Urban Cleansing: The Antiseptic Renewal Project of Sandburg Village and the Failure to Build Community

Sunday, January 5, 2020
3rd Floor West Promenade (New York Hilton)
Shelbi Shultz, Loyola University Chicago
The Carl Sandburg Village apartments were built in the 1960s as an upper middle-class buffer between Chicago’s wealthy Gold Coast and the encroaching “slums” of the Near North Side community. Much of the literature on Sandburg Village, especially in the wake of its construction, portrays the project as a positive accomplishment—a huge win for those fighting the war on urban “blight” and decay in the 1960s.

The Carl Sandburg Village apartments were created with the intention of eradicating a neighborhood afflicted with urban “blight” in favor of a homogeneous and enclosed community. Although the Sandburg Village dwellings fulfilled their purpose of expunging the previous community from this location, the new, planned community was seriously deficient in some respects. Ironically, the marginalized groups displaced by the Sandburg Village bulldozers cultivated their own community in their common goal to never be expelled again by dreams of urban renewal.

In retrospect, Sandburg Village was typically only viewed as a positive development. This was present in Gapp’s article written in 1977, which stated that Sandburg Village was “simultaneously a buffer zone, a wall, and a piece of healthy connective tissue in a still potentially vulnerable section of Chicago.” For this reason, developers were terrified of the possibilities of deterioration if Sandburg Village had not been built. Underneath these sentiments of objective improvement were hidden feelings of racism and classism associated with urban renewal at the time.

I seek to move past the vision of Sandburg Village as a gleaming trophy of urban renewal to attempt to uncover what the afflicted community actually resembled, and the issues surrounding the one that replaced it. In what ways did the planners envision this new community? How did the displaced residents react? In what ways did Sandburg Village serve as a catalyst for community resistance to urban renewal? I hope to piece together some parts of the Sandburg Village community story that may be missing—both of the organic Near North Side community that was displaced and that of the planned community that replaced it.

In doing so, I utilized primary sources like newspaper articles from the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Defender and archival sources such as community plans and advertisements to understand how people at the time viewed Sandburg Village and the Near North Side community. I also used academic, secondary sources to understand urban renewal and its application toward Sandburg Village.

Through this poster presentation, I hope to visually highlight the key parts of my paper through text and visuals. I touch on the thesis, sources, historical context, previous scholarship, conclusions, and looking toward the future. Two other key components of my poster are a Sandburg Village advertisement and a picture of Sandburg Village to draw the ideas together.

See more of: Undergraduate Poster Session
See more of: AHA Sessions
<< Previous Presentation | Next Presentation