“While coronavirus canceled Mary Lu Seidel’s plans to run in the Chicago Marathon, she wasn’t going to let her year of training go to waste. After all, the preservation advocate had already told herself this was the one and only year she would run 26.2 miles in a day.
“‘It’s a very powerful thing to train for a marathon, but I’m never going to do this again,’ she said.
“Seidel, who works as director of community engagement with Preservation Chicago, has redirected her energy into her own marathon tour of historical sites on the South and West sides.
“Early Sunday morning, she’ll start off at Old Fashioned Donuts in Roseland and run a winding route to the Central Park Theater in North Lawndale. Along the way, Seidel will pass Emmett Till’s Woodlawn home, the Forum in Bronzeville, a historic tavern in East Side and more, hoping to draw attention to some of Chicago’s storied properties and the neighborhoods they inhabit.
“All six are sites Preservation Chicago has been ‘actively involved with recently,’ either in renovating them or designating them as one of Chicago’s seven ‘most endangered’ properties, Seidel said. The owners of the properties will be there when she arrives, she said.
“Also important to Seidel’s marathon is lifting up Black-owned local businesses — including Old Fashioned Donuts and Ain’t She Sweet Cafe in Bronzeville — and community organizations involved in preservation along the route.
“‘In this era where … many people are wondering what they can do to make our city stronger and more equitable — start shopping in these neighborhoods and supporting local businesses,’ Seidel said.
“Seidel said she might even take a break during her marathon to support a local business. ‘If I”m hungry and passing one of those restaurants … I’ll eat along the way,’ she said. “I’m not this elite athlete that is trying to set a record.’ (Evans, 10/9/20)
With No Chicago Marathon, This Preservationist Will Run A 26-Mile Tour Of South, West Side Historical Sites Instead; Mary Lu Seidel, of Preservation Chicago, is running her own marathon route, visiting Emmett Till’s house, the Forum in Bronzeville and much more along the way, Maxwell Evans, Block Club Chicago, 10/9/20
Historic buildings, districts, and neighborhoods will be highlighted along the route, along with great groups working to strengthen their communities. Particular focus will be paid to:
- The East Side Tap/Bamboo Lounge, a former Schlitz tied house at 9401 S. Ewing, being restored by owners Laura Coffey and Mike Medina. It is part of a group of Schlitz tied houses, constructed by the Schlitz Brewery to market their products, and it is one of our newest Chicago Landmarks.
- Jackson Park and the South Shore Cultural Center, under threat by the Obama Presidential Center and a proposed Tiger Woods golf course. These legacy parks were designed by Olmsted & Vaux, Alfred Caldwell, May McAdams and others, and that the proposed alterations and modifications to the park by the Obama Presidential Center on almost 20 acres of lakefront parkland and the combining of two golf courses into one Tiger Woods Golf Course, would have extreme and adverse effects/impacts and destroy historic landscapes and hundreds of old growth trees.
- The Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley Home at 6427 S. St. Lawrence in West Woodlawn, currently working through the Chicago Landmark process. Emmett Till was 14 years old in 1955 when he was brutally tortured and then murdered in Mississippi for whistling at a white woman. His mother Mamie Till-Mobley became an extraordinary voice for the Civil Rights movement, sharing Emmett’s story, and shining a bright light on the horrors of racism.
- The Forum Hall, 318-22 E. 43rd Street, being restored by Urban Juncture and Bernard Loyd. Built in 1897, the structure contains one of the most important assembly/performance halls in the city and possibly the oldest hardwood ballroom dance floor in Chicago. This imposing red brick building played a significant role in Chicago’s cultural scene by hosting performances of music luminaries—including Nat King Cole—and by providing space for civic groups and political meetings.
- Central Manufacturing District, on Pershing between Ashland and Western in McKinley Park, also threatened by development pressures that favor demolition to restoration. The Central Manufacturing District (CMD) was the first planned industrial district in the nation which experimented in large-scale land development, capitalized on new technologies in construction and power production, and became the national model for the post-World War II industrial park.
- The Central Park Theater, 3531-39 W. Roosevelt Road, owned by House of Prayer Church of God in Christ, which is teaming up with non-profit partners and professional service providers on a plan to restore the iconic theater. This was the first of the Chicago movie palaces by architects Rapp & Rapp for the theater operators Balaban & Katz. It would lead to scores of movie palaces constructed across Chicago and the nation, in the decades that followed, including the Chicago Theater and the Uptown Theater.
Preservation Chicago’s web page for the marathon includes an interactive map highlighting other historic sites along and near the route as well as locally owned businesses and restaurants nearby – preservationchicago.org/marathon
The website also highlights great community partners that are working in these neighborhoods, including:
- The Greater Roseland Chamber of Commerce
- Jackson Park Watch
- Blacks in Green™
- Urban Juncture
- Neighbors for Environmental Justice
- House of Prayer Church of God in Christ
- My Block, My Hood, My City
- Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
And Mary Lu’s creative approach inspired other alternate marathons including the Chicago Historic Boulevards Marathon 2020 from Walter K.