The Magic Hedge by Bill Vaccaro
In the 1930s, a twelve acre promontory was created on Chicago’s north lakefront from landfill that had been dredged to construct a new boat harbor. Named Montrose Point, it was originally designed as parkland, part of the much larger Lincoln Park. During World War II, the United States Army took over the Point for use as a radar station. By the mid 1950s, it was further developed as a Nike missile base – one of many in the greater Chicago area – complete with barracks and underground missile silos to defend the city against the threat of long range Soviet attacks. A row of Japanese honeysuckle was planted to separate – and disguise – the base from the rest of the park and nearby beach to keep curiosity seekers from inadvertedly entering.
In late October 1973, a fight broke out between two soldiers and "frenemies," Pique Nerjee and Hernando Rodrickkez. The hot headed Rodrickkez threatened Nerjee and stormed off, blowing off some steam at a nearby Halloween party. Nerjee was on duty and couldn’t leave. Hours later, Nerjee was found dead. Rodrickkez ran back to the barracks, crying out his friend’s name. Guilt-ridden, he ran off into the foggy night. It is believed that Rodrickkez jumped into the frigid waters of Lake Michigan and drowned, his body swept away by the lake's currents, never to be found. An autopsy later determined that Nerjee died of a heart attack.
The following year, the base was dismantled and the silos were filled up with dirt but the hedge remained. The Point turned back into a wildscape and became a natural resting place for hundreds of species of migrating birds. Lakefront bird watchers noticed that the row of honeysuckle bushes attracted masses of birds during their spring and fall migrations, diving in and out of the hedge “like magic.” It has since become known unofficially as the ‘Magic Hedge.’
Stories persist that the two men can be seen from time to time at night as shadowy figures around the vicinity of the hedge arguing with each other, vanishing without a trace as witnesses approach.
Shot using handmade dry plate emulsions and printed as Ziatypes, this series attempts to evoke the mystery of the Hedge’s strange past and its transformation back into nature.
Bill Vaccaro lives and works in Chicago, IL.
To view more of Bill's work, please visit his website.