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Leclaire Courts: The history of a community in public housing

by Joann Williams
(Chicago, IL)

Documentary idea: Leclaire Courts was a public housing development which was completely torn down over the past 5 months. Half of this development was built in 1950 the other half in 1954.


I have over twelve hours of camcorder video tape and digital camera video/pictures to document the demolition.

I would like to make a documentary highlighting the life of Leclaire with pictures of the many families who lived there possibly with comments by the old and young generations on what Leclaire meant them. Family photos, music of the times and possibly 8 mm family films.

In the early years residents were hardworking Blue and White Collar Workers who had to live there prior to Federal Fair Housing Laws barring Housing Discrimination. Yes, the later years of Leclaire seemed to have faded with the onset of drugs and shooting. But those of us who lived there in the 50's through the late 80's saw it as a real community with southern values, family and community building.

Leclaire, like most CHA public housing developments are in the process of being torn down, renovated or being rebuilt. I think old and new residents moving into the NEW Leclaire in about two years should understand its rich family/community history. There were 30+ GOOD years in Leclaire and I'd like to document this in film.

I had hoped to get students from a film arts program to help me with this and to video interviews with some of the Senior Citizens who lived in Leclaire. We have an annual Leclaire/Hearst Family and Community Picnic, July 9, 2011, many old timers as well as 4th generations (young 22+) come out to this event.

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May 27, 2011
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Great Idea!
by: Webmaster

I love this idea!! Sounds like you've got tons of rich content to work with. A very exciting project. Please make sure to come back to this page and post links to your footage and interviews. I hope you are planning to build a website to share updates and video clips or at the very least create a Facebook page so people can follow your progress and provide support. Thanks for sharing your project with us! Let us know how we can help.

Jul 06, 2011
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Film?
by: SkillzZ

As a survivor from LC, I am looking forward to seeing that film. Be sure to send me the documentary asap.... skillzz4ya@yahoo.com

Nov 11, 2011
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Leclaire Courts film
by: Tonya Cox

I moved to leclaire courts in 1986 i had some good times there made lots of friends. I went to Phobe Apperson Hearst Elementary School and graduated from there as well... I love leclaire courts and i wish they were still standing because everybody in that entire community was family... from the projects to the homes we were family.... I really think that its a great idea to do this film....i say yes go for it....

Nov 11, 2011
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childhood memories
by: THERESA JOHNSON(COCO)

I THINK ITS A GREAT IDEA TO HAVE FOOTAGE OF THE LAST MEMORIES ..IT WAS MORE THEN JUST A PROJECT IT WAS A PLACE WHERE I GREW UP FROM A HAND BABY TO A FULLY GROWN ADULT WHERE I PLAYED AND LOST MY FIRST TOOTH HAD MY FIRST FIGHTS WHERE MY FIRST LOVE WAS FOUND IT FEELS CRAZY TO RIDE PAST NOW AND ALL MY MEMORIES ARE JUST THAT FILLED WITH A BEATING HEART AND TEARFUL EYES THE BBQ'S THE TALENT SHOWS MID NIGHT B.BALL GAMES IT WAS THE LIFE ID GIVE ANYTHING TO JUST HAVE ONE LAST NIGHT IN LECLAIRE COURTS WITH ALL THE APARTMENTS STIIL UP I REALLY MISS THOSE DAYS ID LOVE TO HAVE FOOTAGE FROM THE BEGING TO THE END !!

Jul 20, 2012
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Fond memories
by: Charles flowers

The flowers family which were 13 of us moved to leclaire court in 1960 and left in 1965! I have nothing but great memories of it. We knew practically everyone in the neighborhood! All of us were products of hard working parents.There were plenty of activities to keep us busy as kids! Boy scouts,explorers,little league baseball. At the community center we could watch movies on weekends! If we could not afford toys,we were creative enough to make our own! It was a great sense of community! We all helped each other! Respect for one another! I will forever cherish the memories! P.S I have grammar school pictures from Hearst School.

Sep 30, 2012
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My Time At LeClaire
by: Zenobia

I was born and raised in Chicago. My husband and I moved into LeClaire Courts in 1968. We had two little boys...two more children were born there, and though there were some strange and rough times, we did enjoy living there.
Most of us were like family and there was no need to lock up your doors at night, or fasten your windows. We had our ups and downs and scandals and craziness, but I remember sitting outside in kitchen chairs in July of 1969, my new baby on my lap, with a small television on another kitchen chair, watching the moon landing....it was a historic time and I also remember sitting in our apartment reeling from the news that Martin Luther King had been killed. Later in the same year, we lost Bobby Kennedy.
I could say a lot more, but the impact and the world of LeClaire Courts is more than just a collection of old memories and bricks.
Lives were changed, renewed, made different..from the talent shows to the little stores that ran along the block. We have lost many original LeClaire residents, but just like the memories of the "jets" they live on in our hearts.
Thanks for the opportunity to share!
Zee AKA Kitty

Jun 20, 2013
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LeClaire Court Memories
by: Bernadine

My family and I lived at LeClaire Courts in the late 1950's. This is the first place I remember living. We lived on 44th Street (second apt. from Cicero Avenue).

I was very young when we moved, but I still do have memories. When we moved in, the projects were well integrated. We were a white family, but my first friend ever was an African-American girl. Her name was Cheryl. My brother learned how to play baseball from guys who had played for the Negro baseball leagues. My parents were both hard-working people, but if you couldn't afford to buy your own home, it was many times difficult to find housing when you had 4 children.

It's very strange driving down I-55 and no longer seeing the projects. Many families lived there over the years with good and bittersweet memories.

Jun 23, 2013
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Many Memories
by: Anonymous

I was a single mother with three children and I was hired to work in the management office. The entire community supported this "single mother" by making sure my car was always in working condition to providing a babysitter whenever I needed one. As I write this, many more memories come to mind.. LeClaire Courts was more than public housing, it was truly a family.

Sep 24, 2013
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growing up in LeClaire Courts
by: Bill Daniels

We moved into LeClaire Courts when I was four. It was 1959. It was a wonderful place to live at that time. Crime was at a minimum and it was one of the few integrated areas of the city. Learning to judge people for what they do and not what they look like was an ideal that I have lived by all my life.
I spent most of my time at the Community Center, the called the Ryder Center. Later it was the Darrow Center. My mother was the secretary of Irene Smith, the director. My father was also very active in the community. He organized the polio immunization for the projects. As a community leader we were often invited to other housing projects for special events all over the city. I am very proud of the fact that I grew up there.
Bill Daniels
wrpd4@hotmail.com

Jan 05, 2014
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It was despair
by: Anonymous

I moved into the "new projects" on July 4, 1954. At that time it was a blend of whites, blacks, Mexicans and Puerto Ricans. I quickly learned at an early age that you could take the people out of the slums, but you can't take the slums out of the people. I remember kids being "pantsed" after school and I was terrified that it would happen to me. I was a skinny kid and had to constantly deal with bullies, black and white. By the time we finally got out of there in 1958, the project was almost all black. It was the worse living situation I ever had.

Jan 20, 2014
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family
by: gilliam bo bo family

I miss leclair all the talent unknown 25 yrs my family great people iam proud to be from their

May 01, 2014
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Reconstruction of LC
by: Kenneth taylor

I was born in leclaire courts in 1997 and I had great years there but all that was stepped on when my friends and family were forced to move out but I go there sometimes and see a open field... Please rebuild LC and bring our families back together

May 01, 2014
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LeClaire Attitudes
by: Zenobia

I have to disagree with the gentleman who said that it was a bad mix in 1958. I cannot disagree on a level of experience, but I must disagree that when people of color moved in it got worse. I would have to say that somewhere in the 90's where there was more gang activity, that might have been a challenge, but in the mid to late 60's, we did not even lock our doors sometimes at night. I lived at 4820 West 43rd Street.....nestled between some very good people, and everyone got along very well. There was the occasional upheavel but nothing like the writer described. Perhaps it is all a point of view. I srill love LeCLaire and always will.

May 04, 2014
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leclaire memories
by: Anonymous

Leclaire i have so.many good memories its so sad to see it go in the1960s to 1980s was a nice place it was nice but after that it went down so many familys from different projects move their and thats when all hell broke loose

May 04, 2014
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new
by: Anonymous

I had good memories it was very heart braking to see it go so many memories gone it went down after the 1990 it too much killing.


May 25, 2014
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The Life
by: Keith Redmond

To live and be raised in what we call Projects is truly a project in itself. If i had it to do all over again I would be right there at 4916 W 43 st. 3000 characters can not describe the memories, the good time, and friends, that were established. I left their in 1975 to join the army and twenty six years later i retired from the military. however my best memories in life are still in Laclaire Courts. In short i would like to let all by friends no I cherish the fun time that we shared. dug,slim,willard,harry, edward, karen, joann, kenneth, the tate family, the johnsons, the young family, dea, I can be contacted at 254 338-6220 OR keith.redmond@us.army.mil. However Kennedy H.S. is a different story. LOL.

Jul 20, 2014
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The Prarie
by: Deborah Squalls - Fears

My parents moved to LeClaire Courts in February 1956 when I was two months old. The fondest memories of my life are centered in and around "the projects".Some may not know that Leclaire Courts was a type of experiment in interracial or desegregated housing. Many families like my dad were military families who were given priority as applicants after the Korean War. There is definitely a wealth of information that can be studied and documented about this unique area of Chicago. Everything from the location itself to the decline of the two- parent structure, to the systematic exclusion of working class families beginning in the 1970's. Who knows about the natural Prarie, the old Native American foot paths and bridges? Or the cat nine tails, Stickney Sticks, and monarch butterflies that grew and lived in abundance. I remember the dads who got together on weekends and took us hiking in the Prarie where we buried potatoes underground with smoldering branches, coveted with soil. On our return from the hike we had baked potatoes to feast upon! Lots of stories to share about this special place in my life. I can be reached at debfears@sbcglobal.net.

Aug 01, 2014
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Paradise Revisted
by: Sylvester E. White (Slugger)

I can remember the day we moved into LeClaire Courts, a beautiful spring day in April of 1955. I was only four years old, but I can tell you that my memory of that particular day and everday spent in LeClaire was/is as vivid as any other event in my life. Indeed, the very fabric of my life is tied to my memories of the place, the individuals and institutions, which, for me, speak of paradise. Life in LeClaire revolved around families and the individuals who made up these families contributed to our strong sense of community. During my rearing in this special place, everyone's father could act as your father, everyone's mother would be yours, especially if you got out of line. In addition to discipline, those same neighbors would go out of their way to see to your welfare. This space does not allow me to describe the many positive events and influences that arose out of the daily interactions of LeClaire Courts residents. I would add (in the words of my mother "there are no perfect people")but, along with our shortcomings, LeClaire's residents came as close to being an "ideal" community as any random group of people can. Suffice it to say that, I still have some of the same friends I started kindergarten with. Our experiences within this very special place beg to be immortalized somewhere in print. A project I am working on right now. Anyone who believes that they can assist me in this endeavor, can contact me at sylvesterwhite22@yahoo.com or 872-214-9439

Sep 28, 2014
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Just thinking
by: E Curry

It hurts driving past and to think all our history just gone, Just like that, I saw some high school kids the other day waiting on a bus,They looked so young,and then I recalled how ,we were greeted at Kennedy high school and I felt very proud that we did not back down, and stood our ground in the face of overt racism, That is a story by itself, and a true testament,of the kind of people we are. Love you all.

Nov 08, 2014
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gym house
by: juice

What was the name of the gym where the NBA players played?

Dec 11, 2014
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Gone but never forgotten
by: Reggie

The gym around there was called Leclaire-Hearst Park the field house where a lot of NBA cats played. We moved there in 1985 and it was a pretty cool experience i met and still keep in touch with a bunch of friends. It does feel off driving past and seeing the park from Cicero it seemed so much bigger back in the days. I hope they build some stores around there with some apartments like around Maxwell and Halsted streets. Again many great memories LC for life...

Feb 09, 2015
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The Courts
by: Wb

My family moved in leclaire in 1971 we moved in 1987. That's when the neighborhood starting going down. I loved the "courts" we had fun, fun, fun. I lived at 4818 west 43rd street. We played piggy, hide n go seek, and everything at the "benches". Those were the good ole days, we actually played outside and got along with each other.

Jul 13, 2015
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Home
by: Dantรก Williams

Growing up in LeClaire Courts shaped what I do and who I am. No matter what block you lived on we were all family, and everyone seemed to know each other, and disputes were handled in a discussion or head-up fights in a pose to this era. Leclaire Courts was the first place I heard House Music, Breakin' or Breakdancing and where we made up all types of games like Off the wall and Bullrush. It was just a very fun place to grow up and I feel it was because just about everyone that had Kids and the Elders that lived there were on the same page. the L.C. was a village that raised Children into adults and also a place where You got to see people doing everything from repairing toys, hair care, medical care, DJ, to running their own business. To much came from there, and alot of Good people came from there. You got some places where you live, and then you got some places where you have a community. You had both there. That was LeClaire Courts, Period.

Mar 10, 2016
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4252 South Cicero
by: Min William J. Harris

First of all I grew up from 1974 (age 3) to 1988 (age 17) when we moved but I attended Phoebe Apperson Hearst Elementary School (C/O 1985) and Curie High School (C/O 1989) and I am VERY proud of growing up in Le Claire Courts - 4252 S Cicero I have many memories and made life long friends it hurt my heart to see Le Claire Courts torn down but it isn't the buildings but the people and the memories that made Le Claire Courts special from Le Claire M.B Church to the Field House Chicago Park District to walking to school and also going to "The Homes" to Darrow Center (Old & New) as well as Simmons Store hanging out at "THE BENCHES" where there was no Benches at also the summer concerts at the Field House yes Great Times, Great Memories, and Great People - LC for Life

Jul 12, 2016
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Love living there
by: Anonymous

Wow as I read those stories it makes me reflect of how wonderful leclaire Courts was back then. I grew up during the
70's out there and it was like family. Missing those times and grateful for those experience in my life

Nov 19, 2016
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Great memories ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿพโ—๏ธ
by: Edmond Flowers Jr.

In a word nostalgic. I'm just adding to what my brother Charles
has already commented. LeClaire Courts was like an
extended family. It was that village that we were all proud of. And as an African-American we're all familiar with the saying it takes a village to raise a child. And l'm proud to say l'm a product of that village/community๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿพ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿพ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿพโ—๏ธ

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