweight jackets, and I began to question whether I really was Continue reading
With its rusting chain and flat tires, some consider the dilapidated, whitewashed bicycle chained to a sign post on Chicago’s north side a piece of urban junk. Cyclists know better. Pedaling by, they pay silent homage at this memorial to George Chavez, a cyclist killed at this spot in a hit-and-run accident in June of 2006.
The “ghost bike” memorial project began in 2003 in St. Louis, Missouri when Patrick Van Der Tuin, after witnessing a vehicle strike a bike rider, placed a white-painted bicycle on the spot with a hand-painted sign reading “Cyclist struck here.” Upon realizing that motorists tended to slow down when they passed the memorial, cyclists placed 15 more “ghost bikes” in spots around St. Louis where cyclists had been hit by automobiles. The idea caught on and before long there were ghost bikes in Pittsburgh, New York City, Seattle, Washington, D.C., Chicago, London, and dozens of other cities around the world.
Debate over whether the memorials should be temporary or permanent reached a zenith over a ghost bike in Washington, D.C.’s Dupont Circle. For more than a year, it stood just a few feet from the spot where a garbage truck struck down 22-year old Alice Swanson as she pedaled to Continue reading