The Public Interest

Woodlawn: the zone of destruction

Charles P. Livermore , George F. Galland & Winston Moore

Winter 1973

IT was a moderately distinguished group that took a walk one morning a year ago through the devastated blocks of Chicagos Woodlawn neighborhood—Senator Charles Percy, U.S. Representative Abner Mikva, Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Floyd Hyde, and local HUD chief John Waner. They were investigating a local newspaper’s suggestion that the black South Side community was being systematically burned to the ground by a conspiracy of real estate operators and public officials. Reporters waited, pencils in hand, for the visitors’ reactions to the seemingly endless line of abandoned apartment houses and rubble-strewn vacant lots. But there seemed to be little that anyone could say. Mr. Waner reflected on what he saw as a collapse of civic pride: “What in hell happened to the I Will’ Chicago spirit?” Assistant Secretary Hyde was reminded of home: “You could put those buildings in the Georgetown section of Washington and theyd look good.” And Senator Percy summed up the general mood of astonishment and bewilderment: “Where does it all end?”

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