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Table of Contents > Chapter 11

South Lakefront (continued)

At this point, however, Cornell's dream of an institutional anchor for Hyde Park was revived, and this changed the destiny of the community. The Baptist Church, with support from John D. Rockefeller, decided to create a new University of Chicago on land donated by Marshall Field. The school was to be located just north of the Midway Plaisance. And so the most important event in the history of Hyde Park came to pass. Cornell's settlement finally had a firm institutional, economic, and cultural base. From that time on, the destiny of the neighborhood was intertwined with that of the university.

The history of the University of Chicago is well known to those who live in the area (See Figs. 1 and 2). Its impact on Hyde Park's housing market was immediate. The university encouraged faculty, students, and staff to live close to the campus, and by 1900 this new population dominated the area south of 55th Street. Students competed with residents and with ethnic groups who were pushing south along the avenues seeking housing in the area. Hyde Park took on the atmosphere of a major university town. The new residents changed Hyde Park from a conservative bastion to one that was still economically conservative, but socially liberal and politically independent. This change was significant because it would shape Hyde Park's response to urban problems fifty years later.

The aftermath of World War I brought sweeping changes to Chicago's South Side. Not the least of these was the dramatic growth of the city's black population. The Black Belt expanded south and east from the original settlement around 22nd and State Streets. That part of the city sometimes called "greater" Hyde Park lay in the path of this population movement. This area included Oakland, Kenwood, parts of Washington Park, as well as Hyde Park itself. Because the housing was of a better quality in these neighborhoods, they attracted middle-class black people. This resulted in racial violence and the use of restrictive covenants by whites in an attempt to fend off racial change.

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Figure 1: Ryerson Physical Laboratory, c. 1913.

Figure 2: Hull Gate, University of Chicago, c. 1913.

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