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Echoes of a bygone Roseland

When we were in our 20s, it was a whole different ballgame. Way back then, we couldn’t possibly have predicted what our life would be like as we enter this new decade of the 2020s. We’re all aware that the Roseland we grew up in has changed dramatically over time and some of us former Roseland residents have taken daytime trips to today’s Roseland to see just how much change time has wrought.

Many of the houses we grew up in have had their date with the wrecking ball. Some fell apart sooner rather than later for lack of tender loving care and others met an untimely fate due to fire or abandonment.However, those who have taken the time to ride through Roseland have also seen some surprising sights. They’ve seen houses that are still being well maintained by the owners and landlords. All of the landmark businesses are gone and most of the churches we grew up around have become homes to other denominations. Churches that were built in the early 1900s haven’t fared so well without their original congregations maintaining their traditions of festivals and caring upkeep.

But there are neighborhoods in Roseland that appear to be no different than they did in 1960s. Yes, there may be one or two houses on the block that time has not been kind to, but all of the other houses and homeowners on the block have done their part.

Chicago has always prided itself on its many neighborhood parks so that the children of the area would have a place to learn, play and congregate, with opportunities to expand their horizons beyond the confines of the homes. We all remember the sports and swimming opportunities the parks provided and the friends we made when we took part in those activities. Then there were the various class options that were offered to encourage kids to learn new skills and talents to master.

Roseland offered us many opportunities and today’s Roseland continues to offer options to its residents through the many city programs that are available.

The larger Roseland community, which includes the Pullman and Kensington neighborhoods has been going through many changes in recent years. On Feb. 19, 2015, we saw President Obama sign the proclamation declaring Pullman a National Monument. In 2008, the first steps were taken to develop the barren lots on Langley into the Pullman Artspace Lofts.

Unfortunately, as time has marched on, some landmark buildings have been removed from the Roseland landscape. St. Nicholas Church on 112th and State came down and also the major landmark, the Gately’s People Store, met its fate in July. Fortunately, the Gately’s sign was rescued and is in safekeeping and awaiting restoration and a new home for its display.

The Pullman National Monument

Now, on to the continuing positive changes taking place in Pullman, beginning with the restoration of the Pullman National Monument Administration Clock Tower Building. The building was shielded by scaffolding for almost two years as the clock tower and roof were redone. They now look noticeably new and are an easily visible welcoming sight, and they’re just the beginning. All of the windows have been replaced within preservation standards and will keep the building safe from the elements.

Interior work continues in developing administrative, exhibition, classroom and display spaces. The original flooring on the first floor has been long gone and so the restoration will actually be from the ground up, which will take time, money and patience. However, the results will definitely be a remarkable improvement to Pullman as shown by the beauty of the clock tower work already completed.

The National Park Rangers continue to share office space in the Pullman Visitor’s Center. With the change in seasons, there has been a change in personnel and hours at the Visitor’s Center to better serve the many visitors to the Pullman National Monument. Contact the Visitor’s Center 773-785-8901 for exact hours and answers to any questions you might have.

The Pullman Artspace Lofts

The Pullman Artspace Lofts are currently accepting leasing applications from artists, and all types of artists are welcome. That includes writers, illustrators, painters, photographers, dancers, fashion designers, musicians, and performance artists among others.

Once an applicant meets all the requirements, they’re able to pick out a unit. All of the apartments boast large, open living spaces. Rents are from $625-$725 studio; $700-$775 one bedroom; and $850-$900 two bedroom. To qualify for a residence, applicants must meet income thresholds as outlined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, pass a background check, and present their work to an artist review committee.

Petals from Roseland—the book

In December, my compilation of the best of ten years — “Petals from Roseland: Fond Memories of Chicago’s Roseland, Pullman, and Kensington Neighborhoods” — became available. It has been well-received and comments have been favorable. Reading the book has brought back great memories of days gone by. Many comments center on the “Ave” and what an important part it played in our youth: a lifetime of memories for a lifetime to remember.

Contact me at petalsfromroseland@gmail.com or 773-701-6756

About C.J. Martello

CJ Martello has returned to his roots as the author of “Petals from Roseland.” After five years of writing his column as a resident of Chicago's North Side, CJ put his money where his heart is and moved to Pullman, near the Roseland area in which he grew up. Having joined the Spaghetti-Os, Veneti nel Mondo and St. Anthony of Padua Parish and being one of the founders of the Roseland Roundtable Facebook page, CJ has become reacquainted with countless friends and acquaintances from his youth. CJ is looking forward to retirement and completing the books he has put on hold, including one that will encompass as much of Roseland's rich, beloved history as possible.