Turn right at 55th Street and follow it thirteen blocks
east to Hyde Park Boulevard, which is a north-south street in
East Hyde Park. Fifty-fifth Street probably represents the starkest
example of the impact of urban renewal on Hyde Park. Once a busy
commercial street, this thoroughfare has been completely changed
It was once known for good jazz at various bars and clubs. Today
Jimmy's Woodlawn Tap is the only reminder of 55th Street's
former commercial character. The street is now dominated by I.M.
Pei's University Apartments, which stand in the middle of
the street between Dorchester and Blackstone. Gone are the bars,
delicatessens, coffee houses, and much of the diversity that marked
Hyde Park as a truly urban neighborhood before the wrecker's ball
fell in 1955. And yet, despite the laments of critics, the plan
which transformed 55th Street probably also stabilized Hyde Park.
Without the urban renewal effort, many critics of this suburban,
park-like strip might be making their laments out in Park Forest
instead of on the streets of Hyde Park. In one way the new 55th
Street has realized the vision of Frederick Law Olmsted, who felt
in 1871 that there was no reason for any part of Hyde Park to
develop as a commercial district. Urban planners have made Olmsted's
vision come true, at least along 55th Street.
The church of St. Thomas the Apostle survived the urban
renewal period. Located on the northwest corner of 55th and Kimbark,
this church is on the National Register of Historic Places and
is recognized as the first modern-style Catholic church in America.
Barry Byrne, a disciple of Frank Lloyd Wright, designed this house
of worship, which was built in 1922-24. Irish Americans founded
the parish in 1869. Today it serves a multi-ethnic and multi-racial
Turn right on Hyde Park Boulevard and drive one block south. You
are now in East Hyde Park, the home of Mayor Harold Washington,
who lives several blocks north at 53rd Street in the Hampton
House apartments. Proceed south on Hyde Park Boulevard.
On the northwest corner of Hyde Park Boulevard and 56th Street
(just before the traffic light) stands the newly renovated Windermere
House. This South Side landmark can trace its history back
to the 1893 Columbian Exposition. Edna Ferber (who actually lived
in the hotel with her mother), Philip Roth, and Richard Stern
have made the place famous in their novels. This grand old hotel-turned-apartment
building underwent rehabilitation in the early 1980s.
Across from the Windermere stands one of Chicago's most popular
attractions, the Museum of Science and Industry. The museum
is housed in the rebuilt Palace of Fine Arts of the Columbian
Exposition. This structure also housed the Field Museum for a
time, until that institution moved to its present location south
of Roosevelt Road on the lakefront in 1920. The Museum of Science
and Industry opened in this building after the Century of Progress
Exposition in 1933-34.