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The Promise of Public Housing
Roosevelt University, in partnership with the Chicago Historical Society and LaSalle Bank, presented an exhibition of photographs showing the rich history of public housing’s early years in Chicago. The exhibition included 88 photographs from the archives of the Chicago Housing Authority and the Chicago Historical Society showing the genesis, progress, and early struggles of public housing in this city. 

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The Promise of Public Housing
Included are works from some of Chicago’s most important photographers, including Harry Callahan, Mildred Mead, Bob Natkin, and Vories Fisher. Most of these images have never been presented to the public. (continued on next slide)
The Promise of Public Housing
The Chicago Housing Authority hired these photographers to tell a now-forgotten story of public housing’s past. The CHA replaced the often-abysmal slums of the city with gleaming new structures that offered the promise of a better life for tens of thousands of low-income Chicagoans. (continued on next slide)
The Promise of Public Housing
This progress, however, was eventually eroded by intractable problems of race, design, and urban poverty. The photographs challenge the memory of public housing in Chicago. Rather than a doomed institution, the photographs reveal a more complex history, with buildings full of hope and promise but also burdened by racism and the problems of constructing community.
The Promise of Public Housing

The Promise of Public Housing

January 31–May 6, 2005

Press about the Exhibition
  • NBC Channel 5 News Chicago, WMAQ-TV—Art Norman
  • CBS Channel 2 News Chicago, WBBM-TV—Mary Ann Childers
  • ABC Channel 7 News Chicago, WLS-TV—Harry Porterfield
  • PBS Channel 11 Chicago, WTTW-TV—ArtBeat, Phil Ponce
  • WBEZ 91.5 Chicago Public Radio—Eight-Forty-Eight, Catrin Einhorn
  • Chicago Sun-Times—Sunday,Tom McNamee 
  • Daily Southtown—Life&Style, Donna Vickroy
  • Chicago Reader—Critics Choice—Martha Bayne
  • New York Times—Chicago Life

Exhibit curated by Michael Ensdorf and Kathy Pilat; Historian, D. Bradford Hunt; Research Assistant, Locey Pfeifer.

Purchase Exhibition Catalog
The exhibition catalog is a high-quality, 60-page collection of nearly all the photographs in the exhibit. It includes an introductory essay written by D. Bradford Hunt, exhibit historian, entitled "Photography and the History of the Chicago Housing Authority."
Catalogs are for sale for $10, including domestic postage. (Please add $3 for international postage). Please mail a check (made out to Roosevelt University - Gage Gallery) to:

Michael Ensdorf
Associate Dean
Roosevelt University
430 S. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60605-1394

Additional Roosevelt University Sponsors
Center for New Deal Studies, Mansfield Institute for Social Justice, St. Clair Drake Center for African and African American Studies, Institute for Metropolitan Affairs, Evelyn T. Stone University College, and the College of Arts and Sciences.