To the Editor:
It’s certainly been a bad year for old Hyde Park buildings. First, the University of Chicago’s Ingleside Hall went down and now MAC is planning to bulldoze three luxury 1892 rowhouses from the Columbian Exposition era now standing on the 5100 block of Harper. All fine buildings, one sacrificed to a big new lawn and the others to put up a parking lot. It all sounds kind of post-war ‘50’s, doesn’t it?
Hard to know which is more ridiculous — the wanton smashing of the buildings or the self-serving rhetoric employed to rationalize the demolitions. The “rat infested” epithet on MAC spokesman’s part was a nice touch, bringing back fond memories of the previous U. of C. wave of “progress” known as Urban Renewal. Back then “rats” were code for any building that was in the South East Chicago Commission’s way and for the kinds of people that supposedly went right along with the rats. Those nasty rats just make one shiver, don’t they?
It’s quite fascinating how our existing, functional community gets portrayed as an obsolete, menacing shantytown. And apparently we’re desperate for rescue. “This Is What Hyde Park Has Been Waiting For” and “A Better Vision for Hyde Park.” What could be more timely and welcome than physical expansion by the university and commercial exploitation by outside corporations. This soft version of colonialism is ideal for helping us backward Hyde Parkers learn the new and enlightened ways to live. We can happily leave our native, indigenous customs and practices behind in the good old dustbin of history. Who wouldn’t want to be part of this glorious revolution? Well, the big boys are getting their narrow, short-sighted, small-minded way once again. It seems almost inevitable now that the university, with help from its friends, will re-make the neighborhood in its own image every 50 years or so. One can only hope when they get done this time, when the dust settles and we are fully Zimmerized and MACified, there will be at least a few scraps of our unique, wonderful, humane community left dangling from the edges of their over-capitalized, over-grown campus and their photogenic new shopping districts.