HYDE PARK HISTORY
Hyde Park, its name inspired by two elegant communities in New York State and London, can hold its own weight in prestige and respectability. This historical south side community of Chicago also claims bragging rights for more than 70 Nobel Prize winners associated with Hyde Park’s University of Chicago.In 1853, a young lawyer and entrepreneur by the name of Paul Cornell made his way to Chicago from New York in hopes of building a new suburban community along the shores of Lake Michigan. Cornell purchased 300 acres of empty grassland, which now comprises Hyde Park neighborhood. He managed to convince businessmen and their families to move to the area, opened a hotel, and eventually Cornell negotiated for a rail depot at 53rd Street to attract more visitors to his hotel called the Hyde Park House. Cornell’s hotel was the social epicenter of the neighborhood and it drew in well-to-do guests like First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, before it burned in a fire in 1879. Another hotel was built in its place in 1917, called the Hampton House, now a condominium building. In 1889, Hyde Park was officially annexed to Chicago, which launched the early stages of construction for the Columbian Exposition in the neighborhood’s lakefront Jackson Park. The community experienced radical growth as people who were working on the fair moved to the area. As plans for the Exposition went forward, the development of the University of Chicago, which was founded in 1890, were also underway. Between 1930 and 1950 Hyde Park’s population reached a staggering number of 55,000 residents, up from 15,000 in 1880.In general, the south side suffered an economic decline that began as early as World War I, but in the 1960s the largest urban renewal project in the nation was born. It was sponsored by the University of Chicago, and organized by the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference. Its goal was to create an ‘interracial community of high standards,’ and as a result of this project, Hyde Park’s average income increased by 70 percent. The project successfully minimized the economic disparity between its white and black residents by offering more employment and affordable home-ownership opportunities to its middle-class African American community members.