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South Lakefront Tour: Sites T & U
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Site T
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 congregation.

Site U
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.

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