Mecca Flat Blues - Exhibition at Chicago Cultural Center

The "Mecca" Hotel was built in 1891, on the corner of 34th Street from State to Dearborn. At the time it was the largest and most richly furnished permanent hotel in Chicago. The building was completed just in time for the Chicago 1893 “Colombian World Exposition”. This enormous complex was expected to house the huge crowds visiting the Fair, one major problem was the fact it was located far from the Exposition's Fair grounds.

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By the mid 1920's it became populated with many new immigrants from the south, and had fallen into hard times and disrepair. By today's standards the "Mecca Apartments" would be considered a slum or a tenement. Many who called it home were aspiring writers, artists and musicians. In August 1924, "Mecca Flat Blues" was recorded in Chicago, on the Paramount record label, with Priscilla Stewart as vocals and Jimmy Blythe on piano.

Mecca Flat Blues
(James Blythe and Alexander Robinson)

Talk about blues but I’ve got the meanest kind
Blue and disgusted, dissatisfied in mind
My Mecca flat man, he really don’t understand

Mecca flat woman must be a jazzin’ houn’
Mecca flat woman must be a jazzin’ houn’
Keep foolin’ with me and I’ll cut your jazzer down

Mecca flat woman stings like a stingaree
Mecca flat woman stings like a stingaree
Mecca flat woman take your teeth out of me

Im going to find my Mecca flat man today
Im going to find my Mecca flat man today
Got the Mecca flat blues and somebody’s goin’ to pay

Over 60 years ago the Mecca Flats building  was torn down, it stood in the way of the expanding Illinois Institute of Technology.

The Mecca, 1891-1892. View looking west along 34th Street with Armour Flats visible in background.  Mecca stands in its lot line. Two of the Mecca's State Street stores are visible. A large fence separates the exterior courtyard from the street in this c. 1909 view. Photo courtesy (Collection of LeRoy Bommaert.)

The Mecca, 1891-1892. View looking west along 34th Street with Armour Flats visible in background. Mecca stands in its lot line. Two of the Mecca's State Street stores are visible. A large fence separates the exterior courtyard from the street in this c. 1909 view. Photo courtesy (Collection of LeRoy Bommaert.)

A great free exhibition of the Mecca Flats history, photos and music is currently at The Chicago Cultural Center:

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Life Magazine Photographer Wallace Kirkland, captured fantastic images of the Mecca Flats in October 1951.

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Opening Reception: Friday, February 21 from 5:30-7:30 pm - Admission: FREE - Dates: February 15-May 25, 2014

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Chicago Cultural Center Hours:

Chicago Cultural Center
Monday–Thursday, 9 am–7 pm
Friday, 9 am–6 pm
Saturday, 9 am–6 pm
Sunday, 10 am–6 pm

Sidney R. Yates Gallery Hours:
Monday–Thursday, 10 am–7 pm
Friday–Sunday, 10 am–6 pm

Location:
Chicago Cultural Center, Sidney R. Yates Gallery, 4th Floor
78 E. Washington St.
Chicago, IL 60602

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Suggested reading:

Giving Preservation a History: Histories of Historic Preservation in the United States

Front Cover
Max Page, Randall Mason
Taylor & Francis, Jan 15, 2004 - History - 336 pages
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