A Cabrini-Green Omnibus

Cabrini-Green passes into history today, bringing the project to an end, but not its story. As the Plan for Transformation continues and with it a new era of public policy, here are a few leaves from Cabrini-Green’s history.

cabrini green

Cabrini-Green passed into history today, ending the structure, but not its story. A friend of mine once theorized that the Plan for Transformation likely represents one of the great mass exoduses in urban history, and it’ll probably take decades before we understand what happened (Arnold Hirsch’s Making the Second Ghetto, about the first era of public housing in Chicago, ends at 1960, and came out in 1983). But here are some places to start.

* Lynn Becker: “Something happened here. Something that they want us to forget.”

* Harold Henderson: “As usual in Chicago, there’s a history here, and it doesn’t make pretty reading.”

* Erma Amstadter: “He had high hopes for the buildings and the people who would live in them,” said Mr. Amstadter’s wife. “The dismay [in later years] was not about the bricks and mortar.”

* Lois Wille: “If you look at where the Robert Taylor Homes were placed, where Cabrini-Green was placed, and where some of the other huge high-rises were, they did, ultimately, form a wall between black and white, between poor communities and affluent communities.”

* Alonnie White: “When I heard about the buildings being demolished I did a bit of research and met with people from Project Cabrini Green. It completely opened my eyes to something totally different, and how a lot of people have suffered because they’ve been dispersed.”

* Lee Bey: “Lisa drew a nice parallel between the predominantly-black Cabrini Green’s vividly painted units and the simple and brightly colored homes in Africa and the Caribbean. ‘We are a diaspora,’ she said. I think she’s on to something.”

* Elizabeth Taylor: “The window where Diana keeps her vigil has been pierced by a bullet, and there is another bullet hole in the wall, which she covered with a cabinet and a neat display of picture postcards showing Chicago’s tourist attractions.”

* Grant Pick: “In December of 1988 a 25-year-old named Sammy Hatcher was gunned down in an entranceway at Cabrini. Tomes baptized him with a handful of snow before Hatcher was hauled away to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, brain dead on arrival.”

* Megan Cottrell: “At last night’s gathering, I would have been an associate mourner–like someone who comes to a funeral because they know the person who knows the person who died. And while Cabrini and I have a bit of history, it’s nothing compared to the thousands who lived there and made their home.”

* Worth visiting: the Cabrini-Green segment of Out My Window, featuring the work of David Schalliol.

* NBC News on Cabrini-Green, July 1970:


* Jane Byrne’s Easter in Cabrini-Green, 1981:


* Ambassadors of Cabrini, 1983:


* “Nine Years Old in Cabrini Green” from Megan Cottrell.


* Timelapse demolition, 660 W. Division:


* The last day:


Photograph: Jo Guldi (CC by 2.0)



3 years ago
Posted by ShauntaLewisMassey

Why no Cabrini Heat doc videos? I'm a black female who works at freedom center and the teardown couldnt happen fast enough. Even now we cant walk back to the train when its warm out because of the low rise places off chicago ave and how they act towards us. Our question is why do white folks care so much about this? Are we your charity case? I work and I dont want anything to do with peeps in projects because that aint help, thats helpless. I have family getting Sec 8 but they work and have clean places and do their best to get better. That aint happening in the projects. Nobody works and you get laughed at because you have a job and arent getting a check or deposit on your card. I'm sorry but I aint sad when I read about someone livin in a project their whole life. That means they aint worth anything and dont deserve help.

3 years ago
Posted by elizabeth

I understand that Cabrini represents a great deal of paint, sorrow and social disfunction, and its loss is not all bad, but for me, tearing down those buildings means that we, as Americans, no longer believe in ourselves and our ability to help each other. I believe that the government is tool for all of us, and that it can be used for good. We can come together and make good places to live, and we can make bad places better. Tearing down our stock of public housing means that we have all lost a public asset that will not soon be replaced. Section 8 is a good option, but not enough, and not a permanent commitment. I clearly have no perfect options, but I do sorrow for the unfilled promise that Cabrini's demolition represents.

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