Kennedy family's links to Chicago strong

August 26, 2009 (CHICAGO) Senator Kennedy visited here regularly. Members of the family live in Chicago. And the family's biggest connection to the city is the Merchandise Mart.

The Kennedys are known for their northeastern roots. But the large family also has made its way to Illinois.

Two Kennedys have called the Chicago area home - and the family's overall influence in Chicago dates back more than 65 years.

The patriarch, Joseph P. Kennedy, purchased the Merchandise Mart in 1945. It soon became a trade show mecca across the country.

Today, the family no longer owns the building but Christopher Kennedy, Joseph's grandson and Robert's son, is now president of Merchandise Mart Properties, the property manager.

And he gets credit for turning the Mart around and saving Art Chicago. A few years ago, the art show nearly fell apart even though the tents were ready to go in Grant Park.

"He single-handedly brought Art Chicago back," said Gerald Roper, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.

Recently, Christopher Kennedy was mentioned as a possible candidate for the Senate race.

On the political side, Richard J. Daley was an early supporter of JFK and there was talk of how Daley stole the election to get Kennedy in the White House. Over the years, the Kennedy-Daley bond remained. Ted Kennedy attended Richard J.'s funeral.

Christopher Kennedy, however, is not expected to run for the Senate seat.

"He's not a natural politician like JFK. He might have developed had he chose to run for the Senate," said Dick Simpson, UIC professor.

William Kennedy Smith is Christopher Kennedy's first cousin. Smith has also called Chicago home and is known for his work with the disabled community.

"He made himself very visible in Chicago and became known about it. And he talked about rehabilitation and he did rehabilitation in Chicago and other countries....and people got to know about that," said Dr. Henry Betts, Rehab Institute of Chicago.

William Kennedy Smith and Christopher Kennedy also have a long list of service organizations they have helped, several are in the Chicago area. In fact, just a quick glance at Christopher Kennedy's bio shows that he's involved in more than ten civic or non-profit groups in Chicago.

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