It's been holding the corner of 31st and Kedzie since 1910, a whale of a building and a nice-looking one, too. The prairie-style factory was designed for Liquid Carbonic by Nimmons and Fellows, the same architects as the original Sears Tower in North Lawndale.
It became, of course, the fabled Washburne Trade School, which trained tens of thousands for good jobs in a powerful industrial city, with 17 different unions hiring the graduates. That changed as integration came to the all-white school in the 1960s. By the 1980s most of the unions had pulled out, and Chicago Public Schools closed Washburne in 1993. It reopened briefly under City Colleges of Chicago, but closed for good in 1996.
Little Village neighborhood leaders have been pushing to convert the 11-acre site into park and community space for years, and that dream is now closer. A 1930s building fronting on Kedzie was demolished in 2006 and discussions were well along to rehab the historic building and create park space behind it. But a four-alarm fire on Feb. 15, 2009, ruined that scenario. Demolition, underway now, will leave a clean slate.
"What do you want to see? Que quieres ver?" asks a new flier circulating through Little Village, inviting residents to three community meetings on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday, May 2 to 6, at three locations. "Field House, Indoor Track & Field, Soccer Field, Community Center, Affordable Housing, Retail, Day Care Center, Student Teacher Dorm, Baseball Fields, Computer Room, Trees, Flowers, Skate Park, Grass, Green Technology, Health Care..."
Those are the possibilities. The meetings are sponsored by Enlace Chicago. For more information, contact Edgar, 773-542-9233, x21, or Cesar, 773-542-9233, x14.
Photos below by Juan Francisco Hernandez, taken in 2004 and 2008.