It was quite a bittersweet moment when I reached page 21 of the June 9 Wednesday Journal. A photo of Beeson House, on Midway Park in Austin jumped out and jogged many a memory of that magnificent structure. Those memories were implanted by having spent a great deal of time inside that house, owing to an Army buddy whose relatives owned it. After we were discharged and deposited back to our Chicago and Oak Park roots, Beeson House became his home. Compared to my very modest, unadorned neighborhood at 24th and Damen, it was quite the eye-opener.
I recall there being a ballroom on the third level! However, no galas occurred during my Beeson days. In fact, the owners were on the verge of joining “white flight” from Austin more than 50 years ago, a transition that led to Oak Park adopting their Fair Housing Ordinance, which fought the more fearful flight to more far-flung — and “safely” white — suburbs.
Well done. Oak Park today is a stable, diverse community.
Racial stress points, however, have left some of the fabric of 21st-century Oak Park frayed. Journal articles about race abound in most any issue. Besides the article about Beeson House, there’s “transit’s racial inequities,” “race, equity issues … at Fenwick,” “journalists of color,” and “Coming to terms with our connection to Tulsa” (when a Black population of that city were massacred).
But back to Beeson House, I recall watching Mod Squad there on a weekly basis in a first-floor nook, beers and snacks at hand. One of the characters, Linc, was played by a Black actor who recently passed, Clarence Williams III. He embodied a tough, crime-fighting figure. He exuded Cool. It’s one of the cool memories of that 1892 gem on Midway Park. Thanks for writing about it.
Bittersweet memories indeed.
Joe Harrington, Oak Park