Ever since the 1893 Columbian Exposition World’s Fair that marked its Rise-From-The-Ashes phoenix spirit, Chicago has shown its ability to repurpose a tragic negative past into an generative positive future. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 left the city lost and broken. But by showcasing how Chicago was more than just buildings and location she transformed herself into a beacon of hope where the 27.5 million visitors who experienced it from its opening day May 1st to its close on October 31stcould not help but be inspired in returning to their homes and neighborhoods to do likewise. Two such people were Orville and Wilbur Wright whose first trip ever outside Dayton, Ohio was via train to attend an airfoil conference at the fair to hear guest speakers like Octave Chanute.
The Bush and collar streets, named for our part of South Chicago adjacent the US Steel – South Works mills, roughly from 79th Street to 87th Street and from Commercial and Baltimore Avenues to the lakefront, has likewise seen its ashes and Desolation Rows. But like in the movie, “The Money Pit,” us Bush know its foundation is good, and the people, even better. Sure we could all go for some sack cloths to go with our ashes, to atone for some of the shadier walks on past ways we’ve taken, but like Zacchaeus (Luke 19) climbing a tree for Perspective, we grow.
Architect and city planner Daniel Burnham’s famous 1907 quote, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized” is the stuff LHI is made of in helping bring the Southeast side of Chicago not just back to her prominent place in the City but also to being a showcase for how the old is new again when the good of the past is given its Light in the Present.
The following buildings and spaces LHI either owns outright or are in negotiation to do so is the Vision of how a “cottage industry” of old buildings, that once served as butcher shops or bakeries, confectionaries to drug stores, garages to taverns, are now where kids and parents together come in stride to Learn and Be. What may never have been discovered of their self is, within these repurposed “relics”, their story made anew in how they’re told.
These buildings are all part of a sister cities innovation workshop incubator and neighborhood exchange set of programs LHI has set up for “taking back our neighborhoods/our families”. They, as leadership development tools, work together with our future sister cities memorial gardens and Exploration Squares learning program tours. Others from various universities, judicial and police departments, and leadership institutes and organizations, are all assisting on one level or another to bring this vision to market. Kids and their parents are doing their part in doing the required leg work, as are the many building trade volunteers and building supply donors. So much heart!
These LHI programs of ours may, more importantly, be seen symbolically on how life is often about repurposing and retooling: families, communities, buildings. The Tower N. building is to serve as a future 12-room hotel/hostel. It started as a 1909-built butcher shop turned tavern; Houston U: an 1885-built bakery shop turned duplex. Now they are of the new Commercial Avenue Revitalization Project (83rd St to 93rd St) being forged by the So. Chicago C.ofC. and the University of Illinois Chicago Great Cities Institute. As part of our E. 83rd St Rails-to-Shore Block Club Family they, with the Bench W veterans manor (former C.B. Gwizdalski Pharmacy), bring old to new in our future South Works’ 8080 Lakeshore, & Frontier Q history museum (former Shell Gas Station as part of Old US Route 41).
Ora et Labora (Prayer & Work)… found in such simple tasks as Honor your Father and Mother. Our South Chicago-Bush Honorland is a Lilies of the Field invite calling all to “get connected to stay protected”, one Gear up at a time.