11 Most Endangered Historic Places

Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments

Year Listed: 2003
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Threat: Deterioration, Neglect, Poor Public Policy

Circa 1928. This site is associated with Robert Rochon Taylor.

Significance

One of the nation’s foremost examples of visionary workforce housing, the Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments were constructed in 1929 by philanthropist Julius Rosenwald. Designed to meet the housing needs of Chicago’s growing African-American middle class, the 421-unit building boasted handsome brickwork and terra cotta trim, a playground and spacious courtyard gardens -- offering a new standard of living in the lively neighborhood nicknamed the "Black Belt." But after years as the place to live on the city’s segregated South Side, the building eventually was overrun by gangs, drugs and violent crime. Now it stands vacant and boarded up, although it remains structurally sound. Unless public officials and private-sector investors work together to demonstrate that historic preservation and high-quality working-class housing go hand in hand, this once-vibrant landmark of African-American life and culture will be lost forever.