South Deering is a community area on
the far southeast side of Chicago . The boundaries of South Deering are
very "natural" in the sense that the community is largel defined by the
Calumet River on the east and Lake Calumet on the west. South Deering
has a great deal of vacant land much of it shallow swamps and marshes.
It has the largest area of any of the 77 Chicago communities. South
Deering was originally used mostly by the wealthy Chicagoans as a recreational
area, providing both hunting and fishing.
In 1847, the construction of the Chittenden
Road, which extended east along the Calumet River occurred. A year later,
eight railroad lines, which included the Illinois Central and the Rock
Island lines ran through the area. The community dates its origins
In 1870, the U.S. Congress appropriated
funds to begin construction of a "Harbor Of Refuge" at the Calumet River
location. The government constructed a channel between the Calumet River
and Lake Michigan. In 1874, South Deering was annexed to the village of
Hyde Park which at that time was not part of the Cirty of Chicago.
The transportation facilities began to draw attention from big industries
some of which migrated from the north side of Chicago to South Deering
and neighboring communities.
The Joseph H. Brown Iron and Steel Company
constructed a rolling mill on the west bank of the Calumet River in 1875.
Brown's Mill was the first established post office in 1878. The steel
mill employed 926 workers, mostly Germans, Irish,and Scandinavians. This
was the most significant event in South Deering's development as a steel
industry community. In 1882, the area name was changed from Brown's
Mill to Cummings in honor of the president of the New York Central Railraod.
After a year under new management a major strike occurred. The outcome
resulted in loss of business and an inability to compete with other steel
mills outside the Cummings community.
As new business and workers developed
the community became known as "Irondale" and the name stood for the prospering
steel mills of the area. In 1902, the International Harvester Company
bought a large piece of land at 106th street and Torrence Avenue and built
the Wisconsin Steel Works. William Deering, one of the founders,
along with the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, formed Wisconsin
With the help of the Deering Harvester
Company the industrial development of South Deering was secured.
New plants and industries were growing in South Deering such as:
Calumet Coal Company; Peoples Gas Light, and Coke Company; Illinois
Slag and Ballast Company; Chicago Steel and Wire Company; Gold Medal Flour
Mill (later General Mills); National Cylinder Gas Company and the Chicago
Iron and Coal Company. These new industries flourished along Torrence
Avenue between 105th and 130th streets.
The prospering mills caused many people
to immigrate to the South Deering community. The 1800's bought the Welch,
English, and the Irish to the community. Yugoslavians later
were the majority group migrating, then came the Polish, Italians, Austrians,
and Serbians. The first Mexicans to settle in South Deering were in 1926,
and the first blacks in the late 1940's. They lived among Torrence
Avenue between 108th and 111th streets. By the 1920's 37 percent
of the residents were Coatians, Serbians, Italians, and Mexicans.
In the 1930's Yugoslavians were the majority foreign-born in South Deering.
Slag Valley is the section east of Torrence
Avenue between 100th and 105th streets.This area is the oldest and poorest
of all South Deering and was occupied by the Poles, Lithuanians, Italians,and
Mexicans. Slag Valley was surrounded by Wisconsin Steel, the Gold Medal
Flour Mill (later General Mills), and the Chicago Steel and Wire Company.
This name was given to this area due to the constant dumping
of slag from the waste of steel producing furnaces from the steel mills.
The South Deering residential area
measures only one-half square mile of the community's 6-square mile total
area. In 1938, new federal measures supported improvements in the community.
103rd Street was paved and widened encouraging new residential construction.
The upgrading of the residential area north of 103rd was where the
Calumet Gardens housing developed and was later called Jeffery Manor.
Jeffery Manor became the most populous residential area of South Deering.
The residential area had single family brick homes. In 1938, the
Public Works Adminstration built Trumbell Park Homes and leased it to the
Chicago Housing Authority. When the Chicago Housing Authority wanted
to purshase 21 acres of land in "Irondale" to add 300 units to Trumbell
Park Homes it was rejected. The growth of South Deering was due to
the residential area of Jeffery Manor. The population in1930 was
7,911 then in 1940 reached 9,662 and doubled to 17,736 in 1950.
The housing developments and new residential
area bought many people to come to South Deering. Many were native-born
Americans and foreign immigration was reduced to half the population. In
1960 the population of South Deering was increasing to 18,794, and in 1970
to 19, 405. In 1960's the residents were mostly Yugoslavians, Russians,
and Poles in contrast by the 1970's numerousMexicans had moved to Irondale
and more than 3,000 African-Americans lived in South Deering particularly
in Jeffery Manor.
Click on the links at the left to tour
Chicago's South Deering Community.