CHA’s history in a nutshell

Stateway’s swan song, an article by Antonio Olivo of oral histories of Stateway Gardens (with “accompanying multimedia slideshow”: ), included this succinct recollection of the rise and fall of CHA housing courtesy of Harold Woodridge, 64, a Stateway resident since 1959:

Sitting on his couch, he remembers when this portion of State Street was lined with clapboard shacks, a few markets and clothing stores. After Stateway Gardens opened in 1958, people were in awe of all that modernity and open space.

“You could sit on the grass and just enjoy yourself,” he says. “It was safe. Upstairs, people used to bring out their cots and sleep on the porch all night.”

But years of neglect by the Chicago Housing Authority eventually took their toll, Woolridge says.

“They didn’t do nothing to maintain the buildings. They didn’t even cut the grass. Before you knew it, [people] were selling drugs downstairs.”

Soon, as gun violence became rampant, residents learned the best way to survive was to look the other way.

“Nobody even trusts the police. The police snitch on you, telling the drug dealers you the one who gave them their information. Then, the gang is on you for telling. It got to be real bad.

“A few years back, the line for drugs downstairs would stretch 50 people. The dealers would walk up the line, keeping order, saying `Have your money out! Have it ready!’ Like they were having a department store sale.”