What is a preservation advocate to do when she registers and trains for the now-cancelled Chicago Marathon? Create her own marathon, one that showcases history in traditionally disinvested neighborhoods of Chicago.
On Sunday, October 11, Preservation Chicago’s Director of Community Outreach Mary Lu Seidel will embark on a 26.2-mile journey starting on South Michigan Avenue in Roseland and ending at the Central Park Theater in North Lawndale.
Historic buildings, districts, and neighborhoods will be highlighted along the route, along with great groups working to strengthen their communities. Particular focus will be paid to:
- The East Side Tap/Bamboo Lounge, a former Schlitz tied house at 9401 S. Ewing, being restored by owners Laura Coffey and Mike Medina. It is part of a group of Schlitz tied houses, constructed by the Schlitz Brewery to market their products, and it is one of our newest Chicago Landmarks.
- Jackson Park and the South Shore Cultural Center, under threat by the Obama Presidential Center and a proposed Tiger Woods golf course. These legacy parks were designed by Olmsted & Vaux, Alfred Caldwell, May McAdams and others, and that the proposed alterations and modifications to the park by the Obama Presidential Center on almost 20 acres of lakefront parkland and the combining of two golf courses into one Tiger Woods Golf Course, would have extreme and adverse effects/impacts and destroy historic landscapes and hundreds of old growth trees.
- The Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley Home at 6427 S. St. Lawrence in West Woodlawn, currently working through the Chicago Landmark process. Emmett Till was 14 years old in 1955 when he was brutally tortured and then murdered in Mississippi for whistling at a white woman. His mother Mamie Till-Mobley became an extraordinary voice for the Civil Rights movement, sharing Emmett’s story, and shining a bright light on the horrors of racism.
- The Forum Hall, 318-22 E. 43rd Street, being restored by Urban Juncture and Bernard Loyd. Built in 1897, the structure contains one of the most important assembly/performance halls in the city and possibly the oldest hardwood ballroom dance floor in Chicago. This imposing red brick building played a significant role in Chicago’s cultural scene by hosting performances of music luminaries—including Nat King Cole—and by providing space for civic groups and political meetings.
- Central Manufacturing District, on Pershing between Ashland and Western in McKinley Park, also threatened by development pressures that favor demolition to restoration. The Central Manufacturing District (CMD) was the first planned industrial district in the nation which experimented in large-scale land development, capitalized on new technologies in construction and power production, and became the national model for the post-World War II industrial park.
- The Central Park Theater, 3531-39 W. Roosevelt Road, owned by House of Prayer Church of God in Christ, which is teaming up with non-profit partners and professional service providers on a plan to restore the iconic theater. This was the first of the Chicago movie palaces by architects Rapp & Rapp for the theater operators Balaban & Katz. It would lead to scores of movie palaces constructed across Chicago and the nation, in the decades that followed, including the Chicago Theater and the Uptown Theater.
Preservation Chicago’s web page for the marathon includes an interactive map highlighting other historic sites along and near the route as well as locally owned businesses and restaurants nearby – preservationchicago.org/marathon
The website also highlights great community partners that are working in these neighborhoods, including:
- The Greater Roseland Chamber of Commerce
- Jackson Park Watch
- Blacks in Green™
- Urban Juncture
- Neighbors for Environmental Justice
- House of Prayer Church of God in Christ
- My Block, My Hood, My City
- Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
“These organizations work tirelessly everyday to create equitable and healthy communities,” said Seidel.
“I’ve been training all year for the Chicago Marathon,” said Seidel. “When it was cancelled, and I was offered the opportunity to roll over my registration to 2021? There’s no way I’m ever going to do anything like this again!”
That’s when the idea for a historic preservation marathon came about. With the nation in turmoil over equity for people and communities of color, it made sense to take a marathon run to highlight all the beauty that is Chicago’s South and West Side communities – especially communities in which Preservation Chicago has been an active partner.
Seidel will kick off her run in front of Old Fashioned Donuts at 11248 S. Michigan Avenue in Roseland at 6 a.m. on Sunday, October 11. The route will go through South Chicago, South Shore, Hyde Park, Woodlawn, West Woodlawn, Bronzeville, Canaryville, Bridgeport, McKinley Park, and North Lawndale.