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)

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