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But they were also cheap, which meant that blacks fleeing Southern oppression during the Great Migration of the first half of the last century could afford their own places. But even then, it seemed fortune was against the town.

The village prospered, growing from 431 people in 1920 to 1,300 by 1940. Three years after the airport’s opening, a violent windstorm leveled it. In the decades that followed, Robbins slid into a slow, agonizing decline.

The air conditioner had chosen a particularly steamy day—August 20, 2013—to shut down. The past few months had been marked by too many scandals, blunders, and embarrassments.

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What makes Robbins’s vast range of seemingly intractable problems particularly heartbreaking is the town’s rich history.

(Only downstate Brooklyn, Illinois, incorporated in 1873, preceded Robbins.) Several of the Tuskegee Airmen grew up in Robbins, as did NBA star Dwyane Wade. “I still love it,” Annette Craig, 68, says, standing outside the Robbins Church of Christ on a crisp fall Sunday. But Dart’s presence has also been a provocation, particularly to the mayor.

It is Tyrone Ward, after all, who was elected to run the town, and the mayor has said quite publicly that it’s time for Dart to leave.

Another bears pictures of doctors who grew up in town.

In the center of the room, preserved in a Plexiglas case, is the uniform worn by Robbins native Nichelle Nichols, a.k.a. “Robbins is by far the most historic of the all-black communities in the country,” Haymore says. I wanted this to be a place that told about all the good things.

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