Saturday, July 5, 2008

Brave New World- An alternate translation

So to continue...

The settlements, towns and villages that grew up on the outskirts of Chicago became boomtowns in the aftermath of the Great Fire. The rapid recovery of Chicago as a major city was owed in large part to Daniel Burnham and Frederick Law Olmstead who combined to bring the 1893 Columbian Exhibition, Chicago's World's Fair to life. The lasting effects of the fair, which combined advances in technology with the arts and modern urban planning changed how people thought about place and "modern" life. Burnham's subsequent Plan Of Chicago served as a roadmap to outlying areas where developers quickly sought land to accomodate Chicago's exploding population.

Rail service that brought goods into and out of the big city emanated from the central core in all directions. Passenger service along those lines gave rise to a commuter population. Going into the city to work, returning to the outskirts to live and raise families. As the city grew, the commuter workforce spawned streetcar lines, trolley lines and other means of transport back and forth.

Away from the city, these places relied on Townships to build roads, bridges and "public improvements". Taxes were collected and improvements were planned. Places thrived and grew. Then strange things began happening. Taxes collected within these 36 sq. mile "places" were not always evenly distributed. Power tended to consolidate along the rail lines and project priorities tended to cater to increasing the concentration of powers. This in turn led to resentments. Township folks started looking around at their neighbors who were getting sewers and streetlights and streetcar lines and all manner of improvements, while they were still on the waiting list.

Township 39N had some unique characteristics, most prominent was a navigable river that was used to transport goods, but the river also required bridges to facilitate the transportation needs.
There was roughly a mile of the township on the east side while the bulk of the land lay west of the river. Crossing the river meant ferry, fording or walking the railroad trestles. The first township bridges were constructed closest to the rail lines.

The land east of the river was mostly part of what was then known as Harlem. Named after an early settlers first community back in New York. Harlem straddled the township line between Cicero Township and Proviso Township. It also straddled the Chicago to Elgin railroad line.
In a series of moves, betrayals, manipulations and deals, a group of citizens in Harlem, Oak Park, Oak Ridge and Ridgeland successfully de-annexed from Cicero Township. Then in a flurry of manuvers in rapid succession, they incorporated as Oak Park, A Temperance Community. They used the township line as their western border.

Those between the township line and the river then tried to regroup. Eventually incorporating as the village of Forest Park. The Beer Halls, taverns and mix of other businesses provided an acceptable base for the largely German, working-class residents. Oak Park could be as Temperate as they liked and Forest Park would serve as its watering hole.

About now, you might be asking what any of this has to do with a bad high school. Well, it has to do with attitudes and imagination and training and expectations. The people west of the line, east of the river weren't exactly politicians or professional grade. Prior to all of the upheaval, their academically gifted and driven children simply enrolled at Oak Park High School. After the consolidation, that option was shut off. It just wouldn't do to have children of NON-temperance mingling with the children of closet drinkers in Oak Park. They were told to look to their OWN township for their education needs. Move along. Nothing to see here...

Next up, Proviso High School is born.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

this is great.
keep going.