Monday, January 29, 2007

Saying Goodbye to Robert Taylor Homes

Saying goodbye to Robert Taylor Homes
Yesterdays ramblings took me to some pretty strange places. This is one of Chicago's infamous housing projects. I think it is the last of the row called the Robert Taylor Homes. The projects were a mystery to me when I first moved to Chicago. There they were, high rise buildings all in a row, with smoke stains from fires around some windows (you can see some in this picture). I heard stories over the years of drugs, elevators that didn't work, gang warfare, poverty, neglect, firemen who had to climb to the top floors to do their jobs. The buildings became a symbol of well-intended social engineering gone seriously wrong. Now they are all being torn down and the residents resettled, hopefully into better places. This too has been controversial. Where should new housing be built? Who should be eligible? What to do with the folks no one wants as neighbors? And so on.
For a great book about life in the projects in Chicago, I highly recommend There are No Children Here, by Alex Kotlowitz.


angela said...

High rise blocks for the disadvantaged must have seemed like the perfect solution to town planners. In the UK most of the notorious estates have now been demolished and remodeled though here in nice there are still areas in existence rife with racial tensions, unemployment and crime.
Thanks for the book recommendation.
PS I enjoy the Washawski detective novels set in South Chicago(I think)

paula said...

wow that brings me back to watching 'good times' as a kid. seems a ridiculous name for a show when you look at the conditions people have to live in...wonder if I can get that book out here in the boonies of vermont. :)

Misplaced said...

When I lived in Chicago on Racine Ave around 1987 I would cut through Cabrini Green to get to my job downtown. A cop pulled me over and told me to never drive through there again- it was that unsafe. I, of course, didn't listen to him becuae it was such a great short cut.
Someone told me that entire area has changed considerable- it looked like a warzone when I was there.

BendingPeak said...

Intersting questions for sure.

Tyrone said...

Robert Taylor Homes was a palace to me. The Mayor and The Former President conspired to mistreat, stereotype, abuse, and manipulate the burdens of income mothers with displacement profits for homeless shelters and racism. I lived there and have a graduate degree in Urban Planning and Public Affairs like so many others. My book is out now in Stores telling the truth about Robert taylor Homes and how Sudhir Venkatesh lied to make millions. here is the link:

Leo West said...

I too lived in the Robert Taylor Homes at 4120 S. Prairie. People called it "The Lonely" because it was all by itself 4-5 blocks east of State St & Federal. We moved there when the Projects was first built back in 1961. What an awesome view we had watching the sun come up in the East on Lake Michigan & the sunsets & full moons were nice also. We had good Teachers & kids were taught respect by their parents & elders. Back then It wasn't always as bad as people say. I'll never forget the close friendships & fun we use to have growing up there. It would take a whole book to tell you. All I can say for now is I had one of the best Childhoods a Kid could ask for.People kept their places clean & in practically every household people worked tho their was many without Fathers their were others where the Father raised the Children. I was lucky to have both my Parents most of the kids I knew where highly disciplined.The Gangs came later in the 60's We was surrounded by gangs,4 blocks in any direction seemed to put you in any other gangs territory. I remember being chased by several members of a gang once & some Wineheads saved me so I always give change to some Wineheads to this very day other than this one incident I never had a problem with Gangs.Around 1971 they put this caging up on the front of the Gallerys(Building porch) and it gave The Projects that Prison appearance. It was like they was putting us in a cage.My Parents brought a house shortly after I enter High School then. Drugs wasn't prevalent & we didn't even know what drugs were. I remember when I was 12 or 13 and seeing a Headline in The Sun Times that said Pot Raid on North End with a picture of a stove & pots & pans on it. I asked my Mom "Mom did they bust these people for dirty pots & pans?" She replies " Boy you better read the story" After reading the story I said Pots is a Drug huh? We were sheltered from a lot back then really. The drugs didn't come 'till later in the early 80's tho I'm sure there was some people dabbling with hard drugs in the late 70's Crack Cocaine hit and the rest is History. I left Chicago to settle down out West in 1982. One night before leaving my Cousin & Sister went out to the clubs & on the way back I had a premonition that something devastating was going to happen in Chicago. I was telling my Cuz & Sis that this thing is going to come in like a storm & it's going to devaste people & break up Familys & my Cousin cuts me off "How's a Storm going to break up a Family? You're talking crazy", I replied "I didn't say it was a Storm I said it's coming in like a storm". They kept asking me what is it, what is it I said I don't know but whatever it is it's gonna mess alot of people up. Years later my Sister calls me & tells me,Remember before you left & you said something devasting was going to hit Chicago. I said Yes she replied it was crack cocaine. You was right. I'm thankful I made a promise to myself when I entered H.S. never to use any hard drug ever.Last time I was home they was tearing the Projects down & my Family knows I always vist whenever I'm in Town & everyone kept telling me I'll take you anywhere anywhere you wanna go except for the Projects after hearing this line for the 4th time I asked my Cousin whats up with the Projects He said Man You don't know? They done went crazy Man they killin' folks up in there. I asked my Sis,We'll you think we can go like early in the Morning the Crackheads should be sleep then & she goes maybe early in the morning but I don't know. We never went. If anyone has a picture of 4120 or a picture of a white 16 story project,Could you please post it on my 4120 S. Prairie site on Facebook. Thanks Leo

Blackbeauty5200 said...

I also lived in the Robert Taylor Homes at 4120 S. Prairie (The Lonenly). Leo and I were very close friends. For us,life in the project was not so bad. I moved in in September of 1968. At that time it was a beautiful place to live. We had a beautiful garden in the front of the building. The kids were not allowed to run rampant and as Leo said, we were taught to respect our elders. I had many friends who's apartments I visited and they were all clean and well kept. We had floor captains that would check anyone who got out of line. We even had a police officer who lived on the same floor that we lived on. I myself didn't have any knowledge of drugs, as most of the kids in our building, and for the most part, there was no fights, shootings or the otehr nonsense that started in the later days. When I learned that we were moving out I was a freshman in High School. I litterally cried. My parents allowed me to finish High School at Wendell Phillips.