Chicago, Sunday, February 27, 2000
The day was clear, sunny and unseasonably warm as about 50 protesters marched the mile and a half from State Street to Halsted Street along Roosevelt Road in one more act of defiance toward plans to destroy a Chicago landmark. As the University of Illinois at Chicago prepares to break ground on its latest land-grab, protesters raised a chant of "UIC, school of greed, how many parking lots do you need?" They carried signs that read "Save Blues History," "Stop Urban Cleansing," and "Save Maxwell Street."
The march was organized by Clarence "Lil Scotty" Scott, a Maxwell Street blues musician and local activist. He was assisted by members of the Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition and the Coalition to Protect Public Housing. Groups supporting fair housing, employment justice and environmental issues also participated. The marchers gathered at noon at the intersection of State and Roosevelt, in downtown Chicago, and marched along Roosevelt Road to Halsted Street, continuing south on Halsted to Maxwell Street, where musicians performed in a "people’s park" established on the site of a recent demolition. Along the march route, they passed through the new Sunday market on Canal Street, relocated there from Maxwell Street in 1994.
"UIC calls its project campus expansion, but most of it will be luxury condominiums and other private, for-profit construction," said Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition President Chuck Cowdery. "And, of course, more parking lots." As the protesters enjoyed blues music, and refreshments from the famous Jim’s Original hot dog stand across the street, they gazed at an empty UIC parking lot on the site where Nate’s Deli and other Maxwell Street landmarks stood until they were destroyed by UIC in 1994.
"This is one of the most important historic neighborhoods in the city. They should be honoring and respecting it, not destroying it," said Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition Vice President Steve Balkin. "More buildings should be preserved and rehabilitated. It won’t cost more to do that than the university’s ridiculous plan to slap facades onto a parking garage."
Of particular concern is the group of buildings on the south side of Maxwell Street between Halsted and Union. This virtually intact block of vintage buildings includes a wood frame structure from before the 1871 Chicago Fire, an example of early Chicago tenement housing, and several examples of 19th century commercial architecture. The university’s development plan calls for the block to be razed and replaced with new buildings and a parking garage, decorated with facades from structures demolished on Maxwell, Halsted and Roosevelt.
Maxwell Street is important as the primary immigrant gateway neighborhood in Chicago for more than 150 years, and as the birthplace of Chicago blues.
Return to the Maxwell St. News Update page.
Return to the Maxwell St. page.
Return to Chuck Cowdery's home page.
Go to the Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition home page.