Whenever I give walking tours in Bronzeville, I like to point out not only the landmarks, which are plentiful in this historic neighborhood, but also the newer local sites that will continue to draw tourists. At the corner of 35th and State there are two six-feet and 4,000 pound obelisks that were installed in November, 2009. The obelisks (Greek for a tall four-sided stone pillar that taper to a pyramidal top) were the created from an idea of the late Senator Margaret Smith and Esther Barnett, a local merchant. The Bronzeville Merchants Association, the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago are responsible for these interesting works of art.

The obelisk south of 35th Street honors the first non-native settler of Chicago, Jean Baptiste Point DuSable. Many people don’t that many African Americans settled in Chicago as it became a city after 1837. A panel honoring Dr. Daniel Hale Williams is also here, telling the story of Provident Hospital in Bronzeville where the first open heart surgery was performed.

Also mentioned are all of the types of businesses that flourished and the “stroll” area where people walked and shopped and interacted. If you visit the landmark Chicago Bee and Douglas Bank Building two blocks south at 36th and State you can see the mural inside of the entrance to what is now the Bee Branch of the Chicago Public Library. The mural depicts the State Street area and the “stroll”.

The other obelisk is located north of 35th Street closer to the campus of IIT (Illinois Institute of Technology. It tells the story of Bronzeville as a city within a city, complete with its own shops and entertainment. This is because of the racially restrictive covenants that prevented blacks from purchasing or renting homes outside of the “Black Belt”. The area was busy with people and commerce, theaters and clubs for entertainment.

Each of the obelisks has hieroglyphics on them. Every time I visit with tour guests someone asks about the hieroglyphic symbols. I always have to say I don’t know what they symbolize, but now I’m on a quest for knowledge. Can you find out what they mean?

What other obelisks do you know and where are they located?

Bernard C. Turner

IMG_0283

IMG_0288

IMG_0289

Advertisements

Chicago Symbols 2

Seal_of_Chicago,_Illinois

chicago municipal device

The seal of Chicago and the municipal device are the other Chicago symbols besides the Chicago flag. The seal was adopted when Chicago became a city by declaration of the State of Illinois on March 4, 1837. The seal has several images, including the shield in the center with a sheath of wheat, which symbolizes fertility. The ship represents Lake Michigan while the Indian is the original settler of the area. Then there’s the sleeping infant. What do you suppose it represents? Some people say he represents innocence and purity.
The red scroll has the words: urbs in horto. That’s Latin for city in a garden. Why do you suppose that motto was used for our city?
The municipal device is used in various ways unofficially around the city such as in architecture. Can you find some places where the municipal device is used in the city? One such place is in the marquis of the Chicago Theater. This design was created in 1892 for a contest by the Chicago Tribune and was included along with the flag and the seal as symbols of Chicago by city council in 1917. The municipal device represents the three branches of the Chicago River.
How do Chicago’s symbols compare with other symbols of cities in Illinois? In other American cities? In cities internationally?

Chicago Symbols 1

Chicago Symbols I

Chicago has several important symbols that represent Chicago history and culture. One of the symbols is the Chicago flag. Chosen in 1939, the Chicago flag flies in front of important buildings and in front of schools. You can also see the flag on city vehicles such as police cars. Since the flag conveys information about the city it represents, let’s take a look at what’s on the flag. There are four red stars, which represent four very important historic milestones:

The Battle of Fort Dearborn of 1812. The Fort was built in 1803 here in what was called the Northwest Territory to lay claim to the area for the United States. Soldiers and settlers at Fort Dearborn tried to defend the Fort from Indian attack, but were overcome by the attack and had to flee. The Fort was later rebuilt and more settlers came to the area that would become Chicago in 1837.

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The summer of 1871 was very dry from drought and there were other conditions such as wood frame houses that made Chicago susceptible to the ravages of fire that burned for three days and destroyed most of the city.

World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. In 1893 Chicago held a world’s fair to commemorate the arrival of Columbus in the New World and to show how great Chicago had become and how it grew after the devastating Fire. Millions of people came to Chicago to see all the attractions.

Century of Progress World’s Fair of 1933-34. Chicago hosted another very successful fair commemorating the hundred years since Chicago was incorporated. It was held on the lakefront near where the Museum Campus and Soldier Field are located.

Also part of the flag are the two blue stripes that symbolize the north and south branches of the Chicago River. The three remaining white stripes are for the three sides of the city: north, south, and west sides.

For some more information about Chicago’s flag and how it stacks up to other flags of American cities, take a look at the following article from Chicago Magazine:
http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/The-312/August-2013/Chicago-City-Flag/

Chicago Government and the 2015 Election

HP Blog February 23 15
Chicago Government and the Election

Chicago became a city in 1837 when the legislature of Illinois approved its incorporation. Originally, the charter for the city established that the mayor would be elected by popular vote. It also established a Common Council, which later became what we now call the city council.
The city charter established rules for electing the mayor and the city council, which consisted of 35 wards or geographical areas and 70 aldermen. In 1923, the city was reorganized into 50 wards with the same number of aldermen.
It is important to note that Chicago elections are non-partisan. That means that the officials are elected by popular vote regardless of the political party of the candidate. The winner has to receive a 50% majority of the votes plus one. If this is not achieved, there is a runoff election in April.
In addition to the mayor and aldermen, the election also includes voting for the city clerk and city treasurer. Unlike many cities, Chicago does not elect the school board. They are appointed by the mayor. In this current election of 2015, there is a question on the ballot about whether the school board should be elected.
The mayor has the power and the duty to appoint department heads such as the chief of police and the fire chief. The city council approves these appointments and makes decisions about how money is spent for services for the citizens of Chicago.
Questions for discussion
Why is it important to have a government? What might happen if we did not have government?
Why do you think the elections in Chicago are non-partisan? Why is that good or bad for the city?
Do you think that the school board should be elected or appointed? Why?
If you could vote for mayor of Chicago, who would you vote for and why?
For more information:
Our Chicago—People and Places, Turner, Bernard C.; Highlights of Chicago Press
http://www.highlightsofchicago.com
Encyclopedia of Chicago, Ed. Grossman, Keating and Reiff
http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/532.html

Pullman Historic District Becomes a National Monument

HPBlog 2/15/2015
Pullman Historic District, 111th and Cottage Grove
On February 19, 2015, the Pullman State Historic district will be declared a National Monument by President Barack Obama. This historic neighborhood began as a company town, created by the industrialist entrepreneur, George M. Pullman. Pullman was born in 1831 in Brockton, NY but moved to Albion, just east of Buffalo to assist in the carpentry business. Out of that business working on expanding the Erie Canal, Pullman’s father, Lewis, developed a method of moving and raising buildings. George took over that business and contracted with the State of New York to raise some twenty buildings so that the Canal could be widened.
In the late 1850s Pullman came to Chicago to help with the raising of buildings here. Because of severe flooding and problems with mud, many buildings needed to be raised and a sewer system installed for Chicago’s growth and prosperity. Pullman joined forces with other engineers to further this work.

Pullman’s next project was to convert railroad cars with seats into luxurious sleeping cars for the expanding railroad business, of which Chicago was a major hub. The Palace Car Company was charted in 1867 by Pullman and during the next two decades became the leading producer of sleeping cars. In addition to expanding the business, George Pullman also built a town for the workers, which included housing, a school, a church, a hotel, Hotel Florence, and other amenities making it a self-contained community, Pullman, IL in 1881.
People who travelled in the sleeping cars had to first purchase a ticket from the railroad and a separate ticket for overnight travel in the well-appointed cars. They were attended to by a legion of porters, who were African American, many of whom migrated from the south during the Great Migration. They had to attend to the sleeping berths, handle luggage and provide assistance to the passengers night and day. They were required to work 400 hours per month or 11,000 miles. They were finally able to form the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1925, becoming the first African-American labor union.
Entire blocks of buildings were raised by using huge timbers and screwjacks. The sewer system was also part of the project and was directed by engineer Ellis Chesbrough for the city’s board of Sewage Commissioners in 1856

Although Pullman’s town and industry were apart from the city, they were influenced by the labor unrest that began in the 1880s. Chicago industries were notorious for demanding long hours and providing poor working conditions. There was much unrest and protest to get an eight hour day and better working conditions that came to a climax in the Haymarket riots of 1886. This unrest and demand for better conditions reached Pullman during the recession of 1893-94. Pullman showed that his relationship with his employees was not so benevolent when he lowered the salaries of the workers while not lowering the rents that they had to pay for their lodging or even the prices for goods at the company store. This caused a strike by the workers who were aided by other railway workers’ unions. Eventually, President Grover Cleveland called in federal troops to stop the rioting.
The strike was broken, but Pullman’s reputation was tarnished. In addition, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the town could not exist as a company town in 1898 and Pullman was forced to sell off the homes that were formally annexed into Chicago as did many other townships, in 1889.
Resources for further study:
Pullman State Historic Site http://www.pullman-museum.org/
A Philip Randolph National Pullman Porter Museum http://www.aprpullmanportermuseum.org/index.html
What conditions let up to the labor riots in the 1880s and 1890s? How could the conditions have been changed? Why were the laborers so angry in Chicago and in Pullman?
George Pullman was an entrepreneur and a forward thinker. What evidence can you find that there were contradictions in his actions?
What were the advantages and disadvantages of creating a company town? What other places had company towns? How were they the same and how were they different?
What role did the Pullman cars play in the Great Migration?
What is the difference between a national monument and a national historic site?   raising buildingspullman portershotel florence

Chicago Street Numbering System
Prior to 1909 the present street numbering system was very haphazard and based on the divisions of the city as defined by the Chicago River and the lake shore. The current numbering system was devised by Edward P. Brennan and adopted by the City Council in 1909. The basis of the numbering system was to divide numbers North and South from Madison Street and those East and West from State Street. The changes in the numbering system were implemented in two phases: most addresses outside of the central district were changed in September, 1909, and changes in the central business district took place in April, 1911.
The homeowners had to inform the businesses with which they corresponded of the changes so they sent out postcards. Some of these postcards were humorous and suggested that the “powers that be” saw fit to change the numbering system. However, everyone who had ever tried to get around early Chicago would agree that the new numbering system was very helpful. Because although the 1830 Thompson plat system in place, the numbers ran differently in the three divisions of the city.
One of the other important issues that Brennan championed was the elimination of duplicate street names and resulted in the changing of street names for the sake of consistency. The current practice of giving honorary street names for people who have made a contribution to the city is a way of maintaining the consistency of street names.
Questions:
What is the difference between the designation of street or avenue? Is there any consistency?
What are some of the street names that have been changed over the years?
How does the city council determine the names of the streets?
Who are some of the people who have honorary street names?
How can you tell how far you have traveled based on the street numbers?

Our Chicago–People and Places: People You Should Know

 

 

Our Chicago—People You Should Know

 

Chicago has a large number of people who have made Chicago a great city. Some of the people you will learn about are still living and others lived here in the past. Some of the people are businessmen and politicians, others are community leaders, and still others are artists and musicians.

 

Daniel Hale Williams (1858-1931)

 

An important member of the African-American community in the 1890s, Daniel Hale Williams was one of the best-known physicians in the country. Williams was responsible for creating the first nursing school for African-American women in Chicago and for founding Provident Hospital. This hospital, now under the direction of Cook County Hospital, was the important provider of healthcare services to the African-American community at a time when there were no such facilities in the city. Williams is best known for being the first surgeon to perform open-heart surgery.

 

 

 

Marshall Field (1834-1906)

 

Marshall Field was the founder of the famous Chicago department store that is named for him. Born in Massachusetts in 1834, Field worked his way up in retailing and in 1868, with his partner, Levi Leiter, opened their own department store. Considered one of the world’s great places to shop, Field’s is known for its service and emphasis on customer satisfaction. Marshall Field was also famous for his civic activities and gifts of charity. He, along with George and Philip Danforth Armour, contributed money to Dr. Daniel Hale Williams for the construction of Provident Hospital.

 

Potter Palmer (1826-1902)

 

Palmer came to Chicago from New York with experience operating a dry-goods business. He opened such a store on Lake Street and was very successful. He later sold the store to Field and Leiter and turned to real estate. Palmer is responsible for making State Street the commercial center that it is today. One of the most notable buildings he built on State Street is the Palmer House Hotel, known for its elegance and charm. But in 1871, the hotel and everything else on State Street was destroyed by the Great Fire. Not discouraged, Potter borrowed money and rebuilt State Street and a new, more impressive Hotel. It was also the first fireproof hotel.

 

Ida B. Wells Barnett

 

Ida B. Wells was the most successful and most famous black female journalist in the country in her day. In her newspaper, Free Speech, she detailed the racial injustices that blacks endured in Memphis, Tennessee. After her story appeared describing the lynching of three black prisoners, the mob broke into Wells’ newspaper offices and destroyed the printing equipment and all the copies of the newspaper they could find. Ms. Wells continued to publicize the facts of lynching while working for the New York Age. She led an appeal to President William McKinley for support in fighting this horrible practice. A native of Mississippi, Wells came to Chicago and married a newspaper journalist, Ferdinand Barnett in 1895. They worked together fighting injustice. Wells was one of the original organizers of the national conference out of which grew the N.A.A.C.P (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).

 

Bessie Coleman (1893-1926)

 

The daughter of a Texas sharecropper, Bessie Coleman came to Chicago after finishing high school. In Chicago she trained to become a hair stylist and manicurist, but she developed a fascination for airplanes and flying. She wanted to become a pilot, but because women and especially black women were not allowed to get a license in the U.S. Bessie went to France, where she learned to fly from French Red Cross pilots. She came back to the United States in 1921 and was trying to establish a flight school for blacks. In order to make money, Bessie began touring with air shows as a stunt flyer. Her dream of opening the flight school failed when she died in an air crash. She was the first African-American woman to earn an international pilot’s license.

 

Richard J. Daley (1902-1976)

 

Richard J. Daley ran Chicago as mayor for 21 years, from 1955-1976, longer than any other mayor in Chicago history. Daley was effective because he forged a coalition of working class, middle class, white ethnics and African-Americans. A life-long resident of Bridgeport, Daley attended DePaul University. He worked his way up in politics from precinct captain to clerk in the city council to the state senate. As mayor, Daley initiated many public works projects to improve life in the city, including the construction of O’Hare Airport, the development of the expressway system, and important urban renewal projects in Hyde Park and other neighborhoods. Daley will always be remembered for his tough policies against riots and political demonstrations.

 

 

Margaret Taylor Goss Burroughs

 

Dr. Margaret Burroughs is the principal founder of the DuSable Museum of African-American History. She started the museum in her home and now it is one of the foremost American institutions preserving the culture and history of African-Americans. Dr. Burroughs studied art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She also taught art at DuSable High School for 23 years. She is known the world over for her paintings and also for her writing. In addition to writing children’s books, she has written several books of poetry. The poem “What Shall I Tell My Children Who Are Black?” is read all over the world.

 

 

 

Lorraine Hansberry

 

Born in Chicago in 1930, Ms. Hansberry is the first African American woman to have a play produced on Broadway in New York City. The play, A Raisin in the Sun, is a drama about a poor African-American family that dreamed of a better life. The play won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award in 1959. Later it was made into a film and also into a musical. Ms. Hansberry completed another major drama before her death called The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window in 1964. Ms. Hansberry was deeply committed to the struggle for human rights for African-Americans. She died in 1965.

 

 

 

Studs Terkel

 

Studs Terkel is known as a historian and writer. He writes about people’s lives. Born in Chicago in 1912, Stud’s best-selling books include Hard Times (1970), Working (1974), Race (1992). He won a Pulitzer Prize for The Good War in 1985. For many years he worked as a radio interviewer on a one-hour show for the station WFMT. His latest book, Coming of Age, features 70 people who have lived long lives. They discuss an important time and place in history. In addition to writing and interviewing people, Studs loves music, especially jazz. He worked as a disc jockey playing jazz and folk music for the Chicago listeners.

 

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000)

 

Gwendolyn Brooks was Poet Laureate of Illinois. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1950 for Annie Allen. She was the first African-American writer to win this famous award. She has authored many volumes of poetry, including A Street in Bronzeville, In the Mecca, Blacks, and a novel, Maud Martha. Brooks was named Consultant-in-Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1985-1986 and was the first African-American woman to be so honored. In May 1993, THE GWENDOLYN BROOKS CENTER FOR BLACK LITERATURE AND CULTURE was dedicated at Chicago State University. Brooks was Writer-in-Residence there. Gwendolyn Brooks is seen as one of the preeminent poets of the century. She was an inspiration to many young writers of poetry and to all who had the opportunity to hear her read her poetry.

 

Ramsey Lewis

 

Born in Chicago in 1935, Ramsey began playing piano at a very young age. He refined his talents by playing gospel music. Ramsey is famous for the trio named for him. His first big hit was “The In Crowd”, which reached number 5 in the U.S. music charts, selling over a million copies in 1965. Lewis has won 5 Grammy Awards and has 5 Gold Records. He has also had the great honor to perform at the White House.

 

 

 

 

Harold Washington (1922-1987)

 

During the campaign for mayor in 1982 many people were interested in the promise of government reform promised by Harold Washington. In 1983 he was elected as the first African-American mayor of the City of Chicago. During his term of office the city government was improved in many ways, not the least of which was increased government employment for minorities. Washington earned his law degree at Northwestern University in 1952 and served as a state representative and state senator from 1965-1981. In 1981, Harold was elected to the U.S. Congress. Washington will be remembered as a great Chicago mayor and for his speeches and his humor.

 

Luis Gutierrez

 

Congressman Luis Gutierrez is the first Latino to be elected to Congress from the Midwest. Elected in 1992, he has been an effective legislator and spokesman for the citizens he represents from the Fourth District in Illinois. Congressman Gutierrez has addressed the needs of the Latino community in promoting citizenship for immigrants. He was also instrumental in securing federal funding to reconstruct the aging Douglas Blue Line “L” route, which runs through his district.

 

Mr. Gutierrez was born in Chicago in 1953 and worked as a teacher, social worker, and community activist until his election to the Chicago City Council as alderman of the 26th Ward.

 

Carol Moseley-Braun

 

Carol Moseley-Braun, daughter of a Chicago law-enforcement officer, made history in November, 1992 when she became the first black woman to be elected to the United States Senate. She was the first woman and first African-American woman to hold office in Cook County government. In 1978, Moseley-Braun was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives. She was best known during her tenure in the house and later in the senate as a legislator who could build coalitions consisting of people of all races. After losing her bid for reelection to the Senate, Moseley-Braun became the ambassador to New Zealand.

 

 

Mike Royko

 

Mike Royko was a columnist at the Chicago Tribune. His witty column ran in hundreds of newspapers all over the country. He was known for his outspoken commentary on city and national politics. Another famous writing project was his book about big-city politics under the leadership of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley, called “Boss”. Mike died in April, 1997 at 64. 

 

 

 Can you add names to this list or suggest other famous Chicago people? If so, please comment.