WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO THE HOUSE AT 406 CLYBOURNE STREET?
“I am the Chicago home the Youngers from A Raisin in the Sun bought in 1959. Two years before I was put up for sale, a tragedy occurred within my walls. You see, one of my residents committed suicide. He was an army veteran, and when he returned from the Korean War, he found it impossible to readjust to civilian life. Russ and Bev, his parents, put me up for sale so they could start a new life away from Clybourne Park.
Interestingly, the Younger family wanted to start a new life, also. That’s why they purchased me.
New lives sometimes are tethered to ‘old-life’ problems. In 1959, Clybourne Park was an all-white neighborhood. Many residents feared the process of selling homes to African American families, and believed that once black families moved in, white families would move out and Clybourne Park would decline. One of Russ and Bev’s neighbors, Karl Lindner, practically begged them not to sell me to the Youngers. He had already tried to bribe the Youngers into not buying me, but that didn’t work. Begging Russ and Bev didn’t work either. Karl and all the other neighbors eventually moved from Clybourne Park, which became all-black.
During a fifty year period, resources dwindled in Clybourne Park and crime reared its ugly head. I lay abandoned for a time and by 2009, graffiti covered my interior walls. Then, gentrification happened! Younger, often white, professional couples (the houses around here call them, ‘Yuppies’) began to notice how close Clybourne Park was to downtown Chicago and decided to move into the neighborhood. ‘Yuppie’ couple Steve and Lindsey have decided to purchase me, tear me down and on my land, build something akin to a ‘McMansion’ with a Koi pond in the backyard. Lena and her husband, Kevin are African Americans who live in Clybourne Park. Lena is related to the Youngers who bought me in 1959, and she grew up playing within my walls and in my backyard. She does not want a ‘McMansion’ to replace me.
Clybourne Park was practically an all-black neighborhood when Lena grew up. Just like Karl Lindner feared the loss of his neighborhood in 1959, fifty years later, I think Lena was feeling the same type of loss.
If walls could talk? Well, my walls listen, and they’ve heard an ear-full! Human beings can say some very interesting, and often very funny things. There have been times when I wanted to laugh hysterically, but I didn’t want to scare my occupants to death. I think it’s best for humans to communicate with other humans, so I encourage you to see my story performed by a very talented cast of actors in Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play, Clybourne Park.”
Vanessa Ellis, Director