I call this photo “neighborsitters” because, I suspect it was fairly common for neighbors in Uptown to look out for each others kids. That’s what’s happening here.

I remember reading a great book several years ago called Death of the Great American Cities. The author contended that safety was declining in American cities because styles of architecture were changing. She claimed that porches, stoops, open windows and street level shops created a rich street life that drew people out onto the streets. This made it safer for everyone and more difficult for criminals to operate.

During the Seventies, when I took this photo in Uptown, these architectural features were still in abundance. Every night of the week, the best show in town happened right in front of your apartment, on your front sidewalk. Kids would play. Neighbors would chat and watch them. All of the eyeballs patrolling the streets created a level of security greater than police could provide.

Further, the author contended that changing styles of architecture (high rises with windows that would not open, the disappearance of porches and stoops, the demise of street level shops, etc.) emptied the streets. The empty streets emboldened criminals.

When I look at this photo, it reminds me of the warmth that so many people in Uptown felt for each other. They looked out for each other and each others’ kids. And as this photo shows, it didn’t make any difference if they were black or white.

Despite the rough appearance of Uptown in the 1970s, I never felt physically threatened there. In fact, I felt as safe as I did in Evanston or Wilmette.