Bughouse Square Debates Washington Square Park
When: Saturday, July 28, 2018, Noon – 4 pm
Where: Washington Square Park (a.k.a., Bughouse Square), 901 North Clark Street, across from the Newberry Library. This program is free and no reservations are required.
Join the Newberry Library for Chicago’s favorite annual free speech event. Food trucks include:La Cocinita, Gobble Doggs, Itsapop. Cheap eats Gold Coast Newberry Library Book Fair is going on across the street.
Noon: Music by Environmental Encroachment
1 pm: Welcome and Introduction to Bughouse Square Rick Kogan, Master of Ceremonies
1:10 pm: Presentation of the 2018 John Peter Altgeld Freedom of Speech Award to Robert J. Zimmer, on behalf of the University of Chicago
1:25 pm: Performance by Genesis Academy Summer Institute Students
1:35 pm: Main Debate: Neighborhood Improvement, or Gentrification? Winifred Curran, DePaul’s Sustainable Urban Development Program andGhian Foreman, Greater Southwest Development Corporation.
Urban development can mean repairing and revitalizing communities but sometimes it results in displacement of original occupants and small businesses, as rents increase and affluent outsiders move in. What is the dividing line between positive improvements and economic eviction?
2:30 pm: Soapbox Speeches
SOAPBOXES 1 AND 2: Speakers and topics will be added soon
OPEN SOAPBOX: Come one, come all! The open soapbox will be available for airing grievances and spreading good news. Just show up and get in line! Back by popular demand, the Society of Smallness will return this year to curate the open soapbox.
YOUTH SOAPBOX: Organized by students from the GCE Lab School. Interested in speaking your mind at the Youth Soapbox? Register to speak here:
- Youth age 25 and younger, solo or in pairs or teams, will give 3-minute lightning speeches on pressing issues
- Speaker of Truth Awards will be presented to Edie Canter, Executive Director of the Chicago Debate Commission, and Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General, for their support of youth causes and voices.
3:30 pm: Performance Interlude while the Soapbox Judges Deliberate
- National Youth Poet Laureate Patricia Frazier
- Soapbox Judges: Ada Cheng, 2017 Dill Pickle Champion; Sameena Mustafa, Community Leader and Activist; and Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, Associate Professor of History, Loyola University Chicago
3:45 pm: Dill Pickle Awarded to the Soapbox Champion
History of Bughouse Square Debates (bughouse is slang for mental health facility)
- From 1910s through the 1960s Washington Square Park was Chicago’s boisterous and radical free-speech space for Bohemians, socialists, atheists, and religionists of all persuasions who mounted soapboxes, spoke to responsive, vocal crowds, and competed informally for attention and donations.
- During the 1920s and 1930s busloads of tourists joined the scene with thousands of people gathered on summer evenings.
- World War II and a post-war crackdown against socialists and communists led to Bughouse Square’s decline and, by the mid-1960s, it had all but ceased to exist.
- The Newberry and community activists officially revived the spirit of the park with the Bughouse Square Debates in 1986.
History of Washington Square Park (redacted from Chicago Park District website)
- In 1842, the American Land Company donated a three-acre parcel to the city for use as a public park. The donors named the site Washington Square, possibly after the park located in the New York City neighborhood.
- Chicago’s Washington Square was soon surrounded by many high end residences and churches. In 1869, the city began improving Washington Square with lawn, trees, bisecting diagonal walks, limestone coping, and picket fencing.
- By 1906 the park had fallen into ruin. Many old mansions were converted into flophouses and the neighborhood was downtrodden. Alderman McCormick donated a $600 fountain, and the city allocated an additional $10,000 to rehabilitate the park. Landscape improvements were planned by the renowned designer, Jens Jensen.
- In 1959, the city transferred Washington Square to the Chicago Park District. The 1906 fountain was removed in the 1970s. In the late 1990s, the park district, the city, and neighborhood organizations developed a restoration plan for Washington Square. Improvements include a reconstructed historic fountain, period lighting, fencing, and new plantings.