Community Rallies Against Demolition of Historic Building

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Education

By: Ashmar Mandou

Residents and community leaders gathered this week to rally against Chicago Public Schools’ decision to demolish the historic building in Altgeld Gardens public housing community at the end of this month. “Chicago Public Schools did not let the community know about their plans to demolish this historic building or engage us in any way,” Cheryl Johnson, lifelong Altgeld resident and Executive Director of People for Community Recovery, a local environmental justice nonprofit said. “Using public funds to tear down our community, continuing a long pattern of disinvestment rather than reinvestment is unacceptable.”

The announcement comes amidst ongoing official recognition of its historic significance and importance. Landmarks Illinois also included the building, “School Building C,” on its 2021 Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois, announced May 5. And Altgeld is up for consideration to be put on the National Register of Historic Places. The designation would not only create stronger restrictions on demolitions in the community, but also bring new resources for revitalization to the community.   

“Altgeld Garden’s original school, School Building C, is an incredibly important part of the social and architectural history of the community,” said Lisa DiChiera, Director of Advocacy at Landmarks Illinois. “We included the school on our 2021 Most Endangered list due to this significance and because of the opportunity for it to be reused to once again serve the community. CPS’ sudden decision to demolish the building, following decades of neglect that allowed the vacant structure to deteriorate, is not only disrespectful to the residents of Altgeld Gardens who have not been engaged, but short-sighted.” Built in 1945 to house black soldiers returning from WWII, Altgeld Gardens was the first public housing facility in Illinois designated for veterans.

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