Chicago Studies, a program of the undergraduate College at the University of Chicago, offers curricular and co-curricular opportunities to discover, study, and engage with the diverse communities of our world-class city.
59th St between Madison (Dorchester) and Washington (Blackstone) was the site of the Raymond & Whitcomb Grand Hotel. It had 387 rooms and cost $10 a night. The Barry brothers built it and leased it to a tour company in Boston, which offered package tours to the fair for its customers. After the fair, it became the Hotel Barry; home of many members of the original University of Chicago faculty. The Quadrangle Club was organized in one of its conference rooms. It was later and for many years known as the Del Prado Hotel. In 1932, International House replaced it. Funded by Rockefeller money, it was the third “international house” after Columbia’s and Berkeley’s. In 1949, the poet Langston Hughes had a 7th floor room while teaching for the quarter at the Lab School. After a few months in the ivory tower, he wrote in his column in the Defender, “I understand better how trees, yards, decent housing, cultured neighbors, clean bathrooms, and ever-hot water can make people who live clean, quiet, library lives scornful of those who lives are shattered by the roar of the 'L' trains and chilled by the cold water that comes out of the faucet marked 'HOT' in the kitchenette taps.”
In the center of the Midway at Dorchester is a giant statue of the Knight of Blaník. It references a Bohemian legend about a company of knights resting beneath Blaník Mountain in the Czech lands. In the nation’s darkest hour they will ride to its rescue under command of St. Wenceslas. The statue makes a political point. Chicago’s sizable Czech community—centered in Pilsen—commissioned it in 1940, after the surrender of the Sudetenland to Hitler in 1938 at Munich and the proclamation of a German “protectorate” in Bohemia and Moravia in 1939. The statue was placed here in 1948, the year of takeover of the country in a Communist coup d’etat. It remembers Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the first president of interwar Czechoslovakia and twice a visiting professor at the University of Chicago (1902, 1907). His son Jan Masaryk was foreign minister in the Czech government in exile and the postwar government. He died in 1948. The official cause was suicide but he was likely “defenestrated”—thrown from a window—by the Communists. The next section of the narrative provides an accompaniment to your walk north on Blackstone. It begins at 5805 Blackstone.