I photographed this apartment building that had gone up in flames on Broadway in the mid-1970s. You can see from the mattresses on the ground that the building had not been vacant when it burned. According to a firefighter who used to work at Engine 83 (the Uptown Fire Station), Uptown had the busiest fire department in America during the decade of the 1970s. I do not know whether this fire was accidental or intentional. Uptown had many documented cases of arson for profit during this period. The problem was so bad that in 1978 the Illinois legislature established a commission to look into the causes and make recommendations to remedy the problem. One reader wrote to tell me that his friends did not believe him when he told them that “…in 1976 Uptown resembled Beirut in about 1982, that squatter junkies lived in abandoned buildings and good-old-boys with knee-length hair chopped abandoned cars in the street; that 10-year-olds tripped … to incoherence on LSD, that 19-year-old heroin dealers killed their rival 18-year-old junkie-dealers with massive morphine overdoses (bro-in-law of mine); that CPD officers permitted drug deals on squad car hoods to keep the action straight.”

Yes, Uptown was a challenging neighborhood in the mid-1970s. It is vastly improved today thanks to people who never gave up on Uptown.