Timeline of Events

Progress Development Corp. formed

1956-1958

American Friends Service Committee and Dr. Homer Jack, pastor of Evanston Unitarian Church, met with Morris Milgram, a builder from Philadelphia. Milgram founded Modern Community Developers and had already completed integrated projects in Philadelphia and Princeton. They formed Progress Development Corp. as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Modern Community Developers in order to bring integrated housing to the Chicagoland area.

An initial search for suitable sites in the Chicago area began

1959

Max Weinrib, Executive Vice President of Progress Development Corp., began the search for sites which included Deerfield.

Weinrib entered contracts to purchase two sites in Deerfield

February 1959

Weinrib saw “for sale” signs on two unimproved sites in Deerfield: Floral Park and Pear Tree. After initial inquiries, he entered into negotiations and signed contracts to purchase the two sites.

Weinrib attended Village Board, Planning Commission, and School Board meetings

February-August 1959

During the school board meetings, the school board requested that $350 be contributed to the school district for each home built. Weinrib agreed. The proposed Floral Park subdivision was across the street from Wilmot School.

The Village of Deerfield approved the purchase and building plans

July-August 1959

Floral Park was the largest of the two sites at 15 acres, while Pear Tree was smaller at seven acres.

Construction began in Floral Park

September 24, 1959

Water and sewer connections were installed, and construction started on two model homes.

News of the integration plans began to spread through faith leaders

November 9, 1959

Progress Development Corp. sought to prepare the people of Deerfield for integration by reaching out to community faith leaders because religious leaders were generally seen as being in favor of integration. Jack D. Parker, a local minister from St. Gregory Episcopal Church, was informed about the intended integration plans. He shared the information with the church’s vestrymen, one of whom then informed the village president.

Roofs were put on the two model homes in Floral Park

November 10, 1959

The Village Board was informed of the integration plans

November 11, 1959

The village building commissioner stopped construction at the Floral Park site

November 13, 1959

The commissioner claimed he found several violations at the two model homes. For example, the official stamped set of building plans was not at the site, though an exact duplicate was on site.

Chicago area news outlets broke the news of the planned integrated housing 

November 15, 1959

The Park Board met and heard the testimony of the Deerfield Citizens’ Committee

November 17, 1959

Joseph Powell, head of the Deerfield Citizens’ Committee, a local advocacy group, offered to draw up a report on park needs.

Progress Development Corp. and the Village Board held a meeting, but it didn’t go as planned

November 17, 1959 (evening)

The Village Board originally intended to meet privately with Progress Development Corp. But people got wind of the meeting and insisted that it be public. 35-40 people came to the meeting. Many raised concerns regarding the methods of this social change.

The Village Board held a regular meeting

November 18, 1959

More than 150 people came to the meeting. The village manager read a statement recognizing the concerns of the citizens, stated that they were studying the matter, and asked for calm and confidence. Many people stayed after the meeting to discuss Floral Park. People began talking about circulating a petition to stop the integrated housing initiative.

Six leading ministers issued their support for the project

November 20, 1959

Minister Jack D. Parker also issued a separate statement saying he approved of integration in theory but did not approve of the builders’ methods. He proposed they start an indemnity fund for people who could potentially lose value on their homes.

The Village Board met to hear from Progress Development Corp. officials

November 23, 1959

The focus of the meeting was to allow the Progress Development Corp. officials a chance to reassure residents. There was an overflow crowd with reporters from Chicago.

North Shore Residents Association founded

November 23, 1959

After the Village Board Meeting, approximately 500 people went to the American Legion Hall and formed the North Shore Residents Association with Harold Lewis of Riverwoods as the chairman to fight the integrated housing project. This was the first time that the idea of condemning the building sites and turning the land into parks was brought up in a public setting.

The Village Board met to hear from concerned citizens

November 24, 1959

The Village Board President and Harold Lewis gave speeches to a crowded school auditorium at the Deerfield Grammar School. While some did speak out in favor of integration, including local high school teacher, Ted Repsholdt, there were many in opposition.

Deerfield Citizens for Human Rights founded

November 29, 1959

The board consisted of eleven people with Deerfield resident Adrien Ringuette as the chairman.

North Shore Residents Association conducted a poll about the integrated housing project

December 5-6, 1959

The unofficial poll of Deerfield residents resulted in a vote of 8-1 against the project. North Shore Residents Association then made the findings public. There was some question afterward about whether the poll intentionally skipped local integration supporters.

The Park Board voted to hold a referendum

December 7, 1959

After hearing the Deerfield Citizens Committee present about park needs, the Park Board sought to hold a referendum to obtain citizen approval to acquire the sites proposed for integrated housing. Two previous park referendums had failed earlier that same year. The new referendum would take place in two weeks, the minimum amount of time required by law to post and hold a referendum.

The referendum for the Park Board to acquire the sites passed

December 21, 1959

With 86 percent voter turnout, the referendum passed by a 2-1 majority.

Progress Development Corp. and Modern Community Developers filed a federal civil rights lawsuit

December 22, 1959

Progress Development Corp. and Modern Community Developers charged the Village Board with harassment and the Park Board, North Shore Resident Association, Joseph Powell, and Deerfield Citizens’ Committee of conspiracy to deprive them of their civil rights.

The Park Board filed a land condemnation suit in the Lake County Circuit Court for park and school properties, including Floral Park and Pear Tree

December 24, 1959

A temporary injunction was denied to Progress Development Corp. in the federal civil rights suit

January 4, 1960

U.S. District Court Judge J. Sam Perry did not grant Progress Development Corp. a temporary injunction to prevent village officials from impeding the progress on the Floral Park model homes.

The federal civil rights suit against Deerfield Village officials was dismissed

Progress Development Corp. appealed

March 4, 1960

After a preliminary hearing, U.S. District Court Judge J. Sam Perry dismissed the $750,000 civil rights suit and threw out MCD as a co-defendant.

The injunction against the Park Board was dismissed in the county land condemnation suit

March 17, 1960

Lake County Circuit Court Judge Bernard M. Decker ruled that the land condemnation proceedings could continue even though the federal civil rights case was still being appealed.

The Lake County Circuit Court ruled that Deerfield Park District could condemn Progress Development Corp.’s land

Progress Development Corp. appealed the decision to the Illinois Supreme Court

May 25, 1960

The Lake County Circuit Court ordered the Park District to pay Progress Development Corp. $168,500 for the condemned Floral Park and Pear Tree properties.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a full hearing for the federal civil rights suit

January 4th, 1961

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined that Judge Perry didn’t give Progress Development Corp. the full extent of their right to a trial by jury and ordered him to retry the case.

The Illinois Supreme Court ordered a rehearing on the land condemnation verdict

April 26, 1961

The Illinois Supreme court ruled that a public body’s right to condemn property cannot overrule fundamental rights granted by the U.S. Constitution and sent the case back to Lake County Circuit Court.

Judge Perry asked to be removed from the federal civil rights case

May 9, 1961

Judge Perry indicated that he wanted someone “fresh” to look at the case because he was afraid that if he ruled the same way again he would be criticized.

Eleanor Roosevelt visited Deerfield

May 24, 1961

The former first lady came to Deerfield while in town for an award ceremony. She visited the sites of the model homes and the home of one of the members of Deerfield Citizens for Human Rights, lauding the members for fighting for integration.

Lake County Circuit Court upheld Deerfield Park District’s right to condemn the land

Progress Development Corp. appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court

October 18, 1961

Judge Decker upheld his previous decision that the land can be condemned due to the fact that Progress Development Corp. was unable to prove a conspiracy by the Park Board to keep African-Americans out of Deerfield.

The retrial date for the federal civil rights suit was set after requested delays

September 21, 1962

Progress Development Corp. had requested a delay in the start of the federal civil rights trial because some of the documents were being used for the case were being used in the land condemnation suit in the Illinois Supreme Court.

The Illinois Supreme Court upheld Deerfield Park District’s right to condemn the land through eminent domain

Progress Development Corp. appealed to the United States Supreme Court

November 30, 1962

The federal civil rights retrial was postponed again

December 12, 1962

U.S. District Court Judge Edwin A. Robson postponed the retrial until April 1963 after Progress Development Corp. decided to appeal the Illinois Supreme Court decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

CORE protest: Camp-in and fast

May 6, 1963

Two members of the Congress of Racial Equality, including Freedom Rider participant, Rev. B. Elton Cox, slept overnight at the building site, fasted, and handed out pamphlets to oppose segregation.

CORE protest: March and rally

May 18-19, 1963

Protests led by the Congress of Racial Equality were held all day in Deerfield at the Pear Tree site. 50 marched from Morton Grove to Deerfield where they met another 150. Many stayed overnight and services were held in the park in the morning, attended by local clergy.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the land condemnation case

Progress Development Corp. appealed the ruling

June 10, 1963

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant a rehearing to Progress Development Corp. over the land condemnation dispute

June 10, 1963

Judge Robson dismisses federal civil rights suit

June 28, 1963

Judge Robson’s decision states that “where there is a trial of the issue in the state court, there is no need for a retrial of the same issue in federal court” and cites the Illinois Supreme Court decision in the land condemnation case as the final one.