A Project by
Rod Sellers
Chicago's East Side Residential Architecture
East Side Welcome
Early Real Estate Developers
Residential Architecture
Post WWII Residential Archicture
 Historical Chart 11300 Avenue L
 Center for Neighborhood Technology Chart
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East Side Block Study
11300 Block South Avenue L
History of the Block

     The southern portion of the East Side was at one time part of Wolf Lake.  As the lake  receded low swampy ground remained.  Until the 1920's the area was covered with prairies and marshes.  During the 1920's and 1930's the portion of the East Side community south of 108th Street was largely undeveloped with the exception of a few large apartment buildings scattered among vacant lots and a small settlement near the entrance to Republic Steel.  The northern portion of the community was already well settled by numerous ethnic groups which were concentrated in various sections of the community.  Italians settled in one and two story frame houses in the northern part of the community once occupied by Swedes.  The Swedes moved into brick bungalows and two flats further south and into the area east of Ewing Avenue.   There were also Irish and Germans in the community and increasing numbers of Yugoslavians (including Serbians, Croatians, Slovenians).  In 1930 the population of the East Side was 16,389 and it decreased by 326 during the decade of the Depression. 
     A local businessman, Frank J. Lewis, owned a coal tarring plant.  After WW I he bought land north of 112th Street from the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks to the state line for expansion of his business.  Soon thereafter, Lewis sold his industrial business and turned to real estate development.  His first ventures were apartment buildings and his original intention was to develop the area as an apartment community.  The Depression ended this dream of Lewis and by the time the housing market revived the demand was for single family houses. Lewis began the development of Fair Elms Estates by installing all improvements prior to construction.  Sewers, land fill (mostly slag from local mills), and streets with five year old elm trees were installed by the builder prior to any homes being built. 
     The 11300 block of Avenue L developed in a pattern similar to other blocks in the southern portion of the community.  Prior to 1940 there were two large three story apartment buildings on the block.  11316 Avenue L is a six flat apartment built in 1930.  11320-22 Avenue L is a three story building which basically links two six flats around a narrow courtyard.  It was completed in 1929.  No further development ocurred until the 1940's. 
     In 1940 residential development began to occur south of 108th Street.  The Fair Elms development stretched from 108th to 114th Streets and was primarily concentrated east of Ewing Avenue.  This housing development attracted many new residents and by 1950 the population of the East Side was 21,619.  Many of these new residents were concentrated in the southern portion of the community.  Many of the newcomers were Polish moving from the South Chicago community.  In many respects the East Side was like a suburb of South Chicago. Annunciata Catholic parish was established at 111th and Avenue G at a time when it was virtually the only building in the area except for the offices and warehouse of the developer of the area.  Annunciata was a territorial parish not an ethnic one and it was not dominated by any one particular ethnic group.  There was much more ethnic integration in the newer southern sections of the East Side at this time. 
     In the 1940's the 11300 block of Avenue L was extensively developed as was most of the surrounding area.  Between 108th and 112th Streets east of Ewing Avenue the vast majority of the homes were single family brick cottages.  South of 112th Street was set aside for a mixture of duplexes and single family houses.  With the exception of the already existing apartment buildings two developers obtained permits to construct duplexes for the rest of the block.  The Fair Elms Homes Company owned the land on the west side of the street (even numbered addresses) and the J. E. Merrion Company obtained the lots on the east side of the street (odd numbered addresses).  The duplexes on the west side of the street were constructed during 1943 and were completed in early 1944.  Although permits were obtained in April, 1942 for duplexes at 11300-2 and 11306-8 Avenue they were never built.  Permits were issued in December, 1943 for single family residences at 11300 and 11306 Avenue L and these were completed by October, 1944.  There are two other houses on the south end of the west side of the street which are not duplexes.  11354 and 11356 Avenue L are houses constructed later.  The entire east side of the street is covered with twelve duplexes constructed between March and October, 1949.  All are red brick structures.  The only original differences are in roof styles. 
     There was nothing south of 114th Street and east of Avenue O until the construction of Washington High School in 1958.  Prior to that time East Side residents traveled to Bowen High School located in the South Chicago community.  Washington High School, located at 3535 East 114th Street, was a"pilot project" school designed as a K-12 school under one roof with a single principal.  In January, 1960 the school's first graduation took place, a mid year ceremony for 52 seniors.  Due to increasing population levels on the East Side, Washington faced overcrowding from the beginning.  An addition to the school was completed in 1967.  Overcrowding continued and a decision was made to separate the elementary and high schools.  In the 1972-73 school year a new elementary school with a separate principal opened east of the high school building. 
     The newest and most costly construction on the East Side has occurred in the past ten years in the area south of 114th Street between Avenue G and Avenue N. 

Historical Chart of 11300 S. Avenue L Block

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