Julia Lathrop HomesNational Archives Record Group 135-SAR: Prints: Photographs rejected for use in the Photographic Report to the President: “Survey of the Architecture of Completed Projects of the PWA, 1939”; Box 23: Federal Folder.
The Julia C. Lathrop Homes was one of the first federally funded public housing projects in Chicago, providing inexpensive housing to those who otherwise could not afford it. The project was an immediate success, as evident by the overwhelming amount of applications submitted in 1937, a year before the homes were completed. 2,383 families applied to live in the Lathrop Homes, which would only have 975 units total. These applications were narrowed down based on income; only those who made less than five times the amount of rent were considered.
In 1939, the average monthly rent for Lathrop Homes was $5.39 per room. Including utilities, this number jumped to $7.25 a room. The whole project cost the PWA approximately $5,556,900, including land and construction costs.
These days, the Lathrop Homes are praised for their ethnically diverse community. However, in 1953, there was some controversy when it came out that Wayne McMillen, chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority, had been instructing staff not to place African-American families in certain homes, including Lathrop. This went against the CHA’s non-discrimination policies. At the time, the Lathrop Homes were primarily occupied by white and Puerto Rican families.
From 2006 to 2012, there was much debate about whether to preserve the Lathrop Homes or to tear them down. Preservation Chicago advocated for the Lathrop Homes, placing them on their “Chicago’s Seven Most Threatened Buildings” list in 2007 and 2013. They proposed that instead of replacing the Lathrop Homes with an “apartment-condominium-
Short and Brown’s 1939 survey of PWA projects describes the homes in detail:
“The 35 acres of land purchased for this project cost $599,989, which is equivalent to 39 cents a square foot. Many of the streets which serve the project are ‘dead end’ streets and may be safely used for playground areas.
The structures are fireproof and consist of a series of 3-story apartment buildings and 2-story row houses which cover 19 percent of the site area and contain 94 rooms to the acre. The 925 family-dwelling units are arranged so that 5 percent are 2-room, 46 percent 3-room, 42 percent 4-room, and 7 percent 5-room apartments, with a total of 3,313 rooms in the development.
The monthly shelter rent averages $5.39 per room. The actual total rent, which includes all charges for heat, hot and cold water, electricity for light and refrigeration, and gas for cooking, averages $7.25 a room per month. The first group of tenants moved in on February 1, 1938.
The buildings have a volume of 8,740,700 cubic feet. The project was fully financed with a P.W.A. allotment of funds and completed at a construction cost of approximately $4,609,514. This is equal to 53 cents per cubic foot and to an average room cost of $1,391 and $4,983 a family-dwelling unit.
The total project cost, including land, was approximately $5,556,900, indicating a gross room cost of $1,678 and a total cost per family dwelling unit of $6,007.”
P.W.A. Docket No. H-1406
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Short, C W, and R Stanley-Brown. Public Buildings: A Survey of Architecture of Projects Constructed by Federal and Other Governmental Bodies between the Years 1933 and 1939 with the Assistance of the Public Works Administration. Washington, D.C: Public Works Administration, 1939. Print. "4,274 Families Want to Live in 1,691 Units." Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963): 1. Mar 21 1937. ProQuest. Web. 9 Apr. 2013. Chase, Al. "Julia C. Lathrop U. S. Housing Project to have 975 Family Units." Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963): 26. May 03 1936. ProQuest. Web. 9 Apr. 2013. "Chicago Housing Chiefs Admit Jim Crow Policy." The Chicago Defender (National edition) ( 1921-1967): 1. May 09 1953. ProQuest. Web. 9 Apr. 2013. "Tenant Demand for Pwa Homes Exceeds Supply." Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963): 1. Nov 22 1936. ProQuest. Web. 9 Apr. 2013. Preservation Chicago. "Chicago’s Seven Most Threatened Buildings 2007." Preservation Chicago. Preservation Chicago, 2007. Web. Preservation Chicago. "Preservation Chicago Unveils the 2013 Chicago 7 Most Threatened...: Lathrop Homes, Clybourn & Diversey Parkway." Preservation Chicago. Preservation Chicago, 2013. Web. http://gis.hpa.state.il.us/pdfs/219398.pdf
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