Y is for YMCA

The YMCA on Wabash Avenue is in an area that was known as Black Metropolis; more commonly referred to these days as Bronzeville. It was a social center for African Americans in the early 1900s. For those migrating from the south, the Y on Wabash provided job training and housing as well. It was there where a man named Carter Woodson and others would spend time discussing black history. In 1915, Woodson with his associates formed the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History.

In 1926, they designated a week to black history because it had otherwise been ignored or misrepresented.  The second week in February was chosen as it coincided with the birthdays of both abolitionist Frederick Douglass and former President Abraham Lincoln. The group still exists today as The Association for the Study of African American Life and History; and from what was once known as Negro History Week grew into Black History Month.

As for the YMCA on Wabash Avenue in Black Metropolis-Bronzeville, it is a Chicago landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places.



Winning City. Windy City. White City. World Fair City.

Random thoughts on W. Chicago specific.

W: 2016  saw a lot of blue W’s in this city. Flying the W flag every time the Cubs won a game and eventually the World Series.


Hold onto your hats ladies and gents! The wind sure is whipping off the lake this morning. Looks like we’ll be living up to that “Windy City” moniker today!

says no real Chicagoan. Ever.

(Although we’ve embraced the nickname. We are not the windiest city in America).

Windy City they call us
Well it’s not due to the

Or, maybe it is? The earliest uses of  “Windy City” date back to the mid 1800’s;  Green Bay and Cincinnati used it in reference to our weather.  Cincinnati at the time was also a rival city. However, many believe the more popular story of the New York reporter who called us the windy city because our politicians were a bunch of blowhards. New York lost its bid to host the World’s Columbian Exposition, 1893.

It was also from New York around the time of the World Columbian Exposition that we got the name: Second City. Geez, NYC, sore losers much?  But Chicago is resilient. Perhaps our resiliency is another reason to refer to us as a second city. We were built twice; the first city  before the 1871 Chicago fire and second city after. The World Columbian Expo (aka World’s Fair) which happened 22 years later, played a key role. It changed the landscape of Chicago and put us on the map.

There were many firsts at the World Columbian Exposition: Cracker Jacks, The Ferris Wheel, Vienna Beef Hot Dogs and what they call America’s first serial killer (I’m guessing  first known serial killer) H.H. Holmes. Erik Larson has written a best selling novel about it: “The Devil In the White City”.

White city
was the name of the site,
buildings for the fair
all painted white.
The way it lit up!
especially at night.

Walking tours of the white city exist today but there are very few places left from this time: The Osaka Gardens and what was known then as The Palace of Fine Arts, now The Museum of Science and Industry, among them. After looking at all the old pics, I find it rather sad.

But I found this youtube video which I thought was interesting:

V is for Viaduct

Viaducts: the bridges that generally cross land, a road, etc. so that trains and the like can pass over without interrupting the flow of traffic. In a city like Chicago, where railroads were an essential part of our economic development and growth, viaducts are plenty.  More recently, the area under viaducts have become both a place to showcase art, with their murals and mosaics; and by contrast, where many Chicago homeless live.

July, 1977

We set out to walk around the neighborhood as young, bored teen girls sometimes do. “Let’s go find my brother and his friends” one of my girlfriend’s said.  We looked in the usual places: down the street, in the alley.  And just as we gave up on the idea of finding some boys to entertain us, there they were! fast-pitching under a viaduct; throwing balls against the walls. The guys sometimes practiced there, as we discovered, and played softball (invented in Chicago) in the area near the tracks, whenever they were looking for something to do and, I surmised, didn’t have girls around to entertain them?  I surmised wrong. In that moment at least, we were pretty much ignored. It was an early  lesson in boy/girl relationships:  when it comes to sports, you will likely come in second.  It was also the first time I’d seen anyone make use of the space under a viaduct.

July, 1877

One hundred years earlier at a viaduct on the other side of town: The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 that started in the east had gained momentum becoming the first national strike in the US.  In Chicago, crowds gathered by the thousands around the city and one place in particular…a viaduct on Halsted Street. The protestors were determined to get people from all industries to stop working and the city was determined to remove the crowd. Police came, violence erupted, the military was also called in.  Order was restored in about a day but not before the battle left many dead and many more injured.

September, 2007

One hundred and thirty years later at yet another viaduct further north: While strolling down Bryn Mawr on my way to one of the last beach days,  I couldn’t help but marvel at the newest public artwork: “Living 2007”.  Created by 400 people, many of them youth, using a bricolage ( whatever’s available) technique:  this 185 foot mosaic mural represents daily life in the Edgewater community where it resides. The beauty is in the details and each time I stroll down Bryn Mawr to the beach, I try to take in something new.

September, 2017

Ten years later at a viaduct just a little further south: Mike and dozens of his fellow tent city residents are concerned. As the city starts much needed renovations of the Lawrence and Wilson Avenue viaducts, where will they go?  Pacific Garden Missions? Mike says it’s worse;  more dangerous than the thought of  concrete falling on his head under the viaduct.  Some have set up in the park but police tell them if they’re out  after the parks close, they’ll be arrested.  Joe, another viaduct resident, says he’ll take his chances.  He’d rather have a bed and food in jail than spend the night at the Missions.  The city is trying to find permanent housing for the viaduct residents but the wider issue of homelessness still remains…. under many of the viaducts around the city.