Wednesday, February 10, 2010

National Public Housing Museum

I work near the Merchandise Mart which is a landmark building in downtown Chicago, right on the Chicago River. The Merchandise Mart is the world's largest commercial building, largest wholesale design center, spans 2 city blocks and is 25 stories tall. The Kennedys used to own it (possibly still do, I just don't know).

The big building in the center of the pic is the Mart - I work in the red brick building to its right. Cool, huh?



Anyway, the Mart has (among other things) an amazing lobby that features some really cool seating areas (think posh, modern hotel lobby) . . . which they clear out occasionally for exhibits. Right now the exhibit is for the National Public Housing Museum, which will hopefully be complete in 2012.



It's a really cool exhibit to walk through - I hope to go back and take some pictures to post. For now, you can go to their website, look at photos, brush up on the history of public housing in the U.S. and read stories from people who lived in public housing at one time or another.


Site of future museum

I can't wait to visit this museum!! It will be located on the same site as Chicago's first public housing development, the Jane Addams Homes. Do you know who Jane Addams is? Does Hull House ring any bells? Jane Addams was a powerful woman who fought for the poor and disenfranchised, a rock star for social work before social work even had a name.

4 comments:

the cottage child said...

Hey Ashley - will you accept my thanks and my apologies for you visiting me, leaving word, and me not responding? I am so sorry - I saw your comment today (which I WILL respond to) but I've been careless checking older posts and didn't realize you'd offered up a conversation. I'm so sorry! I'll work on it, and thank you again.

So, no, I don't know that fabulous building, thought it seems I might should, and Chicago has been calling to me for a couple of years now. I had to cancel a trip w/a friend years ago for some stupid reason, and I've never been. I would love to see the exhibit your speaking of and the new museum. It makes me sad that public housing has become the worst of us - a convenient way to house inconvenient people, like the mental institutions of the past, a warehouse - instead of a place to breathe for a minute and reclaim a life so it can go forward, or live in dignity if it's a help that's needed long term. Makes my heart hurt.

Ashley said...

Of course! No worries.

Yes, if you ever get to Chicago, it's super easy to find - a landmark, any cabbie can get you there. And it's right on the river, a really impressive view. Most of the design places are on the main floor and it's very grand - marble floors, walls, ceilings (which are way vaulted). They have big showrooms featuring cabinetry, tile, furnishings, bathroom and kitchen setups. Mostly wholesalers purchase there but some wealthy individuals do as well. My boss and I stopped in a tile place once on the way back from lunch, he had questions about replacing his kitchen countertop. Now, my boss makes a lot of money but one particular countertop cost something like $1K per square foot! I busted out laughing when I heard this, which amused the dealer.

The upper floors of the Mart house retail shops, food court, businesses, a radio station and an extension of our campus.

http://www.stevendahlman.com/pictorial/mercmart1.htm

That link shows you some great photos inside and out of the Mart

http://www.eventsandspaces.com/assets/southlobby.jpg

That's a shot of the swanky lobby which is currently cleared out for the housing museum display. Actually the furnishings there are a bit more colorful (though tasteful) and modern . . . or maybe art deco?

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3587/3477484012_9800bf58e3.jpg?v=0

for scale

http://www.redbubble.com/people/bykowski/art/2619811-4-merchandise-mart-wide-angle

pretty shot of the lights on the river


I agree with you about public housing. I am interested in the new direction it is going, though, and that's one feature of the display and I'm sure the museum - new plans for better public housing. From what I can tell it's much less of the massive buildings that are famous in movies (those are being torn down all over Chicago) and more things like duplexes, townhomes, real communities.

I saw a special on PBS - it was a multi-part series on health in America, I'll have to look it up for the name. But one of the episodes was on the disparity in health between the wealthy and the poor. They highlighted (among others) a community in Seattle that had started as temporary housing back during WWII - it was built for factory workers. Well it never was torn down, industry moved and they had no place to go so they stayed and the housing has deteriorated since then, as has the health of the community (in all respects - financial, medical, social, etc). Some community members began organizing and found grants to pay for a complete overhaul - parks, medical clinic, school, new streets, homes with backyards, etc. And the health issues have decreased significantly.

Really cool stuff. This is stuff I'm very, very interested in - poverty, the working poor, the welfare class, welfare myths, disparities in health, education, economics between wealthy and poor communities. Love it!

Caro @ helpmeorillkickyou.wordpress.com said...

I bet Chicago is beautiful. I love museums and places with history.

Ashley said...

Caro, Chicago is amazing!! If you ever come, let me know and I'll show you a good time.

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