29th October 2017

Inside the former electric substation for the Kenwood line

This disused substation used to manage the electrical power required by the CTA to operate the Kenwood branch line on the overgrown embankment looming behind it (concrete structure on far right in photo above). The building is still owned by ComEd, the largest electric utility in Chicago, although BUD have been hoping to acquire it for use as part of their proposed social enterprise for over a decade now. ComEd may consider donating it to BUD if their own proposal for a Bronzeville microgrid (which directly competes with BUD's microgrid proposal) is rejected by the Illinois Commerce Commission - who are required to reach a decision by the end of January 2018.

My cousin joined me today, and as we were walking past the building we met a neighbourhood security guard, Keith Myles, who said he had been inside the building before and offered to show us around. Myles regarded the building as something fit for a horror movie such as Saw, where 'crazy things' could go down undetected - he was surprised the building had not been razed. I mentioned that this was because it was on the historic buildings register.

One of the external sets of doors opening onto the street.

Keith Myles leads us around to the back of the building.

As he led us inside, gun holstered, he called out 'Security! Is there anybody in here?'
This was met by a deafening silence.

Inside the largest, and lightest, room. It struck me that it would be a good size for a community workshop.

Most of the smaller rooms contained rusting electrical transformers. The white ceramic insulators were the most visible thing in the glow created by our combined torchlight and smartphone LEDs.

Daylight seeps into the eastern wing through the external doors in the first photo. Keith's torchlight catches a column.

Walking downstairs to the basement level, which was dark as hell, and flooded.

Leaving the eastern wing. Despite a few puddles from the leaky ceiling, the building appeared to be structurally sound.

Some sort of record book lies on the ground under a covered area of the back courtyard.

Keith Myles

Myles was not born on the South Side - he grew up on one of the only public housing projects on the North Side, the Cabrini-Green Homes, which was demolished between 1995 and 2011. Cabrini-Green developed a national reputation because of the nightmarish living conditions faced by its residents; it was undoubtedly one of the most notable 'urban-renewal-gone-wrong' projects of the United States. The project was so blighted by crime that it was even used as the location for 1992 horror Candyman. Myles' supported the demolition decision, even if it was long overdue, but it was interesting to hear his take on the criminal outcome:

“Once they knocked the projects down, they just spread the killers throughout the city."

Keith Myles