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Chicago's Hegewisch Community
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Hegewisch

Community History

    Hegewisch is a small area in Chicago.  It is on the far southeast side of Chicago and is surrounded  by railroads, factories, grain elevators, highways, and other industries.  By 1889, a little more than five hundred names appeared in the town directory, most of the settlers were foreign born whites.
       Hegewisch is built upon Sections 31 and 32, Township 37 North, Range 15 east: Section 5, Township 36 north, Range 15 east, and that part of Section 6, Township 36 north, Range 15 east, lying east of the Calumet River.  The area covers fifteen hundred acres.
      Adolph Hegewisch founded the area of Hegewisch in 1883.  He founded the area with the idea of following the Pullman Company's success with its community.  Adolph was the President of the United States Rolling Stock Company at the time Hegewisch was founded.  He also set up large shops and plants.  Hegewisch also envisioned building two canals, one shortening the Calumet River, the other connecting Lake Michigan and Wolf Lake.  This however, never took place.  The much anticipated industrial development never took place.  There is some confusion about his first name.  Many sources list his name as Achilles, others as Adolph.  Based on my research I suspect that during the WW II era a local newspaper began calling him Achilles since Adolph was not a fitting name for the founder of their community.
      Hegewisch became part of the city of Chicago in 1889, when the village of Hyde Park was annexed on to Chicago.  In 1920, the population of Hegewisch was forty-seven percent foreign born, of which the largest group was Polish, with some Yugoslavians, Czechoslovakians, and some Swedes.  The population declined between 1930 and 1950 because of the Depression and World War II  The postwar industrial boom in the South Chicago and Calumet region and the postwar housing shortage increased population in the area.
      In the 1900's, the number of housing units in the area increased by thirty-nine percent, and the population by twenty-five percent.  During the 1960's,  housing was increased by another twenty-nine percent, to three thousand, three hundred and ninety five units, the population grew to over eleven thousand people.  The median value of a single family, owner occupied house in the area in 1980 was forty one thousand, six hundred and seven dollars. 
       The population of Hegewisch increased during the 1920's to almost 7,900,55 percent of who were of Polish descent.  During this time , the distance from Hegewisch to the main part of the city and its industrialization probably equaled the appeal of its ample supply of residential land . 
      The population composition of what was once all white European Hegewisch has been changing since the 1960's . The 1990 census  showed that Hispanic growth to 11% from 6% in 1980 . Of all the European whites , the ones that were most populous were the Polish . Almost all of the Hispanics are Mexican . 
       Most of the houses in Hegewisch are small structures . More than half of the homes are single family homes and the rest are mobile homes . Only 2% of the structures are of five units . Most of the units were owned by one owner . 
      Hegewisch had a period of renovation beginning in the 1980's with the rebuilding of Hegewisch's major commercial strip on Baltimore Avenue between 132nd and 134th streets.  They also had new sidewalks, curbs, repaved streets, and trees installed in the community due to a $300,000 Community Development Block Grant.  They also opened a new Metra train station in Hegewisch, which held 1,600 passengers.  They  remodeled Mann Park and added a small playground nearby.  They were also able to finally build a library that was long wanted. 
      In February, 1990 Hegewisch was supposed to be replaced by Lake Calumet Airport . Homeowners were very angry after hearing the news . The people that were to build the airport were saying that a "New Hegewisch" would be built a few miles away . But obviously it never happened because the people did not approve of it. 
 
 









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