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Chicago's East Side Community
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East Side
Community History

      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. 
 


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