Chicago Gang History

Brighton Park

NameBrighton Park
LocationStevenson Expressway on the north, Orange line EL tracks on the south, Western Boulevard on the east, railroad tracks by Archer and 47th on the west
Settled1835
FounderHenry Seymour
Year annexed1889

 

Henry Seymour was the first to claim this land in 1835 as he subdivided the land, from there settlers of Irish, Native American and German Decent came to the area and built their homes until a community started that officially became known as “Brighton” in 1840, and became the “Village of Brighton Park” in 1851 all near Western Avenue. 

The 1850s saw further growth of the community once the Brighton Race Track opened in 1855 and a stockyard was built in 1857 at Archer Avenue and Western Avenue.  More industries were built in the 1860s and 1870s like Northwestern Horse Nail Company in the late 1860s, Laflin And Rand Company and the Brighton Cotton Mill in 1872 and Brighton silver smelting and refining company in 1873.  This entire boom in industry attracted many more Irish and German settlers to this prospering community into the 1890s. 

After annexation into the city of Chicago in 1889, French immigrants and Jewish immigrants took up residence in the community.  In the 1900s decade Polish, Lithuanian and Italian immigrants made their way into this neighborhood especially after the Central Manufacturing District opened between nearby McKinley Park and Bridgeport in 1905. 

In the year 1915 the area would thrive even more with the opening of Crane Manufacturing Company and Kenwood Manufacturing District.  This area would even fare well during the Great Depression Era of the 1930s decade and the decades after. 

In the 1950s some white greaser gangs formed in the neighborhood mainly to battle other greaser gangs out of the nearby Back of The Yards and Gage Park neighborhoods, the most notorious greaser club were the “Dunlops” that made the newspaper in the 1950s for arson and attempted murder. 

In the year 1977 Crane Manufacturing Company closed down permanently which cost many of Brighton Park jobs.  Those that lost their jobs packed their bags and headed for the suburbs seeking other employment opportunities and the move out was rapid in the late 1970s to the point where 33% had moved out by 1980. 

In the 1980s Mexican migrants flooded into Brighton Park to take residence in those homes that the Crane workers left behind.  Very rapidly the neighborhood had a Mexican identity to go with the Polish identity.  Latino based street gangs made their way into this neighborhood in the 1980s not only because there was a large Mexican population but also because there was now some issues of poverty in the neighborhood.  Gangs like Two Six, Satan Disciples, Latin Kings and Latin Counts poured into the neighborhood engaging in vicious gang wars in the early 1980s.  Brighton Park soon became one of the tougher neighborhoods of Chicago in the 1980s and 1990s; the 1990s were probably the worst decade. 

In the 21st century Brighton Park has slowed down in gang activity and violence but still has gang activity and some above average crime issues.  This neighborhood is a rougher community in Chicago but is not all-out dangerous and quite livable.

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