Project Description

Hyde Park People, Places, Things, November 16, 2011

By the Hyde Park Historical Society

This regular column from the Hyde Park Historical Society features snapshots of the individuals, sights and history of the interesting and diverse community that is Hyde Park. As always, comments and suggestions for future columns are welcome to This article features a search through the Herald Archive for family history.

Searching the Herald Archives for James R. Black
At the Hyde Park Historical Society we frequently get inquiries from individuals trying to find information about relatives in Hyde Park. Recently we researched an inquiry from Alyce Jenkins, whose grandfather owned shoe stores in Hyde Park and whose mother attended Hyde Park High School and the University of Chicago. Alyce remembered excursions in Hyde Park as a child and wanted to find out more about her grandfather. She had a few pieces of information and a photo of her grandfather. She knew that her grandfather, James R. Black, had two shoe stores, she thought in Hyde Park, in the early 1900’s, and two residences over the years, one at 5442 Kenwood Avenue. She did not know where the stores were located or what the business name was. You can see from the photo below, that the name on the window in her photo was simply, Fine Shoe Repairing. An initial search of the Herald Archive under James R. Black came up empty. Then a search on the words Black shoe got 226 results. After sorting by date, an advertisement in the September 13, 1918 issue appeared. Sure enough there it was, both locations of the shoe stores.

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The location on 55th street was torn down during Urban Renewal, but the address on 53rd street is the current Hyde Park Bank Building, which was not built until 1929. By coincidence HPHS had a digital image of the original building.

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Now Alyce had not only the location of the 53rd Street shoe store, but a photograph of it. Finally, another search of the Herald Archive came up with the marriage announcement of Alyce’s father and mother at the Windermere East in 1929.

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 9.32.45 AMAlyce and her husband Reese recently came to Hyde Park to revisit the areas she remembered and explore her newly found family history. Fittingly, we met and shared lunch at Piccolo Mondo located in the Windermere.

Notes on Searching the Herald Archive
The Herald Archive is a wonderful resource, but it has some search idiosyncrasies. The archive was digitized from scans of hard copy of variable quality so the text recognition may not always be accurate. Using a combination of search terms and being persistent is a good strategy. Thanks to the fact that the Herald included full addresses of individuals mentioned in the articles up through the 1960’s it is possible to associate individuals with specific addresses. This is a great feature for researching the residents and history of buildings. Try searching on 5046 Greenwood.

Credits: James Black courtesy of Alyce Jenkins. Hyde Park Savings Bank c1927courtesy Betsy McGuin and Merrick and Wildish Engineering. The Modern Shoe Shops and Black-Mitchem announcement courtesy of the Hyde Park Herald Archive.

Upcoming at the Hyde Park Historical Society:

Matchbooks and Menus: Artifacts of Hyde Park’s Commercial History
Curated by Stephen Treffman
Opening Saturday, December 10, 2011, at the Annual Holiday Party of the Hyde Park Historical Society
2:00 PM to 4:00 PM

This special exhibit, the first of its kind in the history of the Hyde Park Historical Society, will display a wide range of vintage local matchbooks and menus. Hotels, restaurants, drinking establishments, and other local businesses once a part of the Woodlawn, Hyde Park and Kenwood communities will be represented.