- Created on 01 May 2013
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — An 1890s orphanage for Black children, a theater that thrived in Peoria's early 20th century heyday and the Chicago home of late blues legend Muddy Waters were named Tuesday to the 10 most endangered historic places in Illinois.
The preservationist group, Landmark Illinois, has released its annual list since 1995 with the mission of calling attention to the threatened sites, many of which are headed toward demolition. That includes Waters' one-time Chicago home, which has been vacant for a decade and is in foreclosure proceedings.
Back in the day, owning a home symbolized a mark of achievement for Waters, who lived there from 1954 until the early 1970s, according to Tim Samuelson, a cultural historian with the city's Department of Cultural Affairs. The brick row house became a gathering and rehearsal spot for several blues greats, including pianist Otis Spann and singer and guitar player Chester Burnett, or Howlin' Wolf, as he was better known.
"Anybody who was anyone was in that house," said Samuelson. "I always call it the real House of Blues "
Waters later moved to suburban Chicago and the home fell into disrepair after his 1983 death.
The list also noted a unique orphanage for black children. The Lincoln Colored Home, a now a boarded up brick building in downtown Springfield, was built in 1898 for black orphans and the elderly. By 1904 it was designated solely for children, who attended school, church services and were fed at the facility. Menus from the orphanage — now housed at the Springfield and Central Illinois African American History Museum — listed daily breakfasts of oatmeal, prunes and bread and butter.
The home was closed and sold at auction in 1944 and it became a single family home. In 2005, according to Landmark Illinois, it was acquired by a former Tuskegee Airman raised in Springfield. The home fell into disrepair and received numerous demolition notices, but history buffs hope it can be restored and used for meeting space or storage by community groups.
"Because of its historic value, it's been a big part of the African American community," said Jerrie Blakely, head of the museum's board. "It was a focal point. It was built by and for African Americans."
Also on the list is the Madison Theater in Peoria, a 1922 theater which hosted vaudeville acts, silent films, movies with sound and later concerts. The theater was named to the National Register of Historic Places and closed in 2003. It's been vacant since. Landmark Illinois called it "the last remaining icon of 'Will It Play in Peoria?" the Vaudevillian adage coined in the central Illinois city.
Rounding out the list are the 19th century Newcomb Hotel in Quincy; several of Chicago's moveable bridges; community mausoleums deteriorating in Beecher and Roodhouse; Gage House, a pre-Civil War home in Winnetka; Fox Lake's Mineola Hotel; the Miner's Institute in Collinsville and West Chicago's Wiant House.
Landmark Illinois officials said that since it began the list designation, more than a third of the places have been saved.
"The sites named to the list are all exceptionally important to not only local residents, but the local economy," Bonnie McDonald, President of Landmarks Illinois, said in a statement. "By calling attention to the potential for their reuse and revitalization, we are encouraging job creation and economic development across Illinois — something everyone can support."
- Created on 01 May 2013
Iconic musician and vocalist Herbie Hancock is among the handful this year who will receive an honorary degree from Columbia College Chicago at the school’s May 18 and 19 commencement ceremonies. Columbia College will confer a total of eight people in the fields of entertainment, media and arts with the special honor. Hancock will be recognized at the May 19 graduation.
The college calls him a true icon of modern music. His career spans five decades and he has 14 Grammy Awards, including 2007 Album of the Year and Best Contemporary Jazz Album for “River: The Joni Letters”. Born in Chicago in 1940, Hancock was a child piano prodigy who performed a Mozart piano concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at age 11.
He began playing jazz in high school, initially influenced by Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans. He also developed a passion for electronics and science and double-majored in music and electrical engineering at Grinnell College.
- Created on 30 April 2013
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan asked the U.S. Supreme Court Monday for more time to decide whether to appeal a court's ruling that the state's ban on the public possession of firearms is unconstitutional.
A petition seeking a 30-day extension — until June 24 — argued that the December ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals conflicted with several other rulings on guns, including a federal appeals court's finding on New York's restrictive concealed carry law. The Supreme Court announced earlier this month it would not hear an appeal of that case.
The 7th Circuit called Illinois' prohibition on the carrying of concealed firearms unconstitutional and ordered lawmakers to remedy the problem by June 9.
Legislators continue to argue about what the law should say. Madigan has until May 23 to decide on an appeal to the high court.
"No decision has been made yet in terms of what our next steps will be," Madigan spokeswoman Natalie Bauer said. "But the attorney general will make a final decision partly based on a very careful review of a draft petition."
The request from Madigan's solicitor general, Michael Scodro, contends that the December ruling about Illinois' ban created conflicts about whether the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms applies outside the home and if it does, what standards should govern it. It said there is also a question about a state's ability to respond to a lawsuit about the regulations.
And the request mentioned the New York case that the high court declined to consider. It said the December ruling on Illinois does not consider the New York court's determination that "the Legislature is 'far better equipped than the judiciary' to make sensitive public policy judgments" about carrying firearms.
New York has a restrictive "may issue" law, in which law enforcement has wide latitude to deny permits.
Gov. Pat Quinn, who favors strict controls on guns, has urged Madigan to appeal.
Bauer said even if there is an appeal, the Legislature must still meet the June 9 deadline, which is the date on which the federal court determined that, the unconstitutional concealed carry ban would expire. Without other action, widely permissive gun-toting rules would apply.
The extension also allows Madigan to consider what, if any, action the Legislature takes, Bauer said.
Lawmakers have wrangled over the issue, with divisions falling along geographical lines.
Chicago Democrats weary of street violence in the metropolis want restrictive rules governing where and when citizens may carry guns. Second Amendment devotees in the rest of the state, both Republican and Democrat, argue that police should issue permits to virtually anyone who passes background checks and acquires the requisite safety training.
- Created on 01 May 2013
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says an effort to take illegal guns off the street has resulted in the seizure of 83 guns in the last seven weeks.
Dart said Tuesday that the newly formed Sheriff's Gun Suppression Unit also has recovered thousands of rounds of ammunition and more than 100 revoked Firearm Owners Identification cards. Dart has proposed state gun legislation that would reform and strengthen enforcement of the state's FOID card system.
The weapons seized add to the thousands of weapons that Chicago's police department takes off the street every year.
- Created on 30 April 2013
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Monday that he was able to tweak a deal to privatize the city's parking meters that has proven to be a national embarrassment even as he acknowledged that the city is stuck for the next 71 years with a contract he inherited and despises.
"We cannot make this bad deal go away and make it into a good one," the mayor said at a City Hall news conference of the $1.15 billion, 75-year deal reached in 2008 by predecessor Richard M. Daley that led to Chicago having the most expensive parking in the country. "But I think we did make it a little less bad for the next seven decades."
Emanuel, who called his proposal an effort to "make a little lemonade out of a big lemon," said he was able to secure from Chicago Parking Meters LLC an agreement to stop charging for parking in the city's residential neighborhoods on Sundays. But to get that concession, Emanuel had to give one: Metered parking hours will be extended an hour until 10 p.m., as well as an additional three hours in the trendy near North Side.
Emanuel has been embroiled in a battle over tens of millions of dollars Chicago Parking Meters LLC has contended the city owes for revenue lost when streets are closed for festivals and other reasons.
On Monday, he said the company has agreed to settle for much less than it has demanded. Under the agreement, the city will settle invoices totaling $49 million for a two-year period that ended March 31 for a total of $8.9 million. The difference of about $20 million a year will total more than $1 billion over the life of the contract, Emanuel said.
"I literally have millions of dollars of unpaid bills sitting on my desk that I have refused to pay," the mayor said. "The company now knows that I'm a different type of mayor, this is a different administration and Chicago has a different way of doing business."
The mayor said he will submit the proposal to the City Council, which must approve it to go into effect.
Chicago residents said the tradeoff won't help them much, but they don't blame the current mayor.
"It's going to make things even more of a frustration," said marketing executive Brian Hull, 30, envisioning feeding a meter during a late night party.
"It's good and bad," said trader Pat Skelton, 54. "If I want to come down and eat, I'm going to pay more, but if my son comes over (to visit him in Wrigleyville) he won't have to worry about (paying on Sunday)."
Both men said the mayor was trying to make the best of a bad situation he inherited.
And for all his tough talk, Emanuel admitted Monday this was the best he could do with a poorly negotiated deal that never should have been struck. It left Chicago with the most expensive meter parking in the United States — $6.50 an hour in the downtown business district. And, perhaps worst of all, the city has already spent all but a fraction of the $1.15 billion that was supposed to last decades.
"We spent all of the money so we can't buy ourselves out of this deal," Emanuel said.
The company, which leases the city's 36,000 metered spaces, said it was pleased with the mayor's proposal.
"In the best interests of the people of Chicago, CPM collaborated with the administration and believes that our willingness to work with the City demonstrates our desire to provide the most efficient and technologically advanced parking meter system possible for the City of Chicago," the company said Monday in a statement.
Conspicuously absent Monday was any mention of Daley. Emanuel, while taking the City Council to task for voting to approve the deal in just three days, did not mention Daley by name during his statement. He left the press briefing room without taking questions.
Daley has defended the deal, saying that had he not made it, Chicago would have been forced to raise taxes and eliminate many services.
Daley was traveling on Monday, according to his law office, and could not be reached for comment.