A Project by
Rod Sellers
Chicago's East Side
Southeast Side Home Page
East Side Industry
East Side Residential Architecture
East Side Churches
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East Side Schools

Take a tour of Chicago's Southeast Side
     East Side
Smokestacks and Steeples

     The East Side dates its origins to October 15, 1851 when a Potawatomi woman by the name of  Togah sold a section of real estate to George W. Ewing for $1000.  The property was located on the north end of the community currently known as the East Side near present day  Calumet Park (a Chicago Park District facility not the suburb of the same name).  According to the History of Cook County  by A. T. Andreas, the first settler in the area was a James Prendergast who built a home in the area in 1851.  A plaque on the 92nd Street Bridge commemorates a pontoon toll bridge which was located at that point across the Calumet River connecting the East Side to what later became the South Chicago community.  Much of the early history of the East Side is affected by the development of South Chicago, an older and larger community to the north. 

     Early settlement in the community was sparse until after industrialization of the area began in earnest after the Civil War.  Prior to that time there were spurts of investment and speculation  spurred by various events.  In 1833, a young Army Corps of Engineers lieutenant by the name of Jefferson Davis recommended the development of the Calumet River and the creation of a harbor at that location.  Speculators also felt that a canal would be built in the area connecting the Calumet River with the Des Plaines River and the Mississippi River system.  The construction of the Illinois Michigan Canal which began in 1836 ended this wave of speculation.  The next event to increase interest in the area was the construction of the Lake Shore and Michigan Railroad (later the New York Central Railroad) in 1848.  Other railroads followed but development was slow until after the Civil War.  The first railroad station in the area at 100th Street and Ewing Avenue was not built until 1873. 

     The population of the East Side increased from 16,513 in 1940 to 21,619 in 1950 and 23,214 in 1960.  Since 1970 there has been a decline in the population of the area as many residents moved to the suburbs and older housing stock especially in the north end of the community has deteriorated.  The earliest residents of the East Side were primarily Irish, German and Swedish.  Beginning in the 1880s the population changed with the entry of Polish, Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian, Italians, and other southern and eastern European groups.  Currently the population is becoming increasingly Hispanic, mostly Mexican. These population patterns are easily seen in the diversity of ethnic churches in the area.  The 1990 census showed the Hispanic population of the East Side at about 40% and it is certainly over 50% at present. 

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