Today the city of Chicago takes the wrecking ball to the high-rise at 1230 N. Burling St., marking the beginning of the end for the final building in the infamous Cabrini-Green housing project.
Known to horror fans as the home of Candyman, Cabrini-Green was a real place. Named after Frances Cabrini - religious activist for the poor and the first American canonized by the Catholic Chruch - and Congressman William James Green, the projects grew organically from a row of house built in 1942 to, by the 1960s, a cluster of highrise apartments housing more than 15,000 people.
Initially, the residents of the project were Italian immigrants and their descendants, but social economic shifts meant that residents of Cabrini-Green were predominantly African-American by the early 1960s.
Real life violence haunted the CG. Before the initial row houses were built, the area that would become Cabrini-Green was known as "Death Corner" and was infamous for the number of organized crime hits that took place there. Still, the specific decline of the project can be traced to the post-World War II years when a cash strapped city started withdrawing crucial public services from the residents (such as regular police patrols) in an effort to save money. Even the lush green lawns that surround the apartment buildings were paved over to save money on lawn care.
In the 1970s, the city installed steel fencing in all the open pathways on the outsides of the apartment buildings. This feature - the prison-like metal fencing outside every apartment's doorway - can be seen in several scenes in the original Candyman. Meant as a safety feature, it had the unintended consequence of turning the blocks in armored fortresses for gang members who could now see the police without the police seeing them. In 1970, two police were killed by an unidentified sniper who picked them off from one of the now protected walkways.
By the 1980s, Cabrini-Green's rep as a gangster haven was a national embarrassment. Mayor Jane Byrne, in an effort to rehabilitate the project's image, moved in to a Cabrini-Green apartment. Even with her impressive force of bodyguards, she didn't last more than three weeks. Byrne's retreat from Cabrini-Green was widely seen as sign that the project was past saving.
Perhaps the height of the project's infamy came in 1997, when a nine-year-old girl, known in the media as "Girl X," was found raped and poisoned in one of the Cabrini-Green stairwells. Girl X survived her assailants attack, but the attack left her blind, paralyzed, and mute. The Cabrini-Green based Gangster Disciples street gang turned into a violent vigilante posse, with orders to find Girl X's attacker and beat him to a pulp. The fact that a gang seemed more likely to find the attacker than the police speaks to how far outside the civilized norm more folks considered the CG. Eventually the police did catch the perp. He was tried and given a 120-year sentence.
The projects are going to be replaced by mixed income housing. There's some controversy about the number of houses and apartments slotted for lower income families. Activists say that the new plan will not accommodate the number of lower income families displaced by the demolition of Cabrini-Green.
It's just a rumor at this point, but Target might be building a store on the site. Maybe that's where Candyman will go.