Chicago Gang History

Belmont Cragin

NameBelmont - Cragin
LocationBelmont Avenue on the north, Railroad tracks on the south, Kenton on the east, Nashville Avenue on the west
Settled1835
FounderGeorge Merrill
Year annexed1889

 

The area was first settled in the year 1835 by George Merrill that settled in the present day intersection of Armitage and Grand, a short time later Merrill opened a saloon out of his home that catered to many travelers.  The saloon was heard about by many of travelers and business thrived for Merrill as this intersection became known as “Whiskey Point.” 

It was not until 1862 when another arrived interested in buying land named Michael Moran who built a hotel at Whiskey Point.  The area still remained barren until 1882 when the Cragin Brothers Manufacturing Company opened their doors at the intersection of Leclaire and Homer.  Very shortly after the opening of Cragin Brothers Manufacturing the area’s population grew and by 1889 the area was annexed into the city of Chicago but had no name of its own except that it was part of Jefferson Township. 

Swedish, German and Irish immigrants were the first residents of this area, then by the 1920s Polish and Italians arrived in the neighborhood as manufacturing jobs became plentiful. 

The 1930s were not harsh on this neighborhood, in fact, it faired quite well and subdivisions continued to be built.  In the 1930s the area got its name “Belmont-Cragin” from the nearby Belmont Gardens area combined with the Cragin Brothers manufacturing that gave the area jobs. 

In the 1940s several strip malls and scores of other shopping centers were built in the neighborhood as life in this community was excellent. 

The community would continue to flourish until the late 1960s when African American migration came to the nearby Austin neighborhood and Puerto Rican migration came to neighborhoods close by, the panic caused white street gangs to spread their influence into several more white communities like Belmont-Cragin as the Gaylords first arrived to stand guard. 

In the 1970s Belmont-Cragin became a tougher neighborhood as Simon City Royals, Playboys and Taylor Jousters also spread their influence into Belmont-Cragin and began battling for turf.  The most fought over piece of land was Hanson Park which is the area bounded by Fullerton Avenue on the north, Grand Avenue on the south, Laramie Avenue on the east, Central Avenue on the west.  The park became the sight of vicious gang wars especially between the Taylor Jousters and Simon City Royals.  The Jousters ended up winning the war for the most part and took the park in the late 1980s. 

The 1980s decade would bring problems to the neighborhood as manufacturing industries were closed down or wages were cut, this left the area to not be as prosperous and property values began to fall.  Mexican and Puerto Rican migration finally arrived in the neighborhood and now white gangs were battling the migratory Latino gangs that came with them like the Latin Kings, Latin Brothers, Latin Disciples, Imperial Gangsters and Latin Pachucos.  Hansen Park became the center of all the gang violence especially by the later 1980s. 

It now became clear that Belmont-Cragin was in a state of crisis due to rising poverty and a rise in gang violence.  By the 1990s many of Belmont-Cragins’ white population had fled the neighborhood in favor of the suburbs, thus, decreasing Gaylord, Simon City Royal and Taylor Jouster populations.  The Taylor Jousters were completely removed from Hanson Park by the mid-1990s due a decline in numbers and Latino gangs took over. 

Drug turf gang wars plagued this community in the 1990s as the Latino gangs fought vicious gang wars with each other.  Belmont-Cragin has toned down the violence in the 21st century but some gang problems still exist especially by Hanson Park.

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