Originally built in 1906 to house the uber-exclusive South Shore Country Club, the South Shore Cultural Center was rescued from demolition by ardent community members in the early 1970s and bought by the Chicago Park District in 1975. Since then, the SSCC has been restored and was made an official Chicago Landmark in 2004. In the mid-'80s, an advisory council was formed to make recommendations to the Park District and develop recreational and cultural activities at the Center, which, to this day, maintains its presence as a "people's palace for arts and arts partnerships."
It is easy to see why the community fought so hard to preserve SSCC. The buildings are visually spectacular, utilizing both the glamorous "resort" architectural style common in Florida and California and the Classical Revival and Adamesque style, heavy with stucco and plaster ornamentation, which restoration crews were instructed to maintain. These grandiose rooms and buildings, along with the unique location on a lakefront beach, make the SSCC a true gem of Chicago's far South Side.
Diverse programming ranges from gospel aerobics, stepping classes and ballet to ceramics, documentary film screenings, culinary arts (through the Washburne Culinary Institute) and extensive music courses. With the Old Town School of Folk Music, the SSCC presents events such as Afro Folk Live!, an initiative to expose Chicagoans to African culture through educational programming.
The reinvigoration of the grounds and buildings has not gone unnoticed by the community, and groups and individuals are increasingly renting out the Solarium, Paul Robeson Theater and Oak Room for events. The elegant plot of land that houses the SSCC buildings includes a club building, gatehouse and stable, in addition to a nine-hole golf course, tennis courts and bird-friendly nature sanctuary on the small peninsula behind the buildings.
Centerstage Reviewer: Gretchen Kalwinski