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 - Headed Housing Council The 1st lady of slum...
Headed Housing Council The 1st lady of slum clearance is saying goodby By Paul Gapp Urban alfairs editor TO FIND DOROTHY Ruhcl, you ride an elevator to the third floor of the Monadnock Building and enter a small suite of offices that have exquisite wall decorations: wrought iron doors from the Old Chicago Stock Exchange and framed sections of plaster ornamentation ornamentation from the Garrick Theater symbols symbols of defeat, for both landmarks have been demolished. And there she is, waiting for you in a small conference room: Dorothy Rubel, director of the Metropolitan Housing and Planning Council MHPC, do-gooder do-gooder do-gooder do-gooder extraordinary, and Chicago's veteran veteran First Lady of slum clearance, housing housing code reform, conservation, and a dozen other endeavors which aim at cleansing the city of blight and preserving preserving its amenities. GETTING Mrs. Rubcl to talk about herself is difficult, for she wears a cloak of self-effacement. self-effacement. self-effacement. But it is surely surely time to do so, for she is retiring this month after 31 years of service. The privately supported council has long been comprised o some of the city's brainiest, most effective workers in the cause of physical and social change. They have included lawyers, architects, educators, bankers, real estate estate developers, and other big-ego big-ego big-ego people, people, all of whom work for nothing. Mrs. her fellow workers, she was finally cajoled cajoled into speaking about herself. "It started in 1942 when I'd been active active in the FTA and was a member of the Women's Joint Committee on Adequate Adequate Housing, which is how I wound up as a delegate to the MHPC," she recalled. "You wouldn't believe how bad the slums were then. I remember seeing them for the first time. I saw families living in basements with wet dirt floors and six-foot six-foot six-foot ceilings. No heat, no electric electric lights, nothing. People were living in coal sheds and shacks and under-stairways. under-stairways. under-stairways. There were rats everywhere. everywhere. Till; TENEMENT fires were catastrophic catastrophic in those days children burning burning to death and people jumping out o windows. And when we went to the inquests afterward, there was nothing but buck-passing. buck-passing. buck-passing. Nobody even knew who owned the buildings." The women's committee tried to track down some of the slumlords. "We found one manager of several buildings, buildings, a woman, sitting in a sort of crypt in a basement," Mrs. Rubel said. ' She was wearing veils and burning inconse. A real weirdo." The bizarre and brutalizing conditions conditions in the slums were matched by the unbelievable inadequacy of the city's means of dealing with them. "There were only 12 housing inspectors, inspectors, and they worked for the Board of Health, so they spent half of their time on quarantine work and things like that," Mrs. Rubel said. "LESS THAN three per cent of the buildings were covered by the housing code, because it had been changed so many times and not made retroactive. Housing cases were tried in a kind of catchall court and slumlords just got wrist-slaps, wrist-slaps, wrist-slaps, if anything. I spent a lot of time as a court observer when I started started out." The first three MHPC directors, who Continued on following page Tribune Photo by Jack Mulcahy Dorothy Rubel . . . "Citizens' groups aren't always welcome. Like Caesar's wife, they must be above reproach. That means they must present unquestionably accurate facts." Rubel, in her low-key low-key low-key way, has managed managed to keep the council stuck together and make things happen. After two hours of conversation, in which she insisted on describing the selflessness and collcctve victories of SC3XS gm&t v&lme Mms8fi& Sale! Our Best Automatic Garage Door Opener Closer r

Clipped from Chicago Tribune02 Dec 1973, SunPage 45

Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois)02 Dec 1973, SunPage 45
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