The Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments of Chicago represent the realization of an idea conceived by Julius Rosenwald. They are the first practical experiment made on a large scale to improve housing conditions for the Negroes of that city.
1 Adapted from "Good Homes for Negroes in Chicago," Housing, December, 1930.
Fig. 78. - Chicago's Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments for Negroes - a Julius Rosenwald project.
A report at the end of the first 6 months of 1930 showed an occupancy of approximately 98 per cent, while the net income for this 6-months period was at an annual rate of about 6 per cent on the capital stock, depreciation and all other items of expense having been charged to the operation and cost of the building.
Mr. Rosenwald in commenting on this, and on the fact that bad debts over the period were only 1/8 of 1 per cent, said recently:
It is now a little more than a year since the completion of the Apartments and I would like to record the feeling of satisfaction which is mine, due to the splendid results of our great venture. By results I do not have in mind primarily the financial side - important and desirable as that is - but more particularly the fine type of tenants which fill the buildings. So far as I have learned, there has been little or no friction between the tenants and the management or among the tenants themselves. This is highly gratifying, and I think great credit is due to the effectiveness of the Community Association and the Board of Advisors, who represent the tenants.
Those living in our Apartments have proven that the Negro is a law abiding citizen and a desirable tenant. In so doing they have added to the prestige of their race and have tended to encourage the investment of money in kindred projects, since it is known that such property is likely to receive the sort of treatment that might be expected from the best class of people, regardless of race. I have been especially impressed with the quiet that prevailed in the court - an indication that those who occupy the building must respect one another's rights.
Therefore, I take this opportunity to express my gratification concerning the first year's operation, and the assurance of my appreciation for all that has been done to prove that my faith in the Negro is justified.
The Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments, occupied entirely by Negroes, consists of 421 apartments of 3, 4 and 5 rooms, representing an investment of $2,700,000. The building occupies less than 40 per cent of the land, the. remainder being laid out in beautiful gardens, courts and a playground for small children. Two nursery schools are run in connection with it, one for the children of the mothers who work and must be gone all day, and the other, for children whose mothers are at home. The building personnel, including the manager, is made up of Negroes.
The apartments are a great deal more than a group of well-designed and well-managed buildings. They constitute almost a little city in itself with highly developed community activities, making for the development of a neighborly spirit and providing convenient educational and recreational facilities for children.
Tenants in the Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments automatically are members of the Cooperative Community Association. The Building is divided into 11 units of 3 stairways each; each unit elects from its number a chairman who represents the members of the group on a Board of Advisors. This Board meets periodically with the Management to discuss proposed improvements and community activities. Mutual understanding is thus established between the tenants and the management and individual complaints are being reduced through suggestions from tenants' representatives to those in charge.
One of the outstanding activities for adults is the Sunday afternoon Forum bringing interesting speakers to the community. Subjects of widespread concern are discussed under leadership of well-informed men and women.
There are men's clubs and women's clubs; chief among them the Men's Athletic Club for men desiring participation in active sports; and the Women's Club for all women interested in service to the community, in educational programmes, and in social activities.
The Recreation Department answers the play needs of children of school age by providing outdoor playground activities, such as active games and sports, and indoor playroom activities, such as handicraft, art work and library facilities. This programme, which is carried on under the supervision of a recreation director, affords the children wholesome association and normal recreation.
Working with the recreation department whose programme is designed for boys and girls there are the Girl Scout and Boy Scout organizations which offer many and varied opportunities for character building and recreation combined.
The Nursery Schools represent the most modern and approved methods of training the child of pre-school age in desirable living habits. They make available to parents advice concerning the handling of behavior problems through individual conferences with the teachers, through parents' meetings, and through selected reading material that can be borrowed from their libraries. This service is rendered to all parents.