Chicago Gang History

Chatham

NameChatham
Location79th Street on the north, 91st Street to Burnside Avenue on the south, railroad tracks to 87th Street to South Dauphin Avenue on the east, South Wallace Street to 83rd Street to South Stewart Avenue to South Holland Road on the west.
Settled1860
FounderN/A
Year annexed1889

 

This area became settled after the area was annexed into Hyde Park Township in 1861 by farmers that built scattered homes in this swampy area that they called either “Mud Lake” or “Hogs Swamp.”  The farmers mainly used this area for duck hunting.  The area did not gain significant settlement until the construction of the Avalon Park community nearby that brought Italian stonemasons to settle in the area as they built homes in Avalon Park

In the year 1889 this community was annexed into the city of Chicago then Hungarian and Irish railroad workers came to live in the new Dauphin Park subdivision which further developed the community. 

In the 1900s decade as more steel mills opened their doors in surrounding communities more European migration came to Chatham. 

In the year 1914 the subdivisions of Central Chatham and Chatham Fields began construction and the community adopted the name “Chatham” for the neighborhood name. 

In the 1920s Chatham experienced a major housing boom as many more Irish, Hungarian and Swedish immigrants moved into the area and built several more homes, the new arrivals were middle class as the neighborhood moved from being working class to middle class. 

In the year 1941 the Chatham Park housing complex subdivision was constructed and this brought a shopping strip along Cottage Grove Avenue. 

In the 1950s Chatham experienced some white greaser gangs that mainly battled gangs in neighboring communities, also in the 1950s African Americans began moving into this neighborhood; however, white community leaders wanted to ease this transition to prevent disinvestment and violence; therefore, churches and public places were integrated, but this would not stop crooked real estate agents that used block busting tactics to scare away the long time white residents this was especially prevalent starting in 1958 when the Dan Ryan construction forced many African American families from their homes in other south side and west side neighborhoods, then African Americans began moving in rapidly into Chatham as whites rapidly moved out. 

The Dan Ryan Expressway built through the neighborhood served as a border in the 1950s and early 1960s for where whites and blacks lived, the whites just wanted the western part of the neighborhood; however, they did not resort to violence or discrimination to achieve this it was more of a coordination with the blacks in the community. 

By the year 1960 this neighborhood was about 64% African American and more black families were moving in throughout the 1960s because of the block busting tactics used to scare the white families.  The arriving blacks were middle class and had a strong desire to upkeep the community and keep it as a middle class area, thus, continuing on the legacy that the old European former residents started. 

Starting in the 1960s Chatham became the home of many successful black owned businesses such as: Johnson Products Company, Independence bank Of Chicago, Seaway National Bank Of Chicago and a chapter of the Illinois Federal Savings And Loan Association was operated exclusively by African Americans.

The rest of the white community left the neighborhood by 1970.   Despite efforts to keep the community away from deterioration and poverty street gangs still made their way into Chatham starting in the early 1980s because black street gangs from neighboring communities were a bad influence on the middle class black youths of Chatham and gangs like the Gangster Disciples, Black Disciples, Black P Stones and Mickey Cobras invaded this area and pressured youths in the area to join the gangs, soon enough just about every major south side black street gang claimed turf in this community and gang and drug wars ensued and the violence especially escalated by the later 1990s and into the 21st century. 

Chatham is still a predominately middle class black neighborhood that keeps a watchful eye on crime in the community; however, outside forces and street gangs tend to cause trouble in the community to the point where this neighborhood has made the top 20 most violent neighborhoods list at times and is one of the harder and more dangerous Chicago neighborhoods because of it.

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