“Jimmy Hoffa buried here.”

September 23rd, 2009by Jill AustinFiled under: Exhibitions

post-it note readying Jimmy Hoffa buried here

Wow, who would have ever suspected? A visitor to our exhibition Lincoln Park Block By Block made the anonymous claim that Jimmy Hoffa (the Teamsters labor union leader from Detroit who disappeared in 1975) was buried in the Lincoln Park community of Chicago by quietly placing this simple note among a wall of comments left by other gallery visitors.

The idea may have been inspired by famous gangster-related locations in Lincoln Park, including the Clark Street site of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929 and the Biograph Theatre on Lincoln Avenue where John Dillinger was gunned down by the FBI in 1934. On our neighborhood map wall, an arrow marks the spot—suggesting Hoffa’s body may be mere blocks away near the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Orchard Street. It just goes to show that you never know!

I like it when people have fun with history and use humor and imagination to connect with other people and get noticed. So many wild things have happened night after night on the streets of Lincoln Park that the reality can become sort of unbelievable. Capone’s goons were here? John Dillinger? Buckminster Fuller? Emma Goldman? (More about her later.) Abbie Hoffman? Allen Ginsberg? Studs Terkel? President Barack Obama? Tina Fey and Johnny Depp? (No relationships implied). And then there are the rest of us, walking to the zoo and eating lunch in the park. Going to school and church. Planting flowers and tending the store. We’re all contributing to the layers of Lincoln Park history and life. Let’s hear your stories!

In the exhibition, we ask visitors “What do you remember? What did we forget?” The memories and facts are endlessly entertaining to me and I have been surprised by how many people of all ages wait their turn to inscribe a note to share the old-fashioned way. Some are happy or provocative, some hopeful, some sad. We collect them and every so often will report on what comes in. The gallery itself surrounds you with colors and shapes that identify landmarks and places in the neighborhood. One child, perhaps seeking relief from the stimulation, was drawn to a rare section of white wall, which he or she marked as “No where.” It was brilliant. Here are more of my recent favorites:

  • Mi casa?
  • Fell into some bushes here.
  • I was a nanny here.
  • Passed out on park bench overnight.
  • I am sexy.
  • 1st apartment here in Old Town.
  • Fought cancer here—twice!
  • I grew up here! Best years ever—pre-gentrification! Go West Siders!
  • My first kiss was right here.
  • I been to tha Lincoln Park Hospital.
  • Visit St. Michael’s at Cleveland and Eugenie and try to count the angels.
  • My friend made out with William Peterson.
  • Gravity invented here.

Awesome! Keep ‘em coming.

> Learn more about Lincoln Park Block by Block

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