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Southwest Side

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Southwest Side District's
Communities

 

 

#56
Garfield Ridge
Community

Garfield Ridge Neighborhoods
Garfield Ridge, Le Claire Courts, Sleepy Hollow,
Vittum Park

Garfield Ridge, Partial Home of Midway International Airport

 

Garfield Ridge Neighborhood
Garfield Ridge takes its name from Garfield Boulevard--renamed to honor President Garfield after his assassination--and a rather inconsequential topographic rise left behind by the retreat of glacial Lake Michigan.

Soggy prairies thwarted agricultural development in the nineteenth century; but by the early 1900s, industrial development prompted residential growth in Garfield Ridge. Hordes of immigrant Poles, who were fleeing the oppression of their homeland, settled in the neighborhood; and in 1926, the opening of the Chicago Municipal Airport, later to be renamed Midway, brought jobs, a thriving economy, and a big reason for people to remain here. Of course, just a few years later, the onset of the Great Depression slowed the neighborhood’s progress, as well as its community's growth, until after the war. It was during these post-war years that the population of Garfield Ridge skyrocketed, doubling during the 1940s and tripling during the 1950s. By 1950 block after block was filled with the middle-class brick bungalows that typify the area.


Le Claire Courts Neighborhood
The LeClaire Courts neighborhood was named after Antoine LeClaire, a prominent fur trader, revolutionary activist, and fighter of the early 19th century. He came to Chicago in 1809 and worked as an Indian interpreter who allegedly spoke a dozen native tongues as well as French, Spanish, and English. The story of the LeClaire Courts has little in common with Antoine LeClaire though, as there is little evidence that he ever ventured to this far southwest area.

The LeClaire Courts Housing Project opened after World War II as the city’s first attempt at fully integrated, low-rise public housing. Initially, the government subsidized residential development was a success, so much so that the Chicago Housing Authority decided to add to the complex. In 1954, federal funds were allocated for the construction of a 300-unit expansion which nearly doubled the size of the existing complex. This section was referred to as the LeClaire Courts Extension.


Sleepy Hollow Neighborhood
Many speculators and farmers were eager to buy up tracts of land in this rural area during the 1800s; but when they began to cultivate the land, they soon realized that the water-logged prairies were impossible to work and most gave up.

The area remained sparsely populated for decades; but in 1899, the Archer Avenue Reformed Church was established, and its 275 parishioners began to settle the northeastern corner of the community. This area became Sleepy Hollow.

The tiny commune’s romantic name is generally attributed to the small enclave of Dutch farmers who inhabited the area. Decades before, Washington Irving had published the popular novel Legend of Sleepy Hollow based on the lore of Tarrytown, a Dutch settlement in New York. It’s possible the label was a derogatory one given to the small ethnic community; but Irving’s tale was very popular amongst Dutch settlers at the time, and it’s suspected they may have given the title to their own settlement.


Vittum Park Neighborhood
One of the area’s earliest trailblazers was William Archer, commissioner of the Illinois & Michigan Canal. In 1835, Archer bought 240 acres between present-day Archer and Harlem Avenues. Of course, Archer Avenue was named after the commissioner and is the road most of the disappointed famers used to leave the community after the lands proved infertile. In 1853, former Chicago mayor John Wentworth bought up the territory just east of Archer’s property. The city of Chicago began to incorporate the land a little at a time; and by 1921, the entire community was considered part of Chicago.

Employees of Midway airport were building single-family homes in the west side of the community, and it was also during this time period that the small pocket of Vittum Park saw a surge in residential construction.

That is, until the city of Chicago realized that the pint-size airport couldn’t possibly handle more traffic, and turned its aviation eyes further north to present-day O’Hare, an area that had been used since the early 1940s for manufacturing military planes and storing experimental and captured aircraft. During 1955, the first commercial flights took off from the new airfield; and in 1958 an international terminal was built. Still, the new northwest side airport didn’t really begin to affect Midway’s business until 1962, when a massive expansion project instantly transformed O’Hare into the world’s busiest airport. Within its first year, more passengers went through O’Hare than had been through New York’s Ellis Island during its entire history. Chicago’s southern airport quickly became an afterthought.

Vittum Park remained in something of a standstill until the 1990s when budget airlines prompted renewed interest in Midway airport. A public rapid transit line (the CTA Orange Line 'El') was installed in the area, connecting the airport and the surrounding neighborhoods with the downtown Loop, and people once again began to move into the area.

The neighborhood honors Harriet Elizabeth Vittum (1872 -1953), an important social reformer heralded as the "First Lady of the needy." In 1904, Vittum began volunteering at the Northwestern University Settlement House, one of Chicago's innovative community centers that provided housing and services to underprivileged neighborhoods. Remaining involved with the settlement house for forty years, she established nutrition clinics, educational programs, and children's summer camps.

 

 

#57
Archer Heights
Community

Archer Heights Neighborhoods
Archer Heights, West Elston

Archer Heights Branch of the Chicago Public Library


 

Archer Heights Neighborhood
The Archer Heights' name came from Archer Avenue, an old Native American trail that was a frequented route running through the area to the bustling markets of Chicago. As previously stated, the avenue was named for Colonel William Beatty Archer, a commissioner for the Illinois and Michigan Canal. The land around the avenue remained sparsely used farmland until well into the 1900s in spite of the presence of three railroads (Belt, Santa Fe, and Indiana Harbor) that encircled it and of its annexation to Chicago in 1889.

Things began to change for Archer Heights when advancements in city transit made the neighborhood more accessible. Horse-pulled trolleys were introduced in the 1890s and later gave way to new electric streetcars in the first decade of the twentieth century. Connecting the neighborhood to the rest of the city, the incorporation of streetcars into Archer Heights prompted many thousands of immigrant laborers from Western Europe to settle in the area. Archer Avenue developed into a major thoroughfare, and it became one of the primary arteries that connected the neighborhood to the nearby stockyards and the business district downtown.


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

 

 

#58
Brighton Park
Community

Brighton Park Neighborhood
Brighton Park

Brighton Park Polish Highlanders' Alliance of North America

 

Brighton Park Neighborhood
When Brighton Park was incorporated in the 1850s, it borrowed its name from Brighton, Massachusetts, the principal slaughtering center of 19th century New England. 1855 saw the opening of the Brighton Race Track, a name originating with the village but also hinting at a connection with the well-known Brighton Race course in Great Britain—an association that probably did not exist. The race track’s heyday was fairly short-lived as it closed in 1870, but during that period it attracted thousands of people to the area who stayed, even when the track closed.

Several small stockyards were opened throughout the southwest side in the mid-19th century, but when Union Stock Yard was completed in 1865, its size and the sheer volume of livestock it slaughtered forced the closing of almost all of Brighton Park’s other yards. Since Union Stock Yard had cornered that market, Brighton Park worked to attract other industries and succeeded in bringing thousands of manufacturing jobs to the area.

The railroad industry also had a hand in bringing growth to the region. In 1887, the Santa Fe Railroad built Corwith Yards, which at the time was the world’s largest railroad yard. German, Irish, French, Italians, Lithuanians and Polish workers, attracted to the many manufacturing and industrial jobs, steadily poured into Brighton Park. Advances in public transportation—particularly the electric streetcars—increased the attractiveness of the neighborhood; and, in 1889, the ever-expanding town was annexed by Chicago.

In the following decades employment opportunities in the manufacturing field continued to rise, led by the Crane Company which produced plumbing and hardware equipment. The city also opened a 265-acre planned manufacturing district—a massive industrial complex that was the first of its type in the country. By 1930, Brighton Park peaked at more than 45,000 people, more than 35 percent of which were Polish. But the good times didn’t last. Crane closed its doors in 1977 and this led to a general population decline that swiftly damaged the area’s economy.

Remnants of its manufacturing days are long gone, and the community remains largely residential. However, there is a growing commercial section in Brighton Park, and recent improvements at nearby Midway International Airport have also influenced economic growth in the area.
 

 

 

#59
McKinley Park
Community

McKinley Park Neighborhood
Bridgeport, Brighton Park, McKinley Park

Looking South over McKinley Park Lagoon

 

McKinley Park Neighborhood
This park was under development in 1901 when President McKinley was assassinate; and as a result, the park and the neighborhood that later grew around it bear his name.

Settlement of the McKinley Park community began around 1836 when Irish immigrants working on the Illinois & Michigan Canal took squatter's rights to small tracts of land in the area. By the 1840s, a few farmers had purchased and drained land, displacing the Irish squatters. One of the first attempts at town-building in the area, "Canalport," failed; but Brighton was plotted in 1840, incorporated in 1851, and prospered,

The completion of the Illinois & Michigan Canal in 1848 and the arrival of the Chicago & Alton Railroad in 1857 spurred further growth. During the Civil War, crucial industries grew along the waterways and the railroad; and in the early 1860s, the Union Rolling Mill was founded along the south fork of the Chicago River and produced 50 tons of rail per day. Eventually, the firm became part of U.S. Steel.

Many steelworkers lived in this swampy land; and not surprisingly, a portion of McKinley Park was called “Ducktown.” Standing water bred hordes of mosquitoes, and spring flooding was so severe that many houses were built on stilts. Some landowners desperate to elevate their holdings invited scavengers to dump ashes and thereby fill low areas. Unfortunately the scavengers dumped not only ashes, but garbage as well. Thus, the area became fetid and wet. In spite of these problems, McKinley Park was annexed to Chicago in 1863.

The Chicago fire of 1871 displaced numerous industrial operations around the city, and many relocated to McKinley Park. Within five years after the fire, eleven factories opened—most in iron and steel—along with twenty-seven brickyards. During this same period, meatpacking operations just to the south moved into high gear. The result was the creation of the solid working-class community that still exists today.
 

 

 

#61
New City
Community

New City Neighborhoods
Back of the Yards, Brighton Park, Canaryville, New City

Chicago Stockyards, Back of the Yards

 

New City Neighborhood
This community and neighborhood was named by University of Chicago sociologists who drew new boundaries for Chicago's community areas in the 1920s. Why the name "New City?" According to popular theory, it was because the authors were sociologists, not poets.

Despite its burgeoning population in the 1890s, few paved streets or sewers existed in New City. The stockyards and meatpacking plants polluted without consideration of the workers who lived nearby. The tainted water supply of “Bubbly Creek”--a southern branch of the Chicago River used to dump animal waste--and the stench of garbage dumps adjacent to the factories represented serious sanitation hazards. In response to these conditions, churches organized social service organizations, and the University of Chicago settlement house was founded in 1894.

The most significant change to the meatpacking industry itself, however, came after a budding, but as yet unsuccessful, novelist spent two months interviewing immigrant workers and detailing the filthy, dangerous, and diseased conditions in which they worked. The resulting book, first run as a series in the Socialist weekly newspaper called Appeal to Reason, was published in 1906 as The Jungle. Public outcry was immediate, fierce, and led to strong regulation of the industry, stricter inspection laws, and the creation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Published in 1906, "The Jungle" is the best known of Upton Sinclair's 87 books. The novel details the plight of Jurgis Rudkus, a Lithuanian immigrant who works in filthy, dangerous and diseased conditions in Chicago's meatpacking district. Public outcry led to stronger regulation of the industry, stricter inspection laws and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's creation. For these reasons, "The Jungle" is seen as a landmark novel of the Progressive Era

Read more : http://www.ehow.com/about_4570297_jungle-upton-sinclair.html

Published in 1906, "The Jungle" is the best known of Upton Sinclair's 87 books. The novel details the plight of Jurgis Rudkus, a Lithuanian immigrant who works in filthy, dangerous and diseased conditions in Chicago's meatpacking district. Public outcry led to stronger regulation of the industry, stricter inspection laws and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's creation. For these reasons, "The Jungle" is seen as a landmark novel of the Progressive Era.

Read more : http://www.ehow.com/about_4570297_jungle-upton-sinclair.html

Published in 1906, "The Jungle" is the best known of Upton Sinclair's 87 books. The novel details the plight of Jurgis Rudkus, a Lithuanian immigrant who works in filthy, dangerous and diseased conditions in Chicago's meatpacking district. Public outcry led to stronger regulation of the industry, stricter inspection laws and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's creation. For these reasons, "The Jungle" is seen as a landmark novel of the Progressive Era.

Read more : http://www.ehow.com/about_4570297_jungle-upton-sinclair.html


Back of the Yards Neighborhood
Named for its location in relation to the famed Union Stock Yards, the Back of the Yards neighborhood was home to most of the Yards' workers. It is where the "hog butchers for the world" rested their heads at night.

The neighborhood was spatially formed in 1889 when New City's population and economy began to increase due to the job availability at the Yards. By the turn of the century, a wave of Eastern Europeans, including Bohemians, Moravians, and Slovaks, moved into the Back of the Yards' neighborhood to be near their jobs.


Canaryville Neighborhood
Depending on who you ask, this neighborhood is named either for the sparrows which populated it or for the roving gangs of violent teens, dubbed "wild canaries." Either way, it's wise to keep your eyes and ears alert when traveling Canaryville's streets.

The neighborhood began as a middle-class and largely German-based, Protestant settlement with most of the people working as clerks, cattle buyers, and managers. The family of Gustavus Swift, one of the founders of the meatpacking empire, was one of its first settlers. Later, lower-middle-class Irish Roman Catholics moved into the area. While this neighborhood has become more diverse over time, its residents still earn a higher average income than the other sections of the community.
 

 

 

62
West Elsdon Community

West Elsdon Neighborhoods
Archer Heights, West Elsdon

Train of Flat Cars in Elsdon Railway Yard

 

West Elsdon Neighborhood
West Elsdon was originally populated by Irish and German immigrants who came to work on the railroads that were being constructed in the region. As a result of population growth and a mounting need for increased infrastructure, the community was annexed into Chicago along with much of the rest of the southwest side in 1889. The main employer in the area at the time was the Grand Trunk Railroad, which connected Chicago to the northeastern United States and Canada. But even with the neighborhoods recent incorporation into Chicago and a thriving rail transportation industry, much of the region remained uninhabited because it was submerged in swampy water.

With significant breakthroughs in drainage technology, West Elsdon and the surrounding vicinity were effectively drained in the 1920s. Still, as in nearby community of Garfield Ridge, it took the opening of Midway Airport in 1927 before the neighborhood experienced significant expansion.

The neighborhood’s namesake was Daniel Elston, a London merchant who immigrated to Chicago in the early 1800s. By 1830 he’d bought a 160-acre parcel of land, located along a meandering wagon road then called the Woodstock Trail. The multi-talented settler established several businesses, making soap, candles, bricks, beer, and whiskey; and he also served as a school inspector and an alderman and founded a bank.
 

 

 

#63
Gage Park
Community

Gage Park Neighborhoods
Back of the Yards, Gage Park, Marquette Manor
, West Englewood

Gage Park High School

 

Gage Park Neighborhood
Gage Park was once part of the vast Illinois prairie that extended to the Southwest Side of Chicago. In the 1840s Germans began to farm the land. In 1865, the area was incorporated as the town of Lake; and in 1889, it was annexed to Chicago. At that time, there were only thirty wood frame cottages, no paved streets, and no public transportation. A beautiful recreational park was being built for its residents when one of its commissioners, George W. Gage, died in office in 1875. The city honored his memory by naming the park and renaming the surrounding neighborhood after him.  

Between 1900 and 1910, the electric trolley extended its service into Gage Park and contributed to a building boom in the neighborhood. Residential and industrial development escalated further from 1905 to 1919, and major roads were laid out and built to enhance transportation options.


Marquette Manor/Marquette Park Neighborhood
Marquette Manor was the neighborhood that was created during the building of Marquette Park. It would later merge with Chicago Lawn to form the one neighborhood of Chicago Lawn, but its history would be forever fused to that of the Park.

Back in the 1870s, the area was just a partly cultivated prairie known as Marquette Manor that was situated on the outskirts of a sleepy little town named Chicago Lawn. Even after the area was absorbed by Chicago in 1889, it remained a sparsely populated farming community until well after the turn of the century. But, central Chicago was growing rapidly; and many community organizers foresaw the inevitable development of the area.

In 1903, the Olmsted Brothers, renowned landscape architects who had designed the grounds of the U.S. Capitol and the White House, turned their attention to Chicago’s South side. There, they conceived a system of public parks to serve as "breathing space"' for the burgeoning metropolis. The crown jewel of their plan was the transformation of a 300-acre parcel of Chicago Lawn into a landscaped gem to be called Marquette Park. Elements of their ambitious design were added gradually over the next fifteen years—a field house, a lagoon, a golf course, and close to 90,000 trees and shrubs—until at last they had created an exceptional urban playground. All it required was an urban population around it to fulfill its mission.

The park's neighborhood didn’t have to wait long. In the 1920s, German and Irish immigrants began streaming into the area from the increasingly crowded neighborhoods to the north and east. On the heels of these groups was an even greater host of Polish and Lithuanian families, an influx that came to define the area’s character for decades. Needless to say, Marquette Manor was no longer farm country, but luckily its namesake park had been established in time to preserve a piece of the prairie for future generations to enjoy the same natural beauty as did their ancestors.


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

 

 

#64
Clearing
Community

Clearing Neighborhoods
Chrysler Village, Clearing East, Clearing West, Garfield Ridge, and West Lawn

Clearing Yard, Belt Railway of Chicago

 

Clearing East and Clearing West Neighborhoods
Dutch and Germans had been farming the area when in the mid-nineteenth century the area's most extensive landholder Long John Wentworth, a U.S. Senator and mayor of Chicago, built his house. The 4,700 acres owned by Wentworth included land in what eventually became the neighborhoods of Clearing, Garfield Ridge, and Summit. Clearing received its name from a proposed railway-switching yard where farm goods from the area were "cleared" (delivered) through the airport and railroad yards.

In 1909, George Hill established a hardware store, one of the first businesses in Clearing. Three years later, residents voted to incorporate as a village. By 1915, the Chicago Transfer and Clearing Company connected the freight car switching hub with eighteen industries, and Clearing was annexed to the city.

From those original industries in 1915, the Clearing Industrial District grew to more than ninety by 1928. Land in Clearing and Garfield Ridge owned by the Chicago Public Schools was leased to the city in 1926 for the purpose of building an airport on the Southwest Side. In 1927, Mayor William Hale Thompson dedicated the Chicago Municipal Airport. In 1928 there were four runways, which expanded to sixteen by 1941. By 1949 the airport was renamed Midway Airport to honor victories at Midway Island during World War II.

Chrysler Village Neighborhood
On the eastern edge of the of Clearing neighborhood, nestled between Midway Airport and the Clearing Industrial District, Chrysler Village found its beginnings in 1943. Sturdy brick, single family, duplex, and townhouse homes were constructed during World War II to house the Chrysler Defense Plant workers who were building the B29 Bomber Engines at the huge plant that later housed the Ford Aircraft Engine Division. Until the switch to the Ford products, the village retained its Chrysler identification.
 

 

 

#65
West Lawn
Community

West Lawn Neighborhood
Ford City and West Lawn

Residential Corner of West Lawn

 

West Lawn Neighborhood
To the folks who lived in the area, "Westlawn" was what they called the prairie land beyond the tracks. It was a place they visited for swimming in the summer and ice skating in the winter, thanks to a large pond left over from an abandoned artesian well project.

West Lawn and neighboring Chicago Lawn were annexed by the city in 1889, but Westlawn remained an undeveloped marsh for many years. After the turn of the century, industry sprang up in the town of Clearing to the west, which developers connected to the city with a system of horse-drawn street cars.

With greater Chicago ever expanding on one side, job opportunities in Clearing on the other, and public transportation rumbling through the middle, it wasn't long before the marshes were drained; and Westlawn developed into a residential community. Its population more than tripled between 1920 and 1930 to around 8,900 people, mostly hard-working immigrants from Germany, Ireland, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Lithuania.

Though Westlawn's development was growing, it did stumble during the Great Depression (as did most of the country). Streets had been paved in anticipation of good times, but bad times came first. This created an odd sight recorded by one observer at the corner of Pulaski Road and 67th Street in the early 1940s: nicely paved but empty streets to the west and unpaved, bustling streets with new home construction to the east.

Fortunately, more prosperous days were ahead. With the industrial growth prompted by World War II and the expansion of nearby Midway Airport-- the world's busiest at the time, the Westlawn neighborhood soon enjoyed its long-awaited building boom.


Ford City Neighborhood
In 1942, soon after Pearl Harbor was attacked and Germany’s declaration of war on the United States, the country was officially launched into battle; and government officials were confronted with the challenge of boosting military production and creating masses of warplanes—fast.

Though war had been declared against all of the Axis powers, the raging combat in Southeast Asia required a great expansion of the U.S. Air Force. In order to meet the demand for fighter planes and other military aircraft, the government built Dodge Chicago Aircraft Plant, the largest factory the world had ever seen. In 1942, 17,000 workers began construction and the facility was up and running by 1944. Though the main body of the plant was only one story tall, the entire building covered more than thirty city blocks. Until the end of the war, the plant was used to create the B-29 and other bomber jets.

After the war ended in 1945, the facility was left dormant until 1947 when entrepreneur and automobile designer Preston Tucker bought the plant to build his infamous "Tucker Torpedo" cars. The upstart cars were greeted with more media hype than probably any other car in the history of the American automobile industry, but it wasn’t enough to save the company—or maybe it was the hype that doomed the model from the beginning. Only about fifty Torpedo prototypes were produced; and a year later, the company folded amid corruption allegations and federal investigations.

Once Tucker shuttered the plant, it lay vacant and unused again, but not for long. The Korean War started in 1950; and this time the Ford Motor Company contracted with the government to manufacture jet engines, which eventually led to the name, Ford City. The Ford company continued to produce jet engines for nearly a decade; and at its height, the Ford plant employed as many as 12,000 workers. By 1959, though, the demand for fighter jet engines waned, and the Ford Plant was closed.

The latest incarnation of Ford City began six years later. Real estate developer and entrepreneur Harry F. Chaddick envisioned a large shopping center and industrial park on the site. The industrial park came first, was an immediate success, and returned jobs to the community. The shopping mall portion of Ford City opened its doors in 1965, half of which was an outdoor strip-mall and the other half was covered. Many of the old facilities were demolished to make space for parking lots.

Renovations and improvements have been made over the years, and new plans are scheduled to begin this year.
 

 

 

#66
Chicago Lawn
Community

Chicago Lawn Neighborhoods
Chicago Lawn, Lithuanian Plaza,
Marquette Park, West Englewood

Middle Eastern Restaurants and Stores
of Chicago Lawn's Neighborhood

 

Chicago Lawn Neighborhood
In the early 1870s, Cook County's first Superintendent of Schools John F. Eberhart purchased several acres of land with the intention of starting a new community. Through his own investment and political string-pulling, he convinced the city of Chicago to help his project along by building a railroad across his property. Eberhart then constructed a train depot next to the newly-laid tracks; and that small 1876 structure became the first building in the new town of Chicago Lawn, or "the Lawn" as it was popularly known among its residents.

Eberhart's little town was annexed by Chicago in 1889 but remained a sparsely populated farming community until well into the 20th century. Nevertheless, in anticipation of the area's growth, a 300-acre prairie was converted into a huge public park known as Marquette Park. Over the next fifteen years, a field house, lagoon, and golf course were built; and nearly 90,000 trees and shrubs were planted to create a marvelous recreational resource that is still one of the areas biggest attractions.

Between 1920 and 1930 the population increased dramatically. Germans and Irish began the exodus from Back of the Yards and  Englewood; Poles, Bohemians, and Lithuanians followed them. Most residents belonged to various Protestant denominations, but Chicago Lawn also was home to many Roman Catholic churches and schools as well as a Carpatho-Russian Orthodox church. It was a thriving urban neighborhood until the Depression hit the nation, but this economic catastrophe did not entirely stop its growth. By 1940 its population reached 49,291.

Chicago Lawn's residents formed tightly knit communities around their respective churches and schools. The Lithuanians, however, maintained a notable presence by establishing a network of some of the richest savings and loans in the city, which earned their community the label of "Lithuanian Gold Coast." The Lithuanian Sisters of St. Casimir founded Holy Cross Hospital in 1928 and Maria High School in 1952. The Lithuanian Youth Center in Gage Park was also a vital component to maintaining an exclusive Lithuanian identity.


Lithuanian Plaza Neighborhood
East of Marquette Park, a  post-WWII Lithuanian community developed after the old immigrants were joined by a "second wave" of refugees fleeing from their Soviet-occupied country. Coming from intellectual backgrounds, these refugees created a well-crafted and rich community, centered on Lithuania Plaza Street. In its heyday, the Marquette Park area housed 30,000 Lithuanians out of the area's total population of 45,000.

 

 

#67
West Englewood
Community

West Englewood Neighborhood
Englewood, and West Englewood

West Englewood Apartments

 

West Englewood Neighborhood
Though West Englewood is a separate neighborhood and community area, much of its history and culture is linked directly to the Englewood neighborhood and community.

The first European settlers to the area were predominantly German and Swedish farmers who arrived in the 1840s. Rail lines for the Rock Island and Wabash followed, and the area became known as Chicago Junction, Junction Grove, Lake, and finally Englewood--after the New Jersey town.

Two events led to population increases for the Englewood and West Englewood neighborhoods. In 1871 the Great Chicago Fire having destroyed many neighborhoods to the north, forced residents to seek open spaces for housing near the presence of rail lines for transportation. Englewood seemed ideal. The second event occurred in 1889 when both of the neighborhoods of Englewood and West Englewood were annexed by the City of Chicago, which brought street cars to the area greatly improving transportation options.

 

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

 

 

#68
Englewood
Community

Englewood Neighborhoods
Englewood
and Gresham

Busy Commercial Street of Englewood

 

Englewood Neighborhood
The original inhabitants of the swampy prairie that is now Englewood were Mascouten Indians. In 1840 the United States Government Land Office in Chicago officially documented the land that is now Englewood as habitable, and early settlers started to claim sections of the territory for building their homesteads. A nearby ridge became a well-used path by Native Americans and settlers alike, and over time the path grew into Vincennes Avenue. One of the earliest residents reported looking south from what is now 66th Street and seeing nothing but wetlands for miles—a far cry from the multitude of houses and businesses that now occupy the terrain.

In the 1850s, railroad tracks were built that cut through the settlement and turned it into a major railroad hub known as the Chicago Junction. In the following years, the population grew rapidly; and when Henry B. Lewis, a wool and grain merchant, moved to the area in 1867, he and his wife convinced residents to start calling the neighborhood Englewood, a name inspired by a town in New Jersey. The town was given a boost after the Chicago Fire because homeless city residents were forced to seek housing in more remote regions. Englewood was one of the more attractive possibilities because of its easy accessibility via train.

By 1905 Englewood Station had become a crucial junction and passenger depot for three railroads: the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad; the New York Central Railroad; and the Pennsylvania Railroad. It was perhaps most famous for the glamorous eastbound streamliner trains such as the 20th Century Limited and the Broadway Limited, which were synonymous with style, speed, and grace and which provided the most luxurious means of traveling between Chicago and New York City. At its peak in 1938 more than 1,000 passengers a day traveled through Englewood.

In the roaring 1920s, Englewood’s shopping district at Halsted and 63rd streets was second to the Loop as the busiest shopping destination. By the end of the decade, Sears had established a $1.5 million department store there. Sadly, the ensuing stock market crash severely impacted the prosperity of the high-flying neighborhood, and in many ways it never recovered.


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