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Flip City is a story about how a city and the architecture that defines it evolve over time. The more I explore, the more epic it becomes, so I'm breaking it into multiple chapters to explore more aspects of the theme, and make the whole thing manageable, both for myself and for you as a reader.For all but the youngest of us, the story of the neighborhood north of Chicago and east of Goose Island is one of the rise and fall and death of Cabrini-Green, the massive and increasingly troubled public housing complex that dominated the area for decades.
In other areas of the city, important remnants of that immigrant history remains. The old buildings may have completely new uses, but they endure. At Cabrini-Green, however, there are no surviving markets, no theaters, or settlement houses. All that remains is a handful of old churches, and one of them, St. Dominics, is about to meet its end.
a story by architecture critic Lee Bey, the church was consecrated in 1905, designed by architect William J. Brinkmann at a cost of $60,000. It was built to hold 1,000 worshippers, something it had little trouble doing in its early decades, when the area around it was a dense slum of Swedish, Irish and, predominantly, Italian laborers. Is was so tough a neighborhood, it was actually referred to as Hell.
St. Dominic's Church, located at the corner of Locust and Sedgewick Streets, was founded by the Reverend E.M. Griffin in 1905. The style of architect of this fine church is a pleasing combination of Roman and Gothic. The parish being located in a large manufacturing district, the congregation is composed almost entirely of Italians. The 400 children who attend the school are taught by the Sisters of Charity of the B.V.M . . . Illustrated Souvenir of the Archdiocese of Chicago, 1916Beginning in the 1942, the slums became the object of “urban renewal.” The old buildings were demolished in favor of public housing.
For the bureaucrats, it was far more difficult to pursue actual solutions than simply blame the architecture. The Chicago Housing Authority initiated a Plan for Transformation whose primary impetus was to make neighborhoods close to downtown safe for gentrification, cleansing the area of the poor, collecting subsidies from the feds for units kept vacant, and accumulating hundreds of millions of dollars in reserves, even as the waiting lists for public housing grew.
bulletin of St. Joseph's Church, on Orleans near Division. In it, Father Lawrence Lisowski writes . . .
St. Dominic's has now been sold and the site rezoned. The old church will be razed for a new seven-story, 40-unit condo building designed by Axios Architects for Conlon and Company, scheduled for completion in 2016.
There's a new Target on Division where Cabrini Green once stood. A new apartment tower is now rising right across the street. If everything goes as planned, the new condo building where St. Dominic's now stands will form the foundations of a next chapter. New development may well eventually fill in all those empty lots, but that new city will be an engineered tabula rasa, expunged of history.