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South Deering

Community History

      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 to 1845. 
      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 Steel. 
      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.
 
 










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