Neighbors Of The Austin Neighborhood Share Thoughts On Pink And White House

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When residents of the Austin community walk around the 500 block of north Central Ave., they’re greeted with two-story tall houses and various apartment complexes. On the corner of the block stands a house that is painted front to back in pink and white. The house, with its chipped paint, failing columns, and ripped black carpet on the front porch is covered in pink and white including the fence and garage.

Austin resident Sandra Owens, 54, recalls the first time when she saw the house and thought there had to be a catch to the color scheme.

“When I looked at this house I think that’s a man who really loves his wife in order to live in a whole pink house,” said Owens

She and her sister, Mel Owens, rarely got a glimpse of the people who lived in the house and said they would like to see the inside but don’t want to impose for a tour.  

“I’ve seen the man who lives there once. It looks nice, but I don’t want to go and do a cold knock on the door. If I see them I may say hi,” said Mel.

Just like the sisters, residents are more familiar with the house than the people. The curiosity of the 2,574 square foot home still lives within the community as to why the owners painted the house that color.

Some residents tried to convince them to change the color. Neighbor Paul Harris, 49, who lived next to them for 17 years said the reason it stayed the same was because of the owner’s wife.

“That was his wife’s favorite colors, pink and white, always pink and white. You couldn’t get him to change the color. I’ve tried,” said Harris.

He also mentions that the house is a sight to see on the inside and to not be fooled by the looks on the outside.

“When I first saw the house it looked like an Easter basket, but the house on the inside is gorgeous. It still has some of the classic work on the inside. When I say it’s gorgeous, it’s gorgeous.”

Brief History

The old Victorian house was built in 1894. The house was intended to be a bed and breakfast before it was purchased in 1986 by the family. During that time the house was boarded up and its original colors were green and white before it was remodeled. The house had two fires since it was built with the first in 1992 and another in 2005.

To this day the house still contains classic features including a secret room in the dome, laundry shoot and a service room where there is a bedroom outside the kitchen. In the front hall, the beam in the entry way has a collage of pictures of family members.

With the house having such history it wasn’t featured in any local newspapers or other mediums. It was, however, featured on the website as one of the 722 Austin properties that were to be auctioned because of property tax. But the amount owed according to the site was only $139.77 and was later resolved by the family.

The Residents

Rev. Isiah Anderson (Photo: Yolanda Anderson)

Owners Rev. Isiah Anderson, 84, his wife Wilhelmina Anderson, 85, and his daughter Yolanda Anderson, 45, later moved into the house in 1989. Yolanda says that people assumed that no one lived there because they were a quiet family who didn’t do the usual outdoor activities.

“We weren’t outside as much, but those who lived in the neighborhood knew my father. He was always outside doing busy work, building something, or just talking or counseling people,” she said.

Harris said the neighbors knew him by the nickname, Rev. and he was friendly with everyone he interacted with.

“He was a nice man too. I would interact with him every time I would see him. He was a community organizer, moral, and a hey how’re you doing type of guy every day when I see him. He was also a contractor. He would let me borrow his ladder and would show me how to fix things around his house.”

On the Saturday before Easter, his wife and daughter were bringing Anderson back from the hospital. They were planning to have family over for the holiday so everyone can spend time with him. Unfortunately, that would become the last the family celebration with him.

Rev. Anderson died at the age of 84 Easter Sunday. Harris says that an ambulance would regularly visit the house.

“That was a regular thing. He was an elderly man so they would be there to check on his health,” Harris said with a shocked look after hearing about Anderson’s passing.

Rumors Surrounding the House

The house recently surfaced on social media in a recent Facebook post where there were a lot of speculation as to if anyone still lived there. Yolanda heard the rumors and thought they were pretty funny.

“I remember hearing about those rumors. There was this assumption that his wife passed away or no one lived there. But that was probably because we would usually come from the back because it’s closest to the car, but the neighbors knew us and everything like that,” she said.

Other rumors include the house being haunted and that the door was left open and anyone can walk in. The rumors also made Sandra laugh as her interpretation of the place were different.

“I’ve never heard any of those rumors, but this place seems more like a happy place than a sad place. I mean I wouldn’t like it to stay pink,” said Owens.

What Does The House Mean To The Community?

Residents of the community look at the house as a symbol of history in the neighborhood. Aaron Doyle, 28, also wondered what it looked like on the inside.  He agrees, however, the house is a landmark on the city’s West Side.

“What makes it a landmark to everybody is that it’s been there forever and everyone knows the house when they see it. No one talked about the people only the color of the house,” said Doyle.

Others think that the history of the house adds value to the area. Roy Ward, 63, admits he doesn’t know much about the house’s history but thinks it can use a little remodeling as he points out the flaws including a failing beam and leaning upper deck.

“A house like that has a significant value and I would like to see it stay around. It can just be rehabbed because it doesn’t look like any work as been done on it in a while,” said Ward.

The common point made by the residents and neighbors was their dislike of the color, but it’s been around for so many years they’ve learned to accept it.

Since the passing of Rev. Isiah Anderson, his wife and daughter are currently debating the future of the house as they see it as a big responsibility.

“It’s a lot of work. You have to get the repairs to keep it up to date. But we’ve been here for over 20 years so that’s the thing we’re currently talking about, me and my mother,” said Yolanda.

She promises to keep us posted on what’s next for the house. The family has set up a GoFundMe page for those who want to donate and show their respects to Rev. Anderson. If you want to donate, the link is provided below.


City Officials Call For Change In Law Enforcement In Black Communities

IMG_0464.JPGFollowing the Laquan McDonald shooting and the killing of Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones in Garfield Park, city officials on Dec. 31st held a press conference to impose immediate police reform in both west side and south side communities.

Emma Mitts of the 32nd ward led the discussion by saying that the misconduct of the officers in recent weeks shows that there is a mental illness and they have come together to make a movement. She mentions they need to work with the police to make sure that their actions are justifiable and to understand the community in which they are serving.

“Police needs to understand the culture of these communities. We’ve spoke with the superintendent and he listened to us. What we want them to do is to lock them up if they are committing wrongdoing, not to shoot them.” said Mitts.

There idea’s towards the issue include equipping the officers with taser guns, and provide them proper training on how deescalate a situation before they have to reach for their weapon. “We want to protect our communities from shooters and police misconduct,” says Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin.

“Laquan McDonald would have been here today if there were tasers present. 30,000 people in Chicago were shot this year, and 481 of them were killed by gunfire. We have to bring that number down as we head into 2016, and we have a culture of shoot first, ask questions later. We have to end that culture.”

It is more than just the misuse of weapons on people, but also the attitudes and stereotypes carried by the officers who patrol the areas. The characteristics expressed in these communities are seen as unusual behavior such as how they speak and wear their clothes. “Some people in these communities speak loudly, but it doesn’t mean that they’re angry, that’s just how they communicate with each other.” said Boykin.

Congressman Danny Davis agrees that the tasers are necessary, but the training in itself is important.

“Training is essential, but has to be the kind that will create within our law enforcement officers respect towards the human dignity of each individual they encounter. we don’t want to encounter a citizen with a traffic violation to be approached by an officer with their hand on their weapon. We heard the term black lives matter, well all lives matter, but we want black lives to matter just as much as all lives matter.”

He continues to say that to help eliminate the issue we have to strategize to replace the wastelands from these areas. By adding job opportunities to the people and education, it can help reduce crime activity in black communities and he aims to ask the federal government for additional sources and to look at Chicago as a special needs case.

Despite the recent reports of police misconduct, African Americans as said by Boykin have the most applicants submitted than any other community. He also mentions that the new superintendent understands that there needs to be more black officers and in higher positions.

When asked If Mayor Emanuel should step down in lieu of the recent protest, Ald. Mitts says that their job is to work with him as he directs the laws and the laws direct him.

“If he chooses to step down, that’s a question for him to answer, but in the meantime, he’s the mayor and our job is to work with the mayor who is in the seat. Getting mad is not going to stop anything, so we need to continue to be focused on our community.”

While the push for reform and change in the city’s law enforcement continues, the city officials thank the protesters for being peaceful and bringing awareness to the cause.

“The good thing about the protest is that it is motivating a lot of things to open up and to change. We like to commend all the young people that is out there protesting and we want them to know that we hear you and see you, but for the most part there are some things happening and it is because of all the people protesting and we commend them for doing what they’re doing.” said Will Burns, 4th Ward Alderman.