Elaine Elam, owner of the Calla Lily Gift Shop in Harper Court said she is closing her shop soon, in part, because of her dissatisfaction with the board of the non-profit Harper Court Foundation. In an interview, she stated, "They didn't consult with us about the chessboards and afterward they tried to tell us that it was to get rid of the drug dealers. Well, the chess players are gone and the drug dealers are still here." Ironically, residents report that since the boards were removed in the Spring, the drug dealers have become more open with their activities because there is less of a crowd and fewer eyes to witness their illegal dealings.
It is ironic that the Harper Court emblem shown above bears a chess theme, and in the neighborhood guide, there is explicit pride for the chess hub. Following is a quote from an online neighborhood guide for Hyde Park:
"But the university isn't the only influence here. Located right off of 53rd street, Harper's Court offers an array of shops, restaurants and cultural options. Men and women, young and old, come to test their analytical skills in a game of chess in Harper's Square (in the middle of Harper's Court). On any given day, the three chess tables in the square are crowded with players and intrigued onlookers."
It appears as if a compromise must be made, but apparently public sentiment is with the chess players. Let's hope that this rich legacy is keep alive!!
Read Liz Austin's, "Stalemate over Hyde Park chess," chicagotribune.com, 19 July 2002.
Read Celeste Garrett's, "Hyde Park chess fans stage 'play in' protest," chicagotribune.com, 20 July 2002.
Read Daaim Shabazz's personal reflection of Harper Court.
Read Hadas and Abe Friedman's "The Harper Court Chess Affair," 3 November 2002."
Posted by The Chess Drum: 25 July 2002