When the University of Illinois announced the selection of the Harrison-Halsted site, resident Florence Scala led much of the neighborhood in protesting the decision. Embodying the civic conscience of Chicago’s Little Italy, Florence Scala had developed her sense of social justice at nearby Hull-House, where she participated in classes and activities throughout her youth. As leader of the Harrison-Halsted Community Group, she fought the city every step of the way. Suits were eventually filed in both federal and state courts to prevent the project from going forward.
In May 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case, clearing the way for construction of the new university. Large sections of the Harrison-Halsted neighborhood were demolished to make room for the campus, displacing significant numbers of people and businesses. In a small but important victory, Florence Scala and her followers succeeded in persuading university trustees to preserve the Hull-House and Residents’ Dining Hall, located at 800 South Halsted, as a memorial to Jane Addams.
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