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    RAVENSWOOD MANOR — Halloween is serious business at Kevin Byrne and Dop Troutman’s house. Every year, Byrne spends his free time making costumes by hand or creating elaborate, creepy displays outside their home at 2920 W. Wilson Ave. This year, the production involves a dozen homemade zombies — modeled after real people — crawling across their front yard and scaling their home. It’s drawn a caravan of fans to Ravenswood Manor. “I’ve always kind of gone crazy for Halloween, and that was an easy avenue to have creative projects and express myself artistically,” said Byrne, an advertising analyst who once worked behind the scenes for the Blue Man Group. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club ChicagoDop Troutman and Kevin Byrne pose for a photo in front of their home and their handmade zombie Halloween display on Oct. 11 at 2920 W. Wilson Ave.Each figure is wrapped in plastic and bound with about 90 yards of duct tape. The zombies are posed in different positions and made to resemble friends and relatives. Some even wear clothes from their human counterparts. That’s...
    PULLMAN — Community members and visitors celebrated the Pullman National Monument’s grand opening over the weekend, six years after former President Barack Obama proclaimed the neighborhood and its namesake rail car factory a monument. Former Pullman employees, artists, historians, rail experts and more were on hand Friday for a media day hosted by the National Park Service and numerous state and local officials. The historic site’s visitor center, in the 141-year-old Pullman Car Company clock tower building, officially opened to the public Saturday. Concerts, open houses, walking tours and other events were held throughout Labor Day weekend. U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Gov. JB Pritzker, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other officials held a ribbon cutting ceremony Monday. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club ChicagoThe hallway inside the Promontory Point business car, built by Pullman in 1953 for Union Pacific Railroad, as seen during the grand opening of the Pullman National Monument Sept. 3.The weekend of celebration is the “wonderful” result of decades of community organizing, said Ray Quiroz, 83, who was born near 112th Street and Langley Avenue and worked...
    PORTAGE PARK — A quaint block between West Berteau and North Lawler avenues is full of native plants and monarch butterflies that have found a home in the pollinator gardens lining the sidewalks, thanks to efforts from one neighbor that have grown far beyond her expectations. Ruta Lietuvninkas, who lives on the block and is a lifelong gardener, began the Berteau Butterfly Garden project last fall as a way to bring the community together, save endangered species and help the environment. While Lietuvninkas is not unique in her efforts, the Berteau Butterfly Garden has gained traction with neighbors and the broader community. They’ve been inspired to start their own gardens, learn about butterfly protection and do their part to beautify their surroundings. As the garden has expanded on the block this summer, so has its reach: Lietuvninkas has welcomed neighbors, families and groups to the garden for show-and-tell sessions with caterpillars and butterflies, gardening days and growing tips. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club ChicagoA very hungry monarch caterpillar noshes away at a leaf as part of the...
    BACK OF THE YARDS — A cornerstone of Chicago’s once-bustling meatpacking industry has a shot at a new life after sitting empty for almost half a century. The Stock Yards Bank building has towered over the corner of Halsted Street and Exchange Avenue since 1925, withstanding a fire that wiped out much of the surrounding yards in 1934 and a drastically shifting workforce since the stockyards closed in 1971. Modeled after Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the building housed financial institutions for decades and, later, a handful of businesses for its last years of operation. It was closed in ’73, which led to more deterioration and 8 feet of standing water in the basement for nearly a decade. Now, it is poised for revival. Developers and city officials spent part of the past year stabilizing the building and repairing the most severe damage. With the building structurally sound again, local leaders said they hope someone will step up to redevelop it into a modern amenity that can anchor the South Side community as the bank once did. “I think this would be...
    AUSTIN — A shelter with an on-site health clinic has opened on the West Side for families experiencing homelessness. The Primo Center, 4952 W. Madison St., will serve families with children. It has 210 beds. The center also will provide public health services through a partnership with Lawndale Christian Health Center. The Primo Center’s other shelters in West Garfield Park, Humboldt Park and Englewood already serve at least 1,300 people struggling with housing instability each year, said Quintin Primo III, son of the center’s late founder, Bishop Quintin Primo Jr. The center started off with “very inauspicious beginnings,” with a budget of just a few thousand dollars, Primo said. “We struggled for many, many years but provided real services for the community,” Primo said. He said his father “would be thrilled” about their growth. By integrating on-site health care into Primo’s housing services, the Austin shelter will bring families struggling with homelessness “comprehensive care addressing the social determinants of health,” said CEO Christine Achre. “We believe we can bring child homelessness to a functional zero in Chicago, and this new...
    NORWOOD PARK — After 20 years, the owners of a Far Northwest Side dive bar are ready to pass the torch. Joe and Patty Valentino are selling side-street bar Newark Nook, 6443 N. Newark Ave., and plan to retire. The bar, often referred to simply as The Nook, has been in the neighborhood since 1929 and has gone through several owners. “I hope somebody continues it as a neighborhood bar,” Joe Valentino said. “They are going to put their own spin on it, however they want to do it, but I would love to see it stay in the neighborhood.” Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club ChicagoCo-owner Joe Valentino.Valentino said the bar is so old that concrete facts and documentation are hard to find. “When this place was built, it was all farmland and prairie — everything else built around it,” he said. Valentino’s met several old-timer customers who shared stories with him about coming to the bar with their parents, including one family whose parents owned the bar several decades ago. “They wanted to see the place, so I showed...
    BRONZEVILLE — Chicagoans flocked to King Drive on Saturday for the much-anticipated return of the Bud Billiken Parade, which was canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Smiles and cheers filled the parade route as elected officials, dance troupes, local unions and more marched through the South Side neighborhood on the perfect summer day. The annual back-to-school event typically attracts close to 500,000 people every summer. With the availability of vaccines and students preparing to return to the classroom this fall, parade organizers brought it back, but with safety precautions. Organizers shrunk the footprint of the parade staging area and cut the number of entrants from 250 to 125, said Myiti Sengstacke-Rice, president of the Sengstacke Foundation, which organizes the parade. But the shorter parade didn’t dampen the enthusiasm. Check out the photos: Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club ChicagoThe South Shore Drill Team performs along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive during the 92nd Bud Billiken Parade in Chicago on Aug. 14, 2021.Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club ChicagoThe Rich High School marching band performs along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive...
    DOWNTOWN — Chicago may be the architecture capital of the United States — but that doesn’t mean it’s without unsightly buildings. Mike McMains, of Tours With Mike, is highlighting some of that ugliness with his tongue-in-cheek Ugly Buildings Tour. It starts Friday, with McMains helping attendees see Chicago’s best, worst buildings and understand why they’re just so hideous. The walking tour starts in the Riverpoint Plaza at Orleans and Merchandise Mart Plaza. It winds its way 1.5 miles through River North and River East, ending near Navy Pier at a beautiful park to cleanse the palate. McMains described it as an “educational roast” of some of Chicago’s worst-designed buildings. One of McMains’ favorite ugly buildings on the tour is 55 W. Wacker Drive. The brutalist concrete building stands at a squat 15 floors and has towering 50-story buildings on its side. McMains lovingly calls it the Danny DeVito of architecture: It’s short but stands proud and uncompromising next to its taller neighbors.  Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago55 W. Wacker Dr. stands squat among the high rises of the Loop...
    CHICAGO — Chicago and the world struggled with loss, unrest and division this year. But the team at Block Club looked through our thousands of stories from this year and also saw moments of inspiration, unity and hope. We’ve rounded up dozens of photos that highlight all that happened this year in Chicago. Take a virtual tour across the city to see what our reporters witnessed in neighborhoods this year. Block Club’s photos from 2020: Legal Recreational Weed Goes On Sale — And Chicagoans Line Up For Blocks In The Cold Inside Dispensary33 in Andersonville on the morning the legalization of recreational weed went into effect in Illinois on Jan. 1, 2020.Bob Chiarito/Block Club Chicago Coronavirus Spreads To Chicago As CDC Confirms Woman Is Ill People walk through downtown Chicago amid fears of coronavirus on March 12, 2020.Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago Mourners Honor Worker Who Died At Crawford Coal Demolition Site, Call For Better Work Conditions Little Village Environmental Justice Organization and residents hold a candle light vigil for Reynaldo “Rey” Grimaldo near the old Crawford Coal Plant Jan....
    CHICAGO — In the wake of coronavirus, the city canceled official fireworks celebrations on Fourth of July weekend. But that didn’t stop neighbors from staging rouge displays on streets and in yards across the city Friday and Saturday night. Though illegal in Illinois, backyard fireworks displays around the Fourth of July have been been common in Chicago for years — part of life in the city. But rogue fireworks were reported this summer much more than in years past. Ahead of Fourth of July, calls for fireworks-related complaints were up more than 736 percent, city officials said. Sales at border-state fireworks shops were significantly up as industry retailers are bracing for a record-breaking year, too. At one shop, sales tripled. The cancellation of municipal fireworks shows as well as boredom over the last few months as people have been cooped up because of coronavirus may have led to the increase of “backyard fireworks,” said Julie Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association. Block Club photographer Colin Boyle captured neighbors celebrating in South Shore Friday night...
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