Mike Sula reported inaccurately and did us a great disservice in his reporting about the Sunday Maxwell Street tribute at the Chicago Historical Society in Section One [Calendar] in the 1/9/98 issue of the Reader.

He wrote, “And since the Devil paved paradise and put in a parking lot, all that’s left are the memories of people…”

While the devil part is correct, the other part is not. The factual truth is that there are about eight blocks and 50 old buildings left along Maxwell Street and south Halsted. And we, the Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition, are trying very hard to save that for rehab and reuse to become the Maxwell Street National Historic District. While we are having some success fighting UIC on this, it still is an uphill battle.

Our biggest problem is not the University of Illinois, though they are a problem. Our biggest problem is people having the wrong impression that there is nothing left in the Maxwell Street neighborhood. There are about 50 old buildings, and half still have businesses in them. For example, the original Jim’s still sells Polish sausages, the buildings by the Johnny Dollar blues stage are still there, along with the “Cheat You Fair” sign, Paul & Bill Tailors, the Maxworks Cooperative, and Sandy’s zoot suit shop (still selling zoot suits), among others.

We live in a society that does not read. The only way that the memories and stories of Maxwell Street will get passed down for future generations is to embody them in a historic district. So, while eating a Polish and buying some blues tapes, books, and T-shirts, you get to learn about where you came from. This creates jobs and preserves our heritage. New Orleans does this. Memphis does this. Why not Chicago?

We still need help in this battle. We ask that people send letters of concern to Chancellor David Broski, University of Illinois at Chicago, 601 S. Morgan, Chicago IL 60607; fax 312-413-3393.

And send a copy to us: Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition c/o Professor Steve Balkin, Roosevelt University, 430 S. Michigan, Chicago IL 60605; E-mail; fax 312-341-3680; home page


Steve Balkin