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South Side

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South Side District's
Communities

 

 

 

#34

Armour Square Community

Armour Square Neighborhoods
Armour Square, Bridgeport, Bronzeville, Chinatown, Dearborn Homes, East Pilsen, Ickes Prairie Homes, South Loop, Stateway Gardens, and Wentworth Gardens 

Gateway to China Town in the Armour Square Neighborhood

 

Armour Square Neighborhood
Armour Square Park was designed by D.H. Burnham and the Olmsted Brothers and featured Beaux Arts architecture. It was opened in March 1905 at a cost of $220,000 and was named after Philip Danforth Armour,  philanthropist and captain of industry. The neighborhood surrounding the park, took its name and began as a working class neighborhood of German and Irish immigrants as early as the Civil War. The area was untouched by the Chicago Fire of 1871; but like the rest of Chicago, new regulations governed the kinds of new homes and structures that could be built in the neighborhood.


Chinatown Neighborhood
An eight-block area on Chicago's Near South Side has been a haven for Chinese immigrants moving to Chicago since 1905 and is today the heart of Chinese culture in Chicago as well as a popular destination among tourists. Chicago's Chinatown emerged largely because the clusters of Chinese immigrants who had settled on the West Coast of the United States were being treated inhumanely and, as a result, decided to head east to find a more peaceful place to live.

To present a strong visual announcement of the Chinese community's new presence, Jim Moy, then-director of the On Leong Merchants Association of Chicago's Chinatown, proposed that a Chinese-style building be constructed.  His idea was adopted; and when the building opened in 1928 at a cost of a million dollars, it was the finest large Chinese-style structure in any North American Chinatown. The Association allowed the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association to put its headquarters in the new building and also used it as an immigrant assistance center, a school, a shrine, a meeting hall, and office space for the Association itself. It was often informally referred to as Chinatown's "city hall."

During the late 1980s, a group of Chinatown business leaders bought thirty-two acres of property and built Chinatown Square, a two-level mall consisting of restaurants, beauty salons, and law offices and flanked by twenty-one new townhouses. Perhaps the most outstanding feature of the new addition was the 1999 creation of Ping Tom Memorial Park on the bank of the Chicago River. The park features a Chinese-style pavilion that many consider to be the most beautiful in the Midwest.


Wentworth Gardens Neighborhood
Wentworth Gardens Park and the surrounding housing development take their names from adjacent Wentworth Avenue. The street honors John Wentworth (1815-1888), one of Chicago's best-known civic leaders. He was elected to a one-year term as mayor twice, became the city's police chief, and also served five consecutive terms in Congress. Considered one of Chicago's most flamboyant politicians, Wentworth was known as "Long John" for his six-foot-six, three-hundred-pound physique.

In 1946, the Chicago Housing Authority began building the 422-unit Wentworth Gardens public housing development on this site. The complex included a centrally-located community center to provide a gathering place for residents of the Wentworth Gardens Homes.


Details on the neighborhood of Bridgeport will be found later in this series.

No specific explanations for the naming of the Chicago Public Housing complexes Dearborn Homes and Stateway Gardens were found, though  "Dearborn" usually honors General Henry Dearborn, Thomas Jefferson's Secretary of War. Opened in 1950, Dearborn Homes was the first Chicago housing project to be built after World War II and the first to have elevators. The 800 unit project occupied sixteen acres and consisted of mid-rise, six-story, and nine-story buildings.

The Stateway Gardens Housing Project was built in 1958 and consisted of eight high-rise towers on thirty-three acres. The project originally contained over 1,600 public housing units.
 

 

 

#35

Douglas Community

Douglas Neighborhoods
Bronzeville, Darrow Homes, Dearborn Homes, Groveland Park, Ickes Prairie Homes, Ida B. Wells, Lake Meadows, Prairie Shores, South Commons, Stateway Gardens, and The Gap

Illinois Institute of Technology Campus Icon

 

Douglas Neighborhood
The Douglas neighborhood is named after the 19th century Chicago politician Stephen A. Douglas, who purchased seventy acres of land in 1852. After building a mansion for himself, Douglas donated much of his land to a Baptist church. During the Civil War, Camp Douglas was built to be used for training Union soldiers; but in the later stages of the war, the camp served as a POW camp for captured rebel soldiers. Over 4,000 prisoners died in the camp due to unsanitary conditions. As the area was developed for residential use, the neighborhood was given a renewed livelihood, and eventually the area’s gruesome past was largely forgotten.

In the mid-1800s, Douglas was convenient to many transportation options: the Illinois Central Railroad and various streetcar lines. This allowed Chicago's wealthier citizens a quick commute to Chicago’s commercial center. At the same time, the area’s close proximity to local industry made Douglas attractive to blue collar workers who began to settle their families in the vicinity as well.


Darrow Homes Neighborhood
In 1961, the Clarence Darrow Homes, named for the famous defense lawyer, were built by the Chicago Housing Authority adjacent to the Ida B. Wells Homes. They have since been demolished.


Groveland Park Neighborhood
Of all the sections of Douglas originally developed by and named after Stephen A. Douglas, only the Groveland Park Housing Project survives.


Ida B. Wells Neighborhood
Named for African American journalist and newspaper editor Ida B. Wells, the housing project was constructed between 1939 and 1941 as a Public Works Administration project to house black families in the "ghetto." It was built in accordance with federal regulations requiring public housing projects to maintain the segregation of neighborhoods. It was the fourth public housing project constructed in Chicago before World War II and had 1,662 units, many more than the others.


The Gap Neighborhood
This tiny, three-block long south side Chicago neighborhood is called The Gap because it lies in the space (or gap) between a pair of high-rise housing developments, Lake Meadows and Prairie Shores.


No information on the naming of the Lake Meadows neighborhood could be found, but its history is interesting. In the 1950s, the Chicago Land Clearance Commission sold property to private developers for construction of an enormous residential and commercial complex, which became Lake Meadows. The developers hoped to attract residents of various racial and economic backgrounds and to promote community renewal.

Decades later, the ten buildings with their 2,009 apartments still rise from their expanse of well-tended grassland and are now at the center of a new development of 330 new townhomes and single-family homes. A gracefully contoured park between the existing high-rises will be leveled to make a street--New Grand Boulevard--for the new homes. This will be the biggest residential development in the area and the most extensive since the original wave of construction after the land was cleared in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

No historical information was found on the neighborhood of South Commons.

 

 

#36

Oakland Community

Oakland Neighborhoods
Bronzeville, Darrow Homes,
East Ukrainian Village, Oakland

Oakland Beach amid Downtown Skyscrapers
 

Oakland Neighborhood
The Oakland neighborhood area is a mile-long strip hugging Chicago’s southern lakefront. This former swamp area was the original site for one of the city’s first soap and lard rendering factories owned by an Englishman named Charles Cleaver. Cleaver played an important role in establishing the neighborhood when, in 1851, he began building wooden homes, a general store, a place to worship, and a town hall for his employees. During this time the settlement was known as "Cleaverville;" but within a couple decades, the newly constructed Illinois Central Railroad boosted development in the area, and in 1871 it was renamed Oakland.

 

 

#37

Fuller Park Community

Fuller Park Neighborhoods
Fuller Park and Robert Taylor Homes

Fuller Park Fieldhouse

 

Fuller Park Neighborhood
The neighborhood was named after Melville Fuller, a Chicagoan and Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1888 to 1910. Fuller Park began as a small and simply developed area and was chiefly home to railroad and stockyard laborers. But following the Chicago Fire of 1871, as Chicago proper enforced increasingly strict building and fire codes, this narrow, fifteen block neighborhood became host to hordes of entrepreneurs seeking inexpensive places to build that were still relatively close to the city. 

In 1950, construction of the Dan Ryan Expressway dealt Fuller Park a devastating blow. The new highway effectively divided the neighborhood in half and displaced more than one-third of the population. At the same time, production at the stockyards slowed and finally closed in 1971, which left many in the neighborhood jobless. Between the 1970s and now, the population of Fuller Park has dropped steadily, and there has been little to no new residential or commercial development in the area.


Robert Taylor Homes Neighborhood
Robert Taylor Homes were completed in 1962 and named for Robert Rochon Taylor, an African American activist and Chicago Housing Authority Board member. In 1950, Taylor resigned from the Board when the city council refused to endorse potential building locations throughout the city of Chicago that would induce racially integrated housing.

At one time, Taylor Homes was the largest public housing development in the country, and its purpose was intended to offer decent affordable housing. It was composed of sixteen-story, twenty-eight buildings with a total of 4,415 units. Mostly were arranged in U-shaped clusters of three and stretched for two miles.

 

 

#38

Grand Boulevard Community

Grand Boulevard Neighborhoods
Bronzeville, Grand Boulevard, and Robert Taylor Homes

Harold Washington Cultural Center

 

Grand Boulevard Neighborhood
The tree lined street Grand Boulevard's name was briefly changed to South Park Way before being renamed Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive in 1968. The Grand Boulevard neighborhood adopted the original street moniker, but was once called Forrestville Settlement because it contained thick woods and prairie lands.

In 1861, the Hyde Park Township annexed the community which was later annexed to the city of Chicago in 1889. Grand Boulevard street made it the perfect location for many wealthy Chicago families since the boulevard gave fast access to other areas of Chicago and also attracted a diverse group of working class families of Irish, Scottish, English, and German heritage.

 

 

#39

Kenwood Community

Kenwood Neighborhood
Bronzeville, Kenwood, and North Kenwood 

One of the Many Kenwood Mansions

 

Kenwood Neighborhood
The area’s earliest European settler, Dr. John A. Kennicott, constructed a sprawling weekend getaway in 1856 and called it Kenwood—named after his mother’s hometown in Scotland. In 1871, the Chicago Fire further ignited the residential development of the small community as folks moved to the outer reaches of the city for real estate undamaged by the fire’s wrath. Within a few years, super-sized homes were a common fixture in the south side neighborhood. An interesting—and creepy—tidbit of history: infamous murderers Leopold and Loeb, both from affluent families and students of the prestigious University of Chicago, lived in Kenwood, as did their victim Bobby Franks who was killed 1924.

By 1919 Kenwood’s glory days had reached their peak, and the period following saw the area quickly falling into decline as many of the vacated single-family homes were converted to multi-family apartments.


North Kenwood's name comes from neighboring Kenwood.
 

 

 

 

#40

Washington Park Community

Washington Park Neighborhoods
Englewood, Robert Taylor Homes,
Washington Park

Washington Park's Fountain of Time


Washington Park Neighborhood
In the mid-to-late 19th century, a large number of Irish and German railroad workers and meatpackers made this neighborhood home. There was a sprinkling of African American residents in the working-class district to the south, and affluent American-born European Americans settled the wide north-south avenues that provided a direct route into the Loop. The park in this community area was named for George Washington in 1880, and the neighborhood Washington Park took its name from its park. 


Details on the neighborhood of Englewood will be found later in this series.

 

 

#41

Hyde Park Community

Hyde Park Neighborhoods
East Hyde Park and Hyde Park

University of Chicago's Rockefeller's Chapel


Hyde Park Neighborhood
In 1853, a young lawyer and entrepreneur by the name of Paul Cornell made his way to Chicago from New York in hopes of building a new suburban community along the shores of Lake Michigan. Cornell purchased 300 acres of empty grassland, and named it Hyde Park after the location in London. He managed to convince businessmen and their families to move to the area and opened The Hyde Park Hotel, which became the social epicenter of the neighborhood and drew in well-to-do guests like First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln. Eventually Cornell negotiated for a rail depot at 53rd Street to attract more visitors to his hotel. In 1889, Hyde Park was officially annexed to Chicago, which launched the early stages of construction for the Columbian Exposition in the neighborhood's lakefront Jackson Park.

This historical south side neighborhood of Chicago also claims bragging rights for more than seventy Nobel Prize winners associated with Hyde Park's University of Chicago.


The East Hyde Park's name comes from neighboring Hyde Park.
 

 

 

#42

Woodlawn Community

Woodlawn Neighborhoods
Park Manor, West Woodlawn, Woodlawn 

Woodlawn's Historic District

 

Woodlawn Neighborhood
Much of Woodlawn’s charm is its namesake abundance of trees and beautiful green grass lawns. The residential streets enjoy tall, leafy canopies and numerous playlots and parks that boast verdant environs for local recreation and outdoor pastimes. Dutch farmers first settled Woodlawn in the 1850s. The population swelled from 1,000 inhabitants in 1890 to over 20,000 in 1893, the year of the World Columbian Exposition, which was held in nearby Jackson Park. The  Fair celebrated the 400 year anniversary of Columbus' landing in America; and it was a great boost to Woodlawn’s economy. It brought entrepreneurs, artists, and a buzz of activity to many neighborhoods in the south side of Chicago.


The West Woodlawn's name comes from neighboring Woodlawn.

Unfortunately, no information was found as to the origin of the Park Manor neighborhood's name.
 

 

 

#43

South Shore Community

South Shore Neighborhoods
Grand Crossing, Jackson Park Highlands,
South Shore

South Shore Cultural Center

 

South Shore Neighborhood
Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood is located in the heart of Chicago’s south side and near Lake Michigan's south shore--from which its name originates. Before the community came to be known as South Shore in the 1920s, however, it was a collection of settlements in southern Hyde Park Township. The names of these settlements—Essex, Bryn Mawr, Parkside, Cheltenham Beach, and Windsor Park—indicate the British heritage of the Illinois Central Railroad and the steel mill workers who had come to inhabit them.

As with many South Side Chicago communities, the two events that sparked commercial and residential development were annexation to Chicago in 1889 and the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893. The location of the fair in nearby Jackson Park prompted the sale of land and the subsequent housing explosion.


Jackson Park Highlands Neighborhood
Much of the construction of Jackson Park Highlands began during the preparation for the 1893 Columbian Exposition, which was to be held in Jackson Park. The park is named for President Andrew Jackson, and the neighborhood of the same name is perched on a hill that overlooks Jackson Park--thus, Jackson Park Highlands.

Commissioned in the early 20th century, the neighborhood's initial purpose was as a collection of model homes that featured some of the most innovative concepts of the time: large front yard setbacks, 50-foot lot widths, underground utilities, and the absence of alleys. When Chicago annexed Hyde Park for the 1890 census--just in time to surpass Philadelphia as the second largest metro-area in the nation--the Highlands were left under management of the South Shore neighborhood.

 

 

#60

Bridgeport Community

Bridgeport  Neighborhood
Bridgeport, Chinatown,
Wentworth Gardens

 

Six Term Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley's Bridgeport House

 

Bridgeport Neighborhood
In the 1830s, many of the same Irish immigrants who helped build the Erie Canal came to Chicago to work on the Illinois and Michigan Canal. Because of inadequate funding for the project, the State of Illinois began issuing "Land Scrip" to the workers rather than paying them with money. A large number of those Irish-Americans who received the scrip used it to purchase canal-owned land at the northern end of the canal where it meets the south branch of the Chicago River. The original Bridgeport village, named "Hardscrabble," centered here. The neighborhood later became known as Bridgeport because of its proximity to a bridge on the Chicago River that was too low to allow safe passage for boats which meant that cargo had to be unloaded there.
 

 

 

#69

Greater Grand Crossing Community

Greater Grand Crossing Neighborhoods
Chatham, Englewood, Grand Crossing, Gresham, Park Manor, Parkway Gardens, West Chatham , Winneconna Parkway

Illinois Central Commuter Train at Grand Crossing

 

Grand Crossing Neighborhood
The aptly-named Chicago neighborhood of Grand Crossing marks an area where two rail lines converged back in the 1800s. The junction was actually quite dangerous and was the site of a massive train crash in the 1850s that resulted in the deaths of eighteen people. Several subsequent incidents at the same intersection led to an eventual elevation of the tracks and installation of signal lights. Despite its infamous reputation, the area surrounding the train crossing developed into an industrial outlet. As a precautionary measure, trains were required to stop at the junction before proceeding on their routes. This short stopover opened an opportunity for further growth around the junction.

Chicago real-estate developer Paul Cornell thought that the area surrounding the intersection, although it was mostly prairie and swampland, would be ideal for suburban development because transportation to Chicago was assured via the railroad. Cornell began buying large tracts of land in 1855; and through the early 1870s, he subdivided the area and offered lots for sale.


Winneconna Parkway Neighborhood
The neighborhood known as Winneconna Parkway can be found in a quiet enclave on the south side of Chicago. It is noted for the small lagoon, a remnant of the marshes that used to cover the area, which meanders between West Winneconna Parkway. Real Estate development of this Chicago neighborhood began as early as the 1870s when Illinois Central railroad workers started to build homes and settle in the area.

The neighborhood was named after the street Winneconna Parkway, but information on where the street got its name could not be found.

 

Unfortunately, no historical information could be confirmed on the Parkway Gardens neighborhood.

Details on the Chatham neighborhood will be found later in this series.