CHICAGO — Spanning 200 feet of the sidewalk at the corner of Humboldt Boulevard and Wabansia Avenue, the brick road surrounds a group of affordable housing town houses managed by Bickerdike Redevelopment Corp. that are on the site where Baum lived when he wrote the children's novel in the late 19th century.
Bickerdike also plans to install a tile mosaic mural on a low wall engraved with a line from the movie adaptation of the novel: "There's no place like home."
The installations are part of a larger project by Bickerdike to rehabilitate and preserve affordable housing that involves 318 units in 68 buildings, said CEO Joy Aruguete. Bickerdike, a nonprofit corporation, works on building and rehabilitating affordable housing properties on the West and Northwest sides.
"We wanted to link the idea of 'there's no place like home' and the importance of housing and housing stability with a historic event," Aruguete said. "I think a lot of people don't realize that (Baum) lived in Chicago."
The members of Bickerdike themselves only found out about the site's history several years ago, when the city installed a placard near the site, Aruguete said. When thinking of how to commemorate Baum in Bickerdike's current preservation project, "we wanted to do something a little bit more high profile."
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In planning the installations, Bickerdike contacted the Chicago Public Art Group, Aruguete said. One of the group's members, Hector Duarte, will be creating the tile mosaic mural, which likely will be completed in the spring when it gets warmer.
Duarte said when people see the mural, he wants them to remember that "Chicago is a special city (that) motivates people to create something."
Baum, born in Chittenango, N.Y., moved to Chicago with his family in 1891. While in Chicago, Baum reported for the Chicago Evening Post and launched "The Show Window," a monthly magazine about window dressing. After Baum published "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" in 1900, he wrote 13 more novels based on the characters and setting of the Land of Oz.
Bickerdike's brick sidewalk and mural are the latest commemorations of Baum's time in Chicago. In 1976, a park in the Lincoln Park neighborhood several miles east of Baum's former home was named Oz Park. The park contains sculptures of Dorothy, Toto, the Tin Man and other characters from the novel.