Chicago Gang History

Armour Square

NameArmour Square
Location18th Street on the north, Pershing Road on the south, Clark Street to Federal Street to La Salle Street on the east, Canal Street to the railroad tracks on the west; China Town: 18th Street on the north, Interstate 55 on the south, Clark Street to Federal Street on the east, Dan Ryan Expressway to interstate 55 on the west.
SettledBetween 1861-1865
FounderN/A
Year annexed1863

This area was first settled during the Civil War years (1861-1865) as it was sparsely populated with German and Irish immigrants that came to work in the various nearby industries in nearby Bridgeport and Back Of The Yards especially the Union Stock Yards when it opened in 1865.  In the year 1871 after the Great Chicago Fire several codes for building structures were set up in the city that Armour Square had a tough time living up to which caused many of the poorer Irish and German immigrants to leave the area as Swedish residents took over; however, the neighborhood was not heavily focused on the building of housing but instead the development of commercial businesses and public transportation.   In the year 1890 a baseball Park was built at Pershing Road and Wentworth Avenue right next to a city dump known as “South Side Park” which was the field the Chicago Cubs (then known as the Chicago Colts) played until 1893.  In 1893 the park was moved between Wentworth and Princeton Avenue on Pershing Road and became known as the “39th Street Grounds” but by 1900 it became home to the Chicago White Sox minor league team that turned pro in 1901.  In the year 1910 Charles Comiskey bought the land that served as a city dump between 35th Street and Wentworth and Shields and made it into “White Sox Park” until the name changed to “Comiskey Park” in 1912.  The arrival of the Chicago White Sox helped build up the Armour Square and nearby Bridgeport neighborhoods as the park contributed to the local economy.  The White Sox developed a strong following after they won the World Series against the Chicago Cubs in 1906.  In the same year of 1912 Chinese immigrants began arriving in the northern part of Armour Square to join the Swedish immigrants that arrived in the 1870s and the Italians that lived in the central part of the neighborhood since 1899.  The 1910s were harsh times for newly arrived Chinese because there was hatred and racial discrimination against them; however, the enclave they set up was “Chinatown” which became a tourist attraction.  By the end of the decade black migration from the south increased into Chicago and a good amount of African Americans moved into the southern part of Armour Square.  The African American population grew close to 20% of Armour Square’s population by 1930 and from there the black community kept growing in southern Armour Square throughout the 1930s and 1940s.  In the year 1944 to 1945 the Chicago Housing Authority built the Wentworth Gardens projects to house several more impoverished African Americans to help out with the World War II effort.  After the war ended, unemployment became an issue in the black community in Armour Square. The African American population was deeper effected by the construction of the Dan Ryan Expressway in the late 1950s as the vast majority of the African American residences were razed, mainly only leaving the Wentworth Gardens.  Although Armour Square has never been one of the more dangerous neighborhoods it still has had a fair share of crime and gang problems over the years since the 1960s.  The Chinatown section experienced an increase in Chinese gang activity starting in the 1950s and increasing in the 1960s into the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.  Chinatown was also heavily ran by the Chinese Mafia in the later 20th century that proved to be a dangerous group, this led to the authorities raiding several Mafia owned businesses.  The Wentworth Gardens fell into deterioration starting in the 1970s and gangs like the Black Gangsters Disciples, Black P Stones and Black Disciples took over the projects pushing large amounts of drugs especially Heroin.  The projects alone contributed to the majority of the crime rate and violent crime in the neighborhood for many years.  In recent years the projects were renovated and heavier patrolled by law enforcement.  Armour Square is one of the safer neighborhoods in Chicago.  As a closing fun fact Armour Square was named after Philip D. Armour in 1905.

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