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
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
of a few large apartment buildings scattered among vacant lots and a
settlement near the entrance to Republic Steel. The northern
of the community was already well settled by numerous ethnic groups
were concentrated in various sections of the community. Italians
settled in one and two story frame houses in the northern part of the
once occupied by Swedes. The Swedes moved into brick bungalows
two flats further south and into the area east of Ewing
There were also Irish and Germans in the community and increasing
of Yugoslavians (including Serbians, Croatians, Slovenians). In
the population of the East Side was 16,389 and it decreased by 326
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
from the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks to the state line for expansion
his business. Soon thereafter, Lewis sold his industrial business
and turned to real estate development. His first ventures were
buildings and his original intention was to develop the area as an
community. The Depression ended this dream of Lewis and by the
the housing market revived the demand was for single family houses.
began the development of Fair Elms Estates by installing all
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
Prior to 1940 there were two large three story apartment buildings on
block. 11316 Avenue L is a six flat apartment built in
11320-22 Avenue L is a three story building which basically links two
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
stretched from 108th to 114th Streets and was primarily concentrated
of Ewing Avenue. This housing development attracted many new
and by 1950 the population of the East Side was 21,619. Many of
new residents were concentrated in the southern portion of the
Many of the newcomers were Polish moving from the South Chicago
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
it was virtually the only building in the area except for the offices
warehouse of the developer of the area. Annunciata was a
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.
108th and 112th Streets east of Ewing Avenue the vast majority of the
were single family brick cottages. South of 112th Street was set
aside for a mixture of duplexes and single family houses. With
exception of the already existing apartment buildings two developers
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
on the west side of the street were constructed during 1943 and were
in early 1944. Although permits were obtained in April, 1942 for
duplexes at 11300-2 and 11306-8 Avenue they were never built.
were issued in December, 1943 for single family residences at 11300 and
11306 Avenue L and these were completed by October, 1944. There
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
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
to Bowen High School located in the South Chicago community.
High School, located at 3535 East 114th Street, was a"pilot project"
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
for 52 seniors. Due to increasing population levels on the East
Washington faced overcrowding from the beginning. An addition to
the school was completed in 1967. Overcrowding continued and a
was made to separate the elementary and high schools. In the
school year a new elementary school with a separate principal opened
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
Street between Avenue G and Avenue N.
Historical Chart of 11300 S.
Avenue L Block
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