Neighbors Restore Chicago Rat Hole After It Was Defaced By 'Vandal'

CHICAGO — On a day in which a viral Chicago landmark was seemingly laid to rest, residents in the Roscoe Village neighborhood have brought the Chicago Rat Hole back to life.

The suddenly viral sidewalk indentation of a Roscoe Village sidewalk resembling a rat was reportedly no more after residents of the North Side Chicago neighborhood found the rat hole filled in.

Jonathan Howell, who has lived in neighboring Lakeview for 25 years, told Patch on Friday, that he found the rat hole covered in a quick-dry cement on Friday after he took a friend to visit the Rat Hole. When he arrived, he found the site covered with what first appeared to be newly fallen snow, but then a hasty patch job that was still wet.

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Howell said in a phone interview Friday night that he could tell immediately that the Rat Hole had not been done by the city.

“I was pissed,” Howell said in an interview. “I was like some a——- did this …It wasn’t the city. It definitely wasn’t the city.”

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However, after an NBC Chicago report emerged that the rat hole —which only a week ago went viral worldwide after Chicago comedian and artist Winslow Dumaine posted about the local landmark on social media —was allegedly filled in by a “vandal” with either cement or other substance, neighbors of the Rat Hole worked to remove the pasty cement from the hole, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

The repairs were made after Howell said he used an old license plate to dig out the cement, which he estimates took about 10 minutes. Another couple who had randomly shaped items with them helped Howell scoop out the cement in all of the crevices and shapes of the rat-like hole. Howell estimates that if someone had dumped a bucket of hot water on the rat hole, the cement would have come right up.

He guestimates that the “vandal” did the job quickly on Friday morning. He said he arrived to find a shrine to the Rat Hole, complete with a plaque someone had made up to commemorate the site.

The repairs reported by the Sun-Times were made by residents who asked not to be identified fearing “ratribution,” and completely uncovered the sidewalk indentation, which is shaped like a rodent most commonly connected to Chicago, which has been awarded the nation’s Rattiest City nine years running.

The fact that neighbors rushed to right the rat-shaped wrong, Howell says, sends a clear message.

“It tells me that Chicago is filled with fun-loving people who just want to have a good time with something that is goofy like a Rat Hole,” Howell told Patch. “It’s super-fun, it brings everyone together, it’s neighborhoody and it’s just a connection we all have.

“New York has jokes about rats. Chicago has jokes about rats but to have an actual Rat Hole is so Chicago, it hurts.”

Lisa Ripson, a spokeswoman for the Lakeview-Roscoe Village Chamber of Commerce, said that the chamber only learned of the plaster or cement job after seeing a report by NBC Chicago, which first reported the damage.

“It’s a bummer if it happened,” Ripson told Patch in an email on Friday afternoon.

The Chamber had recently started a Name The Rat Hole contest, in which local officials were hoping to assign a name to the spot that became famous overnight before being removed almost as quickly. As of Friday, Ripson said that the chamber had received 250 submissions for possible names.

Illinois State Rep. Ann Williams, who represents Chicago’s 11th District, posted a video on Friday on social media, expressing shock at the fact that the rat hole had been “defaced and filled with an unknown substance.”

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“We are shocked and saddened to learn of this news,” Williams said in the video, adding her office is closely monitoring the developing situation.

As for Dumaine, who lives in Avondale and who discovered the Rat Hole on a recent trip to Roscoe Village, writing a social media obituary for the monument only seemed right.

“Do not let this break your spirits,” Dumaine wrote on X (formerly Twitter) on Friday. “The Rat Hole inspired the world. The Rat Hole instilled wonder and warmth in so many. This isn’t the end of the Rat Hole because the Chicago Rat Hole is inside us all.

“Remember. The more you take away from a hole, the bigger it gets.”

Although the Rat Hole has been restored to its former self, Howell fears that more vandals may return to try to spoil a neighborhood spot that has taken on its own personality. He joked that neighbors and area residents may need to take turns guarding the spot to protect the Rat Hole from further defacing.

He suggested that a local politician like Williams or a local Alderperson needs to mobilize residents to stand guard over the spot on a regular basis to help ensure that the local monument that now has a national following can remain in tact for residents and visitors alike to enjoy.

“It’s turned into the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” Howell told Patch. “That’s not a good thing – we don’t want people to have to do this and guard this quirky little thing.

“I’ve told people that if they’re going to come to go to Wrigley Field, they need to go to this thing —the Chicago Rat Hole — which isn’t even 10 minutes away, and then go get some food or something.”

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