More commonly known as the Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments, the abandoned building is located in what now is a severely economically depressed area that has a very interesting history as part of Chicago's greater Bronzeville area.
From Encyclopedia of Chicago
"Covering a square block, the buildings enclose an enormous central landscaped courtyard. Rosenwald built the development of 421 units to provide sound housing for African Americans and to relieve the tremendous overcrowding due to the extensive racial segregation of Chicago. The development also included 14 stores along the 47th Street side of the property, four of which were occupied by black-owned businesses, and a nursery school. Rosenwald invested $2.7 million in the project, receiving only a 2.4 percent return during the first seven years."
From the National Trust For Preservation's 11 Most Endangered list
Year Listed: 2003 Current Status: Endangered Threat: Deterioration, Neglect, Poor Public Policy
"One of the nation’s foremost examples of visionary workforce housing, the Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments were constructed in 1929 by philanthropist Julius Rosenwald. Designed to meet the housing needs of Chicago’s growing African-American middle class, the 421-unit building boasted handsome brickwork and terra cotta trim, a playground and spacious courtyard gardens -- offering a new standard of living in the lively neighborhood nicknamed the "Black Belt." But after years as the place to live on the city’s segregated South Side, the building eventually was overrun by gangs, drugs and violent crime. Now it stands vacant and boarded up, although it remains structurally sound. Unless public officials and private-sector investors work together to demonstrate that historic preservation and high-quality working-class housing go hand in hand, this once-vibrant landmark of African-American life and culture will be lost forever."
From (visit link
"The Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments, listed on the National Registry for Historic Places... is the last vestige that links us to our historical past from slavery to present day.
One of the first examples of “workforce housing” constructed by the famous philanthropist, Julius Rosenwald, at the request of Booker T. Washington before his death, the building currently lies barren. At the time, Rosenwald was the president of Sears. He was a close friend and supporter of Washington and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He wanted to demonstrate to other developers by building the garden apartments that private investment could be attracted to low-rent housing developments.
Rosenwald commissioned his nephew, Adler Planetarium architect Ernest A. Grunsfeld, to create the design. Notables like Quincy Jones and Joe Louis and a sizable percentage of Chicago’s intellectual African-American human capital resided at this historical structure."
See a photo from happier times here:
This 1951 photograph shows several of the buildings and the well-maintained public spaces.
Learn more about Julius Rosenwald here (visit link
"Julius Rosenwald (August 12, 1862 – January 6, 1932) was a U.S. clothier, manufacturer, business executive, and philanthropist. He is best known as a part-owner and leader of Sears, Roebuck and Company, and for the Rosenwald Fund which donated millions to support the education of African American children in the rural South, as well as other philanthropic causes in the first half of the 20th century. He was also the principal founder and backer for the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, to which he gave more than $5 million and served as President from 1927 to 1932."