These photos of Chicago’s Tri-Taylor neighborhood on the city’s Near West Side were taken by Lou Fourcher as a graduate student. He was participating in the University of Illinois-Chicago’s Valley Project.
Lou’s son, Mike Foucher, tells us: “Most of the area photographed here was demolished in the mid-1970s and designated as part of the Illinois Medical District.”
How did his father get the pictures?
“He was a fish out of water in this neighborhood. He told me many times that he got most of the pictures because he managed to talk a local gang leader into walking him around. I think the work he did at the clinic, the Valley Project, was an inspiration for him, since he later went on to run non-profit health centers, like Erie Family Health Center in Humboldt Park and New City Health Center in Englewood.”
Lou’s pictures reveal an empathy for his subjects based on mutual trust that elevates them above prying cultural colonialism to something intimate. Each picture is imbued with warmth, but it’s as a series they come together to reveal human life at a certain place in a certain time.
In 1996, the Chicago Reader was there to see the old building come down.
The “district development area” is better known to its residents as the “Valley.” It includes an old school, a new church building, a few corner stores, a lot of ramshackle houses, and many, many vacant lots. Most of its residents are black, quite a few are elderly, and many have lived in the Valley for a long time. Over the years many residents have given up and sold their houses, knowing that the medical district was authorized to come in at any time.
If you or anyone you know features in these pictures please tell us.