In Chicago people are trying to sell their houses as highlighted in my last post A Silver Lining In Chicago?   And then there are houses no one wants to sell or save.

Pulitzer Prize winning Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich last Sunday featured photographer David Schalliol’s project To Be Demolished.  Schalliol is in the process of creating “a photographic portrait of 100 of the hundreds of buildings threatened with demolition in the city of Chicago”. 

I liked the contrast between Crain’s Business report on the houses for sale and the Gapers Block series of Schalliol’s photos.  It brought to mind the thousands of abandoned crumbling houses in Detroit; see Lowell Boileau’s The Fabulous Ruins of Detroit It also brought  to mind our experience with demolition in Chicago.

October 19, 1987 is known as Black Monday when the stock markets fell.  We remember that day for another fall.  The old derelict commercial building next to The Salvation Army’s Chicago Temple Corps at Madison Street and Ogden Avenue also fell that day.  Right on top our Temple building.

Gail and I were then corps officers for the Temple.  More than a year earlier we had initiated action against the owner of that building.  It was a crumbling mess where addicts sat on warm summer evenings shooting up between their toes.  Where prostitutes turned tricks.  I remember one evening stepping out of the Temple building just as a coupling couple tumbled out of a car parked there.  This building wasn’t the kind of neighborhood resource we wanted next door as we conducted programs with young people.

We went to court against the building’s owner.  The judge made quick work of the case.  Tear it down he told the owner.  I remember riding down in the elevator with the resentful owner.

A demolition crew showed up and started work.  On Monday we were getting ready to leave for the corps when the phone rang and Pamela was on the other end saying that our building had fallen.  We hurried down.

The equipment operator was in shock.  Pam is about as unflappable as a person can be, her voice was shaking.  The building was a mess.  Fortunately no one was in the areas hit by several floors worth of falling brick.  Inspecting the damage I opened the men’s room door to find a room filled with bricks to where the ceiling used to be.  It looked like a prankster’s dream.

Electric and gas people came and cut service.  Inspectors swarmed.  Police and fire. 

It would turn out to be a three year mess that ended October 1990 when a crowd gathered to dedicate the new Temple building.

To be demolished?  Two for the price of one.

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