| Community Area 46 - South Chicago|
Location within the city of Chicago
|ZIP Code||parts of 60617|
|Area||8.65 km² (3.23 mi²)|
|38,596 (down 5.35% from 1990)|
|Median income||$34,279 | see discussion page|
|Source: U.S. Census, Record Information Services|
This chevron-shaped community is one of Chicago's 16 lakefront neighborhoods near the southern rim of Lake Michigan 10 miles south of downtown. A working-class neighborhood, it is bordered by East 79th Street on the north, South Chicago Avenue (the Chicago Skyway) on the southwest, a small stretch of East 95th Street on the south. With the Calumet River on the community's southeast side, South Chicago can be considered the literal gateway to the Calumet Region and the first among the four Chicago neighborhoods (East Side, Hegewisch and South Deering) that are considered by the locals as Chicago's Southeast Side. Particularly because most of it's streets run off the citywide grid. It also shares the unique Alphabet Avenues with the other three. Yet the Southeast Side is a description that, although true, the city itself continues to resist, but rather includes them all with Chicago's South Side communities.
The four communities of Ainsworth; the Bush, Millgate Cheltemham/South Chicago and Calumet quickly developed into one village referred to collectively as South Chicago during the wave of annexation in 1883. The predominately woodframed architecture of the Bush, Millgate and eastern Cheltemham are a lesson in Victoriana with the 'sunken yards' and bridge-like walk ups from street like Houston, Baltimore and Brandon attesting to the degree infrastructure built up from the original topography of that time. It also demonstrates how South Chicago was not immediately effected by the housing ordinances restricting the use of lumber for home building after The Great Fire of 1871. Most of the neighborhood north of East 83rd Street and west of South Manistee Avenue was developed after WWII and contain mostly brick homes, but under the ordinance brick homes began being build throughout the newly annexed neighborhood after 1883.
South Chicago was bustling with waves of immigrants as the popularity of the World Columbian Exposition of 1893 and the prospect of a better life grew. The steel mill became U.S. Steel South Works in 1901, continuing to attract immigrants from Ireland, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and Italy. During the 1950s many residents called the northeast section of South Chicago *"The Bush" and worked in the local massive steel mill, US Steel. Others worked in neighboring steel mills such as Youngstown Steel, Republic Steel, Bethlehem Steel, and LaSalle Steel. At its zenith, South Chicago helped make the Chicago metropolitan area the leading producer of steel products in the nation. The Sears Tower and the Hancock Building were built from South Chicago steel. The embers, (graphite) from the smokestacks would cause the cars and sidewalks to sparkle and created a golden glow throughout the night. Softball and bowling were popular pastimes. Large Polish weddings on Saturdays were also a common sight.
Throughout the early 1910s, Mexicans from a variety of regions within Mexico began to settle in communities throughout Chicago including South Chicago. South Chicago became one of the first growing Mexican communities in Chicago. The community faced many challenges including many racist attacks by the more assimilated groups. The early Mexican community began to band together and worked to help build Our Lady of Guadalupe Church as they were not welcomed in other churches throughout the area. South Chicago's Mexican Patriotic Club's Mexican Independence Day (Sept. 16th) Parade was the first such parade in Chicago also celebrated with a carnival of rides and booths.
Much of the business and shopping is done along Commercial Avenue. Several privately owned businesses such as clothing stores, furniture and retail, and beauty salons, can be found along Commercial Avenue. Restaurants from Nigerian to Italian cuisine are found in South Chicago. Despite the slow economy, more "Mom and Pop" stores flourish throughout South Chicago's residential areas, than in any other neighborhood. East 83rd Street, East 87th Street and south along the revitalized Commercial Avenue to East 95th Street have attracted corporations, businesses and new banks into the community. Commercial Avenue is also home to many non-profit organizations including Healthy South Chicago, the Alianza Leadership Institute, Centro Comunitario Juan Diego, El Valor, and SEDCOM.
Since the de-industrialization of South Chicago's once inaccessible shoreline from the late 1970s on, East 87th Street has been extended to Lake Michigan with the look and feel of a landscaped boulevard. The former Southworks site Brownfield, an area larger than the Loop, is a cleared and remediated table of slag and concrete, currently being transformed into Chicago's newest lakefront park with the feel of wide open prairie land. The purchase of the property from notable world-class developers, has put South Chicago at the center of the city's, and the Nation's largest lakefront redevelopment effort in the 21st Century. Mixed residential, retail and lake recreation are quietly planned. The new lakefront park, as yet nameless (which is nearing completion), was the missing link effectively closing the century old gap between Chicago's world-class chain of parks between South Shore's Rainbow Beach Park in South Shore and Calumet Park in East Side neighborhoods, fulfilled the dreams of noted Chicago planner and architect, Daniel Burnham and business mogal and philanthropist Montgomery Ward, for a free and clear lakefront. Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright had also once designed a comprehensive plan for the shoreline before it became hyper-industrialized.
South Chicago is also served by a number of Chicago Transit Authority bus routes, services which enable commuters to make relatively easy connections to downtown and other Chicago neighborhoods. The buses that serve South Chicago are: