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Monday, April 22, 2013

Visit MSF at the 2013 Chicago Blues Festival
and at the Maxwell Street Market





This Spring, there are two great ways to connect with the Maxwell Street Foundation (MSF), learn about how the MSF works to preserve the heritage of the Maxwell Street neighborhood, and buy some great MSF merchandise.

First, come to the Maxwell Street Market, on Sunday morning, on Des Plaines Street north of Roosevelt Road. It's always a lot of fun. The earlier you get there, the better it is.

And on six Sundays between now and the end of October, you can visit the MSF booth in the Market Office parking lot, on the west side of Des Plaines, just south of Polk St., in spot D-9. We'll be selling t-shirts and all sorts of stuff.

The dates are: May 19, June 30, July 28, August 25, September 29, and October 27. (Except for May, it's the last Sunday of the month.)

The other way to connect with the MSF is at the Chicago Blues Festival, June 7-9, 2013. The MSF will have a booth where you can meet MSF volunteers and board members, learn about Maxwell Street, and share your Maxwell Street stories. And, oh yeah, buy some Maxwell Street merchandise.

If you would like to become part of the MSF, by volunteering at our Market or Blues Fest booth, or in any other way, email us at info@maxwellstreet.org.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

STOP The Dorm, SAVE The Church, SIGN The Petition





Built in 1869 as Chicago’s first German school, the church building at the corner of Liberty and Union is one of the last remnants of Maxwell Street's 19th century heritage. The Newman Center at UIC wants to demolish it and build a five-story, private student housing building on the site.

The neighbors to the south on Emerald Avenue have started a petition to block a zoning change that's needed to permit this high density dormitory-style housing to be built.

They argue that the property is unsuitable for such a use. They further argue that the existing church building is a gem that should be preseved, restored, and repurposed. The church building occupies only part of the lot. The rest can be preserved as green space in a neighborhood that desperately needs some.

The present building was designed by Augustus Bauer, one of Chicago's first professionally-trained architects. He also designed Old St. Patrick's Church, on West Adams Street. Built as a German school, it became a Romanian Synagogue, then a Baptist Church, and finally a community arts center. It is not being used for anything now.

Click here to learn more and sign the petition to stop the dorm. Click here to learn more about the historic building that is there now.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Volunteers Needed for Blues Festival.

The Maxwell Street Foundation (MSF) needs your help at the Chicago Blues Festival

The MSF will be part of the Chicago Blues Festival again this year, June 8-10. Our tent will be at the intersection of Columbus and Jackson. This will be our fifth year as a non-profit Blues Festival sponsor.

Public hours for the Festival are 11:00 am to 9:30 pm. We need volunteers to be in our tent, sell merchandise, hand out literature and answer questions. We need at least two volunteers working the booth at all times during Festival hours. If you don't know anything about Maxwell Street, this is a great way to learn. If you're new don't worry, we'll pair you with an experienced volunteer.

Each shift is three to four hours long. Sign up for as many as you want. The first shift each day involves set-up and the last involves breakdown. If you want to, you can bring along a friend.

Maxwell Street vendor Charlie Joe Henderson will be there selling his wares, and several of our board members, advisory council and friends may sell their own MS/Blues merchandise, but must be responsible for their own merchandise and cash, and must be aware that there may be very little display space (think vertical and bring your own display materials if possible).

Working in the MSF booth during Blues Festival is a lot of fun. People are friendly and you can hear music from all directions.

The shifts are:
Friday, June 8
8:00 am - 10:30 am (set up)
10:30 am - 2:30 pm
2:00 - 6:00 pm
5:30 - 10:30 pm (+breakdown)

Saturday, June 9
8:00 am - 10:30 am (set up)
10:30 am - 2:30 pm
2:00 - 6:00 pm
5:30 - 10:30 pm (+breakdown)

Sunday, June 10
8:00 am - 10:30 am (set up)
10:30 am - 2:30 pm
2:00 - 6:00 pm
5:30 - 10:30 pm (+breakdown)

Want to help? No special training or experience is necessary. To volunteer, email us at info@maxwellstreet.org.

Go to www.chicagobluesfestival.us for more festival information.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Maxwell Street Crusader Bill Lavicka Died April 18





Bill Lavicka passed away Wednesday morning after a long illness. Bill and his late wife were pioneers of Historic Jackson Boulevard and Bill put adaptive reuse into practice himself in all of the buildings he rehabbed and repurposed. He was a former board member of the Maxwell Street Foundation. He was an advisor, friend, and inspiration to us all at the Maxwell Street Foundation, and to everyone interested in the preservation of our built fabric. We all remember Bill's fighting spirit and his get-it-done attitude. We will pass along more information about services when we get it, and about the book he was putting together about his life's work. In the photo above, Bill is flanked by Maxwell Street Foundation board members Janelle Walker (left) and Laura Kamedulski. It was taken in October, 2011, in front of his home.

A remembrance by Steve Balkin, another long-time friend of Maxwell Street: "Bill was a creative and powerful advocate for the thoughtful improvement of Chicago by trying to save its natural and historical environment, especially the old Maxwell Street neighborhood. He was someone who cared and put his skin in the game to get things done. He was a kind friend but a tenacious foe to fight for us."

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, 5/19, at noon, at 2431 W. Roosevelt, Chicago.

Here are links to other obituaries. Chicago Sun Times. Chicago Tribune. The Skyline. Chicago Journal


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Save Gethsemane Missionary Baptist. Community Meeting April 26.





On Thursday, April 26, 7 PM, Please join the Maxwell Street Foundation for a presentation and community meeting about the future of the Gethsemane Missionary Baptist church building in the Maxwell Street neighborhood. The meeting will be held in the Community Room at Powell’s Books, 1218 S. Halsted. Alderman Barcer will be at the meeting. The main topic will be a proposal by the Newman Foundation at UIC to demolish the church and build a student residence on the site.

Built in 1869 as Chicago’s first German school, the church building at the corner of Liberty and Union is one of the last remnants of Maxwell Street's 19th century heritage. For more information, please contact the Maxwell Street Foundation at info@maxwellstreet.org.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

FREE Maxwell Street Walking Tour, April 1, 2012.


The April Maxwell Street Walking Tour is a featured event in the city’s calendar of cultural events celebrating Chicago's 175th birthday year. It will be conducted on Sunday, April 1, 2012, starting at 11 AM (1.5 hours). Meeting location: Maxwell Street cul de sac, one block south of Roosevelt Rd., ½ block west of Halsted.

The tour is free but pre-registration is required at info@maxwellstreet.org. Please include your name and the number in your party.

Maxwell Street was within the new city's boundaries when Chicago was incorporated in 1837. The neighborhood developed rapidly in the 1860s, extending west from the Chicago River. Maxwell Street escaped the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 which burned northeast, sparing its numerous frame dwellings which remained until the 21st century. Most were demolished in the recent redevelopment. Sites along this walking tour will point out extant churches that represent the neighborhood’s ethnic transition; the city’s first German School, and other remnants of the original neighborhood. It will explain the re-installment of historic facades from some early dwellings and discuss the Maxwell Street Market, its entrepreneurs and distinctive foods, its flow of immigrants and migrants, its merchants and vendors, and the development of Chicago Blues music.

Click here for more information about "175 Days to Love Chicago."

More Dates Added.

Maxwell Street tours will be given on the first Sunday of each month through August. The tour begins at 11 AM and lasts 90 minutes. It is free but pre-registration is required at info@maxwellstreet.org. Please include your tour date, name, and the number in your party.

Tour Dates:

May 6, 2012

June 3, 2012

July 1, 2012

August 5, 2012


Friday, April 15, 2011

Volunteers Needed for Blues Festival.

The Maxwell Street Foundation (MSF) needs your help at the Chicago Blues Festival.

The MSF will be part of the Chicago Blues Festival again this year, June 10-12. Our tent will be in the "Blues Village" section on Columbus north of Jackson. This will be our fourth year as a non-profit Blues Festival sponsor.

Public hours for the Festival are 11:00 am to 9:30 pm. We need volunteers to be in our tent, sell merchandise, hand out literature and answer questions. We need at least two volunteers working the booth at all times during Festival hours. If you don't know anything about Maxwell Street, this is a great way to learn. If you're new don't worry, we'll pair you with an experienced volunteer.

Each shift is three to four hours long. Sign up for as many as you want. The first shift each day involves set-up and the last involves breakdown. If you want to, you can bring along a friend.

Working in the MSF booth during Blues Festival is a lot of fun. People are friendly and you can hear all of the music that's being performed on the Main Stage, which is nearby.

The shifts are:
Friday, June 10
8:00 am - 11 am (set up)
10:30 am - 2:30 pm
2:00 - 6:00 pm
5:30 - 10:30 pm (+breakdown)

Saturday, June 11
8:00 am - 11 am (set up)
10:30 am - 2:30 pm
2:00 - 6:00 pm
5:30 - 10:30 pm (+breakdown)

Sunday, June 12
8:00 am - 11 am (set up)
10:30 am - 2:30 pm
2:00 - 6:00 pm
5:30 - 10:30 pm (+breakdown)

Parking Passes. We have a limited number of garage parking passes available for volunteers. The pass is good for the whole day. You can work your shift, spend the rest of the day enjoying the Festival, AND PARK FOR FREE. (Some restrictions may apply.)

Want to help? No special training or experience is necessary. To volunteer, email us at info@maxwellstreet.org.

Go to www.chicagobluesfestival.us for more festival information.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Blues Man John Hammond Remembers Maxwell Street.




(This is a personal posting from your webmaster, Chuck Cowdery)

John Hammond is a blues artist who performed last Sunday night at the Old Town School of Folk Music here in Chicago. He spoke fondly about Maxwell Street during his performance. This John Hammond is the son of John Hammond, the famous record producer. He has been performing for more than 50 years. He talked about coming to Chicago in the early 1960s and going to the folk festival at the University of Chicago, where he met Mike Bloomfield.

They were about the same age (both teenagers then) and naturally Bloomfield took him to Maxwell Street to see Robert Nighthawk and all of the other blues legends who performed there. Hammond sprinkled his performance Sunday night with stories from his long career and talked about Chicago and Maxwell Street at length.

The picture above, by Raeburn Flerlage, shows Bloomfield (left) and an unidentified friend (not Hammond). It was taken in 1960.

Flerlage knew Bloomfield well. Here is how he described this scene: "Once, I saw him at one of the art fairs on the Near North Side. Mike was sitting on the pavement, playing his guitar with a harp around his neck and a tin cup in front of him. Funny to see a rich kid like that busking on the street, but he was imitating his idols, whom he had seen performing for tips on Maxwell Street."

Opening for Hammond on Sunday was Ernie Hawkins. A contemporary of Hammond and Bloomfield, Hawkins learned blues guitar from Reverend Gary Davis. Both artists have enjoyed long careers primarily performing traditional acoustic blues.

Seeing Hammond and Hawkins, and remembering Bloomfield, reminded me that Maxwell Street was vitally important in the transmission of blues to people who were neither Southern nor African-American, such as those three performers. In many ways, Maxwell Street was the bridge between the blues originators and the wider culture.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Area Libraries and Community Centers Host Maxwell
Street Blues Man Larry Taylor for Black History Month.


Beginning January 29 and continuing through March 8, Maxwell Street Blues Man Larry Taylor and co-author Bonnie McKeown will perform and discuss Taylor’s autobiography, Stepson of the Blues: A Chicago Song of Survival, at 19 different public libraries and community centers in and around Chicago. Go here for the complete appearances schedule.

Larry Hill Taylor, age 5, watched a drummer play on Maxwell Street, went home, and fixed up his own drum set out of cardboard boxes, pots and pans. Taylor spent 30 years on stage, drumming, singing, and leading a band. He learned the blues from his musical elders, how they used music to change hard times into good times. Now in his mid-50s, Larry Taylor has survived the blues life; abuse, conflict, gangs, prison, drugs, and the streets.

Singer Vera Taylor, Larry's mother, and guitarist Eddie Taylor, his stepfather, came to Chicago from Mississippi during the Great Migration. Eddie Taylor is best known for his work with Jimmy Reed. He also performed with Big Walter Horton, John Lee Hooker, and others. Vera Taylor was the niece of bluesmen Eddie "Guitar" Burns and Jimmy Burns.

For more information contact Bonni McKeown at 773-209-4712, or bonni@barrelhousebonni.com, or visit stepsonoftheblues.com


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Maxwell Street Blues Bus Returns to Maxwell Street Market!.


Don’t miss the down home feel of the one-of-a-kind Maxwell Street Blues Bus appearing at the Maxwell Street Market on Labor Day weekend, Sunday, September 5th. John Johnson sold Blues music from this bus for years at the historic market and it became an icon of the market. The bus represents commerce that began before Chicago was a city with Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable’s trading post through to the economic opportunity fostered at the Maxwell Street Market, “where the only color that matters is green.” The bus also represents social change with the philosophy that music and art can break down differences between people of different backgrounds. The Maxwell Street Market has always been a place where Chicago’s racial and ethnic groups have come together.

Take a photo of the bus, and see Elder John Johnson, his wife Marie, and members of the Maxwell Street Foundation restoring the bus’s artwork while you shop at the market and listen to Blues music by Chainsaw DuPont & the Blues Warriors. The bus will be there all day and the Johnsons will be there from 11 am to 3 pm.

The Maxwell Street Market is open 7 am to 3 pm every Sunday and is located at Desplaines Street and Roosevelt Road (640 W. Roosevelt Road). For more information call 312-745-4676.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Jack Jaffe Dies. Photographer, Businessman, Friend of Maxwell Street.

Jack Jaffe was a member of the Maxwell Street Foundation Advisory Board. He died of lymphoma last Thursday, July 22, in his Chicago home. He was 82. Jaffee was one of the creators of The Maxwell Street Collection, a museum-quality portfolio of photographs of the Maxwell Street neighborhood. He also contributed a photograph to the collection.

His Chicago Tribune obituary is below.

Photographer documented Chicago, fostered photography

South Shore native created museum exhibit 'Changing Chicago' and the Focus-Infinity Fund with money from Car-X auto repair business.

By Trevor Jensen, Tribune reporter

Jack Jaffe built a successful career in the car repair business while pursuing his interest in photography.

Through the years, Mr. Jaffe's camera recorded the civil rights movement, Maxwell Street musicians and Montana's big skies. He exhibited widely and has photographs in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.

After he sold his Car-X muffler and repair business in the mid-1980s, he devoted his full attention to photography. With proceeds from the sale, he started a foundation that supported the medium and produced a major photographic documentary about life in the city called "Changing Chicago."

Mr. Jaffe, 82, died of lymphoma Thursday, July 22, in his Chicago home, said Burton Rissman, a longtime friend.

Mr. Jaffe's biography at jjaffe.com begins, "From 1955 to 1984, I was a businessman."

His brother-in-law, Gordon Sherman, created the Midas muffler shop chain, and Mr. Jaffe joined the company a few years after graduating from college. The business blossomed, but Sherman had a proxy fight with his father over control of Midas around 1970.

Mr. Jaffe, who had sided with his brother-in-law, then started Car-X Service Systems, which like Midas franchised muffler and auto repair shops. He sold the business to Tenneco in 1984, financially secure and able to devote full attention to photography.

He was socially progressive throughout his life, and his interest in photography took hold in the early 1960s. In his biography, he wrote, "I was intrigued by the idea that an art form could also make social comment."

Inspired by the photographers who documented life in America like Walker Evans and Dorothea Lang, he took a journalistic approach and shot for magazines including Life, Look and the Saturday Evening Post in the late 1960s.

He documented the election of Gary's first African-American mayor, Richard Hatcher, in 1968, and the same year photographed Bobby Kennedy on a presidential campaign swing through Indiana.

After selling Car-X, he started the Focus-Infinity Fund. The fund took the cue for its mission from the Farm Security Administration, which sent Lange, Evans and others out to capture the Depression's effects on rural America.

With Focus-Infinity backing, 33 photographers spent two years producing photo essays on all aspects of life in Chicago. The resulting 650 prints comprised "Changing Chicago," which went on exhibit at five city museums in 1989.

"It helped get recognition to a whole body of Chicago photographers," said Stephen Daiter, whose self-named River North gallery has showcased Mr. Jaffe's work.

Focus-Infinity also underwrote several books of photography, contributed to the Museum of Contemporary Photography and the Art Institute's photography department, and even paid for the framing of photographs for an exhibit staged by a friend of Mr. Jaffe's.

Raised in the South Shore neighborhood, Mr. Jaffe drew cartoons as a boy. In a display of the chutzpah that carried him throughout life, he marched down to Tribune Tower with his portfolio to show it to one of the newspaper's cartoonists, said his wife, Naomi Stern. He got a meeting and was encouraged to keep working.

After graduating from Hyde Park High School, he studied journalism toward his undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. According to a story he told for years afterward, he hosted a group of folk singers including Pete Seeger, Brownie McGhee and Leadbelly in his fraternity house room one night because local hotels discriminated against blacks, his family said.

Most of his early work was black-and-white photography and depicted urban settings. After getting a second home in Montana, Mr. Jaffe took to shooting sweeping Western landscapes.

In remarks on Mr. Jaffe's death written for the Stephen Daiter Gallery, David Travis, former chairman of the photography department at the Art Institute, noted that he once placed Mr. Jaffe's work near photographs by renowned French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson for an exhibit.

"It was not my playing favorites for a man I admired, but because his work improved the show substantially and made the case as well as any of the other famous photographic greats displayed on its walls," Travis wrote.

Mr. Jaffe, whose first marriage ended in divorce, is also survived by three daughters, Hillery Jaffe-Urell, Jill Dunsmore and Sue; and four grandchildren.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Volunteers Needed for Blues Festival.

The Maxwell Street Foundation (MSF) needs your help at the Chicago Blues Festival.

The MSF will be part of the Chicago Blues Festival again this year, June 11-13. Our booth will be in the "Maxwell Street Corner" section with the historic Maxwell Street Blues Bus, on Columbus north of Jackson. This will be our third straight year as a non-profit Blues Festival sponsor.

We need volunteers to be in our booth, sell merchandise, hand out literature and answer questions. We need at least two volunteers working the booth at all times during Festival hours. If you don't know anything about Maxwell Street, this is a great way to learn. If you're new don't worry, we'll pair you with an experienced volunteer.

Each shift is four hours long. You may work one day (Friday, Saturday, or Sunday) or all three. The first shifts involve set-up and the last shifts involve breakdown. If you want to, you can bring along a friend.

Working in the MSF booth during Blues Festival is a lot of fun. People are friendly and you can hear all of the music that's being performed on the Main Stage, which is nearby. We're hoping to have live music by the booth too.

The shifts are:
Friday, June 11
10:30 am - 2:30 pm
2:00 - 6:00 pm
5:30 - 9:30 pm

Saturday, June 12
10:30 am - 2:30 pm
2:00 - 6:00 pm
5:30 - 9:30 pm

Sunday, June 13
10:30 am - 2:30 pm
2:00 - 6:00 pm
5:30 - 9:30 pm

Parking Passes. We have a limited number of garage parking passes available for volunteers. The pass is good for the whole day. You can work your shift, spend the rest of the day enjoying the Festival, AND PARK FOR FREE. (Some restrictions may apply.)

Want to help? No special training or experience is necessary. To volunteer, email us at info@maxwellstreet.org.

Go to www.chicagobluesfestival.us for more festival information.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Celebrate Chicago Blues with the New MSF T-Shirt and Poster.

You saw them at the Chicago Blues Festival. If you missed your chance to buy them there, get them here, online, directly from the Maxwell Street Foundation (MSF). Click here for pictures and ordering information.

Proceeds from sales support the mission of the Maxwell Street Foundation to preserve the rich heritage of Maxwell Street.

Both the t-shirt and poster feature the theme: "Maxwell Street, Birthplace of the Chicago Blues." The t-shirt depicts the historic Maxwell Street Blues Bus on the front and a roll call of great Maxwell Street blues artists on the back. Black with silver imprint, 100% cotton, sizes: S, M, L, XL, 2XL, 3XL, 4XL.

The poster is a big three feet (36") high and two feet (24") wide, printed on heavy stock in black duo-tone. These flat (i.e., rolled) posters were made for display purposes at the Chicago Blues Festival and only a very small number are available for sale.

The poster shows the Maxwell Street Market as it looked in 1954. Floating above the street scene are four Maxwell Street originals (from left); Jim Brewer, Jimmie Lee Robinson, Arvella Gray and Little Walter Jacobs.

T-shirts are $23.50 each. Posters are $13.25 each. Price includes shipping and handling in the USA.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bill Adelman, Friend of Maxwell Street, Dies at Age 77.

William J. Adelman of Oak Park, Illinois, passed away on September 15. He was 77. Adelman was a long-time supporter of the Maxwell Street preservation cause and was a member of the Board of Directors of the Maxwell Street Foundation at the time of his death.

William Adelman was a faculty member in the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations at the University of Illinois for 25 years, becoming professor emeritus in 1991. He was a founding member and vice president of the Illinois Labor History Society, the oldest such organization in the United States. He published books on the Haymarket Riots, and on the Pullman, Pilsen, and West Side neighborhoods. He was a former chairperson of the Jane Addams Hull-House Advisory Committee. In retirement, Adelman continued to make public presentations on the cultural contributions of various ethnic groups to our pluralistic society.

Adelman was the beloved life partner of David Staley and spouse of Nora Jill Adelman; loving father of Michelle, Marguerite (Robert Ackland), Michael, Marc (Trish) and Jessica Adelman; cherished grandfather of Jon, Ben, Jeffrey, Elinora and Gwendolen; dear brother of Sandra (John) Walsh; dear uncle of John (Melissa), Timothy (Michelle) and Karen (Robert).

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations to the Illinois Labor History Society or the Miller, Cook & Wood Theater Scholarship at OPRF High School are appreciated.


Thursday, April 9, 2009

MSF to Participate in 2009 Chicago Blues Festival
and Blues Month Activities.

A famous Maxwell Street artifact, the historic Blues Bus, will be featured at this year's Chicago Blues Festival, from Friday, June 12, 2009, thru Sunday, June 14, 2009 at Chicago's Grant Park. Admission is free.

Chicago's official "Blues Season" begins one month before the festival itself, with special blues events scheduled throughout the city. The MSF's contribution is a guided walking tour of the Maxwell Street neighborhood. Tours will be given on the first four Saturdays in May (May 2, 9, 16, & 23), from noon to 1:00 PM, rain or shine (bring an umbrella). The tour is free and led by a MSF board member. Reservations are recommended. To reserve your place, email us at info@maxwellstreet.org. Be sure to include the date you want to come and the number of people in your group.

The one-hour tour will explore the one and one-half remaining blocks of Maxwell Street, and the history of its reconstructed facades and other features. The tour will help you visualize how the area looked when the 20th century Maxwell Street Market took place on the street and blues musicians performed in the open air for a diverse mix of shoppers and vendors. Tours begin at the cul-de-sac on Maxwell Street, ½ block west of Halsted St.

During the Chicago Blues Festival itself, visitors to can see the historic Maxwell Street Blues Bus and learn about Maxwell's Street's important role in the development of Chicago Electric Blues and Rock'n'Roll. A FREE Maxwell Street Blues booklet (with fold-out poster) will be given away.

Want to help? Sign-up to help us run the booth. No special training or experience is necessary. To volunteer, email us at info@maxwellstreet.org.

Go to www.chicagobluesfestival.us for more festival information.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

New Maxwell Street Book Published.

At Maxwell Street is a new book by Tom Palazollo. It is a compilation of stories and photographs of the Maxwell Street neighborhood and market. The publisher is Wicker Park Press Ltd,.

Palazollo is retired from teaching in the Film Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He started taking photographs around Maxwell Street in the 1960s. The photos included in the book are by him, his wife Marcia, and fellow photographer Bernie Beckman. The foreward was written by Maxwell Street Foundation President Lori Grove.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Community Meeting Squashes Free Speech,
Attempts to Deny Maxwell Street Market a Voice.

By Steve Balkin, Professor of Economics, Roosevelt University, Email: sbalkin@roosevelt.edu

(Editor's Note: Steve Balkin is one of the founders of the Maxwell Street Foundation and a long-time stalwart in the fight to preserve both the Maxwell Street Market and the original Maxwell Street neighborhood.)

West Loop resident, developer, preservationist, and civic booster Bill Lavicka invited me to attend the joint 2nd and 27th Wards Community Meeting of Alderman Robert Fioretti and Walter Burnett, hosted by the West Loop Community Organization at Merit School of Music. The meeting took place on Tuesday evening, November 25, 2008.

Since the New Maxwell Street Market is in Alderman Fioretti's Ward and Alderman Walter Burnett was the one of the ones who strongly pushed for the Maxwell Street ordinance to drastically raise vendor fees, I came there to raise the issue to them to ask they rescind the fee increases. This is the wrong tax on the wrong people at the wrong time. Also in attendance with similar views was Bill Lavicka, a shopper and cultural historian of the market; Merlin McFarland, a vendor and Viet Nam Veteran known as the Mayor of Maxwell Street; and Clarence Lil Scotty Scott, a Maxwell Street Blues legend and singer denied access to perform in the Market by overly restrictive rules. Lil Scotty has had brain surgery and speaks with a tracheotomy tube, though miraculously he can still sing.

I brought copies of comments on the fee increase, from the Chicago Sun Times webpage in their article: "Higher vendor fees could 'finish off' Maxwell Street" by reporter Mary Houlihan. Bill Lavicka and I quietly tried to pass out this sheet in the meeting, counting the number in each row and just giving them to the first person in each row. We then were told NOT to pass out information in the public meeting and was threatened to be forcibly removed from the room. Since when is it a crime to quietly pass out information at a public meeting pertaining to an issue to be raised at the meeting?

When there was a questions period, Bill raised his hand to speak. The chair of the meeting, Eric Sedler, President of the West Loop Community Organization then started a verbal fight with Bill Lavicka trying to deny him the right to speak. Through the intervention of Alderman Fioretti, Bill was finally allowed to speak. Merlin McFarland and Lil Scotty wanted to speak too, but were passed up. Finally Merlin got up and demanded to speak to the extreme consternation of Chairman Sedler. Lil Scotty never got to speak. I was shocked at the strong arm tactics of the host, West Loop Community Organization. So were attendees at the meeting. A resident of the area commented to us that the city likes to pick on those with the weakest voice, the weakest clout, and the weakest resources. I thought the Maxwell Street fight was over but the city and real estate developer-backed organizations seem intent to not just relocate Maxwell Street but to kill it off with mismanagement and high vendor fee increases.

If I would have had a chance to speak I would have said that the government is ready to bail out AIG and Citibank but what about Citi-Soul, the New Maxwell Street Market, a weekly public grassroots community celebration for all classes and all races, a positive human relations get-down for all of Chicago -- those are linkages too. The poor minority, new immigrant, and working class vendors pay for themselves with the 5000% fee increase from the time they were moved from Maxwell and Halsted. The market is NOT in debt or deficit. They are not looking for handouts. There are more creative ways to raise money for the city than on the backs of the "least among us." This new fee increase diminishes Chicago ethically and culturally.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Vendors Object to Vehicle Policy at
the Maxwell Street Market's New Location.

The Maxwell Street Market made its long-awaited move to Desplaines Street, north of Roosevelt, on September 14 and market vendors continue to be unhappy with some of the arrangements at the new site. Specifically, they want to be able to keep their vehicles at their spaces, which was permitted at the Canal Street location and previously at the original Maxwell Street location. They are concerned about security for their vehicles wherever they are parked, concerned about the security of their merchandise when they go to and from their vehicles, and concerned about their personal safety when they go to and from their vehicles, especially at the end of the day when they are carrying the income from that day's sales. We spoke with a merchant who told us that having their vehicle at their space is essential for many vendors, especially those who work alone. In addition to transportation, the vehicle serves as a warehouse and provides both personal security and protection from the elements.

The City has designated a parking area where only vendors may park, but our source tells us many vendor vehicles have been towed, despite having and displaying the necessary permit.

The Maxwell Street Foundation has advocated a governance structure for the market that would give vendors a greater voice in market policies.

If you are a vendor at the market and would like to voice your objections to any aspect of the new location, you may post your comments directly to our guestbook. To post a comment click here. To read what others have posted, click here. You may also send an email to info@maxwellstreet.org and we will do what we can to publicize your concerns.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Maxwell Street Market Moves to
New, Permanent Location.

This Sunday will be the Maxwell Street Market's third weekend on Desplaines Street, north of Roosevelt, extending also east and west onto Polk Street.

In recent years, the market has become renowned for its wide variety of unusual prepared foods. Click here for a map of the new site, which highlights and describes the prepared food vendors (from Time Out Chicago). The food fair aspect of the market has long been championed by posters on the web site LTHForum. You can find a recent article about the market, with another link to the map, on Examiner Chicago here.

The previous location on Canal Street was the market's home for 14 years. Before that it was on Maxwell Street itself. The last epicenter there was at Halsted and Maxwell, but that too had changed many times in the market's 120 year history.

The move to Desplaines Street came almost a full year later than planned. There were many reasons for the delay, including a hold up in the acquisition of a parcel of land from the Illinois Department of Transportation. That lot is where the market's fixed facilities, including offices and rest rooms, are located. That hiccup delayed other necessary infrastructure improvements such as new curbs and gutters.

When the first postponement was announced last September, the city assured everyone that the market would continue on Canal Street until the new location was ready and it would not be interrupted nor split between two locations. That promise was kept.

According to the city, the new site has better parking facilities, in a UIC lot with a 1,100 vehicle capacity. The official "center" of the market is the intersection of Desplaines and Taylor. Through traffic continues on Taylor while the market is operating but all other intervening cross streets are closed. There are 525 vendor spaces plus performance spaces for musicians. If the market is successful and there is sufficient demand for more spaces, the market may expand onto Jefferson Street, which is one block east. Nothing has been stated officially about that possibility.

The city has, however, referred to the new location as permanent. Nothing is forever, of course, but there was pressure on the Canal Street location almost from the beginning, as the neighborhood around it began to develop. There is no such threat on the horizon at the new location. Its western boundary is the expressway and most of the buildings to its east house established businesses that don't generally operate on weekends.

Many of the merchants have been anxious about the move. They are especially unhappy about vehicular access to booth spaces. At Canal Street, many vendors were able to keep their vehicles at or very near their booths, which is not permitted on Deplaines. Despite this and other concerns, the vendors are willing to give it a chance and they hope the move makes the market more successful.

In June of 2007, the Maxwell Street Foundation (MSF) released the results of a study it commissioned to document the social and economic impact of the market. The study was conducted by Alfonso Morales, Ph.D., a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin and a former Maxwell Street Market vendor. Dr. Morales interviewed Maxwell Street Market vendors, and studied other big city public markets to understand their governance structures. The report highlights the positive social and economic effects of the market and concludes that by continuing to stimulate entrepreneurship and nurture new businesses, the Maxwell Street Market holds the power to positively transform the neighborhood in which it is located. The MSF is committed to helping the Maxwell Street Market remain a permanent, open-air market in the heart of Chicago.

The report, "New Maxwell Street Market, Its Present and Future," can be downloaded here. If you need the Adobe Acrobat viewer (to read PDF files), click here.

The market operates every Sunday, all year, from early morning to mid-afternoon.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Chicago Journal Profiles MSF in Annual Community Guide.

The Chicago Journal is a newspaper and web site that primarily covers Chicago's Near West Side, which includes the Maxwell Street neighborhood. There is a profile of the Maxwell Street Foundation (MSF) in their 2008 Community Guide. You can read it here. (It's a PDF file.)


Friday, May 23, 2008

Maxwell Street Building Is One of Chicago's
Last Pre-Fire Structures, New Report Says.

The two-story brick building at 1352 South Union Street in Chicago's Maxwell Street district stands, somewhat forlornly now, as one of the last remnants of a bustling neighborhood that was destroyed by urban renewal in the latter half of the twentieth century. It was built as a German School, next a Roumanian synagogue, then an African-American church, and finally, an arts and performance space called South Union Arts. It may be the only non-commercial building left standing to represent Maxwell Street's long cultural heyday as a point of entry for new groups immigrating to Chicago.

The building's cornerstone was laid on August 23, 1869, more than two years before the Great Chicago Fire, which started just a few blocks away but burned in the opposite direction, sparing the Maxwell Street neighborhood.

These are some of the findings in a new report prepared by Nicola Spasoff, Ph.D., an architectural historian, that is being released today by the Maxwell Street Foundation, which commissioned it.

The building was designed by Augustus Bauer who was, in the decades before the fire, one of Chicago's few professionally-trained architects. He also designed Old St. Patrick's Church, on West Adams Street, which is still standing as well. It is perhaps best remembered as Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church (1935-2002).

Dr. Spasoff concludes her report as follows:

"Nowadays, 1352 is not very attractive to look at. It is rather down-at-heel, and its surroundings make it look even more so. But it is a historically significant building, and it retains considerable physical integrity. It has significance in its original form, designed as it was by a prominent architect from among the first generation of formally-trained architects in this city, and operating as the first German school to serve a large and thriving German population. Although we often look for historically-significant buildings to be as little changed as possible, here the changes convey even more significance to the building. As Maxwell Street changed, so this building was altered to suit its new users. But when Maxwell Street was swept away, this building remained intact. An appropriate contemporary use would see it taking on a community function that makes it important in the lives of the new people who are finding their homes here just as it was to the old. It seems unlikely to become a place of worship again, so some more secular use must probably be found. Perhaps it could become an arts space associated with the university. Perhaps it could become a day care center for the many young, professional residents living adjacent to it, with a playground in the now-vacant lot to the north. Something that could continue to provide in some way for the social or spiritual needs of residents would seem most suitable. Whichever way it happens, it is important that this building survive as a place where people can meet and talk, and perhaps remember the streets echoing with the voices of the distant generations of new Chicagoans who made their homes in this place."

Based on the important findings in this new report, the Maxwell Street Foundation appeals to the building's owner and to the City of Chicago to see that this important landmark is protected and preserved.

To view or download the illustrated, 12-page report in PDF format, click here. If you need the free Adobe Reader for viewing PDF files, click here.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Maxwell Street To Be Featured At
25th Annual Chicago Blues Festival.

A famous Maxwell Street artifact, the historic Blues Bus, will be featured at this year's 25th Annual Chicago Blues Festival, from Thursday, June 5, 2008, thru Sunday, June 8, 2008 at Chicago's Grant Park. Admission is free.

Chicago's official "Blues Season" begins one month before the festival itself, with special blues events scheduled throughout the city. On May 24, 2008, from 1-5 PM, the MSF is sponsoring the Blues Season Maxwell Street Film Series in the Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St. Admission is free. Go here for more information.

Visitors to the Chicago Blues Festival can see the historic Blues Bus at the Maxwell Street Foundation (MSF) booth, where they can learn about Maxwell's Street's important role in the development of Chicago Electric Blues and Rock'n'Roll. Free Maxwell Street Blues posters will be available. The MSF booth will be in the southeast corner of the festival grounds, near Buckingham Fountain. Look for the blue school bus.

If you have personal memories of Maxwell Street, come visit the booth and help us explain Maxwell Street's importance. No need to schedule anything. Just come and hang-out with us!

On Saturday, June 7, 2008, from 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM, a "Stories from Maxwell Street" panel discussion will be held at the Rt. 66 Stage in Grant Park, at the intersection of Jackson and Columbus. Admission is free. Panel members are:

John Johnson operated the Blues Bus, selling Blues recordings at the Maxwell Street Market for decades.

Ira Berkow authored the 1977 book, Maxwell Street: Survival in a Bazaar. which described Blues musicians "Hound Dog” Taylor, "Blind" Arvella Gray, Muddy Waters, "Pork Chop" Hines, and "Maxwell Street" Jimmy Davis.

Barry Dolins has run the Chicago Blues Festival practically since its 1984 inception and worked as a youth in a drugstore at the Market as Blues musicians performed nearby, drawing on the store’s electricity for their amplified sound.

Marc PoKempner photographed Blues musicians on Maxwell Street since the early 1970s as a photojournalist.

Go to www.chicagobluesfestival.us for more festival information.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

UIC Doesn't Even Know Where Maxwell Street Is.




Thanks to Michael J. Schmitt of FoundChicago for passing us this picture. It is taken from the UIC Calendar for 2008 and also appears on the cover of the UIC Staff Directory. The caption reads "Roosevelt Road and Maxwell Street, Chicago, 1906".

For such a short caption, it manages to be wrong twice. First of all, Roosevelt and Maxwell run in the same direction (east-west) so they never intersect. Second, in 1906 Roosevelt Road had a different name. It was known as 12th Street.

So what is actually pictured here? Michael points to the sign on the store to the left: Phillipson, as in the Joseph Phillipson Department store, which was located on the northeast corner of Halsted and 12th Street. The store was sold in 1909 after the owner's death and renamed The 12th Street Store.

The caption should read, "Looking east on 12th Street at Halsted, 1906." Also correct and perhaps more in keeping with UIC's purposes, would be "The Maxwell Street neighborhood, Chicago, 1906." Although less specific, it has the advantage over the original of at least being true.

If you consider the caption as including its extension in the picture to the right, it's wrong three times. The two "today" pictures on the right are both of Halsted Street.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Market May Not Move Until 2008.

The Maxwell Street Foundation has received more information about the relocation of the Maxwell Street Market. The information comes from Bill McCaffrey, Director of Public Affairs for the city's Department of Consumer Services (DCS), which oversees the Market. McCaffrey says that the earliest the market will move is November and there is a very good chance it won't be until March of 2008.

There are many reasons for the delay, including the acquisition of a parcel of property from the Illinois Department of Transportation. That is where the market's fixed facilities, including offices and rest rooms, will be built. Because the city hasn't been able to finalize that acquisition yet, other necessary infrastructure improvements such as new curbs and gutters have been postponed. Green space and landscaping also has been promised for the new site on Desplaines Street, north of Roosevelt Road.

McCaffrey assures us that the market will simply continue at its current location until the new location is ready. It will not be interrupted nor split between two locations. The market operates every Sunday from early morning to mid-afternoon.

We learned that the new location will have better parking facilities, in a UIC lot with a 1,100 vehicle capacity. The official "center" of the market will be the intersection of Desplaines and Taylor. Through traffic will continue on Taylor. All other cross streets will be closed while the market is in operation. There will be 525 vendor spaces plus performance spaces for musicians.


Thursday, September 6, 2007

New Market Relocation Delayed.

In September of 2005, Chicago City Council approved the relocation of the Maxwell Street Market from its current home on Canal Street to a new "permanent home" on Desplaines Street, north of Roosevelt. The move was scheduled for mid-September, 2007. Earlier this year, we confirmed with Bill McCaffrey, Director of Public Affairs for the city's Department of Consumer Services (DCS), which oversees the Market, that the relocation was on schedule for mid-September. As it is now the beginning of September, and nothing is in the wind about an imminent move, we went back to Mr. McCaffrey and made inquiries. In an email to Maxwell Street Foundation President Lori Grove, Mr. McCaffrey reported that, "The market is not moving in mid-September and is likely to move in November." As we learn more, we'll report it here.

According to the DCS when it announced the plan, the new location will allow more vendor spots to be added, permit a re-organized and improved layout, and expand the market by as much as 15 percent. The new Desplaines Street location is supposed to receive infrastructure repairs and improvements, including curb and sidewalk repairs and landscaping, in advance of the move, but a recent visit to the area revealed no such activity underway. Among the infrastructure envisioned by DCS was a permanently affixed gateway, which would "celebrate the market and its future, and commemorate its past," according to a DCS press release.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Florence Scala: 1918 - 2007

Before the struggle to save the Maxwell Street neighborhood there was the fight over the adjacent Italian neighborhood, destroyed in the 1960s to make way for the original UIC Circle Campus. Also lost at that time was Hull House, one of the neighborhood's most important institutions and an historic landmark of the settlement house movement it started. Like the Maxwell Street struggle, that earlier event showcased the worst kind of government duplicity and corruption. One of the most memorable and inspiring leaders in the unsuccessful effort to preserve the neighborhood was Florence Scala.

Scala, 88, died of colon cancer early Tuesday, Aug. 28, in the same Taylor Street apartment where she grew up the daughter of an Italian tailor.

Scala tells the story in her own words in Carolyn Eastwood's superb book, Near West Side Stories: Struggles for Community in Chicago's Maxwell Street Neighborhood (2002).


Monday, August 20, 2007

Piano C. Red Is Coming Back to
Maxwell Street After Shooting Injury

For more than 40 years, Piano C. Red worked as a Chicago cab driver by day and blues piano player by night. The title tune on his 1999 CD release was "Cab Driving Man." But his keyboard and song have rarely been heard since March 23, 2006, when he was shot and paralyzed during a robbery at a South Side gas station.

Until this Sunday, August 26.

A patient in the Glencrest Nursing Home, Piano C. Red plans his comeback debut for Sunday Aug. 26, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Junior’s Sports Bar, located on one of his old haunts, Maxwell Street.

Red's show will wind up a six-week summer Sunday Blues Brunch series at Junior’s, sponsored by the Maxwell Street Foundation.

James "Piano C. Red" Wheeler was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1933. He began to play piano professionally in Atlanta at age 16. He was dubbed "Piano Red," after the red suit he always wore on stage. The "C" (for Cecil, his middle name) was added to distinguish him from another Georgia boogie woogie player called Piano Red. Red has lived in Chicago since 1959. He performed with the legendary Count Basie Band at the High Chaparral in Chicago and appeared nightly at Joe Chamble's Club on 47th Street. Over the years, Piano C. Red has performed and recorded with many blues legends, including Muddy Waters, BB King, Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, Little Walter, Junior Wells, Elmore James, Eddie Taylor, Jimmy Rogers, Jimmie Lee Robinson, Hound Dog Taylor and Sonny Boy Williamson.

With many of those legends, and later with his own Flat Foot Boogie Band, Red was a regular on the Maxwell Street Market blues scene.

Piano C. Red has been active in efforts to preserve the Maxwell Street Market and its longstanding role in the blues community. When the street was redeveloped beginning in 2001, despite protests, Red and his friends continued to play at the new market on Canal Street as well as in the old neighborhood.

Red's former employer, Chicago Carriage Cab Co., and its owner, Simon Garber, have helped him with transportation since his injury. While it's definitely no fun to have his legs paralyzed, Red declares, "There's people a lot worse off than me. At least I can talk and sing and use my arms."

CONTACTS: Bonni McKeown, Maxwell St. Foundation, 773-209-4712; Jen Gordon, PR for Junior's; Piano C. Red, 773-310-5244; on behalf of Chicago Carriage Cab, June Rosner also keeps up with Red, Rosner Public Relations, 312-664-6100.


Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Jumpin’ Willie Cobbs, Chicago Blues Singer, Dies At 74.

Chicago West Side blues singer “Jumping” Willie Cobbs, 74, died on Thursday, June 21, 2007, and was buried on Saturday, June 30, from the House of Branch Funeral home, 3125 W. Roosevelt Rd. This obituary was compiled by Bonni McKeown and Larry Taylor (773-209-4712).

Born in Monroe, Arkansas May 26, 1933, one of 13 children, Mr. Cobbs worked in farming until moving to Chicago in the late 1950s. He operated his own tire shop, J.W. Tire Repair, at 3515 W. Madison on the West side of Chicago.

Known for an energetic, raw, rhythmic style of singing and jumping and running in place on stage, Mr. Cobbs said he was a cousin to another blues performer, the harmonica-playing Willie Cobbs. Jumping Willie frequently played at the former Starlight neighborhood club at 5th and Pulaski, and occasionally appeared at the former Vila Kula on the North side, at Lilly’s on Lincoln, and at Rosa’s Lounge on Armitage. Prof. Steve Balkin of Roosevelt University also recalled that Cobbs sang on the Maxwell Street bandstand during the protests against the destruction of the old storefronts at the site of the historic open air market.

Jumping Willie was married to Annie Clark-Cobbs and they had two children, Gloria Cobbs-Hammed and Michelle Cobbs. His other children are Laura Johnson, Ernest Lee Sanders, and Willie Jr. He leaves seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Jumping Willie Cobbs suffered a stroke in late April and spent his last two months in Woodbine Nursing Home. His daughter, Gloria, says that he spent his last days “laughing, cursing, and preaching, teaching and telling old stories of his life. Willie liked telling jokes and talking about no-good peoples in his life, but most of all he enjoyed watching his favorite movies Desperado and Bruce Lee, every day and night until he fell asleep.”

She wrote that her dad “had a lot of energy that would amaze you, if you ever knew or went to any of his show performances. Jumpin’ Willie Cobbs and the Fireballs was a show to see and remember.”

Larry Taylor, one of the musicians who played drums and sang with Jumpin Willie, said he looked up to Cobbs as a leader in the West Side blues tradition. Taylor plans to ask Barry Dolins at the Mayor’s Office of Special Events to honor Cobbs’ name in a proposed West Side revue for next year’s Chicago Blues Festival. Cobbs’ daughter Gloria said that after he became ill, her father had a chance one day to go back to J.W. Tire Repair, wait on customers, teach his grandson some things about the family business, and talk and joke with friends. “Willie was an entrepreneur, and a proud black businessman, who loved making his own money and being able to help other people. He enjoyed meeting good people along the way.” Gloria said she would ask her dad , “Where did you get those blue eyes and dimples and you’re a black man? He’d just laugh and say, ‘I am a funny looking man.’” She added, “Willie was a person you would have never forgotten, once you met and talked to him. A very outspoken person, lovable and humble, forgiving and strong human being. Who loved to talk a lot of stuff.”


Friday, June 15, 2007

Imminent Relocation Of New Maxwell Street Market
Makes Now Ideal Time To Develop Long-Term
Strategy For Market's Success, Report Says.

The Maxwell Street Foundation (MSF) is committed to helping the New Maxwell Street Market remain a permanent, open-air market in the heart of Chicago.

In 2005, the MSF commissioned Alfonso Morales, Ph.D., a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin and a former Maxwell Street Market vendor, to document the social and economic impact of the Market. Dr. Morales interviewed Maxwell Street Market vendors and studied other big city public markets to understand their governance structures. The report highlights the positive social and economic effects of the Market and concludes that, by continuing to stimulate entrepreneurship and nurture new businesses, it holds the power to positively transform the neighborhood in which it is located.

Dr. Morales' report can be downloaded here. If you need the Adobe Acrobat viewer (to read PDF files), click here.

This report has been published and, last month, copies were distributed to key city officials, community leaders and the media.

This important document is especially timely now, with the relocation of the Market just a few months away. The MSF endorses this report and the influence it can provide for the sustenance of the market. We hope it will spark a broad discussion about the future of the New Maxwell Street Market.


Sunday, April 8, 2007

Architecture Critic Calls Restored Maxwell Street,
a "Sanitized Stage-Set...Bordering on Generic."




The real Maxwell Street, 1927. (Tribune archive photo)


The real Maxwell Street, 1935. (Tribune archive photo)


The "Maxwell Street that never was," 2007. (Tribune photo by E. Jason Wambsgans)


Maxwell Street looking south and west toward Halsted, 2007. (Tribune photo by E. Jason Wambsgans)


In today's Chicago Tribune, Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin describes how Chicago's historic buildings have become "mere shells as new rules of preservation let the city's history slip away." He describes the trend toward partial preservation and its worst manifestation, the façade-ectomy. He cites the redevelopment of Maxwell Street as "one end of the spectrum, the wrong end."

"For a sample of the damage such architectural taxidermy can do, go to the corner of Halsted and Maxwell Streets, where the University of Illinois at Chicago has completed its redevelopment of the old Maxwell Street Market, the once-raucous bazaar where generations of peddlers hawked their wares along the sidewalk.

"Historic facades are clipped onto the front of a new parking garage, complete with curtains and blinds in their upper-story windows to mask the cars behind them. With their medallions, fluted columns and ornamental brickwork, the facades, while beautifully restored, form a sanitized stage-set populated by saccharine, life-size sculptures, like one that portrays a peddler selling tomatoes. The old Maxwell Street Market was dirty, messy and suffused with a singular sense of place. It was not, like this facile tribute, clean, ordered and bordering on generic."

Kamin gives examples of partial preservations that work but singles out Maxwell Street as an example of one that doesn't.

"At one end of the spectrum, the wrong end, is the Maxwell Street redevelopment, planned by Darien-based Wight & Co. with help from historic preservation consultants Hasbrouck Peterson Zimoch Sirirattumrong of Chicago. The facades papering the parking garage and new buildings across the street were taken off other buildings in the area, restored and reassembled. As handsome as they are, they make this a Maxwell Street that never was."

The acknowledged beauty of this artificial landscape is seductive but should cause the visitor to imagine how spectacular dozens of authentic buildings, fully-restored and in their original locations, might have looked, an option that was readily available to city and university planners as recently as 1999.



Wednesday, March 7, 2007

An Artist's Plea for a Maxwell Street Museum.



"As a young artist, I viewed Maxwell Street as a place in Rome, where an artist like Caravagio would sell tiny oil still-lifes," writes Chicago artist John Sibley after a recent return to Maxwell Street. "I used to do portraits and caricatures on Sundays, not for money, but to be drenched in the spontaneous energy of the wah-wah-wang of the blues guitar of Muddy Waters, which is descended from the coded field songs of slaves." Click here for the entire essay.

The painting above is John Sibley's "Man with Guitar." You can reach the artist at sibsartstudio2002@yahoo.com

NOTE: John Sibley's novel BODYSLICK will go on sale June 24 2008. He writes about the inpact of Maxwell Street bluesmen in the preface. He also mentions Steve Balkin's preservation efforts. Go to: www.kensingtonbooks.com to read the synopsis.



Tuesday, February 6, 2007

What Is Going On With The Maxwell Street Market?

The Maxwell Street Market will move from its present Canal Street location to Desplaines Street and Roosevelt Road in September.

The new location will follow Desplaines Street north from Roosevelt, across Taylor, spreading east and west onto Polk, and continuing north on Desplaines, almost but not quite to Harrison. The City of Chicago Department of Consumer Services (DCS), which has overall responsibility for the Market, is calling the new location "a permanent home."

(For more information, including a map, go to cityofchicago.org and search for "Maxwell Market," or go to the DCS section of the site to access official Maxwell Street content from there.)

The Maxwell Street Market, a Chicago institution since the 1850s, was moved by the City to its present location on Canal Street in 1994, to accommodate the expansion of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"We are trying to create a bright future for the Maxwell Street Market. We understand the importance of the market for so many families, as well as its historical significance to Chicago, and the City is committed to creating a larger, more diverse public market," said Norma Reyes, DCS Commissioner, in 2005.

"The new location would allow us to add more vendor spots, re-organize and improve the layout, which could expand the market by as much as 15 percent," Reyes said.

The new Desplaines Street location is scheduled to receive infrastructure repairs and improvements - including curb and sidewalk repairs and landscaping - in advance of the move. Among the infrastructure improvements being considered is a permanently affixed gateway, which would celebrate the market and its future, and commemorate its past.

Since August, 2006, JAM Entertainment and Creative Services, L.L.C., has managed operations, security, administration, cleaning and maintenance at the Maxwell Street Market, under a contract with DCS. JAM's contract will run through August, 2008. DCS took over direct management in July, 2004, when it fired the then-incumbent management company.

The Maxwell Street Market is open to the public - at no cost - from 7a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday, year round.



Friday, February 2, 2007

Seymour 'Sy' DeKoven: 1920 - 2007. Drugstore chain exec.

By Trevor Jensen, Chicago Tribune

Seymour `Sy' DeKoven joined forces with his cousin and turned two stores into a competitive chain with 26 sites when it was sold in 1980.

Seymour DeKoven took over his father's drugstore after World War II and, with a cousin whose father also owned a store, built a Chicago area chain with more than two dozen locations.

Mr. DeKoven, 86, who was known as "Sy," died Monday, Jan. 29, at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge of heart disease, said his daughter Robyn Grossberg. He was a 50-year resident of Winnetka.

Though smaller than Chicago-area rivals Walgreens and Osco, DeKoven Drug carved out a niche with locations in working-class neighborhoods and suburbs and an emphasis on customer service, Grossberg said.

"They realized what they did best was catering to solidly middle-class customers," Grossberg said. "They always catered to the man on the street and they enjoyed that clientele."

Mr. DeKoven, a lawyer, was the company's executive vice president. A gregarious fellow, Mr. DeKoven liked working with suppliers. He would travel around to check on stores and find locations for new ones. His cousin, Edward DeKoven, was a pharmacist and company president.

"One of the things he was apparently very good at was siting, deciding where to put stores," said Richard Abelson, a friend of Mr. DeKoven.

DeKoven Drug was sold in 1980, when it had 26 stores, to Perry Drug of Michigan. Mr. DeKoven's father, Jacob, an immigrant from Kiev, Ukraine, opened DeKoven Drug in the early 1900s on Halsted Street in the midst of the bustling Maxwell Street market.

Mr. DeKoven's family lived in the Logan Square neighborhood, and he attended Roosevelt High School. He skipped two grades and entered Northwestern University at 16, his daughter said. He passed the bar exam before graduating from law school and served with the Army in Europe during World War II, his daughter said.

Jacob DeKoven was ready to retire after the war and turned the keys over to his son. Edward DeKoven had taken over his father's store on Roosevelt Road. The cousins joined forces and went to work on expansion. By 1950, they had seven stores. Edward DeKoven died in 1991.

In retirement, Mr. DeKoven volunteered with the Service Corps of Retired Executives and at his synagogue. He traveled extensively. He also played a lot of tennis and bridge, displaying the same competitive instincts that had earned him success in the business world.

"In terms of achieving, he was always in a hurry," Abelson said.

Other survivors include his wife, Eleanor; another daughter, Leslie Feder; and four grandchildren.

A service is set for 11 a.m. Friday at Congregation Solel, 1301 Clavey Rd., Highland Park.



Wednesday, November 29, 2006

New Maxwell Street Is Worth a Visit.

By Chuck Cowdery, Webmaster, Maxwell Street Foundation

I drove down to Maxwell Street the other day. The redevelopment is nearly finished. I encourage you to take a look. See what you think.

I have been meaning to take some pictures. When I do, I'll post them here.

For so many years, the neighborhood was dying by inches. Then it was demolished. Then construction began. It has been a long process.

There are some good things about what UIC and its developers have done. It's nice to see those few old buildings restored. The facades look good too. I like the paving stones and the statues. Even more, I like to see stores and bars and restaurants, and people down there doing things and enjoying themselves.

At least the sausage stands survived.

I'm not saying all is forgiven, but I've become less bitter. It still feels a little bit like Maxwell Street down there.

Take a look for yourself and let everyone know what you think here.



Friday, July 21, 2006

From The Chicago Tribune

Nate Duncan 1930-2006 Maxwell Street deli owner. For more than 20 years his formerly Jewish neighborhood business continued to serve corned beef and other kosher specialties to a diverse clientele.

By Trevor Jensen, Tribune staff reporter

Nate Duncan's Maxwell Street delicatessen was one of the last links to the neighborhood's Jewish heritage.

An African-American who stood 6 feet, 5 inches, Mr. Duncan learned to cook corned beef and other kosher specialties while working for the deli's original Jewish owners, who sold him Lyon's Deli in 1973. It was known as Nate's Deli from that point until he unhappily sold it to the University of Illinois in Chicago in 1994. The school then tore down the building as part of its redevelopment of the area.

Mr. Duncan, 76, died in his South Side home Tuesday, July 18. He had been ill for several years and used a wheelchair, according to his sister-in-law, Vanessa Duncan.

The reputation of Nate's Deli, used as a location in the movie "The Blues Brothers," belied its size. It was a tiny place a few steps below street level, with a small counter and seating for six at three tables.

"But it was a really congenial space, a lot of that because of [Mr. Duncan's] personality," said Carolyn Eastwood, an adjunct professor of anthropology at the College of DuPage and author of a book on Maxwell Street. "Here I am, a white woman from the suburbs, and I felt completely at home there."

Mr. Duncan grew up in the neighborhood and started working for Ben Lyon and his family as a teenager. Lyon and his wife taught him how to cook and slice corned beef and pastrami, even how to pickle herring and prepare gefilte fish. The onetime Jewish port of entry in those years became a predominantly black neighborhood, and Mr. Duncan was able to straddle both worlds.

"He told me he'd stay late at work to listen to these old Jewish guys talk," Eastwood said. "He was a great transition figure."

The deli thrived under Mr. Duncan, despite his own initial worry that people wouldn't accept a black man running a Jewish deli. But he later spoke about "how much Mr. Lyon helped him, he introduced the vendors to him and put his arm around him," Vanessa Duncan said.

Mr. Duncan was born in West Virginia but his family moved to the South Side around Maxwell Street when he was 3 or 4, Vanessa Duncan said. He was always a hard worker, shining shoes on the bustling market street and getting to know the vendors and musicians who made it such a lively place. Except for two years in the Army in the mid-1950s, his entire working life was spent there.

He lived with his sister in an apartment above the deli, as did his mother. His mother and granddaughter had cameos in "The Blues Brothers," looking down from an upstairs window of the deli, which had been redubbed the Soul Food Cafe with Aretha Franklin as the owner.

"It was exciting, he always talked about how nice [the actors] were," his sister-in-law said.

Mr. Duncan fought to hold on to his deli amid the U. of I.'s expansion plans. When the end came he was sad but knew he had had a good run, she said.

"Nate did not want to close his business," said Steve Balkin, a Roosevelt University economics professor who maintains a Web site about Maxwell Street. "It was not just a source of income, it was his social life."

Mr. Duncan bought a two-flat in the Gresham neighborhood and became active in the Greater Bethlehem Baptist Church. He took with him his meat slicer from the deli, and thinly shaved corned beef was for years a staple at church events and holiday gatherings.

Mr. Duncan is also survived by a brother, James; a daughter, Tanna Hill; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Visitation is set for 10 a.m. Saturday in Greater Bethlehem Baptist Church, 7814 S. Lowe Ave., Chicago, followed by an 11 a.m. service.



Thursday, July 20, 2006

From The Chicago Sun-Times

Ran legendary Maxwell Street deli.

By Dave Hoekstra, staff reporter

During a sticky summer day on Maxwell Street, the folks at Nate's Delicatessen would sweat beads as blues musicians kept a cool beat.

Deli owner Nate Duncan died Tuesday after a long illness, on that kind of summer day. He was 76.

Nate's Deli was the soul of Maxwell Street. It was a kosher deli run by an African American, which made sense in the helter-skelter harmony of the neighborhood. Nate's Deli was in the basement of a graystone at 807 W. Maxwell. It closed in January 1995 after Mr. Duncan sold to the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The deli was served up to a worldwide audience in the 1980 movie "The Blues Brothers," when it was recast as "The Soul Food Cafe." John Lee Hooker sang his hit "Boom, Boom" with Muddy Waters drummer Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. As John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd drove up to the deli, Mr. Duncan's mother could be seen peering out of an upstairs window.

"You could smell Nate's food right after you ate it," Smith declared Wednesday. "If you liked a lot of onions, it was a hell of a good smell."

The deli counter seated six people. The deli was known for its kosher-style corned-beef sandwiches. The crew fried eggs on a small gas hot plate, and sometimes the place contained more green jars of pickled tomatoes than pickled customers.

Blues musicians would occasionally play in the back of the deli to retreat from the summer heat or the winter cold. Regulars called Nate's the only kosher-style blues deli in the world. "My store was so friendly," Mr. Duncan told writer Alan Mamoser in 2000. "You walk in, and you're with friends, it didn't matter, blacks, white, Mexicans. A guy could walk in for the first time, and it was just like he had been there 30 years."

Mr. Duncan began working at the deli in 1947 under the previous ownership of Lyon's Deli. Lyon's Deli had been the oldest deli on Maxwell Street, having opened in 1924. The Ben Lyon family taught Mr. Duncan how to make pickled herring and gefilte fish. Mr. Duncan took over the delicatessen when the family retired in 1972. He didn't change much.

Mr. Duncan even learned how to speak Yiddish.

"Nate's had the strongest, darkest coffee you could imagine," said Barry Dolins, deputy director of the Mayor's Office of Special Events. "The deli was permeated with that pork chop-onion smell and corned beef. This was the soul food of the neighborhood." During the 1960s, Dolins was a teenager selling sunglasses on Maxwell Street. At the same time, the Maxwell Street Radio and Record Shop was across the street from the deli. Blind Arvell Grey played the blues on a nearby corner.

Until the Maxwell Street market was destroyed, Mr. Duncan lived above the deli with his sister Patsy. They moved to 77th and Lowe. Patsy died in 2003. Mr. Duncan is survived by his daughter, Tanna Duncan; a brother, James, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Visitation is from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at Calahan Funeral Home, 7030 S. Halsted. Funeral services are at 10 a.m. Saturday, at First Greater Bethlehem M.B. Church, 7814 S. Lowe. Burial will be in Hillside Cemetery, in Hillside.


Monday, March 27, 2006

Maxwell Street Friend and Bluesman
Piano C. Red Shot and Paralyzed.

Maxwell Street blues musician and singer, Piano C. Red (real name James Wheeler), was shot Thursday evening, March 23, in a robbery on the South Side of Chicago. While he was at a filling station inside the cashier building paying for gas, two men approached him for money and wanted the keys to his car to steal it. One of the men shot him in the back. Then they took his money and the keys to his car and hijacked it.

As soon as he was shot, he felt his legs go numb and then he fell to the ground. The bullet lodged in his spine and paralyzed him from the waist down. He was taken to St. James Hospital in Olympia Fields.

Piano C. Red said, "I am in my 70s and young bullies took advantage of me. You just never know day-to-day what is going to happen. I have to be thankful I am still alive." For many years, Red and his band have played every Sunday at the Maxwell Street Market, at least when the weather is good. He began at the old market and has continued to perform at the new location on Canal Street. "I want to keep that tradition going," says Red. "Maxwell Street is where the greatest blues musicians played. There was a feeling there I found no place else and we want to keep that feeling going at the new market." He has asked Elmore James Jr. (son of blues legend Elmore James) and their joint band members to keep the band playing at the market. "Maybe with some rehab, I can get better and play again there too," says Red.

According to Jim Roxworthy, Red's bass player, "he has an indomitable spirit. When I visited him in the hospital he spoke only a little of his tragedy. He wanted to make sure the music and his band continued."

Roosevelt University Professor Steve Balkin says, "Red is one of the few Maxwell Street old-timers still playing. He is a great keyboardist, singer, and dancer-strutter. He loves Maxwell Street, the old place and the new, especially to watch people dance in the street to his music." Red's performances at the new market are a grand jam session with a folksy, front porch feel. "It would boost Red's spirits to get cards and letters from blues fans," says Balkin. "The biggest fear of these old blues guys is that they will be forgotten."

James 'Piano C. Red' Wheeler was born in Alabama in 1933 and came to Chicago in 1969. For many years he has been a cab driver by day and a bluesman by night. His self-issued 1999 CD is entitled "Cab Driving Man."

Send cards and donations to Red in care of his attorney, Mark L. Karno, Mark L. Karno & Associates, 33 N. La Salle Street, Suite 3200, Chicago, IL 60602, 312-701-0090.

Piano C. Red Bio


From the Chicago Sun-Times
Monday, August 15, 2005

Blues musician, a victim of theft, is back in keys.

by Dave Newbart, Staff Reporter

Blues musician Frank Scott Jr. didn't get his original keys back, but he's now making music with hundreds of new keys donated since his were stolen last month.

After news hit the streets that Scott's set of 200-plus keys -- which he'd strung together on a chain and shook like a musical instrument -- were stolen, the public responded generously. In the last few weeks, he has received more than 600 keys, donated by people living as far away as Ontario, Canada.

"I'm back in business," Scott said.

Performs weekly

The vast majority of the keys were donated by a CTA worker who manned a lost and found and had hundreds of unclaimed keys, according to Scott. The Maxwell Street Foundation donated keys from Nate's Delicatessen, a longtime restaurant at the old Maxwell Street Market featured in the film "The Blues Brothers."

Scott now has so many keys he has made an extra set of what he calls Blues Percussive House Keys that anyone can use to play along when he performs.

He has already showed off his new keys at weekly performances at the new Maxwell Street Market at 16th and Canal, playing weekly with Piano C. Red.

Former drummer

Scott is also making and selling smaller sets of the keys and using the proceeds to refurbish his "Mobile Maxwell Street Blues Museum Trailer." His original key set -- which had keys from as far back as 1965 -- was stolen from the trailer by thieves who broke a padlock.

The former drummer had to stop playing blues when his hand grew too arthritic to hold his sticks. So he started jingling his keys during jams at the old Maxwell Street Market, and the instrument was born.

Scott is still accepting old keys, which can be brought to the market on Sundays or to his home at Roseland Manor on South State.


Monday, July 11, 2005

Frank Scott's Blues Percussive House Keys Stolen.

Early on Saturday morning, July 9, 2005, in the Roseland neighborhood of Chicago's far south side, thieves broke into the Mobile Maxwell Street Blues Museum Trailer of blues legend Frank 'Little Sonny' Scott Jr. and stole his Blues Percussive House Keys. The stolen keys are the original and only set of Blues Percussive House Keys that Mr. Scott had.

Frank Scott invented this one-of-a-kind instrument while playing on old Maxwell Street in the 1990s at Blues Jam protests to save the historic neighborhood. Scott played drums on Maxwell Street in the 1950s with bluesmen Freddie King and Jimmie Lee Robinson in a group called the Every Hour Blues Boys, He no longer owns a set of drums because his hands are too arthritic to hold the sticks. As a substitute, he slowly acquired old keys which he strung on a wire with bells and part of a tambourine. When musician friends play, he joins in by shaking his long strand of keys to the beat. Sometimes he even takes solos. Last month he was featured at the Chicago Blues Festival, playing keys with the Dancin Perkins band.

"It's like a friend died when my original Blues Percussive House Keys was taken from me this past weekend," says Scott. "I don't know what the thieves will do with it. They probably took it because it was in a violin case. It is a bit hard for me to get around now. I hope people will help me out by sending me their old keys so I can rebuild it. I am holding a Blues rummage sale a block from where I live on Saturday, July 17, to raise money for my museum trailer. I had promised to play my keys there but I may have to disappoint people."

Roosevelt University Professor Steve Balkin, a fan of Mr. Scott's music, hopes that people from all over the world will respond to this request and send their unusable keys to Frank Scott Jr. so he can quickly reconstruct the musical instrument he invented. Balkin says, "It should be a thrill for people to be part of the cultural history of America by having their old keys be reused as part of a unique Blues musical instrument."

Keys should be dropped off or sent to Frank Scott Jr. at Roseland Manor, 11717 S. State St, Chicago, IL 60628. They can also be dropped off with Piano C. Red at the New Maxwell Street Market Blues Stage, on Canal and 16th Street, any Sunday in good weather between 10 AM and 3 PM.

For more information contact Frank Scott Jr. at 773-264-4746 or Steve Balkin at 312-341-3696, Or you can email Steve at mar@topicbox.com


Thursday, June 16, 2005

Rediscovered Cushman Collection Contains Maxwell Street Images.



"Sidewalk camp meeting Maxwell St.," October 29, 1950, by Charles W. Cushman.

Charles Cushman graduated from Indiana University in 1917. He died in 1972. During the intervening 55 years he took thousands of photographs. Specifically, during the 32 years spanning 1938 to 1969 he took 14,500 Kodachrome color slides, which were donated to his alma mater after his death. No one looked at them until 1999. What they discovered was that Cushman had been a talented amateur who captured in pictures many important places and events. The university has digitized the images and is making them available online at the Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection web site.

Cushman took photographs in 14 countries and 48 of the 50 United States. Among the states, California was his favorite subject, Illinois was second. He photographed Maxwell Street in 1943, 44, 49, 50 and 58. A search for "Maxwell Street" returns 39 images.

Some of the images are familiar--the carts covered with merchandise, the diverse mix of shoppers, the street musicians--but some are astonishing. Cushman obviously had an interest in architecture. In 1950, he captured two wood frame buildings that may have dated back to the neighborhood's origins in the 1840s. From 1944 there is a picture of two brick buildings of a familiar Chicago type, but with two completely foreign-looking wooden sheds tacked onto the lowest parts of their facades.

As with all collections of historic Maxwell Street images, Cushman's photographs emphasize how much was lost by the failure to save this iconic neighborhood.

To look at the Maxwell Street images, go to the web site, click on "search," then enter as your search term "Maxwell Street" (in quotes).


Friday, February 18, 2005

Blues Bus Now Booking 2005 Appearances.

And This Was Free, the Maxwell Street Blues Bus Production, is now booking appearances for Summer 2005. Community groups may schedule this uniquely entertaining production for their festivals and other events in the greater Chicagoland-area.

The Maxwell Street Blues Bus is an authentic artifact from the Maxwell Street Market, where it served for many years as a gathering place and music shop. And This Was Free is a 30-minute musical adaptation of Ira Berkow's 1977 book, Maxwell Street: Survival in a Bazaar. Between performances, live blues is played, all with the Blues Bus as a backdrop.

And This Was Free, the Maxwell Street Blues Bus Production, is a project of the Maxwell Street Foundation. The production completed a successful pilot season at two outdoor venues in summer 2004 and received great audience reviews. The program is an effective standalone experience for audiences of all ages, or an exciting addition to any festival or event.

Click here for more information. Booking deadline is April 30, 2005.


Saturday, January 15, 2005

Photography Portfolio to Benefit
Maxwell Street Foundation.

The Maxwell Street Collection is a portfolio of limited edition photographs by eleven Chicago photographers.

The photographers are: Tom Arndt, Patty Carroll, Ron Gordon, James Iska, Jack Jaffe, Kenneth Josephson, Nathan Lerner, Tom Palazzolo, Marc PoKempner, Bob Thall, and Jay Wolke.

The Maxwell Street Collection portfolio has been produced in an edition of seventy-one copies, of which sixty are for sale. Eleven have been distributed to the contributing photographers.

The black and white enlargements, by the Ron Gordon studio, were printed on 11" x 14" Ilford Multigrade IV FB or Ilford Multigrade FB Warmtone papers. They were developed in ILFORD Bromophen developer and toned in Selenium per museum standards.

For further information about the Maxwell Street Collection please contact:

Ed Hirschland
312-201-1111
hirschland@aol.com

All proceeds from the Maxwell Street Collection benefit the Maxwell Street Foundation, a not-for-profit organization preserving the legacy of Chicago's legendary Maxwell Street.

For more information and to view the Maxwell Street Collection online, click here.


Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Group Changes Name to
Maxwell Street Foundation.

To better reflect its changing mission, the Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition has changed its name to the Maxwell Street Foundation. Coinciding with the new name are various organizational and governance changes.

The Maxwell Street Foundation is dedicated to preserving, interpreting, and presenting the multicultural history of the old Maxwell Street Market and neighborhood in Chicago. The Maxwell Street Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. The Foundation's origins go back to 1994 when the Maxwell Street Market was moved from its historic location.

For the whole story, click here.


Friday, December 17, 2004

Barrelhouse Bonni's Blues for Christmas.

"Barrelhouse" Bonni McKeown is a long time Maxwell Street supporter who always has something interesting to say. Bonni first became involved in the effort to save Maxwell Street from all the way over in her home state of West Virginia. She has since moved to Chicago to play blues and, you know, live.

Bonni, a keyboard player, has been performing recently with Larry Taylor's band. Larry is the stepson of Eddie Taylor, who played on Maxwell Street in the glory days with John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, Floyd Jones, Johnnie Mae Dunson and others. Both Bonni and Larry played on Maxwell Street too, in the final days before UIC completed its annihilation of the neighborhood.

Click here to read Bonni's Christmas message and also learn how you can order her CD and Larry Taylor's CD.



Monday, November 1, 2004

From The Chicago Tribune

Maxwell vendors to meet with city.
Market's future safe, official says.

By Ray Gibson and Jaime Reyes, Tribune staff reporters. Jaime Reyes is a staff reporter for Hoy

Anxious vendors at the venerable Maxwell Street Market are meeting Monday with city officials to discuss the future of the market, which is under investigation for corruption.

Consumer Services Commissioner Norma Reyes plans to meet with hundreds of the vendors in an effort to quell discontent by some peddlers at the city's 132-year-old open-air market.

City officials have been conducting an audit and discussing rules changes at the market since July, when the private contractor hired by the city to oversee the market was fired and a city employee assigned to monitor the market was put on leave.

In the last month, hundreds of vendors have attended two meetings to discuss their concerns.

"We got to get our act together," Tom Vossman told about 50 other vendors last week at a West Side street corner. "We don't know what their agenda is. I think the city's agenda is to close the market."

Reyes said last week that part of the reason for holding the session is to quell such speculation.

"Absolutely not," she said when asked if the city wanted to close the market. "We are very committed to Maxwell Street . . . I would like to see Maxwell Street grow."

Full text of story.



Thursday, June 17, 2004

New Book, Jewish Maxwell Street Stories,
is now available.

Jewish Maxwell Street Stories, the new book by Shuli Eshel and Roger Schatz, captures the lasting legacy of Maxwell Street. Eshel and Schatz collected these stories from former Jewish residents of the Maxwell Street neighborhood after Ms. Eshel, in cooperation with the Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition, directed and produced the highly-praised documentary, "Maxwell Street: A Living Memory, the Jewish Experience in Chicago." This book is an anthology, offering more details of stories from the documentary as well as many new stories collected from the hundreds of people who offered them after seeing the documentary. The book also includes vintage images of the century-old businesses and homes in the Maxwell Street neighborhood that promised a new beginning for Jewish immigrants early in the 20th century.

Click here for information about readings, signings, broadcast interviews and other personal appearances by the authors.

Jewish Maxwell Street Stories. (ISBN 0-7385-3240-1) Trade paperback, 128 pages, Arcadia Publishing, May 2004. $19.99. Click here to order a copy through the Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition. (Sales benefit the Coalition.)

The book also is available at many Chicago-area bookstores and via on-line retailers (such as Amazon), or at the Arcadia Publishing website. To order an autographed copy, contact the authors at 773-868-4140 or by e-mail at eshelred@aol.com, or visit the Cavalcade Communications Group website.



Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Free Public Performances Recall
Spirit of Historic Maxwell Street.

This summer, the Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition will present "And This Was Free, A Maxwell Street Blues Bus Production" at three Chicago community festivals. The performances are open to the public, free of charge.

"And This Was Free, A Maxwell Street Blues Bus Production" is a live, street theatre performance that presents the spirit of Chicago's old Maxwell Street Market. The backdrop for the performances is the Blues Bus, the actual 1972 blue Chevy school bus that was a fixture at the Maxwell Street Market for many years. In "And This Was Free," actors portray real life characters from Ira Berkow's 1977 book, Maxwell Street: Survival in a Bazaar. Between presentations of the 30-minute theatre piece, Maxwell Street blues musicians will perform.

"And This Was Free, A Maxwell Street Blues Bus Production" will be presented at the following venues during the summer of 2004:

June 11-13, Duncan YMCA, 1001 W. Roosevelt Rd. at Morgan St. (Morgan Street parking lot; call 312-421-7800 for more information.) In addition, a slide presentation about the book Chicago's Maxwell Street will be presented on June 12 at 4:00 pm in the Duncan YMCA's Black Box Theatre, followed by a book signing with the authors. This event is part of the Duncan YMCA's YArts Festival.

July 16-18, Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave. at Fulton St. (Garfield Market entrance; call 773-638-1766 ext. 20 for more information.)

Times for all dates are 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Performances are continuous. The theatre piece is 30 minutes long, followed by a blues set.

Stories in "And This Was Free" are about the art of "pitches" and bartering, the development of a unique style of Chicago blues, the challenges facing immigrant entrepreneurs and workers, the cultural mix of the Near West Side community, and the contributions of social and cultural organizations. A Vienna Beef hot dog and polish sausage stand will bring Maxwell Street's signature scents back to the streets of Chicago.

The Maxwell Street Blues Bus Production features: Script Adapted by Idris Goodwin; Director, Kimberly Senior; Production Manager, Laura Dieli; Costume Design, Lois Atkins; Actors: Lois Atkins, Richard Blakeney, Ricardo Gamboa, Sara Oliva, Matt Parker, and Charlette Speigner. Maxwell Street blues musician guest appearances include Frank Scott Jr., Piano C. Red, Bobby Davis, Johnnie Mae Dunson, Clarence Scott, Bobby Too Tough, Mr. H "Baron of the Blues," and the Cut Rate Band.

BONUS BLUES BUS APPEARANCE! August 11, 1:00 to 2:00 PM, Pulaski Park, 1419 W. Blackhawk St., south end of the park, (Call 773-772-7248 for more information.) Free Street Theatre will present a special youth street
theatre performance with the Blues Bus as backdrop.

The 2004 Production is co-produced by Laura Kamedulski, Lori Grove, Elliot Zashin; musicians coordinated by Mr. H ("Baron of the Blues"); sponsors coordinated by Kelly Owens; design assistance by Robert Weiglein. Ira Berkow is gratefully acknowledged for permission to adapt characters and stories from his book, Maxwell Street: Survival in a Bazaar. Reverend and Marie Johnson are gratefully acknowledged for the use of the Blues Bus. The Chicago Historical Society is gratefully acknowledged for exhibit graphics. The Maxwell Street Blues Bus Production is presented by the Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition and supported in part by grants from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, the Illinois Humanities Council, and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. Sponsors include "Z" Frank Chevrolet, Vienna Beef, Lang's Towing, and Coach U.S.A.

The Maxwell Street Blues Bus was a fixture at the old Maxwell Street Market.



Download and distribute this flyer (PDF file) to help us promote "And This Was Free."

Click here if you need the free Adobe Acrobat Reader.



Monday, February 23, 2004

Who Are We?

Do you know who we are?

This photograph was found in a third floor closet in the building that once stood at 727 W. Maxwell Street. According to the imprint on the back, it was taken at Kleker's Studio, 1645 W. 47th Street. That is all we know. If you recognize this picture or the individuals in it, or can date it from the clothing, or can tell us anything else about it, let us know. Are they father and son? Uncle and nephew? Employer and employee? And check out those boots. If anything looks familiar, send us an email at info@maxwellstreet.org

727 W. Maxwell Street

The portrait of two men was found in this building, which once stood at 727 W. Maxwell Street.



Tuesday, December 2, 2003

St. Francis Parish Celebrates 150th Birthday.

With its location at the corner of Roosevelt Road and Newberry Avenue, St. Francis of Assisi church has always been at the center of the Maxwell Street neighborhood, and after its own 1994 brush with destruction, the parish became part of the long struggle to preserve the historic neighborhood as well.

On Sunday, November 30, Cardinal Francis George celebrated mass at St. Francis to mark the 150th anniversary of the parish's founding. In 1994, after officials ordered the church closed so they could sell the site to the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), parishioners occupied the unheated church building in the middle of a bitter winter to protest the plan. The archdiocese relented and the parish was saved.

The story of that struggle is told in detail by one of the participants, Hilda Portillo, in Carolyn Eastwood's book, Near West Side Stories.

St. Francis of Assisi is considered the "mother church" for Chicago Catholics of Mexican heritage. Its first Spanish-language mass was held in 1925 and Spanish became the church's primary language in 1927. Today, up to six masses are held each Sunday, attended by up to 5,000 worshippers. UIC, resentful that the site escaped its clutches, continues to harass the church and its parishioners in various ways.



Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Historic Building Facades Restored
on Maxwell Street.

Three historic facades have been re-installed on the south side of Maxwell Street, between Halsted and Union Streets. As you may recall, this facade dismantlement and re-installation is part of the intergovernmental agreement made between the University of Illinois and the City of Chicago in 2000. That agreement also provided for the rehabilitation of eight buildings (seven on Halsted and one on Maxwell Street), one of which was demolished earlier this year.

I must say that, although the historic facades are not all being re-installed at the original sites of their corresponding buildings, having been dismantled from buildings along Roosevelt, Halsted, and Maxwell Streets, it does feel good to have a piece of old Maxwell Street back.

(This report came from MSHPC board member Lori Grove.)



Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Coalition Asks for Family Histories.

If your family ever lived in the Maxwell Street neighborhood, the Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition wants you to contribute your ancestral information to a new project aimed at the preservation of Maxwell Street's history for a future museum.

Detailed information including names of family members or family businesses with corresponding street addresses and dates is desired. Documentation and images of families, homes, businesses, and the market are welcomed; donations of photographs and memorabilia are also being collected and archived by the Coalition, which operates as a registered nonprofit organization in the state of Illinois. In order to assist this project, please send your family history information to the Coalition via email at info@maxwellstreet.org (please use MAXWELL STREET MUSEUM PROJECT as your subject line), or via the U.S. mail to Norman Schwartz, Maxwell Street Museum Advisory Board Collections Committee, 777 N. Michigan Ave., #3000, Chicago, IL 60611. Click here for more information.



From the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinos, "The CornerStone" newsletter, July, 2003

Residential Development to Preserve South Water Street Market.

Preservation Issues Committee Report

A private developer (Enterprise Inc.) has announced plans to retrofit these eight terra cotta buildings into approximately 850 new residential units. The complex was vacated earlier this year, after serving for 78 years as the city’s primary wholesale food market. The "University Commons" proposal will preserve the unique features of the complex, including their raised loading platforms and broad canopies. The complex, which is located just south of the University of Illinios-Chicago campus, was listed on LPCI’s "Chicagoland Watch List" in 2002.


Tuesday, June 17, 2003

MSHPC urges City to develop long-term plan for Maxwell Street Market.

In a letter dated June 10, 2003, the Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition urges Chicago Consumer Services Commissioner Caroline Shoenberger to initiate a long-term plan to "help the market continue to thrive and bring benefits to the city's people." In 1994, the historic Maxwell Street Market was closed by the City of Chicago and transplanted to a new site one-half mile to the east, on Canal Street. The New Maxwell Street Market still operates there every Sunday morning between 8:00 AM and 2:00 PM. It remains a vital and lively part of the city's fabric.

The letter, composed by MSHPC Board Member Alan Mamoser, an urban planner, identifies several reasons for pursing strategic thinking about the market. It states: "The market today plays a vital role in the city's life, serving as a place of exchange for the city's working people. It offers many goods needed by the people and opportunities for entrepreneurship. The new market is a venue for immigrant merchants to make gains for themselves and their families, just as the old market was. The market flourishes without rest for well over a century now, continuing a city tradition as a great outdoor emporium."

The MSHPC sees "a value in the market that goes even deeper than economics, although this value arises as a natural extension of the market's role as place of exchange. It is the value of the market as a great gathering place of people. The Maxwell Street Market always gathered the city's people together in unique ways. From its economic base it grew into a center of dialogue and interchange among diverse peoples. New cultural forms emerged in these cross-currents, in apparel and music, creating legacies that are still living today. It is the market's role as gathering place that has given it such historic cultural value to the city's people and the world. What we cherish most is the whole market, in all of its human aspects inspiring new experiences and creative endeavors."

Mamoser suggests that the plan should be based on the following assessments:

1. An economic measure of the market's value to the city's people.

2. An assessment of the market's current base of customers and merchants, and possible ways to expand these.

3. An assessment of the market's cultural role, discussing the role of musicians and other entertainers and artists.

4. A careful study of the current site, and proposals for possible future sites where the market might evolve and grow for years without threat of disruption. This would require a careful land use and real estate market assessment.

However, he states, "the real heart of a plan will contain the city's vision for the market, for how we want the market to be. To arrive at the vision, we must involve the people who are there now, getting their thoughts in vendors meetings and customer surveys. Getting the people to talk about the market and what they like about it, and what they hope for it, will produce the basis of a vision. This process may require a community meeting or two. Going further, we must consult with experts, with those who have seen open air markets all over the world, whose experience gives them the perspective to understand the inner workings of markets. They are people who know what makes markets vital universally. Finally, we must consult with those who know history, and especially the history of Maxwell Street. They can advise on the best of the heritage to carry forward into the market's future. These, taken all together, will give sufficient matter to weave a vision for the market's future."

Click here to read the full text of our letter to Commissioner Shoenberger.



From the Chicago Sun-Times, Friday, June 13, 2003

Maxwell Street backers blast demolition by UIC.

City planning officials say they are "very concerned" about
UIC's decision to demolish a 1907 building at 1305 S. Halsted.

By Curtis Lawrence, Staff Reporter

Maxwell Street preservationists lashed out at the University of Illinois at Chicago Thursday for demolishing one of 21 buildings and facades earmarked to be saved in the historic area, and questioned whether the city was holding the school accountable.

The former Goldenberg Furniture Co. at 1305 S. Halsted was demolished two weeks ago as part of the school's South Campus expansion after engineers determined the building could not be saved, said UIC spokesman Mark Rosati.

Built in 1907, the building was one of eight structures and 13 facades to be saved as part of an agreement reached between the university and the city after months of intense pressure from preservationists and community activists.

"They've disdained us all along and they continue to do so," preservationist Charles Cowdery said of the university. "They really don't give a d--- about preservation and these kinds of actions show they don't give a d--- about restoration."

City planning officials said Thursday they had not been informed of the university's intention to demolish the building and said they were consulting the legal department about possible remedies.

"We are very concerned about this," said the city's planning spokesman Pete Scales. "We meet with them every month and they never once told us of their plans to tear this building down."

Rosati said the school regretted that the developers had not informed the planning department before the demolition but said a permit had been obtained from the city's building department.

Cowdery, president of the Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition, said the demolition may not have occurred if the city had been more aggressive about enforcing the agreement.

"It sounds like [the university] breached the agreement, and the city will have to figure out what the remedy is," Cowdery said, adding he remains concerned about three other buildings to be restored.

Cowdery said the community deserved an explanation before or immediately after the demolition.

Rosati emphasized the agreement to preserve buildings was between the university and the city, not preservationist groups. The university will submit plans for a replacement which will include the structure's original façade, he said.



From the Chicago Journal, Thursday, June 12, 2003

Historic Maxwell area building razed, despite promise.

Vowing to replace it, university officials say 'structurally unsound' edifice couldn't be saved.

By Lydialyle Gibson, Staff Writer

The 96-year-old three-flat and storefront at 1305 S. Halsted wasn't supposed to be demolished. It was supposed to be restored. Engulfed within a southward expansion of the University of Illinois at Chicago that's seen Maxwell Street's storied, if dilapidated, neighborhood replaced with tidy dormitories, condominiums and retail, the three-story brick-and-terra-cotta structure was one of eight on a list of buildings to be salvaged, according to a 2000 agreement between UIC and City Hall.

Yet late last month, 1305 S. Halsted crumbled under the wrecking ball.

"I was surprised," said Charles Cowdery, president of the Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition, a group that vigorously opposed the university's South Campus development. Cowdery got the first panicked e-mail two Mondays ago from a Maxwell Street well-wisher who'd happened past the demolished building. Within two days, Cowdery had fired off a handful of missives-both electronic and paper-to fellow preservationists, UIC administrators, and officials at the city's Department of Planning and Development. This week he said he had yet to hear back.

"The intergovernmental agreement called for eight buildings and 13 facades to be saved," Cowdery said. "This was stuff that was supposed to be carved in stone. This was not somebody writing a note that said, 'We'd like to do such-and-such.' Now the building's gone, and there's a hole there."

Steve Balkin, the Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition's ubiquitous and vocal vice-president, was similarly disheartened. Even as they save some buildings, university officials have all along resisted maintaining any shred of neighborhood character, according to Balkin, and last month's demolition is just another nail in the coffin.

"Signage printed on the bricks [of restored buildings] has been sandblasted off," Balkin said. "The window structure is different. People drive past Maxwell Street and can't even remember where it was-there's no street sign, and it doesn't look the same. Everything's completely ripped up, ripped off, ripped out. It's like going to a Civil War battlefield with no markers."

According to UIC spokesman Mark Rosati, though, the situation's not nearly so dire. University officials had, indeed, meant to save 1305 S. Halsted, Rosati said, but once they'd examined it closely, they found flaws too serious to fix.

"It was structurally unsound," Rosati said.

So the building was lost, even the façade, which Rosati said was almost all glass. What bricks were there had been badly damaged. Now, South Campus architects are working with city officials to erect a re-creation of the old building.

"It will be a full re-construction of the building as it was," Rosati said. "We will replicate the façade exactly."

Still, the demolition worries preservationists. Cowdery wondered what it might mean for the rest of the historic buildings on UIC's preserve list. Less than five years ago, some 43 old buildings chronicled the neighborhood's history as a sprawling Jewish outdoor market, a haven for Eastern European immigrants, and bluesmen's stomping ground. With only eight structures on the salvage list, preservationists say they've already given up as much as they can bear.

"This is what we've been worried about all along," Cowdery said. "Now it's starting to happen, that the university will nibble at the edges of the agreement and get out of whatever they can. This whole deal, with the reused facades and everything, has always been something nobody's crazy about, but it's better than nothing. We got so little out of this, in terms of a restoration plan."

Michael Moran, vice president of Preservation Chicago and a board member for the Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition, called the university's South Campus development "good for the city" but the demolition late last month makes the fate of other old buildings there less than certain.

"What they're going to do with the rest of the 13 facades is at issue now, although the idea of taking down facades and tacking them back up on other buildings is not a plan that ever really pleased anyone," Moran said.

"We've said we would watchdog this, but we don't have any official standing," Cowdery said. "It's the city that's got to enforce this."

Cowdery insisted university officials have nicely preserved a handful of buildings along Halsted just south of Maxwell Street, but a couple edifices to the north look all but untouched by any restoration. Recalling one historic neighborhood building that burned up a few years ago and another that university officials accidentally began demolishing before the 2000 development agreement was drawn up, Cowdery wonders what will happen to them. Rosati reckons they're in no grave danger. If all goes well, university officials will fix them up posthaste.

"There are no similar problems at this point that we're aware of," Rosati said. "This is the first situation that's been like this."




Obituary from the Chicago Sun-Times, Monday, December 23, 2002

Sol Saltzman, 74; sold clothes on Maxwell St.

Sol Saltzman and his relatives clothed generations of workingmen in Chicago. For decades, they worked in the Maxwell Street district, selling blue jeans and other work clothing.

After Mr. Saltzman retired in the 1990s, he took a new job: "He retired to be my substitute baby-sitter" said his wife, Sara Fay Saltzman. The couple often watched their four grandsons, Josh, Noah, Jake and Zack.

A West Side native who lived in Skokie for the last 37 years, Mr. Saltzman died at Evanston Hospital Sunday at age 74. He underwent successful bypass surgery in August but later developed serious infections, said his son, Paul Saltzman, a Chicago Sun-Times editor.

The son of Polish-Jewish immigrants, Mr. Saltzman graduated from Marshall High School and took classes at Herzl Junior College and Roosevelt University. During the Korean War, he served in the Army, spending two years in Alaska.

As a child, he worked at an uncle's store on Maxwell Street. As an adult he worked at a downtown store, sold insurance and eventually, with his brother and father, opened shops around Maxwell Street.

One, called Mother's Threads, was purchased in the mid-1970s. The name was the source of some humor, since Mr. Saltzman and his brother, Abbe, were the proprietors. The name belonged to the previous store at the location, and "it was cheaper to keep the sign," Sara Fay Saltzman said.

Mr. Saltzman knew his wife from childhood, but the two didn't start going out until they were young adults. They had three children, one of whom, Ruthie, died when she was 17 from a brain tumor.

Described as outwardly gruff and as someone who loved to shop and run errands for others, Mr. Saltzman "showed his love through bread; he never went anywhere without bringing bread," said his wife.

Hours before he died, despite being hooked up to a ventilator and being heavily medicated, Mr. Saltzman was able to mouth a message to her: "Love you."

Mr. Saltzman also is survived by a daughter, Eileen Zeidman, son-in-law Irwin Zeidman and daughter-in-law Carolyn Yousse.



Monday, July 8, 2002

Jimmie Lee Robinson Will Be Remembered.


Jimmie Lee Robinson died Saturday, July 6, 2002. He was 71.

A prominent blues musician, Jimmie Lee Robinson was one of the most stalwart supporters of the struggle to save the historic Maxwell Street neighborhood, where he was born and raised. His earliest musical performances were in the 1940s as a skinny, teen-aged street musician performing at the Maxwell Street Market with veterans such as Floyd and Moody Jones, Snooky Pryor, Eddie “Porkchop” Hines and others.

Robinson was born in Chicago on April 30, 1931. Most of his family was from the Hillhouse, Mississippi, area. His great-grandfather, Mose Jenkins, was born a slave and after emancipation became a circuit riding preacher. Robinson could remember walking on Maxwell Street with his great-grandfather and grandfather before the elder man’s death in 1935 at age 91. Mose Jenkins’ daughter, Celia Jackson, was Robinson’s grandmother. Her mother was a Choctaw Indian.

Robinson spent much of his youth with his grandparents, Celia and Elijah Jackson. Elijah Jackson worked as a barber and at the McCormick Farm Equipment factory. As a sideline, he sold his wife’s sweet potato and apple pies.

Robinson’s parents were Almor Smith and Emma Robinson. Almor Smith was a construction laborer who worked for the WPA and also as a junkman. Emma had another son, Eddie Lee Robinson, by Jack Palmer, a communist who was friends with Paul Robeson.

In 1948, Robinson met singer/guitarist Eddie Taylor and they played the Chicago club scene together until 1952. Later he formed "The Every Hour Blues Boys" band with Freddie King. In his long career as a sideman, he worked with Little Walter, Elmore James, Jimmy Reed, Magic Sam, Willie Mabon, Shakey Jake, Sonny Cooper, Sunnyland Slim, Detroit Junior and Howlin' Wolf.

As a studio musician, Robinson was in demand at the Chess and Veejay studios. His lead guitar work can be heard on Little Walter's 1957 “Ah'w Baby,” his rhythm guitar is on 1958’s “The Toddle,” and his bass guitar is on 1958’s “Confessin’ the Blues.”

By the '80s, Robinson had virtually disappeared from the blues scene. He made a comeback in the '90s as a leader and solo artist with recordings on Delmark, APO and his own Amina label. His most recent release, All My Life, is on APO Records.

Robinson gained national attention for his protest of the destruction of Maxwell Street. In 2000-2001 he fasted for 81 days to draw attention to the devastation of the neighborhood known as the birthplace of Chicago blues. His hunger strike reached the front page of the New York Times. In addition to his fasts, Robinson appeared frequently at demonstrations and other Maxwell Street events, often performing his original composition, “The Maxwell Street Teardown Blues.”

Jimmie Lee Robinson was a kind, gentle, soft-spoken man who loved to talk about spirituality, natural foods and health. He enjoyed meeting and talking with his many fans. He will be remembered as a talented artist and committed activist with a deep, loving spirit.



Tuesday, April 9, 2002

Five Historic Maxwell Street Buildings
Can Still Be Saved.

The devastation of Maxwell Street by the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) is nearly complete. All of the buildings on the west side of Halsted Street are gone and the construction of new townhouses and dormitories is underway. One dorm, on the southwest corner of Maxwell and Halsted (where Nate’s Deli used to be), is finished and in use.

UIC always has demolished buildings as soon as it obtains them, then fences off the lot, regardless of when it intends to build something new on the site. Even though construction is not imminent, destruction always is. According to UIC’s own schedule, construction east of Halsted is probably still two years away, but the only buildings still standing there are the ones UIC has been unable to grab.

In most cases, the owners of the remaining buildings have used every means available to stop UIC from obtaining them. All are supposed to be demolished, according to the development plan, and in every case time is running out. One building still contains a working business. Another is a church. Two contain extremely rare pre-fire construction. (The Great Chicago Fire was in 1871.) All were built before 1886.

These five historic buildings can and should be saved.

Click here for more information about these buildings, and recent photographs of them.


Sunday, January 27, 2002

Premiere of "Maxwell Street: A Living Memory"
Draws Overflow Crowd.

The premiere showing of "Maxwell Street: A Living Memory," this afternoon at the Chicago Historical Society, was a huge success. We filled the auditorium (440 seats) and hastily scheduled a second show to accommodate the overflow crowd. About 200 people stayed or returned for the second show. We thank everyone who came and apologize to everyone who was turned away.

"Maxwell Street: A Living Memory" is a 30 minute documentary in which the children and grandchildren of the Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe who created Maxwell Street vividly remember their experiences of the market. Their memories, complemented by rare archival footage and still images, bring the market to life again.

Click here for information about how to own your own home video copy for just $29.95.


Thursday, November 1, 2001

Maxwell Street Hot Dog Stands Reopen.

Two historic hot dog stands from the old Maxwell Street area, Original Jim's and Maxwell Street Express, are reopening formally on Friday, November 2, 2001, at noon. The new stands are on S. Union Street, just south of Roosevelt Rd, between Roosevelt Rd and O'Brien St. Union is one block east of Halsted, adjacent to the Dan Ryan Expressway. Legendary Maxwell Street Blues musicians Jimmie Lee Robinson, Frank 'Little  Sonny' Scott Jr., Mr. H., Clarence L'ill Scotty, and Bobbi Davis will be on hand for the grand re-opening event.

These two hot dog stands, formerly at the corner of Maxwell and Halsted, are owned by the families that founded them, the Stefanovics and Lazerevskis, who are cousins. These families invented the Maxwell Street Polish sausage, a Chicago signature food, and were at the center of the old Maxwell Street Market.



Tuesday, October 30, 2001

Luxury Residential Development Rises on Bones of Maxwell Street.

An article in last Friday's "Homelife" section of the Chicago Sun-Times ("University Village Rises on Maxwell St. Site.") shows us UIC's current PR spin on its replacement for Chicago's historic Maxwell Street neighborhood, which is now undergoing its final demolition despite worldwide outrage. Of course, the article fails to mention the historic neighborhood's callous destruction at the hands of cynical university administrators and city officials. It does, however, provide these interesting facts:

Most of the old buildings in the Maxwell Street neigborhood have now been demolished, their unique fixtures discarded, their bricks bundled for resale as vintage masonry. Only a handful of determined holdouts remain.

With little of the physical infrastructure left to save, the Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition remains committed to monitoring university and city compliance with the intergovernmental agreement, supporting the hot dog stands and other historic businesses that wish to remain in the neighborhood, supporting neighborhood institutions such as St. Francis of Assisi parish, and preserving the memory and history of Maxwell Street through archival and educational activities.



Wednesday, August 29, 2001

Last Maxwell Street Hot Dog Stand to Close Tomorrow.

The Maxwell St. Express Grill, located on Halsted just north of Maxwell Street, will serve its last hot dogs and Maxwell Street polish sausages on Thursday, August 30, at 4PM. Maxwell St. Express Grill is the last hot dog stand in the Maxwell Street neighborhood. They are closing involuntarily after losing an 18-month legal struggle against the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).

Many stand patrons and other Maxwell Street true believers will be present for this historic closing, including Bluesmen Jimmie Lee Robinson and Frank "Little Sonny" Scott Jr. "It is like being a pallbearer at a funeral for an old friend," says Robinson. "But it is NOT the angel of death who is taking them from us. It is UIC and Mayor Daley, the devils of displacement."

The Maxwell St. Express Grill is owned and operated by the father and son team of Tom and Alex Lazerevski. Tom is a nephew of Jim Stefanovic, who founded Original Jim's hot dog stand in 1939. Original Jim's, which was located just south of the Express Grill at Maxwell and Halsted, closed several weeks ago.

"It's terrible, we're being forced out," says Alex Lazerevski. "We want to stay here to continue this tradition. We love this neighborhood and its people. It is the only neighborhood we know."

As part of the court settlement, Maxwell Street Express Grill will have a temporary location at Union and O'Brien, next to the temporary relocation of Original Jim's. They expect to reopen there in two weeks, on September 15, 2001. In Spring of 2002, Maxwell Street Express Grill hopes to reopen in a new "permanent location" in the remodeled old Maxwell Market
Restaurant, at Halsted and Liberty, one block South of Maxwell Street. The difference will be that the Lazerevskis owned their old building. In the new location they will be tenants, with UIC as their landlord.

For more information contact: Alex Lazarevski, 847-677-7830 or 312-738-2112; Fax 847-677-8927.



Saturday, August 25, 2001

Cardinal George Blesses Historic St. Francis Church, but UIC Continues to Threaten.

On Sunday, August 26, at 3:30PM, His Eminence Cardinal Francis George will come to historic St. Francis of Assisi Church  to bless the new Pastoral Center at 813 W. Roosevelt Rd., just east of the church. St. Francis of Assisi is the oldest Spanish-speaking Catholic Church in Chicago and has long been a pillar of the Maxwell Street community. Cardinal George's father was baptized at St. Francis when, prior to the 1920s, it was a German Catholic Church.

Says Carlos Villasenor, member of the St. Francis of Assisi Preservation Committee, "We are very grateful to have Cardinal George come here to bless us and our new Pastoral Center. He is a holy man and a great leader, our spiritual leader. It is very important to us that he has a personal tie, a family tie, to our Church. He inspires us. But we are also nervous and feel threatened, that UIC continues to threaten our existence. What UIC is doing to our physical environment harms us. First UIC tried to have us kicked out and our church to be torn down. They are still after us but now they get at us in more subtle ways."

Aureliano Bermudez, another member of the Preservation Committee, comments, "This is serious. UIC has taken it upon themselves to redesign the public streets and sidewalks by us and they do not consult us. First they cut off Newberry Street, which is how we get to our parking lots. We can no longer get to our church from Halsted via Maxwell Street. We now all have to get to church by one entry point, from Roosevelt Road. That causes congestion. Then they narrow the streets, which further causes more congestion. We Mexicans have big families and many of us drive vans. It is hard to have vans travel two ways on a narrow dead-end street. It seems UIC wants to segregate us, cut us off, from the rest of the South Campus area. We are people too."

"We do a lot of socializing on our sidewalks and have vendors sell us food after Mass. So UIC puts concrete garden boxes to clutter our sidewalks and this makes it difficult for us to keep our community culture. We like flowers but people are more important than flowers. Those concrete boxes have to be removed. And then they put a light pole in the middle of our sidewalk by our gymnasium. That can hurt our children."

"I called James Gimpel, the Director and Executive Architect of UIC's South Campus Project. He hung up on me twice. Then I got an answering machine. Finally, through the intercession of another UIC official, I got to talk to him and all he said was 'we'll see'.  That was insulting and arrogant. All we want is for them to be good neighbors but UIC is suffocating our community."

For more information, contact Aureliano Bermudez, Preservation Committee of the St. Francis of Assisi Church, at 708-795-6603.



Monday, July 23, 2001

"And This Is Maxwell Street"
Wins Living Blues Award.

Even as the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) continues to senselessly demolish the historic Maxwell Street neighborhood, the heritage of Maxwell Street is garnering more international acclaim. Living Blues, the distinguished blues periodical, has named the CD collection "And This Is Maxwell Street" Best Historical Album of the Year. The 2001 Living Blues Awards appear in the magazine's July/August 2001 issue.

"And This Is Maxwell Street" is a 3-disc set released by Rooster Blues Records. It consists of music recorded for the 1964 documentary film "And This Is Free" by director Mike Shea. For many years the tapes were believed to be lost. They were discovered a few years ago by Colin Talcroft, who also won a 2001 Living Blues Award for his liner notes to the set.

Recorded entirely on the street in the Maxwell Street neighborhood, live as it happened during the Sunday market, the collection includes sterling performances by Robert Nighthawk, Johnny Young, Carey Bell, Arvella Gray, Jim and Fanny Brewer, and Robert Whitehead. Also included is an interview with Robert Nighthawk conducted by Michael Bloomfield. Earlier this year, the album was nominated for the 2001 W. C. Handy Award for Best Historical Blues Album by the Blues Foundation.

Living Blues, The Magazine of the African-American Blues Tradition, is published by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi.

For more information:

Living Blues magazine.

Rooster Blues Records.

To order "And This Is Maxwell Street" from Amazon.com.


Past News Updates

UIC Police Evict Reverend Johnson from Old Maxwell Street Area. May 22, 2001

New York's Lower East Side Is Saved, Why Not Chicago's Maxwell Street? April 18, 2001

"A Great Day on Maxwell Street" Preserves Musical Heritage April 5, 2001

UIC Submits Façade Removal Plan to Begin April 1. February 5, 2001

Demolition Resumes in Historic Maxwell Street Neighborhood. January 10, 2001

UIC Expansion is Ethnic Cleansing, not New Urbanism. December 25, 2000

Bluesman Jimmie Lee Robinson Ends 81-Day Hunger Strike. December 22, 2000

What They Say, And What They Don't. September 25, 2000

UIC Fences Off Juketown Community Bandstand. September 4, 2000

Coalition Appeals National Register Ruling. August 31, 2000

National Register Rejects Maxwell Street Historic District. August 28, 2000

Coalition Demands that UIC Keep Its Promises. August 21, 2000

UIC Demolishes Wrong Building in Maxwell Street Debacle. August 18, 2000

Wholesale Demolition of Historic District Has Begun. August 3, 2000

UIC Releases Adaptive Reuse/Facade Removal and Restoration Plan. July 21, 2000

State Historic Preservation Officer Opposes Maxwell Street Historic District. July 21, 2000

UIC Is Evil! June 23, 2000

IHSAC Unanimously Endorses Maxwell Street Historic District. June 10, 2000

Expression of Support for the Maxwell Street Historic District National Register Application. June 9, 2000

Alderman Profits from Maxwell Street Destruction. June 4, 2000

In Retaliation Against Maxwell St. Coalition, UIC Destroys Civil War Building. May 28, 2000

"Good Blues to the Last Drop" (Maxwell Street on National Public Radio). May 2, 2000

Coalition Nominates Maxwell Street as National Register Historic District. Conflicts of Interest in Springfield Prompt Direct Appeal to Washington. March 25, 2000

Marchers Protest Maxwell Street Destruction. February 27, 2000

Coalition Receives International Blues Award. January 22, 2000

UIC Unveils Final Plan, Coalition Protests. September 9, 1999

Demonstration Protests Maxwell Street Destruction.April 4, 1998

Rock Legend Bo Diddley Call for Maxwell Street Preservation. November 24, 1997

You will find many other past updates at the Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition home page (Maintained by Coalition founder Steve Balkin.)


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