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33 1 Across Damen Olds • New Every summer for the past decade, a couple thousand former public housing residents gather at Union Park on Chicago’s Near West Side for the Henry Horner Family Reunion Picnic. Those who have moved into Westhaven, the mixed-income community that has risen in Horner’s wake, come from just a few blocks away. Others arrive from the suburbs. Some even come from out of state to catch up with old friends and family, share photographs, play games, listen to music, and dance. Union Park is often busy in the summer, but these revelers stand out in the crowds. Many wear versions of the official reunion T-shirt. Printed on its back are the addresses of all twenty-one buildings that once made up the complex. Many wearers decorate the backs with airbrushed images and messages that memorialize people and buildings who have “passed.” The front is usually printed with some version of the following: Henry Horner Olds • New Across Damen Damen Avenue between Washington Boulevard and Lake Street divided two of the three subsections that once made up the entire Hornercomplex.ItseparatedtheHenryHornerHomes(“theOlds”) from the Henry Horner Extension (“the New”). A third subsection, the Annex, still lies a few blocks to the south. Much to the chagrin of its former and current residents, during the reunion’s earliest years, “theValley”appearedontheT-shirtnotbynamebutasaseriesofaddresses .ResidentsofHorner’ssubsectionsattendeddifferentschools and churches; they played in different parks and recreation centers; 34 ACROSS DAMEN they formed and joined different social groups, including youth clubs, mutual aid groups, and gangs. And while many who lived at Horner, and later Horner as it was becoming Westhaven, frequently crossed Damen, all these differences could complicate that crossing. When I started spending time in the area in 2003, parents and guardians worried that Horner’s redevelopment was relocating children in ways that exacerbated gang tensions. They complained about shortsighted planners and developers who had located new parks, recreation centers, or schools on one versus the other side of Damen. But getting across Damen was complicated for another Aerial view, looking east, of the Horner complex during the earliest phase of demolition and redevelopment, 1996. The Extension, footprints of demolished Extension buildings, and the first town houses of the Superblock can be seen in the lower left of the frame. The Horner Homes stand “across Damen”—that is, across the third north–south street from the bottom of the frame (north is to the left). The Annex is visible at the top right corner of the United Center. The United Center is surrounded by a sea of parking lots, just south of Madison, the major east–west artery in the area. Photograph by the Chicago Housing Authority; courtesy of William Wilen. 35 ACROSS DAMEN reason: the traffic was terrible. Damen swells to five lanes in other parts of Chicago. However, between Washington Boulevard and Lake Street, Damen has just three lanes. That narrowness is deceptive . Traffic lurches, diverges, and speeds up unpredictably through these blocks. Some motorists race south toward the on-ramps of the Eisenhower Expressway. Dating from the mid-1950s, the era of Interstateexpansion ,the EisenhowerconnectsChicago’sdowntownbusiness district, “the Loop,” to its western suburbs. Other drivers might be en route to an event at the United Center, such as a basketball or hockey game, a circus, or a concert. The United Center lies just to the south. At these times cars swerve around traffic managers and ticket scalpers as motorists search for parking in the sea of asphalt that surrounds this massive sports and entertainment complex. Other cars stop suddenly to discharge passengers at their “church home.” Many African Americans who had the means left the Near West Side as it underwent intense disinvestment in the 1960s and 1970s. Yet some retain ties to local churches and return to visit them regularly. Throughout my research, several of these churches stood along this stretch of Damen. Also converging here were memories of the concrete walkways that had once connected the Olds with the New. By 2005, these walkways were nearly gone, and a reconstructed street grid had begun emerging in their wake. Like many midcentury urban renewal projects , Horner’s site plan called for expansive open spaces that interrupted the perpendicular lines of the regular street grid. Yet in 2005, those with Horner still in their feet were beating its recently demolished walkways back into the urban landscape. Children who lived in the last two mid-rises at the Horner Homes often bunched along...


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