Welcome to Chicago Greys!
With this project I hope to uncover unknown parts of Chicago history or rediscover forgotten places, people, and personalities. When people came to Chicago back in 1893 for the Columbian Exposition, they came to see the White City. What was forgotten was the “black city” or “grey city”. In a new book, Chicago’s Greatest Year: 1893, Joseph Gustaitis references this dichotomy, “The White City represented what a city, any great city, might, and should be – an idealization, to be sure, but a vision worth imitating. Another thing that visitors remarked upon was that Chicago was enveloped in a vast cloud of smoke, the result of burning tons of bituminous coal. That was the other city – the Gray City.”1 Author Clarence A. Adams referenced this other city too saying, “A third term, ‘the grey city’ came to be applied to the new campus of the University of Chicago.”2
Chicago cannot be considered any one thing. It is neither this nor that. Neither good nor bad. Black nor white. When visitors in 1893 arrived, they came to see the perfect city, but were also confronted with the realities of a ravenous and struggling modern city. With this in mind, I hope to explore its grey ambiguities and history. You can follow all of this through Instagram and Twitter @ChicagoGreys. I hope you enjoy and return.
1 Gustaitis, Joseph. Chicago’s Greatest Year: 1893. Southern Illinois University Press, 2013.
2 Adams, Clarence A. Chicago In Story: A Literary History. Midwest Heritage Publishing Co., 1982