Monday, April 25, 2016

(Photos) Abandoned homes in Chicago's violent Auburn Gresham neighborhood

Last Thursday I continued my urban exploring travels and ventured into Chicago's Auburn Gresham neighborhood on the South Side.

This photo series has a family tie-in.

The notoriously-violent Englewood neighborhood sits on Auburn Gresham's northern border. Crossing into A-G on you'll find this vacant Craftsman home at 7511 S. Union.

On the southern reaches of Auburn Gresham at 8409 S. May is this boarded-up Dutch Colonial.

According to the Chicago Tribune Auburn Gresham is tied for eighth in violence of Chicago's 77 official neighborhoods over the last 30 days.

And now the family part: Behind me, at 8135 S. Halsted, is where the home of my mother's childhood home stood. My grandfather, Richard Harold Lucy, was born there on March 3, 1907. His father, William Patrick Lucy, owned the home. The elder Lucy, whose parents were born in Cork, Ireland, was born in Deptford, Kent, England, which is not part of London.

A commercial street, houses are rare on Halsted. I'm standing on what was called a "prairie," in reality it was--and is--a vacant lot. During my mother's time it was filled with rats--Powers Tavern at 8125 S. Halsted had something to do with that--as did the frequent sanitation worker strikes. The friendly woman who took my picture had just left Three Chefs Restaurant, which operated out of the old Powers building.

Yes, I'm wearing a White Sox shirt. Only Sox fans lived in that home--and the Lucys, my grandmother's brothers and the children would sit around the radio listening to the South Siders nearly every summer day. As I drove through Auburn Gresham that day I was tuned into the White Sox game as they hosted the Los Angeles Angels. They lost, which was common for the team in the team's post-Black Sox scandal funk.

The population of Auburn Gresham was divided then. "Catholics were White Sox fans," my mother told me, "and the Protestants were Cub fans."

Either the owners of this mint green bungalow on May Street are awaiting the zombie apocalypse or this is an abandoned home.

My mother was born during the Great Depression--at one time there were nine people--including five adults--living in their tiny home, which had just one bathroom. The good old days weren't so great. My mother reminisced to me often that her Uncle Bud would take her to fish at Jackson Park--they bent needles in the hopes of catching carp--fish hooks were unaffordable to them.

At one time this vacant two story home at 7711 S. Lowe with a huge attic must have been paradise.

During the 1960s Auburn Gresham went from being predominately white to being majority black. The Encyclopedia of Chicago says blockbusting and panic peddling were less of a problem than in other Chicago neighborhoods at the time. At the start of the decade my grandparents moved to the more prosperous Beverly neighborhood on the Southwest Side. Ironically, the South Side Irish Parade, which originated in A-G, followed my grandparents to Beverly.

Blacks were barred from most white neighborhoods by covenants that prohibited home owners from selling to them. Click here to read a 1929 letter from the ominously named Auburn Park Property Restriction Association, Inc. which explains an Anti-colored Restriction Agreement to John Wagner of Englewood. Covenants were ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in 1948.

Racism has not vanished from Auburn Gresham. The black-supremacist Nation of Islam operates a retail store, The Final Call, at 734 W. 79th Street, it what appears to be a former bank building. Admittedly this is not a great photograph but there were some young males muttering behind me as I took my only shot.

A half block away is the NOI's Salaam restaurant. It was closed on Thursday but it advertises a Sunday brunch--perfect for after church.

Two blocks away on the 7800 block of Union are three abandoned houses--including a "red X" home.

Outside a boarded-up apartment building on the corner of 77th Street and May is this sign: No loitering, littering, standing, drinking, or drug deals. But there is good news because this building is being rehabbed.

When Auburn Gresham is in the news, particularly nationally, it's usually has something to do with St. Sabina Church, where committed leftist Father Michael Pfleger has served as pastor for an unheard of, at least in the Archdiocese of Chicago, 35 years. Pfleger. who is white, has worked on projects with radicals such as the Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan and Barack Obama's former minister, Jeremiah Wright.

However Pfleger, despite allowing a personality cult to envelope him, has his merits. The church compound also includes a large senior residential complex and a grade school, as well as social service, job training, and technology centers. That brings a whole bunch of people to the St. Sabina complex, which is near the intersection of 79th and Racine, and that corner has noticeably more retail activity than the rest of Auburn Gresham. The church, in a way, boosts 79th and Racine in a way that monasteries did to nearby towns in the Middle Ages.

But that hiccup of activity has its limits. Two blocks from St. Sabina's is this boarded up two-flat on Elizabeth Street. The front of the building doesn't look much better.

Aluminum scrappers discovered this eyesore on the 900 block of W. 86th Place before I did. The joke is on the thieves because beneath the panels is asbestos-laden asphalt brick.

There aren't that many Queen Anne homes in Chicago. Hopefully this one on Union Street is saved.

Just next door is a dog house. Take a close look at the sign.

It reads, "Never mind the dog. Beware of owner."

There's a lot of work to do in regards to building a new Chicago.

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