EVA at 30: East Village timeline

By Marjorie Isaacson and Gladys Alcazar-Anselmo

When EVA began, all Chicago had one area code, 312. Some people still used names instead of numbers for the prefixes, like Evergreen 5-1234.

EVA regularly held potluck suppers.

Alyce Gilewski, the former matriarch of the Happy Village Tavern, held court every night until bedtime, then asked whoever was their to leave, everyone left quietly.

September 1983: The first newsletter appears, a handwritten two-pager called The No-Name Neighborhood News.

EVA newsletter was originally hand-written, but for many years afterward, hand typed (computers weren’t in common use) and articles were hand-pasted up.

We used to have a mystery contributor to the newsletter who wrote about the real olden days, for example when there were 7 or 8 movie houses in the area. The writer also recounted songs of the day.

Dues were $3, $2 for seniors.

Due to the mix of languages in the neighborhood, the EVA newsletter often had a “Welcome” in English, Spanish and Polish on their first page. This concept was expanded upon with translations of helpful phrases such as “Hi,” “Thank you,” ”Please don’t play with the fire hydrant,” “Please don’t litter” and “Please put that back.”

July 1984: The big issue: open fire hydrants. No showers possible on hot days. In hot summer weather, so many hydrants were opened residents on upper floors had no water for hours on end. In preparation, residents stockpiled drinking water (before the days of bottled water) and filled tubs with water to use for flushing toilets.

EVA was involved in library issues throughout history; we were instrumental in getting the West Town library (closed due to landlord dispute and rats in the basement) reopened.

In EVA’s earliest years, alley garbage cans were 55-gallon metal drums, often stenciled with the alderman’s name. The alderman was not required to supply garbage cans, but it was a cheap way to keep constituents happy — and free advertising.

Garbage trucks had 5-man crews — one driver and 4 laborers — ostensibly because lifting these drums was heavy work, but really because the Department of Streets & Sanitation was a patronage-job dumping ground. In 1984, Mayor Harold Washington modernized the department, introducing carts that could be mechanically lifted and emptied, reducing on-the-job injuries. The local alderman, part of the opposition bloc against Washington, was vociferous in speaking against this effort. Consequently, our ward was the last in the city to have the new carts delivered.

April 1985: EVA testifies at city zoning hearing against drive-ins and fast food at Division and Ashland. We are told we are “lucky any developer wants to come to our neighborhood.”

July 1986: Lead newsletter article thanked the police beat rep for taking care of a longstanding problem: chickens being raised in a neighbor’s apartment.

February 1988: “Face-to-face with a slumlord” — EVA members take a field trip to picket at the Hoffman Estate residence of an absentee owner of a problem property.

April 1990: EVA recommended disconnecting downspouts to divert rainwater from storm sewers. Now it is city policy.

1990: Cut-Rite Liquors was often in the EVA headlines.

June 1991: In violation of its own ordinances, the city paves sidewalks on Chicago Avenue without leaving tree pits. EVA is forced to go to the news media for attention and gets 67 trees.

October 1991: Service Battery on Division Street was trying to get upzoned. The battery recycler had a plaster cow on the roof, years before "Cows on Parade." Or was it a steer?

December 1991: EVA breaks story of yard waste being picked up with trash, two weeks ahead of the Chicago Tribune.

April 1994: Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy program introduced to EVA and city.

August 1994: EVA argues “taxation without representation” — fights over ward redistricting mean we don’t have an alderman. We’re invited to a personal meeting with Mayor Richard M. Daley.

September 1995: West Town Library closes. EVA is lead member in coalition for its reopening in October 1996.

August 1996: Demolition of Goldblatt's building at Chicago and Ashland announced. EVA mounts campaign to save the historic structure.

April 1997: Goldblatt's building saved, purchased by city for offices.

December 1997: EVA member-experts present well-received testimony at city hearing on “Managing the Housing Boom.”

August 1998: EVA takes on preservation of St. Boniface Church at Noble and Chestnut.

February 2000: EVA launches campaign against too-tall residential buildings, succeeds in having new height ordinance passed.

August 2000: Triangle Garden Walk revived as East Village Garden Walk.

August 2001: EVA tackles saving a play lot (space we originally lobbied to save in 1984) that was sold for more condominiums. We succeed.

September 2001: Cover of EVA News features newest residents who’ll be using play lot, the children of families who have made their homes here.

January 2002: EVA joins campaign to save Huntley House, a pre-Chicago Fire building and the fifth oldest house in Chicago.

September 2002: Huntley House demolished and replaced by condominiums.

January 2003: Cover article on EVA newsletter, “Why East Village Needs Downzoning,” starts a campaign to address problem of teardowns in neighborhood.

January 2005: Commission on Chicago Landmarks votes to begin preliminary study of several blocks in the East Village area for landmark status.

May 2007: EVA website established.

December 2009: East Village listed on National Register of Historic Places.

March 2009 The East Village Neighbors and the East Village Association merge to form a united community organization.

March 2012: After five years of uncertainty and concern, an empty lot at the southwest corner of the Polish Triangle finally may be getting the respect it deserves. In 2011, the property was purchased by developers Rob Buono and Paul Utigard. The developers present plans for an 11-story building with ground-floor retail, second-floor offices and nine floors of rental apartments.

A previous version of this article was posted in 2007.
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