THE POORHOUSE: Subsidized Housing in Chicago 1895-1976 by

THE POORHOUSE: Subsidized Housing in Chicago 1895-1976

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This Cook County tour of subsidized housing over 80 years ultimately stresses contemporary policy over history or design; it also severely tests the reader's familiarity with Chicago neighborhoods, despite one very good map. Each generously illustrated chapter describes housing projects more by their proximity to particular streets and parks than by their residents' ethnic composition and wealth. Compared with Thomas Philpott's The Slum and the Ghetto; Neighborhood Deterioration and Middle Class Reform, Chicago, 1880-1930 (KR 1977, p. 1249), The Poorhouse suffers enormously from its abbreviated socio-historical presentation. Still, Bowly, a Chicago attorney who has written on architecture and worked in urban planning, does analyze succinctly certain overriding trends. Unlike Philpott, Bowly discusses post-1930 developments, which, in fact, take up the bulk of the book. Early, pre-1930 planners, Bowly finds in contrast to Philpott, evinced a sensitivity to space and design; the first projects were small, quite habitable dwellings. But housing reformers' paternalism towards the poor culminated in the notorious high rise Robert Taylor Homes, which proved to be a sterile, alienating living unit. Worse, racial integration in the better facilities was blocked by massive white resistance even after Chicago's legendary politicians co-opted the Housing Authority. Sensitive to the complexities, Bowly details recent struggles over financing, temporary population dislocation, and neighborhood participation in decision-making; the tone is compassionate yet not strident. Those close to the scene will surely benefit.

Pub Date: June 5th, 1978
Publisher: Southern Illinois Univ. Press