Guest Blogger: Marlise Fratinardo on “the Hull House neighborhood”

Marlise Fratinardo has volunteered to help organize Jane’s WalkCHICAGO since our first event in 2013. She’s planning to lead a Walk this year about the Hull House neighborhood, and I thought her deeply personal reasons for doing so might resonate with other people. We hope you’ll join her:

“May 2016 celebrates the 100th birthday of Jane Jacobs. A dynamic urban thinker, her writings on cities championed the voices of local residents in urban planning efforts. An underlying theme of her work was that people co-create urban places, symbolically and materially. Reflecting this spirit of collaboration, Jane’s Walks are free, conversation-style walking tours where people get together and explore their neighborhoods.

I’m organizing a Jane’s Walk to explore the work of social reformer Jane Addams and what she called the Hull House neighborhood. Located on the Near West Side, this neighborhood (now occupied by the UIC campus) was once the city’s largest enclave of Southern Italians who landed there during the 1890s. These new arrivals included nearly all of my great-grandparents. My relatives stayed local for decades, many of them eventually migrating slightly west across Ogden Av. to the Tri-Taylor area.

I’ll admit that my connections to this neighborhood are ephemeral. They include stories told over biscotti and espresso at birthday parties, well-worn photos of happy times on front stoops, and recipes handwritten on index cards. So I’m using the opportunity of Jane’s Walk to explore. My aim is to experience the city as a vessel that holds our experiences and memories.

From interviewing my oldest relatives about their lives, I am learning that great places reflect our profound humanity: they are simultaneously messy, accidental, striving, struggling, heartfelt, and transcendent. I’m hot on the trail, looking forward to sharing where this journey will lead me.”

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