Someone Filled the Chicago Rat Hole. Residents Took Action.

Where have you gone, Chicago rat hole? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Life, as the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once said, is a pendulum that swings between pain and boredom. But Schopenhauer could not account for the elation with which residents of Chicago embraced an unlikely attraction this month: a hole in a sidewalk shaped like a rat.

And then on Friday morning, the pendulum swung back to pain: The hole was no more. The rat hole was dead. Long live the rat hole. NBC Chicago reported that the hole, which for weeks had attracted amused gawkers to a quiet residential area of the Roscoe Village neighborhood, had been filled in with “what appeared to be plaster or concrete.”

“Someone did this,” Jonathan Howell told NBC Chicago. “Some vandal did this.”

By Friday afternoon, however, the pendulum had taken another swing as residents banded together to fix the hole — in this case by restoring it. Among them was Mr. Howell, who used his Illinois license plate as a scraper to dig out the rodent-shaped crater, the NBC station reported.

“As a Chicagoan, I feel the preservation of history is important,” he said.

Block Club Chicago, a nonprofit news organization that covers Chicago’s neighborhoods, reported that by the early afternoon, the hole had been, uh, made whole, because local residents went to work to dig out the substance.

Ann M. Williams, a state representative, had said in a video on social media earlier on Friday that she was “shocked and saddened” to learn that the hole had been filled and that she was “closely monitoring this developing situation.”

Hours later, she was back to share some good news. “The Chicago Rat Hole has been restored to its former glory after local residents braved the cold and icy conditions to scrape out the plaster-like substance from the Rat Hole,” she wrote. “This is what community is all about.”

The rat hole became a sensation this month after Winslow Dumaine, an artist and comedian, posted a photo of it on social media. (Some Roscoe Village residents believe that a squirrel, not a rat, caused the hole.)

Within days, the hole became a source of joy for the city, as residents made pilgrimages to the street oddity. Many offered coins or built mini shrines around it. Candles and cinnamon rolls were placed next to it. Memes appeared on social media, and the hole even got its own Wikipedia page.

It was Chicago’s Stonehenge: No one knows exactly how it came to be, but it was something that people loved to gather around and stare at for a while.

Then, for a few bleak hours on Friday, the hole ceased to be and the city mourned. A source of glee had been snatched from the streets in a sign of civilization’s relentless need to pour cold concrete on our hopes and dreams.

Or was it really that bad?

“Spiritually, if you look at this kind of thing, the reality is that it was never about the phenomenology of a hole,” Mr. Dumaine said in an interview. “It was always about the fact that we found a silly thing and we massively gathered around it. Nobody knows where the ark of the covenant is. Nobody knows where the true cross is. Yet Christianity still exists.”

The hole has turned Mr. Dumaine, 32, into a worldwide celebrity. He has conducted interviews with journalists in Poland, France and Canada, among other countries, and he said he has an appearance booked on “The Kelly Clarkson Show.”

For Mr. Dumaine, and many Chicagoans, the hole represents a brief respite from an onslaught of negative headlines and a chance to build a community that will outlast the unsuspecting animal that got caught in a slab of drying concrete.

“Yes, there are some people that will spoil the fun, but one person put concrete in the rat hole and thousands of people put coins in it,” Mr. Dumaine said. “And I choose to just think that those thousands of people who came together and did something genuinely very sweet, that’s worthy of more attention than the person who tried to destroy it.”



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