Chicago has many abandoned houses, especially on the west and south sides. The houses range from simple raised ranches and traditional Chicago bungalows and brownstones to even older stock such as Victorian-era dowagers in Englewood and Kenwood and West Pullman and Roseland.
Every house tells a story. For some of these houses, the story starts back when the neighborhood, such as Englewood and Roseland, were their own settlements and towns, separate from Chicago, and centered around old Indian trails or truck farms or the then-new railroads, such as the Rock Island Line. Others have a more modern history and tell the story of the influx of African Americans from the South during and after the Industrial Revolution, who sometimes built new houses and sometimes lived in the houses of other previous ethnic groups. They were the homes of stockyard employees and local store owners and people who took the street cars and buses and Model-T’s into Chicago or to factories near-by to earn their livings. They were the houses of students who attended the public or Catholic schools down the block and around the corner.
They are the houses of Chicago. In some neighborhoods there are several on each block, windows and doors covered by stark plywood. Often, the boarded up house is a location for drug dealing and for gang activity and, sometimes, if lucky, just a quiet yet decaying reminder of how vibrant most Chicago neighborhoods used to be.
If you live next door to a boarded up house, you hope it is just boarded up and empty. Laughter and neighbors and kids running about would be better, but quiet and empty is good, too.
If you live next door to a boarded up house you now wish that it was either occupied or torn down. Some are too far gone to be saved. That makes for hundreds, if not thousands, of houses –homes– scattered across Chicago
You can’t help but wonder when you see them who lived there, how their lives went, and what happened to them.
Take a drive some afternoon and, with some imagination, you can see the past.