EAST CHICAGO | Marktown residents raised their voices and signs in protest Monday as a hotel that for decades housed new workers in surrounding industries fell to the wrecking ball.
BP, which borders the neighborhood, bought 10 properties, including the hotel, in April from owner George Michaels and his family. Plans announced by company officials call for those properties to be torn down to make way for green space.
BP refinery officials sent letters to all adjacent property owners April 15, informing them of the scheduled demolitions. That sparked a protest led by Kimberly Rodriguez, who has called Marktown home for all of her 55 years.
“This is the only home I’ve ever known,” said Rodriguez as she sat with friends and relatives across the street from the demolition with signs reading, “Save Marktown. Stop BP.”
Marktown is a mix of residents from old European stock, Latino and African-American ancestry. Many now are related by marriage.
Designed by renowned society architect Howard Van Doren Shaw, Marktown dates back to 1917, when Chicago industrialist Clayton Mark offered the English-style cottages and townhouses to attract employees to his pipe manufacturing facilities. Many of Shaw’s other creations dot Chicago’s North Shore.
Although Marktown was designated a historical asset on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, properties are not protected from demolition until a city approves an ordinance to create a historical review board, Rodriguez said.
Judy Hicks, 68, said she believes the move to buy up properties is a death knell for this small enclave and is being done “under the radar.”
What the group fears, said Lourdes “LuLu” Hicks, is that the refinery will continue buying up property and that residents of this tight-knit neighborhood will lose their homes.
“We are a family within a family,” said Lourdes Hicks, who is Judy Hicks’ daughter-in-law.
On April 29, these residents attended the East Chicago City Council meeting, hoping the board might help delay the demolition of those 10 properties. They asked for a 90-day delay.
But the wrecking company came Monday as a strong wind blew some of the debris toward the neighborhood.
“This is a piece of our hearts being destroyed,” said Judy Hicks, as she looked across at the debris.
This group planned to be at Monday evening’s East Chicago City Council meeting.