A Changing City: Chicago Department of Urban Renewal Photographs

We are pleased to announce our newest digital collection: Chicago Department of Urban Renewal Records: Photographic Negatives Digital Collection. This collection documents the activities of the Chicago Department of Urban Renewal as it recorded the state of structures and neighborhoods in Chicago through studies and photographs. These studies helped determine whether an area would be conserved through subsidized remodeling projects or cleared for redevelopment and new construction.

The nearly 16,000 images in this digital collection depict Chicago neighborhoods considered and targeted for improvement, including buildings and neighborhoods that were subsequently razed. The collection also includes images of events, including meetings, hearings, groundbreakings and public art installations related to various urban renewal and development projects.

The Chicago Department of Urban Renewal was created through the combination of the Chicago Land Clearance Commission and the Community Conservation Board in 1962. However, Chicago’s long-standing interest in addressing the structural and demographic makeup of the city began earlier, as evident in a 1939 Works Progress Administration enumeration study that documented dwellings by homeownership and racial demographics. These studies continued through the 1940s and 1950s. In 1992, the City of Chicago combined the Department of Urban Renewal with the Commercial District Development Commission to create the Community Development Commission.

Visit our Special Collections to research more about this topic and view the Chicago Department of Urban Renewal Records, which include additional images, documents and publications not visible in the digital collection. The Faith Rich Papers also cover urban renewal through the lens of an activist challenging the practice and the Municipal Reference Collection holds numerous publications from DUR and related city agencies.