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Added Apr 13 2018

As more and more development and investment continues to flood the South Loop area, I can't help but wonder if anyone will discuss Record Row -- the TRUE identity of what everyone seems to want to brand "Motor Row."

"Record Row" is the more relevant history for this area of Chicago. If the powers that be were smart, the strip along Michigan near McCormick's new 'Entertainment District' should really become a cultural corridor for Chicago, celebrating the historical Jazz and Blues contributions that line that entire strip. Nashville has Broadway Street ... New Orleans has Bourbon Street .... why on earth doesn't Chicago have something similar????

There's a great documentary on this strip if anyone is interested.

    Record Row
    Record Row - Was produced by WTTW in Chicago (PBS) and aired in February 1997. I happened to tape it. Lost my tape a few months ago and then discoved that Record Row had disappeared from the earth more or less. Found one copy in a small college's library somewhere in the south but not available for loan.
  • You don't need to call Columbo for the answer, it's pardon the pun "whitewashing" history.

  • You might be able to see "Record Row," via WTTW - ON DEMAND - or via PBS VIDEO - a number of libraries do have the video. ALSO if you wan to read a great book about RECORD ROW - get a copy of RENEE ROSEN's "Windy City Blues."

  • joe six pack joe6pack

    douglas thank you for the video.

  • This would be a great question/video to post on a group I admin on Facebook! Check it out here -- we just hit 7K members, and I think it'd be a good history lesson and a lively discussion!

  • Great video! Thanks for posting.

  • Bronzeville Curmudgeon Bronzeville Conservator

    The key word is to focus on authenticity! Chicago Caucasian developers in power disregard history. They are right now talking about creating a Chicago Blues District down town or in the south loop, when it should be developed somewhere in the historic Bronzeville community! Two of the old Defender buildings: 2400 South Michigan and 3433 South Indiana Avenue, have already been redeveloped by Caucasian developers and have nothing to any longer with the illustrious history of Black Metropolis!

  • @Ray - I didn't mean for it to become a race thing (I'm white BTW). I know Chicago has a long and complicated history of race relations, but we're never going to get anywhere unless we come together and push the racists out (on all sides) and let them know we're only interested in a better future (together). To your point, hopefully this area doesn't get white washed, and I don't see that happening. But I do wish more people knew the history of the area - which shockingly - a lot do not. This strip could (and should) become a cultural mecca for Chicago with Blues and Jazz venues lining the entire corridor and giving visitors the authentic experience they're looking for when they visit this great city. If it becomes filled with suburban-esque chains and bottle-service nightclubs only ... it will truly be a lost opportunity for our rapidly revitalizing southside.

  • @Curmudgeon - I'm all for bringing this type of historical conservation to the area (I live in the Bronzeville/Douglas area and I also happen to be white). But I think you do a disservice against your own cause when you start calling out "Caucasian developers" as though there's some huge conspiracy. I don't know ANYONE in this community (black, white, asian) who aren't incredibly proud to live in such an historical area of Chicago ... It's one of the main reasons people move here.

    Black developers are more than welcome to come in and invest their time, money and energy into the area. No one is stopping them. In fact, many of them have. Black professionals have been moving back into Bronzeville for over a decade. So have white, asian, and every other demo you can think of. And that's a great thing! Diversity will HELP further foster and preserve the history you're talking about. Black history is American history, and Chicago Black History has some of the best-of-the-best. But keeping the southside segregated (a.k.a. the status quo) will help no one - just as it hasn't for over a generation. White/black (and everyone in between) need to come together to build equity back into the Southside. Uniting the South Loop, South Lakefront and Bronzeville would be a major game-changer for this entire city.

  • My main concern is that here is a City that has announced to the world that it is a tourist destination and it's tourism department has placed no resources into the more historic places in this city. Here on the southside, Gospel was born, Jazz was reinvented, blues was refined to a worldwide phenominum. From 26th and King dr. to 35th and King dr. on both sides of the street are lined with bronze stars with descriptions of the great accomplishments of Black Americans. Why if a dept. of tourism exists for the City of Chicago to promote this cities historical history, should the only resources for these stories being housed and told rest solely on the Black developers? We have begun to embrace what has been suggested(Museum of Gospel music).

  • @Ray - I believe the city is actually chipping in with some money for the new gospel museum being erected at the old Pilgrim Church in the Douglas neighborhood. It's mainly being funded by private investors, but the city is still a part of the overall development process. But I agree 100% that more can/should be done!

    The Record Row strip along Michigan Ave should be connected with the rich cultural history that permeates south into Bronzeville. The city obviously wants to invest further in The Loop as they know that's the easiest place to capitalize on tourist foot traffic. But, that's why we HAVE to change the Southside narrative and let the city know there are passionate, engaged individuals down here, too!! And look what we have at our disposal ... McCormick is the largest conference center in North America and the biggest economic driver in this state. Couple that with our proximity to the lake, this entire area should be exploding with development and economic opportunity. But where has the leadership been? Regarding the specific areas you call out, I would also throw that question back to you. What have the local aldermen done to improve the situation, and where is the accountability? There hasn't been any. Everyone hates Rahm, but he's the architect of the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund ... one of the few city funds that will actually pump money into these southside corridors.

    This entire area could be one of the best turn-around stories in Chicago where once there was economic disparity, food deserts and blight .... now there is economic opportunity and a thriving, diverse and dense community full of passionate citizens. This area will thrive because of its rich cultural history ... it's a feature of the community, not a bug.

  • On 43rd and Lake Park there is a house with pink flamingoes in the storm windows this is the home of Muddy Waters where in his basement some of the greatest blues song were recorded, also on the house is a big red x where the only interest this city had was tearing it down. On 35th and Calumet is what once was an Ace hardware, now a beauty supply store, was in its heyday the Sunset ballroom, where the late great Louis Armstrong played. Why this is not being addressed is way beyond reason, but I have lived long enough in this City to not know the real reasons.

  • @Ray - You're absolutely right, and look what that Ace Hardware (the old Sunset Cafe) has become ... it's now a beauty supply store, even though there are already half a dozen within walking distance of that location. It's as though everyone thinks the only businesses that will thrive in the area are fast food restaurants and beauty salons. But what's the answer? If someone came into that location and looked to properly redevelop it, would those like Curmudgeon not come out of the woodwork and protest "gentrification"? My argument is we HAVE to find a balance, or else nothing is ever going to change, and why would it?

  • This comment has been removed by EveryBlock staff because it contains inappropriate content.
  • Bronzeville Curmudgeon Bronzeville Conservator

    Ray of Bronzeville you are holding your own in this debate with neo-liberals over the dispersion of Bronzeville 35th Street north! Proud of you brotherman!

  • @Curmedgeon -- Who's having a "debate" here? As far as I can tell, Ray and I have for the most part agreed on this thread. That's called a conversation where I come from. I know you like to be divisive and spark racial tension (I've seen you do it all over the web before on almost every community site). It's quite sad.

  • When the Gospel fest was held in Ellis Park, right in the shadows of where it was born and bred, a gentleman from I believe from Brussels was so inspired he boarded a flight to attend. This is the power of being on the site of and being in presence of where greatness happened. To know that Muddy Waters and blues greats created the Music in that basement of that house on 43rd st. makes this a shrine. In Provident hospital a physician performed open heart surgery, the first performed in the world, the Ace hardware now beauty supply store had annual visitors to just visit and play on the stage where Louis Armstrong had did all this Magic. I have only scratched the surface of what happened here in Bronzeville where we excelled in our segregated and confined existence. Why we have to lobby for this is way beyond comprehension, if this was any other group of people, or this was any other city this would have been done without question.


    It's the divisiveness by Curmedgeon that I've for the most part have been off EB, just gets old.

  • @Ray - Except that Sunset Cafe wasn't segregated. Quite the opposite ... Sunset was one of the first fully integrated clubs in the U.S. where black, white (and everything in between) came to listen to the music they loved. And that's simply a historical fact.

    "Why we have to lobby for this is way beyond comprehension" -- So direct that question to Curmudgeon .... he seems to think he's "on your side." Yet, he's the one calling out developers based on their race. Sorry, but that's no different than racist whites who had an issue with blacks moving into their neighborhoods a generation ago ... and exactly the type of attitude that keeps any of these types of changes (that we'd both love to see) from happening.

  • Could you imagine Blues fest, gospel fest, Jazz fest! Right in its birthplace in the shadows of the buildings and venues where it happened.


    @Douglas_Peep thank you for a great post and link. The post title made me click.

  • @Ray -- Once the Gospel Museum in Douglas gets finished (proposed completion by around 2020 I believe), I can very much imagine multiple Gospel Fests in the area. At least, I'm sure that's what the developers are hoping for. As far as Record Row, who knows ... that was really the whole purpose of my post ... get the conversation going, raise awareness, etc.

    I see things popping up around there every year and more and more investment is coming to the area. It's going to happen, things are going to come there and the city/McCormick is going to get their 'Entertainment District.' What that actually looks like when all is said and done is still up in the air. But, I gotta tell ya, a dynamic strip with the sounds of Billie Holiday on one end and Louis Armstrong on the other (punctuated with heavy doses of Muddy in between) sounds mighty, mighty good to me!

  • I feel once we are past the negative perceptions of the area and truly embrace the great history of Bronzeville we will be rewarded in ways that are innumerable, if and when the resources are put in the promotion of what happened here. As a people we have never excluded even as we were not included. What concerns me is that this should be on the front of the consideration of the tourism bureau's investment portfolio, lets consider this area as an asset and as something to present to the World for celebration.If you can have art festivals, rib festivals and so on in the North side neighborhoods, why not have these festivals in the Southside venues.

  • The History and the greatness of Bronzeville is what we have to preserve, if we let this area become anything other than an Historical area then we have lost a great treasure.

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