Chicago's East Side is almost surrounded
by water. Its name comes from the fact that it is olcated on the
east bank of the Calumet River and its nickname is the "Island".
Stephen A. Douglas, John Wentworth, and Elijah K. Hubbard were interested
in new developments when the Army Corps of Engineers developed a plan for
improvement of the Calumet River and an establishment of a harbor in the
early part of the 1800's. Most of the land was bought by Elliot Anthony
who then established the Chicago Calumet Canal & Dock Company.
In 1848, the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad, later known as
the New York Central, extended its tracks into the area. Then
the Pennsylvania and Fort Wayne, Eastern Line, and Elgin and Joliet railroads
were built in the region.
The East Side was originally part of
the Village of Hyde Park which extended from 39th Street to 138th Street.
In 1865, around half a dozen families lived in the wooded area. They
were involved in fishing, farming, and hunting. Then around 1873
that all became part of "City of Calumet".
Charles Colehour and Douglas Taylor
opened two subdivisions which were two distinct neighborhoods for many
years. Douglas Taylor was a early real estate developer who opened
a suddivision north of the railroad tracks. Douglas Taylor's mansion
was located on 98th Street on the current site of the Calumet Park Field
House. It was torn down after a lake storm and the Calumet Park Fieldhouse
was built on the site in 1924. Charles Colehour opened a real estate development,
also known as the Iron-worker's Addition to South Chicago. He was a real
estate investor who opened a subdivision south of the tracks in 1873.
The Colehour house is located on 10261 S. Avenue H. The house dates
back to the 1870s and is thought to be the oldest house in the neighborhood.
In 1871, 52 arces on both sides of the
river were purchased by the Silicon Steel Company. Men came looking
for work but the Silicon Steel Company was unsuccessful. However
its land did sell quickly to other industries. By 1884, factories
and industries were located there. This led to increased settlement
in the area. In 1880, 1,098 residents were living in the East Side
and were mainly Germans, Irish, and Swedish families. Finally, in
1889, the area was added to Chicago when Hyde Park was incorporated into
the city of Chicago.
In the late 1800s, the steel industry
grew larger. The harbor was improved and new railroads were built.
Iroquois Steel had opened a plant located at 95th Street and the Calumet
River. Also, The Republic Steel opened in 1891 at 118th Street and
the river. For the next 90 years, Republic Steel remained as
one of the biggest employers in the neighborhood.
By 1920, people had settled southern portion
of the community, between 95th and 109th Streets, from Ewing west to Burley
Avenue. During the 1920's new plants were constucted along the eastern
bank of the river and the railroad expanded into this area. A lot
of the residential construction was occurring in the area east of Ewing
Avenue between 103rd and 108th Strret in the 1920s.
By 1930, most of the foreign population
was coming from Serbians, Italians, Germans, Swedes, and Croatians.
In 1930, nearly 17,000 people lived in the East Side. In the 1920's
the creation of Calumet Park encouraged people to built homes close by.
The population was dropping slightly
because the decade of 1930s brought Depression. In 1937, a strike
was called upon the plant by the CIO, who was seeking to organize a union
at the Republic Steel Mill. The "Memorial Day Massacre", was an event
where the Chicago police,working as plant security, shot and killed ten
steelworkers because a labor protest had become violent.
In the 1940s the East Side had nearly
22,000 residents. During the 1950s the community began to increase
with a population of over 25,000 in 1970. The area around 106th Street
began to build up and 106th and Ewing Avenue became the most important
shopping district of the community. Also, Republic Steel built a
new plant at this time.
In the late 1960s, in the northern part
of the community, Hispanics (mostly Mexicans) began to move in. By
1990 Hispanics were 40% of the population of the East Side. Mexicans
are now the largest nationality in the East Side.
The decline of the area's steel industry
hurt the economy of the East Side and other nearby communities, in recent
years. Wisconsin Steel closed in 1980. U. S. Steel South
Works closed in 1992. Republic Steel closed down several parts of
their operation as well. A lot of people lost their jobs, and the
resident labor force changed tremendously.
Click on the links at the left to tour
Chicago's East Side Community.